Vintage Variation

Pinot Noirs from 2012 and 2013 disparate yet delightful

This month’s blind tasting shows two very different vintages. Everyone swooned over the good fortune that shined down on Oregon during 2012, while 2013 couldn’t have been a bigger nail-biter. The 2012 standouts 

displayed a bolder style, more extracted; whereas the 2013s elicited classic character in a more delicate mode.

Love & Squalor 2012 Willamette Valley Pinot Noir 

Shades of the Côte-d’Or in an Oregon cloak. This very varietal Burgundian-like Pinot shows hints of toffee and leather wrapped in red cherry on a delicate yet flavorful framework. $25; 900 cases

Dobbes Family Estate 2012 Grand Assemblage Pinot Noir 

This wine changes in the glass, first presenting a tannic entry that assumes a spicy brightness in the mid-palate accented by red cherry and orange peel. Flavors harmonize nicely. $28; 2,000 cases

Calamity Hill 2012 Eola-Amity Hills Pinot Noir                       

The mere 45 cases Tom and Marion Vail call Garden Shed Red Pinot Noir is almost entirely the product of their personal labor. It possesses a depth of fruit and richness whose tightness indicates a need for more time. $29; 45 cases

Idealist 2012 Historian Yamhill-Carlton Pinot Noir    

Young winemaker John Lyon adheres to a minimalist philosophy in winemaking. His Historian Pinot offers many singular yet compatible flavors, including coffee, dark chocolate, cooked fruit, cola, spice and slate that coalesce into a multifaceted varietal statement. $30; 50 cases

Cardwell Hill 2012 Estate Willamette Valley Pinot Noir 

Enticing floral and red berry aromas surround a round cherry-berry charmer whose expansive fruit is robed in tannin-tinged spiciness. $24; 3,206 cases

Melrose Vineyards 2012 Umpqua Valley Estate Pinot Noir                 

Round and round and round we go. Soft, dark fruit flavors fill the mouth and seduce the tastebuds. Finishes with cherry cola on template of resolved tannins. $22; 1,000 cases

Wine by Joe 2012 Pinot Noir

Surprise! It’s screw-top worthy of setting aside for a while. Dried fruit, plummy, almost Port-like flavor profile is complemented by a dry dustiness and touch of tannin, all of which add interest. Nicely balanced throughout. $19; 16,200 cases

Joleté (Aubichon Cellars) 2013 Willamette Valley Pinot Noir    

The sweetness of marzipan, tartness of sour cherry, heat of pepper, vanilla extract of oak and drying bitterness of tannin combine in a way that must be tasted to be understood, much less enjoyed. $25; 464 cases

Sweet Cheeks 2013 Willamette Valley Pinot Noir        

Engaging flavors dance in this presumptuous Pinot. Red Cherry, oak vanillin, licorice, pepper and spice unite to create a cornucopia of enjoyment. $25; 1,372 cases

Carlton Cellars 2013 Seven Devils Willamette Valley Pinot Noir

A mighty tasty middleweight with layers of interlacing flavors, including caramel, stone fruit, oak vanillin and a touch of tannin. Finishes long and luxurious. $25; 1,075 cases

Brooks Winery 2013 Willamette Valley Pinot Noir     

This blend exhibits characteristics of cherry, strawberry, pomegranate and eucalyptus with a touch of earth, herbs and lively acidity. $28; 4,124 cases

Left Coast Cellars 2013 Cali’s Cuvée Pinot Noir      

For a smaller winery, this is quite a lot of wine being sent out into the world. Fortunately, it rests on a firmly balanced platform that supports rich dark cherry, celery, black pepper and approachable tannins. $24; 10,115 cases

Eugene Wine Cellars b2 2013 Willamette Valley Pinot Noir 

Bold beefy smoke and dried fig flavors lend appealing accents to a raspberry base in this full, tannic example atypical of the vintage. $20; 2,000 cases


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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