Hello friends. Much like last year around this time, I recently walked into the grocery store and was greeted with the dirtygood aroma of wild mushrooms. Following my nose to the produce section, I found a riot of fungus: piles of golden chanterelles, sunset-orange lobster mushrooms, outrageously expensive Matsutakes.
Is there anything more evocative of autumn than peak mushroom season? I stood there transfixed by thoughts of cleaning and slicing armloads of shrooms, throwing them into a smoldering pot with knobs of butter and garlic and fresh parsley, maybe deglazing the pan with a little amontillado sherry if I was feeling frisky, and then opening bottle after bottle of Oregon Pinot Noir.
For me, autumn isn’t just peak mushroom season; it’s peak Pinot season. Autumn is, for me, the season of earthy meals, and Pinot is just the thing for pairings, with the right palate weight and right flavor profile to suit this time of year. Here, then, is a selection of recent highlights from a slew of Oregon Pinot tastings:
Matt got just enough fruit for one (neutral) barrel of Pinot, so this is microscopic production (between 25 and 30 cases). I can’t imagine there will be reorder opportunities on this one; figure this one as a one-and-done offer. The flow of releases from the outstanding 2012 vintage in Oregon is slowing to a trickle, and this is a lovely reminder of what a breathtaking year it was for Oregon Pinot. This clocks in at 13.5% listed alc and pours into the glass a lovely pale ruby. The appetizing nose combines black cherry fruit, rose petal florals, and terrific earthy notes of damp soil and mushroom. Autumnal to be sure. The palate is beautifully polished (extra bottle age helps there), silky textured, insistently earthy. There is loads of youthful charm here: right now it presents as an easy-drinking fruit-and-earth driven Pinot. But this has the balance and stuffing to evolve in the cellar, and I see years of delight ahead.
Eyrie is a special winery, both in Oregon generally where it has some of the richest history in the Willamette Valley, and for Full Pull specifically, where it was our first Oregon wine offered and one of our list members’ favorite Oregon wineries. Jason Lett is doing a remarkable job both honoring his late father’s legacy and stamping his own indelible mark on Eyrie wines.
This remains predominantly (85%) Eyrie estate fruit, but it does include small amounts of outside sources (hence the WV label). It clocks in at 13.5% listed alc and is a lovely delicate pale ruby to look at. I love the nose, which marries cherry pastille to this wonderful high-toned mountain berry fruit. The whole thing feels very perfumed, very alpine. There’s an invigorating wildness here, a real sense of the sauvage. As usual with Eyrie wines, the star players here are earth and mineral tones, with the austere green-strawberry fruit shuttled off to a supporting role. The nervy texture; the bright acidity; the insistent minerality: no wonder the word Burgundian is so often tossed around when folks talk about the Eyrie house style.
I’m thrilled that we’re able to offer a wine from Big Table Farm today. They’re a super-buzzy up-and-comer that I first heard about back in 2011 when I was down in Oregon for Pinot Camp. My old high school buddy Joseph Zumpano, who was then working at The Tasting Room in Carlton and now runs the acclaimed Henry’s Diner (also in Carlton), poured a Big Table Farm wine for me, and I remember thinking at the time: I need to offer one of these wines. It only took another four years to make it happen.
For several years, the wines weren’t even coming into Washington. And even after they were brought in, they were designated entirely for restaurant sales. I made a push last year to try to offer their wines, but that push came soon after the 2012 vintage of today’s wine received a 95pt Wine Spectator review, so the timing was no good. I’m sure that review turned some heads nationally, and I’m guessing it has only increased the sales pressure on the entire lineup (they’ve also had positive write-ups in the New York Times and San Francisco Chronicle). Fortunately, our wonderful long-time list member Tiffany Stevens is the direct-to-consumer liaison at Big Table Farm, and I suspect she played a positive role in allowing today’s offer to happen (she’s also the person to contact if you want to explore the remainder of the BTF portfolio, which includes glorious single-vineyard Pinots and delightful white wines).
Now then, some background on BTF. The winery is a partnership between Brian Marcy and Clare Carver. Brian spent the better part of the decade from 1996-2006 making wine in the Napa Valley, at such luminaries as Turley, Neyers, Blankiet Estate, and Marcassin, before moving with Clare to Oregon in 2006. Clare manages the 70+ acres of farmland (including vegetables and bees, pigs and cows and hens, and – someday – vines). She is also a fabulous artist (see her artwork here) who designs the deeply charming BTF labels (see labels here). I’d go on more, but this little four-minute video is a terrific nutshell introduction to the winery (in addition, this three-minute video, while more abstract, certainly conveys the ethos behind BTF).
The WV Pinot is raised entirely in second-fill Marcassin barrels (thanks to Brian’s old connection there), and this vintage clocks in at a brisk 12.1% listed alcohol. The nose mixes black and red fruits (black cherry, pomegranate, red raspberry) with mineral tones, minty topnotes, and smoky barrel tones. In the mouth, this is wonderfully perfumed and offers terrific crushed-rock character to go with the continuing notes of the purest red fruit. Purity and intensity are the watchwords here. This is real live-wire, carried along by nervy blood-orange acidity. It’s a thrilling Willamette Pinot, and it’s easy upon first sip to see what all the excitement is about.
First come first served up to 36 bottles total (mix and match as you like), and the wines should arrive in a week or two, at which point they will be ready for pickup or shipping during the next temperature-appropriate shipping window.