Full Pull Mirror Image

September 1, 2018

Hello friends. This year has been a trip when it comes to value Oregon Pinot offers, and it has made me realize that the opportunity of Oregon-wines-sold-in-Washington is the mirror image of the frustration of Washington-wines-sold-out-of-state.

My blood pressure is driven up on a semi-regular basis when I see Washington wineries slashing pricing and dumping their wines with some of our out-of-state competitors. Inevitably, when I complain about not being offered the same deal, the response talks about needing to maintain brand reputation within the cozy confines of Washington. Basically, they don’t want to see their wines on a deep discount locally, but out of state is fine. I’ll save my lengthy argument about why I think this represents short-sighted thinking for another day (basically, the argument boils down to: the internet has been around for like twenty years now), and move onto the mirror image.

The mirror image is: Oregon wineries have suddenly caught wind of the fact that there’s this operation waaaaaay up north in Seattle involving scores of people who like nothing so much as delicious, deeply discounted Pinot Noir from our neighbors to the south.

2015 McCleskey Cellars Pinot Noir Horseleap Vineyard
This is the latest in a series of 2018 beauties that also includes 2015 AF Nichols Willamette Valley, 2014 Bellingar Estates, and 2014 AF Nichols Principio. What is different about this particular wine is that it is a single-vineyard bottling, and better yet: from an estate vineyard. The discount is also a little (a lot) more outrageous: this began its life at a $42 release price.

Our terrific staff writer Dylan Joffe recently had the opportunity to attend Oregon Pinot Camp (yes, this is a thing), and while there, established a relationship with a new member of FP’s Vast Network of Wine Spies™. On July 2, she received the following from said spy: Hi Dylan. I have a brand that I think could be a good fit right now: McCleskey Cellars. The grapes are from their estate in the N. Willamette Valley, and the wines are made by Marcus Goodfellow at Matello winery. You have probably had Marcus’s wines before. He is in my top 5 best winemakers out here.

My ears perked up right away when Dylan forwarded this my way. Have we had Marcus’ wines before? Yes we have. Have we offered Matello wines before? Yep; numerous occasions. He is a super-talented Pinot producer (Syrah too), and the thought of Marcus’ talent applied to some North Willamette vineyard I had never heard of? Yeah, I was intrigued. Samples arrived July 10, we tasted them July 19, they were (no surprise) great, and negotiations on price and quantities proceeded from there. Since you’re reading this, it’s safe to assume those negotiations went well.

Horseleap Vineyard (located here) was planted out in 2001 by Mike and Anne McCleskey, and they’ve been making wine from the estate since 2009. It’s a 6.3-acre site, all on marine sedimentary soils, and 5 of those acres are planted to Pinot Noir, split just about down the middle between Dijon and Pommard clones. This 2015 comes entirely from Pommard material, and it was aged for a year in (mostly neutral) French oak. It clocks in at 14.2% listed alc and begins with a nose that combines fruit (red cherry, blood orange) with a whole host of earth tones: dust and soil and above all crunchy leaves underfoot. There’s something crepuscular about the nose that evokes autumn and right away had me in the mood for coq au vin or boeuf bourguignon or pretty much any French dish involving braising meats and veggies and mushrooms in Pinot Noir. What I love about this wine is that is possesses the generosity and outright pleasure of the ’15 vintage, but still retains Marcus’ signature elegance and juicy acidity and earthy complexity. What a balanced beauty. What a bargain.