Hello friends. It has been a good year to be an Oregon Pinot lover. With three strong vintages on the market (2012, 13, 14), 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, with one Pinot from each vintage (see the bottom of the offer for a compelling bonus Chardonnay from Oregon as well):
It’s always challenging to find solid twenty-dollar Oregon Pinot Noirs, but 2014 is shaping up to be a vintage where anything is possible. The combination of high quality and high yield seems to have a cascading effect whereby winery’s entry-level bottlings way over-deliver their price points. So it is for this Illahe Pinot, which comes entirely from the 52-acre estate vineyard (which includes 44 acres of Pinot Noir). The site (planted in 2001) sits on a south-facing hill just south of the Van Duzer corridor, on soils that are mostly marine sedimentary.
The wine spent about a year in French oak, 25% new, and it clocks in at 14% listed alc. Closer in style to California than to Burgundy (that’s vintage-related as well), this is absolutely delicious, rich and well-stuffed with classic Oregon aromas and flavors of ripe black cherry, forest floor, and smoky/flinty minerals. The finish has supple – but definitely noticeable – tannin structure, lovely and unexpected for this tag, which usually produces total chuggers. Good single-vineyard juice from a charming vintage, for twenty bucks? Yes please.
Cristom is one of the stronger Oregon producers that we have not yet offered through Full Pull. They have lovely estate single-vineyard bottlings from Eola-Amity Hills at the top of the lineup, but today we’re focused on their entry-level bottling, the Mt. Jefferson Cuvée. Produced continuously since 1994, this is a blend of all of Cristom’s estate vineyard sites augmented by a small amount of purchased fruit. It’s about 40% whole cluster fruit (stems and all), and spends one year in French oak (11% new).
The great wine writer Neal Martin (Wine Advocate) nicely captured what I found so seductive about this vintage of Mt. Jeff: [TEXT WITHHELD]. We have plenty of sources we can turn to for fruit-driven Pinots, but earthier bottlings are rarer. This possesses a wonderfully earthy nose, with soil and mushroom balancing the mineral and flower-inflected raspberry fruit. The great rocky core continues on the palate. This is brisk (13.5% listed alc), minerally Pinot. The fruit profile is dark indeed, and the texture is open-knit and inviting. This seems to be just now entering a terrific drinking window, and it will certainly be one of our last chances to access the outstanding 2012 vintage in Oregon. [Late note on this one: we actually grabbed the last of the 2012 available in the Seattle market, and it’s not very much. Once we sell through it, the winery is onto the 2013.]
For details on Tyson Crowley, check out our earlier offer. His wines have become list-member favorites over the years, I suspect because they always offer outstanding class for their price points (and because they’re difficult to source outside of Oregon). This is the fourth vintage of Entre Nous we’ve offered, distinct from the Willamette Valley bottling in a few ways: first, because it is an autumn release instead of spring, and so gets an additional 3-4 months in barrel; and second, because it is Crowley’s “flagship blend, comprised exclusively of Pommard and Wadenswil clone Pinot noir from our best vineyard sites. Each barrel is hand selected resulting in a quintessential Oregon Pinot noir with extreme purity and depth of character.” That about sums it up.
In 2013, it is predominantly (70%) Four Winds Vineyard fruit, rounded out with Chehalem Mountains AVA fruit from Laurel Hood Vineyard. It spent 17 months in entirely neutral French oak and comes blasting out of the glass with aromas of pomegranate and cherry fruit, and a wide array of floral topnotes, courtesy, I suspect, of all that good Wadenswil clone material. In my tasting notes, I mentioned a sense of surprise at how structured this 2013 was (both acid and tannin). But then I looked back at my notes for the 2012, and it said the same thing. So it would seem that Entre Nous has made a stylistic shift towards more structure and minerality, which is fine by me. It means the wine takes some time to fully unfurl (either in the cellar or in a decanter), but the rewards of time are great here. This is one of my very favorite Oregon Pinots. I squirrel away a few bottles of every vintage we sell. I just love the intensity and complexity, and all that on a frame that never has any excess weight (this lists at 13% alc). It’s a beauty that could easily command a $40+ tag.
And now the bonus white:
We’ve offered Crowley’s Willamette Valley Chardonnay on three different occasions. Even that one is fairly difficult to source. But the single-vineyard Four Winds bottling has been a ghost, and I’m thrilled that we have access today (Only 75 cases were produced. Total.) Four Winds Vineyard is a Coast Range site planted in 1993, and according to Tyson: [TEXT WITHHELD]
So if Tyson’s Willamette Valley bottling is like a good White Burg, perhaps this is his homage to Chablis. The nose is an expressive mix of lemon oil and green papaya, wood spice and flinty minerality. In the mouth, you sense right away that this is palate-coating Chardonnay, getting to every nook and cranny with its mouthwatering flavors. Juicy, nervy, and intense, this hums across the palate and rolls into a long, lip-smacking finish. What a live wire! (And unlikely to be available for reorder, considering the production quantities involved).
Please limit order requests to 12 bottles of each wine (except the Cristom; let’s limit those to 4 bottles please), 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.