Hello friends. It is a good time to be an Oregon Pinot lover. What is mostly on the market now comes from the 2012 and 2013 vintages, back to back strong years with very different charms. I see 2012 as a classic, structured vintage, a bit like 2008 but with the wines perhaps less severe in their youths. And then 2013 is the easy charmer, warmer and more approachable than ’12 but not so fully blowsy as the ‘09s.
The quality of Oregon Pinots I’m tasting these days is better than ever. Here are a handful that represent the best QPR bottles we’ve tasted over the past few months (see the bottom of the offer for some compelling bonus whites from Oregon as well):
In the interim between offering our first-ever Kelley Fox wine (in March 2014) and our second (today), I had the chance to meet Ms. Fox herself, and let me say: she is the real deal; one of the most articulate, compelling winemakers I can remember speaking to, with a clear point of view and a low tolerance for suffering fools. No surprise that her wines are among the most exciting coming out of Oregon today. They’re popular among the somm set (and much more likely to turn up on restaurant lists than on retail shelves) in part because of their clear Burgundian sensibilities, which makes sense when you consider Kelley’s background, which includes stints at Eyrie Vineyards (working alongside David Lett himself), and at Scott Paul Wines (which also had its Burgundy import arm).
Kelley makes three wines: a Maresh Vineyard Pinot, a Momtazi Vineyard Pinot, and then Mirabai, a wine that combines both vineyards. The 2013 is within spitting distance of just being called old-vine Maresh. Out of 13 barrels, 10 come from the 1970-planted block of Maresh and 2 from the 1978-planted block of Maresh. A single barrel comes from Momtazi (1999-planted). When you consider those raw materials, this starts to look like a pretty serious value.
And then when you drink the wine, that initial impression is immediately confirmed. Clocking in at 13% listed alc and pouring into the glass with a lovely pale ruby color, this one sends its evocative aromas spilling up and out of the glass: pie cherry, resinous forest floor, and great Maresh minerality. In a vintage that will mostly be known for simpler charms, this one defies the type, offering characterful pleasures, noteworthy structure (especially in its sturdy acid spine), and thrilling intensity. This is a master class in old vine Oregon Pinot.
I have to thank Shannon Jones of Hestia Cellars for introducing me to the beauty of Chehalem wines way back when we were in a tasting group together. I went long on the 2007 single-vineyard Pinots from Chehalem, and I have not been disappointed, as they’ve paid transformative dividends for years now. I’m finally getting down to the end of my stash, so it may be time to re-up, as the single-vineyard 2012s are just now hitting the market. Chehalem makes three such Pinots: from Corral Creek, Stoller, and Ridgecrest. They tend to retail around $50. And then there’s their Three Vineyards bottling, which (surprise surprise) comes from all three of the single vineyards. It’s also considerably less expensive, and so offers terrific value, especially in a vintage as compelling as 2012.
This particular year sees a preponderance of Corral Creek fruit (my personal favorite of the three) at 38% of the blend, rounded out with 33% Stoller and 29% Ridgecrest. It was aged for a year in French oak, just 14% new, and it begins with a nose of dark berry fruits and plums, dark silty minerals, and rich soil tones. A much darker profile than Mirabai, and a lovely yin to that particular yang. Bright and lively, true to the airily-fruited house style, this also conveys serious depth and palate weight on a 13.9% listed alc frame. Perhaps most impressive on the lingering finish, with fine grained delicious tannins suggesting many happy years ahead. This is a stylish introduction to a reference-point Willamette producer, from a vintage that’s about as good as it gets in the northwest.
After 30 years making wine in the Napa Valley (the last 16 at Stags’ Leap, as Winemaker and Estate Manager), Robert Brittan decamped to Oregon in 2004, identifying and purchasing a piece of land in the McMinnville AVA, a cool, windy site on the edge of Oregon’s Coast Range. He liked this piece of land for its mix of soils: predominantly broken sub-marine basalt, but with volcanic material and glacial deposits as well.
The “Basalt Block” Pinot comes from the sections of the vineyard that have the heaviest concentration of broken sub-marine basalts. The vines give very low yields of intense, complex grapes, and they’re difficult to come by. We’ve offered exactly one Brittan wine – the 2009 vintage of this same bottling, back in August 2012 – and it’s not for lack of trying. They’re just difficult wines to come by, and I’d be surprised if this one doesn’t turn out to be one-and-done. It is a mineral-and-acid-lover’s dream wine, with enough cherry and star anise stuffing to last for decades.
Wine Enthusiast (Paul Gregutt): “[REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. 93pts.”
And now a pair of bonus whites:
A Norweigan native (Dag Johan Sundby) growing biodynamic Gruner Veltliner at the edge of the Van Duzer Gap (location here). Yeah, I’ll admit this one caught me by surprise. But man is it good. A nose of lemon, sweet pea, and green lentil gives way to a palate dry, intense, and chock full of extract and citric-acid cut. There are plenty of Gruner’s signature savory notes, so unusual/compelling for a white wine, and this lingers effortlessly on the finish. “This is impressive,” says that last line in my notebook, an expression of surprised delight.
Year in and year out, one of the highest QPR Chardonnays produced in the entire northwest. And yet we’ve only ever offered Crowley Chard two other times. It’s just hard to get those damned Oregonians to let very much out of their greedy clutches. This is single-vineyard, entirely from Four Winds (although it doesn’t say so on the bottle), a 1993-planted vineyard in Oregon’s coast range. The nose combines lemon curd, nectarine, chalky minerals, and a lovely smokey/leesy nuance that reminded me of bread grilled in a wood oven. Appetizing for sure. The palate is brisk, minerally, with plenty of lemony lift and cut, conveying richness and energy in turn. No easy feat. This is another marvel of single-vineyard expressiveness, a tickler of the intellectual and sensual sides of the brain, another killer Chardonnay from Tyson Crowley.
Please limit order requests to 12 bottles of each wine, and we’ll do our best to fulfill all requests. The wines should arrive in the next few weeks, at which point they will be ready for pickup or shipping during the next temperature-appropriate shipping window.