This blind tasting of current Pinot Noir releases was particularly rewarding because it’s about good value wines, and so many submitted proved to be high in quality while still reasonably priced, which made it all the more difficult for panel members to reach a consensus on recommendations.
It’s also gratifying to note how more and more wineries are holding back their release dates in an effort to gain more time in barrel and/or bottle before sending them out into the marketplace.
While we did separate the two vintages into different flights, some might say that evaluating 2010s side by side against 2011s actually works to the disadvantage of the younger wines. But, as it turned out, the final tally resulted in eight selections from 2011 and just five from 2010.
Ardiri 2010 Chehalem Mountains Pinot Noir $29 (450 cases)
The appealing aroma of cake baking in the oven leads to multi-dimensional layers of fruit, spice and earth supported by soft tannins. A beautifully balanced wine that leaps to the head of the class.
Amity 2010 Willamette Valley Pinot Noir • $28 (650 cases)
Cozy elegance may be an unusual description, but the warm, tasty mid-mouthfeel, accented by hints of spice, currant, cherry, leather and brown sugar, makes it appropriate.
Twelve 2010 Yamhill-Carlton Pinot Noir • $28 (850 cases)
Engaging aromas of pine needles and white pepper prepare the palate for red berry, spice and oak vanillin in a soft, round and compelling package.
Clay Hill (Deponte Cellars) 2010 Willamette Valley Pinot Noir • $28 (650 cases)
Classic earth and fruit varietal character comes quickly to the fore: lavender, red berry and cherry follow, accompanied by fresh, lively acidity. It all culminates in a long, lingering finish.
Dion 2010 Chehalem Mountains Pinot Noir • $22 (198 cases)
A dusty, delicacy enrobes and enhances some Pinots, and this one makes the most of it. Earthy notes mingle with an intriguing hint of fresh dill, gingersnaps and black cherries.
King Estate 2011 Oregon Pinot Noir • $27 (24,000 cases)
Though young, this wine still holds forth in its big, bold façade. Underlying notes of berry and juniper, within the still-evolving concentration of components, suggest a rewarding future.
Ponzi 2011 Tavola Willamette Valley Pinot Noir • $25 (10,000 cases)
A lovely nose of oak, caramel and cola introduce like-flavors plus tobacco and spice. This wine is already showing superior characteristics.
Cardwell Hill 2011 Estate Willamette Valley Pinot Noir • $24 (3,020 cases)
Very raspberry up front will quickly sell most sippers; but the deal is clinched with a well-balanced harmony of a light and delightful style.
Mt. Hood 2011 Estate Columbia Gorge Pinot Noir • $26 (200 cases)
A little more time for bottle development should complete an already attractive picture of aromatic violets, concentrated cherry and a hint of eucalyptus.
Henry Estate 2011 Oregon Pinot Noir • $18 (881 cases)
Layers of lovely flavors immediately parade over the palate with Bing cherry, oak and clove at the forefront. An aristocrat all the way yet carrying a peasant’s price tag.
Erratic Rock (Yamhill Valley Vineyards) 2011 Willamette Valley Pinot Noir • $15 (500 cases)
This wine may cost less than the rest, but it shows first class credentials. Youthfulness enlivens jammy fruit, soft tannins, a whiff of smoke and a hint of anise.
TeSóAria 2011 Southern Oregon Pinot Noir • $30 (145 cases)
Sour cherry mingles with campfire in an intriguing manner; then gives way to a full-bodied mid-mouth of tangy fruit complemented by lively acid, solid tannins and a touch of toast.
Helioterra 2011 Willamette Valley Pinot Noir • $24 (284 cases)
Balance is what this wine is all about. The delicate elegance that Pinot Noir can achieve is evident from first intriguing sniff to final savory swallow. Then there’s a 10K finish.
The OWP tasting panel has selected these wines based on overall quality and value within their respective categories. To the best of our knowledge, they are currently available in the marketplace. Wine must be: 1) produced by an Oregon winery; 2) priced (retail) $30 or less for reds, $30 or less for Chardonnay, $30 or less for dessert and sparkling wines, and $25 or less for remaining varietals; and 3) currently available to consumers. Recommended wines were selected using a double-blind method and a 20-point ranking system for appearance, aroma, taste, balance and finish.