Applause for Pinot Noir

If any wine is about nuance, it’s Pinot Noir. No wine, red or white, can claim to possess such subtlety intertwined with multi-layered complexity.

And it ultimately falls to each taster to make a carefully considered, albeit personally subjective, decision about what differentiates the very good from the best of the bunch. As always, that is the OWP Wine Tasting Panel’s task with the goal of reaching a consensus of choice. It’s simply that with Pinot Noir, the challenge is cranked up a couple of notches. 

2011 WillaKenzie Estate Yamhill-Carlton Pinot Noir • $30 (5,000 cases)
Everything you’d hope for in a delicately refined, subtlely seductive Pinot. Nuanced floral aromatics lead to understated flavors of cranberry and candied fruit. Beautifully balanced. 

2010 Tyee Estate Barrel Select Willamette Valley Pinot Noir • $32 (100 cases)
Diverse flavors make for an intriguing taste. Briar and orange peel, citrus and cocoa, maple and tobacco may sound a bit unusual, but put them all together and they add up to a quite appealing whole. 

2011 Left Coast Cellars Right Bank Willamette Valley Pinot Noir • $35 (162 cases)
A marriage of cocoa, cola and seductive dark berry describes the aroma. If it were any prettier, you’d want to propose to it. Complex, concentrated flavor interest featuring light toast, mocha and vanilla envelop the palate. 

2011 Benton-Lane Estate Willamette Valley Pinot Noir • $29 (19,742 cases)
Easy drinking with plenty of appeal mark this classy middleweight. Black berry and cherry accented by cinnamon combine for an intriguing taste and good balance delivers it all from start to finish. 

2010 Twelve Yamhill Carlton Pinot Noir • $40 (48 cases)
With just 576 bottles for the world, the only place you’d likely find this complex wine is at the winery’s tasting room in McMinnville. Cherry, cedar, white pepper, alfalfa tea, espresso and a hint of smoke together create its cachet. 

2011 Plaisance Ranch Applegate Valley Pinot Noir • $25 (75 cases)
The synonyms of elegance include sophistication, refinement and taste. In this case, taste is a double entendre. Nuanced flavors of plum, cinnamon and spice clad in a richly textured robe give this aristocrat both style and stylishness. 

2009 Lumos Temperance Hill Vineyard Oregon Pinot Noir • $34 (421 cases)
This low-production standout offers tasty, ripe raspberry upfront that merges with coffee, briar and touch of nuttiness in the finish. A bright, well-balanced wine. 

2011 Beckham Estate Vineyard Chehalem Mountains Pinot Noir • $30 (350 cases)
Floral nose, lively acidity, dusty dryness, red fruits and hints of spice unite to offer a lip-smacking, yummy, good taste experience. Goes down soft and smooth. 

2011 iOTA Pelos Sandberg Vineyard Eola-Amity Hills Pinot Noir • $38 (767 cases)
In the true estate tradition, what you see is what you get. This is iOTA’s one and only wine each year. And, yes, iOTA is how they ask that it be spelled. Fruity depth on the nose, full in the mouth. A big wine with concentrated dark fruit, bright acidity and good balance. 

2011 Sweet Cheeks Wllamette Valley Pinot Noir • $23 (400 cases)
Loads of flavor from first to final sip. Black currant, sour cherry, cinnamon roll, butterscotch, tobacco wrapped in refined tannins with a lingering, multi-layered finish.

2010 Irvine Vineyards Oregon Pinot Noir • $35 (151 cases)
That word “elegance” crops up again here. In Burgundy, the lighter, more feminine, if you will, nuances are prized. This refined wine’s sweet, soft boysenberry flavor is enhanced by a hint of violets and a dash of cracked pepper. 

2008 Firesteed Willamette Valley Pinot Noir • $35 (2,311 cases)
A bit more time in the bottle has brought forth a flood of layered flavor interest including red cherry, mint, herbs and leather intertwined with a piquant dustiness on the palate and a lingering, long finish. 

2010 Watermill Walla Walla Valley Pinot Noir • $42 (99 cases)
A three-ring circus of pleasing aroma and taste impressions include strawberry, raspberry, kettle corn and cotton candy. The mid-mouth is a sweet and satisfying berry bomb. 

2011 Sweet Earth Estate Willamette Valley Pinot Noir • $20 (206 cases)
In operation just eight years, Sweet Earth has already captured the essence of Pinot Noir’s varietal character with rich, brambly berry, cedar, tobacco, leather and a lengthy finish. 

The Oregon Wine Press tasting panel has selected the following 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.

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