Deep Delve into 2012

Panel digs into incredible vintage of Oregon Pinot

By Karl Klooster

During the past decade, Oregon Pinot Noir has indisputably demonstrated how it has earned its status as one the best in the world, if not the best. Among the several top-rated vintages over those years, 2012 has proved to be the most lauded of them all.

“The quality of the fruit is in the top echelon of harvests ever.” “Quality is very, very high.” “This promises to be a vintage to remember.” “Amazing.” Such comments reflect the unbridled enthusiasm ubiquitous across the industry and in the media.

Oregon Wine Board placed a punctuation point on 2012 by calling it “An epic harvest that could lead to one of the best vintages in the history of the 50-year-old region.”

Our Oregon Wine Press panel’s recent tasting of 2012 Pinot Noirs confirmed that prediction. The submitted wines were so exceptional almost across the board, limiting the list to the final selections proved a demanding, albeit engaging challenge.

2012 ArborBrook Origin 1866 Estate Chehalem Mountains Pinot Noir

A multi-noted symphony of flavors emanates from this expressive wine. Raspberry, dark chocolate-covered cherry, black licorice and hints of coconut combine to create a soft, round, pleasing impression on the palate. Hazelnut notes accent the lingering finish. $45; 425 cases

2012 CAW Yamhill-Carlton Estate Pinot Noir

Planted in 2003, the 10-acre Coats & Whitney Vineyard is devoted entirely to Pinot Noir. The latest release exhibits a ripe fruit aroma and silky sweet, red cherry mid-mouth accented by fine tannins. Nicely balanced throughout. $38; 220 cases

2012 Cottonwood Winery Marina Piper Willamette Valley Pinot Noir

Floral notes mingle with minerality on the nose. A smooth, velvety mouthfeel features juicy red cherry and cranberry augmented by earthiness. Good balance and a long finish define this totally tasty wine. $22; 686 cases

2012 DANCIN Vineyards Trata Southern Oregon Pinot Noir         

Coffee, red berry and leather lend Old World charm to a full-bodied, Burgundian-style Pinot, seemingly transplanted to Southern Oregon soil. Light, tingly tannins complement the classic combination of aromas and flavors. $34; 149 cases

2012 Eugene Wine Cellars B2 Willamette Valley Pinot Noir

A hint of campfire smoke makes for an enticing nose; while earth, bramble and oak marry with white chocolate and cherry cobbler in the mouth. A satisfying, savory spice comes forward on the finish. $22; 2,000 cases

2012 Irvine Vineyards Oregon Pinot Noir

Fruity and floral up front, meaty and mouth-filling in the middle and amply appealing on the aftertaste. It all adds up to a delightfully tasty, soft and buttery, viscous wine that offers flavor hints of pineapple, plum, stone fruit and honeysuckle. $40; 771 cases

2012 Keeler Estate Eola-Amity Hills Pinot Noir       

Bordering on elegant, the intriguingly complex components keep you coming back for more. Bright acidity on a light yet solid frame enlivens a host of flavors led by aromas of raspberry, coffee, saddle leather and bread yeast. Black cherry underpins the flavor follow-up of this well-defined wine. $30; 160 cases

2012 Marshall Davis Beacon Hill Vineyard Yamhill-Carlton Pinot Noir

A profoundly purple appearance announces concentrated berry fruit, round in the mouth with resolved tannins, cinnamon toast, prunes and five-spice accents. The finish is remarkably long and lingering. $36; 125 cases

2012 Native Flora “The Venerable Youth” Eola-Amity Hills Pinot Noir

A blend of old and newer vines — thus the name — the wine’s upfront palate offers lush helpings of dark cherry, blackberry and raspberry. Following close on these flavorful heels are an underlying earthiness and perfectly composed tannins. $44; 120 cases

2012 Poco Collina Gelardi Vineyard Willamette Valley Pinot Noir             

Tannins are prominent, but balance is evident within this still youthful wine. Yet to reveal its promise, the wine’s aromas of blackberry and medicinal minerality hint at complexity to come with further cellaring. $26; 100 cases

2012 Provincial Vineyards Willamette Valley Estate Pinot Noir                  

Ready to enjoy now, this delicately delightful Pinot offers an enticingly dusty cherry aroma along with hints of violet. Soft, light and tasty throughout, with enticing notes of tea leaves and dark berry accented by a touch of butterscotch. Drink now or soon. $32; 100 cases

2012 Silvan Ridge Willamette Valley Pinot Noir      

Cellaring this complex, flavor-layered beauty would be your best bet. Classic aroma and taste components abound: oak, leather, coffee, cedar, orange zest, sour cherry and spice all tightly packaged and prepared to reward a several-year wait. $22; 1,100 cases

2012 St. Innocent Zenith Vineyard Estate Eola-Amity Hills Pinot Noir      

A glass of liquid sophistication well describes this pretty Pinot showing gardenia and sweet spice on the nose. The palate is treated to cherry, raspberry and blueberry with a touch of tannin. Complexity keeps on coming in an extended finish. $42; 1,310 cases

2012 Stoller Family Estate Dundee Hills Pinot Noir 

From first sniff to final sip, tasters quickly became true believers in this wine. A deep, rich blanket of berry and cherry settle over the scene. Cloaked in smooth tannins and firm acidity, the balance makes it nearly irresistible to drink now. And it actually has broader availability. $30; 7,050 cases

2012 Wine by Joe Oregon Pinot Noir

Fruit-filled aroma and flavor impressions marry raspberry and Marionberry with black cherry. A hint of rhubarb adds distinction. Soft and supple on the mid-palate. Dry, medium-density tannins combine with tangy acidity to bring good overall balance. $19 16,200 cases

2012 Winter’s Hill Estate Dundee Hills Pinot Noir

Here is a poster child for the vintage and the variety. Cherry, berry complexity accented by cinnamon and black pepper on the mid-palate. A harmonious balance of flavors, tannins and acidity that slowly says goodbye with a hint of chocolate on the finish. $34; 423 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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