Oregon Pinot Noir

For the May 2014 tasting, wineries sent us currently available Pinot Noirs — mostly 2012s, along with several 2011s. They are two excellent but stylistically very different vintages.

At their best, the 2011s can be classically Burgundian in style. Elegant, earthy, multi-layered flavors and delicately enticing fruit. The kinds of wines most Oregon winemakers strive to produce every year.

Generosity is what we see in the 2012s. Ripe, fruity and full-bodied. The best are well balanced, making them wines a lot of people will love.

As tasty as they may be, this is not the style preferred by many Oregon winemakers. To their way of thinking, these are non-pinot Pinots.

So, this month, we have the clean, mean and delightfully lean 2011s along with the big, bold and unabashedly brassy 2012s. Not to mention, a divine 2009 and an excellent 2010 that snuck in because they are, in fact, among those wineries’ most recent releases.

2009 Firesteed Cellars Willamette Valley Pinot Noir

A refined wine with classically Burgundian character, augmented by a few additional years of bottle age, is always a pleasure. Complex, developed flavors complement one another. Leather, butterscotch and coffee intertwines with red cherry fruit flavors. $30; 2,500 cases

2010 August Cellars Willamette Valley Pinot Noir

Pinots from the “miracle” 2010 vintage have proved to be top-tier middleweights exhibiting the best of what the variety is all about. This one displays a fragrant front followed by softness and subtlety with the zing of candied fruit. $20; 900 cases

2011 Keeler Estate Eola-Amity Hills Pinot Noir

A rush of fresh, jammy red berry verifies why Keeler points to purity in its wines owing to Biodynamic farming. Floral aromas and sweet, tasty flavor with a dash of spice describe this easy drinker. $30; 163 cases

2011 Lumos Five Blocks Oregon Pinot Noir

Indian summer rescued the copious 2011 vintage from near disaster and transformed it into Oregon’s latest-ever successful harvest. Both depth and delicacy find plum and currant in harmony with minerality and hints of pepper. Balance brings it all together. $25; 855 cases

2011 Stoller Family Estate Dundee Hills Pinot Noir

A medley of savory flavors marks a fuller style for this vintage that features hints of white pepper and a dash of dried dill weed. Jammy berry is chased by root beer in the mid-mouth, which pleasantly persists. $25; 6,412 cases

2011 Love & Squalor Willamette Valley Pinot Noir

Six Yamhill Valley vineyards contribute to this masterful blend offering an appealing experience from first sip to final savor. Engaging flavors of cocoa, smoke and strawberry lend structure to the wine’s resolved tannins. $24; 848 cases

2011 Provincial Vineyards Willamette Valley Pinot Noir

A delightfully dusty aroma of tobacco, earth and cedar leads to tangy sour cherry and spice. Floral notes accent the overall impression and extend through a long, lingering finish. $27; 70 cases

2012 Kramer Vineyards Estate Yamhill-Carlton Pinot Noir

Aromas of cola, plum and blueberry roll out of the glass. A big, round wine with still tight tannins signaling further cellaring will bring well-balanced benefits. $22; 300 cases

2012 Left Coast Cali’s Cuvée Willamette Valley Pinot Noir

Ripe dark fruit and dried fig deliver immediate tasting enjoyment to a big, full-bodied wine that keeps opening up in the glass. Oak vanillin and supple tannin add to the assets as should more time in bottle. $24; 8,883 cases 

2012 Winter’s Hill Vineyard Estate Watershed Dundee Hills Pinot Noir

Right up front are round, ripe, silky flavors to savor. Dark chocolate, black cherry and roasted raisins please the palate. Solid acidity and sweet tannins say drinking now is fine but the reward later will be even better. $25; 486 cases

2012 Brooks Willamette Valley Pinot Noir

An emerging pattern with these 2012 Pinots centers on ripeness, roundness and density. A smoky rose nose is followed by soft tannins providing the foundation for jammy red fruit and Jasmine tea. $28; 3,406 cases

2012 La Crema Willamette Valley Pinot Noir

The producers of one of California’s most popular Pinot Noirs have come north and released their very first Oregon Pinot. It’s big, round and bordering on elegant, with nicely balanced flavors of coffee, cola, dark cherry and a touch of tar. $30; 12,000 cases

2012 Idealist Wines Diplomat Willamette Valley Pinot Noir

Looming less large than other examples of the vintage, this middleweight wine presents completeness and complexity. A forward floral aroma ushers in sweet, bright berry touched by butterscotch and baked bread. $24; 135 cases

2012 Spindrift Cellars Willamette Valley Pinot Noir

A delicately delightful drinker with a satisfyingly soft, sweet red cherry mid-mouth and an overall taste impression conveying varietal character from start to finish. $22; 970 cases

2012 Monte Ferro Oregon Pinot Noir

Equal quantities of Dijon clones 777 and 114 from Westbrook Vineyards in the Umpqua Valley lend tantalizing layers of aroma and flavor focused on black cherry and leather. Hints of macaroon, toffee and coffee add accents. $25; 756 cases

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 retail marketplace. The wines have met the following criteria: 1) produced by an Oregon winery; 2) priced (retail) $30 or less for Pinot Noir; 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.


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