Hello friends. For any Pinot Noir lover, the quest for a beautiful bottle never ends. Whether it be Burgundy gems or California fruit-forward samples, a rare German specimen or delicate and earthy Willamette Valley bottles, Pinot Noir is the type of wine to fit most moods and meals. It is the type of wine to always have on hand. Today, we’re offering you a trio of our favorite recent samplings from our neighbor to the south, Oregon. These bottles range in price, but all three are consistently true to the Burgundian-American style that the Pacific Northwest has become famous for.
2015 Crowley Wines Willamette Valley Pinot Noir
Crowley Wines, always a list favorite, always difficult to source outside of Oregon, started making traditional Burgundian inspired Oregon Pinot Noir in 2005. To the winery, this means wine with minimal intervention with aggressive attention to detail, letting nature lead the way. Their central belief is that wines are made in the vineyard—which is a great belief to have when making Pinot Noir. Pinot grapes are incredibly terroir driven, and easily susceptible to weather, location, and winemaker perspective. That is why Pinot Noir from different regions can feels so varied; this low-tannin and thin skinned grape takes on all the qualities of the region it comes from.
The 2015 Crowley Willamette Valley Pinot comes from La Colina Vineyard and Tuckwilla Vineyard, both in Dundee Hills, and Four Wines Vineyard in the Cost Range. Every lot used was 100% destemmed, and the wine was aged for 16 months in mostly neutral oak before bottling. The wine pours a vibrant red in the glass—it’s visibly light and fresh. The nose blooms with cranberry, wild strawberries, and leafy herbs and spices. Lively acidity jumps out the glass and continues on the palate with echos of the cranberry and strawberry from the nose. Like intended, this wine is acid driven, with a strong backbone and remarkable polish, somehow retaining Tyson Crowley’s signature elegance in a vintage that very much wants to be openly delicious. The finish is textured, long, and spotted with spicy herbal notes.
The acid and fruit make this friendly for food or drinking on its own. To me, this is a perfect pinot for the coming summer grilling months—you know, that time of year when you may want to drink red wine but it’s 80 degrees out. Pair this bottle with BBQ chicken legs with dark, char marks, grilled salmon, and all sorts of seasonal grilled vegetables.
2014 Arterberry Maresh Weber Vineyard Pinot Noir
2013 proved to be a difficult vintage for much of Oregon, with late rains providing serious challenges. To everyone’s delight, 2014 proved to be a wholly different vintage, and few wineries showed that better that Arterberry Maresh.
For those of you who aren’t familiar with Arterberry Maresh—this is a winery is steeped in Oregon tradition, and its wines can be hard to find. The Maresh family bought their first parcel of land in the Dundee Hills in 1956 and quickly expanded their holdings to include over 140 acres. Due to some friendly peer pressure from a neighboring grape grower the Maresh family planted three acres of vines in 1970, which is now Oregon 5th oldest vineyard, Maresh Vineyard. The winemaking at Maresh farm only continued to grow from there.
Martha Maresh was one of the Maresh daughters, and is still involved with the farming and production at her own winery, Powell Hill Winery. She married Fred Arterberry, who was one of the first winemakers from Oregon to graduate from UC Davis, and they had a son, Jim Arterberry Maresh. Arterberry Maresh is Jim’s project, stemming from his father’s winery, Arterberry, that closed after he passed away. Jim is a relatively young winemaker, which makes his accomplishments at Arterberry Maresh that much more impressive. He began playing around with wine at about 17 years old, and opened Arterberry Maresh, an ode to the two families, in 2007, in his mid-20s, with the release of his inaugural 2005 vintage. Jim represents a new era within Oregon—the era of third generation winemakers.
In June 2016, Neal Martin wrote a round of reviews for Wine Advocate on the 2014 vintage from Arterberry Maresh. He visited the vineyards and spoke with Jim Maresh directly about the difference between vintages, and what happened to break 2013 and make 2014: There was no “Young Thug” rapping at 120 decibels when I visited Jim Maresh. That was a shame because I had been learning the lyrics for the last year. Still, the lack of rap was compensated by some of the best range of wines that I tasted from the 2014 vintage. That said, Jim was less complementary and brutally honest about the prior vintage…
“I sold off 40% of reds in 2013. It was an ugly vintage,” he opined. “Rot didn’t affect the whites but Weber and Juliard were declassified.”
So I asked Jim how he approached the 2014. “In 2014 it cooled down towards the end of the season, so alcohol levels kept under control. I picked most of Maresh Vineyard between 8 and 11 October. I stopped experimenting with whole cluster and went back to basics in 2014. One hundred percent de-stemmed and a long time in old barrels. In 2014, one signature of the wines is the length. They finish so long, which is not normal for a warm vintage. I tend to oxidize hard after the press.”
During my stay in Oregon I was explaining to a couple of people about winemakers with “the knack.” They just get it. They know how to make great Pinot Noir seemingly effortlessly, and practice small things that make a big difference. And Jim Maresh has the knack, because despite his laidback attitude towards life, I reckon he’s not that way at all when it comes to his wines. You can’t make them this good without caring. What’s more, he told me how he sees no reason to price his wines so highly that people can’t enjoy them, a fiscal approach dichotomous to others, they make the error of setting price first and then making the wine to fit it. His 2013s may have hit a bum note, but his 2014s hit the high.”
The Weber Vineyard Pinot Noir truly pushes the boundaries of Burgundy and Oregon. Though much of WIllamette’s Pinot Noir is dedicated to the style of Burgundy, many wines find their own style along the way—a hybrid of new world meets old world, that isn’t any worse, it’s just different. The Weber Pinot Noir is one of the truest Burgundy-style, new world Pinots we’ve tried. Weber Vineyard is planted with Pommard clones and is responsible for noble, vibrantly floral, and structured, acid driven wines—and this bottling is true to the vineyard.
Wine Advocate (Neal Martin): “[REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD] 93 points.”
2014 Arterberry Maresh Maresh Vineyard Pinot Noir
Maresh Vineyard is managed directly by the Maresh family, and serves as Jim’s reference point for Dundee Hills Pinot. It is known for creating complex, layered examples with concentrated fruit, florals, spices, minerality, and acid. Those of our list members who consider themselves Pinot Noir nuts, this is a bottle you shouldn’t miss.
Wine Advocate (Neal Martin): “[REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD] 95 points.” [Context note: of the 566 Oregon wines Neal Martin reviewed in his 2016 annual report for Wine Advocate, this was the single highest rated wine of the bunch.]
First come first served up to TK bottles total, and the wines should arrive in a week or two, at which point they will be available for pickup or shipping during the next temperature-appropriate shipping window.