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Wine Spectator 97 Points:
Oregon's 2002 Vintage

by Jean Yates

Wine Spectator's May 15, 2006 issue was devoted to Pinot noir, and in the Oregon section, ratings of recent Oregon Pinot noir vintages included an unprecedented score of 97 points for the 2002 vintage.

Wine Spectator says: "Ideal weather produced extraordinary balance, pure flavors, many great wines."

RobertParker.com says: " All major wine critics agreed that 2002 was a benchmark vintage for Oregon Pinot Noirs. A close look at reports in The Wine Advocate, Wine Spectator, and International Wine Cellar provide strong evidence that 2002 may have been the best vintage ever for Beaver State Pinot."

How 2002 Developed
 


Read More About
the 2002 VIntage:

Oregon’s Great ‘02s:
The best Vintage?
by Cole Danehower

Global Warming and Oregon's 2002 vintage- fluke or trend?
By Harry Pederson-Nedry, Chehalem Winery

With the advantage of hindsight, 2002 is considered one of the all time great vintages in Oregon.  A long, warm growing season produced ideal conditions for ripening Pinot Noir. In what would become the first of two warm vintages, a hotter than usual August and September, coupled with drying east winds, led to a slightly early beginning to harvest. The growing season was terrific and almost all vineyards in the Willamette Valley experienced some unbelievable Indian summer days that kept the temperatures in the 80's during the day, with cool to cold nights helping to increase complexity.

Throughout October, only one brief rain occurred in the middle of the month. Harvest took place under warm and sunny weather that lasted until the end of the month. All of this sunshine and warmth resulted in very high sugars with many winemakers seeing high sugar (brix) in physiologically ripe fruit. Unlike the 2003 vintage, the ripeness of the grapes was accompanied by enough acidity to hold the balance in the wine.

Fine weather and a seamless leadup to harvest gave winemakers time to gear up at a measured pace. Fermentations were clean and easy, with perfect fruit and fairly dry and warm weather even after harvest. Yields hovered between 1.5 and 3 tons per acre, with few vineyards showing the very light and spotty yields of 2003 and 2004. All in all, everything went about as well as could ever be expected.

The 2002 Wines

The 2002 Oregon Pinot noirs show almost perfect balance, and have not yet reached their peak, by any means. Top producers, according to Wine Spectator scores, were Beaux Freres, Bergstrom, Archery Sunnit, Ken Wright, and Argyle. Although their wines have long ago sold out, online auction sites sometimes offer the change to purchase these top rated wines.

Many of the best 2002 Pinots are atypically powerful, almost flamboyant, and opulent. Colors are dense and opaque, and scents and flavors are at mazimum levels, with accompanying richness, lush texture, and intense extraction. Many of the wines will continue to age well through 2012-2014, and perhaps even beyond. If you go looking for the top rated 2002s, we suggest the Beaux Freres Estate, the Bergstrom Estate (Bergstrom Vineyard) and the Beaux Freres "Upper Terrace". A lesser known but quite extraordinary Pinot noir in 2002 is the Patricia Green Cellars "Notorious", made with grapes from a block contiguous with Beaux Freres' Estate vineyard.

Available 2002 Pinot noirs, May 2006

Yes, there are a few 2002 Oregon Pinot noirs around, including a few that give latecomers a chance to see what all the fuss is about without spending huge amounts of money.

Stevenson Barrie "Shea" Pinot noir 02 $24.98/$27.75
Stevenson Barrie Pinot noirJust a beautiful wine, an overlooked gem, very unusual that this wine is still available. Highly recommended.

In the nose, rippling layers of black cherry essence, with hints of barrel toast and spice. Marcus says the nose reminds him of "warm blackberry/raspberry crisp". There's a lovely silky texture in the mouth, and flavors of intense black cherry, black raspberry, touched with soft nutmeg, cinnamon, alspince, and clove. A long finish shows definite but very fine tannins, suggesting even more cellaring is possible before this wine hits its peak. The long, long finish reiterates black fruit, red fruit, and hints of sweet cedar, carrying on in the mouth seemingly forever. Really lovely wine. Michael Stevenson is best known as winemaker at Panther Creek, and for his own Stevenson-Barrie Pinot noir.

Westrey Pinot noir Reserve 02 $32.36/$35.95
Westrey Pinot noirMade with grapes from four of the five AVAs of the Willamette Valley, this wine is particularly appropriate for someone wanting to learn more about the 2002 vintage. Each year, David and Amy try to create a wine that defines that year's vintage. The Westrey Reserve 02 is made to show the best qulities of each AVA's terroir.

The 2002 Reserve is made from 25% Eola Hills Appellation 777 clone fruit, 25% McMinnville Appellation Stony Mountain fruit, 25% Yamhill-Carlton Appellation Shea Block 21 fruit, and 25% Dundee Hills Appellation Abbey Ridge Vineyard fruit. By combining fruit from different appellations, the wine blends and expresses the unique qualities of each terroir. From Abbey Ridge, floral and hightone notes; from Stony Mountain, dark, rich, and muscular qualities that come from cooler sites; from Shea and Eola Hills, ripe cherry fruit.

Scents of creamy cinnamon, red cherry, dark raspberry, marionberry, dried Rainier cherries, and hints of creamy, earthy forest floor (coastal range forest in the spring, says Marcus) announce that this is something special. Flavors are accentuated by a silky, lush texture, and consist of black currant, fresh Marionberry, black cherry, dried cherry, creamy spice, and woodsy forest floor. This is a concentrated wine with a nice core of lifting acidity and very finegrained tannins. Th long finish stays and stays, reiterating the dried cherry flavors with tiny hints of fresh cedar. The wine is reminiscent of Burgundy rather than the new world, and cellaring will greatly reward the patient for 5-7 more years.

Cottonwood Pinot noir Brigette Catherine 02 $35.96/$39.95
Cottonwood Brigette CatherineCottonwood is the label for Aaron Lieberman, David O'Reilly's right hand at Owen Roe Winery. The wine was quite forward and easy drinking upon release, but showed plenty of structure for aging. Three years later, the wine has matured into a quite worthy example of the 2002 vintage. With fruit coming from two lesser known Red Hills vineyards, it shows many of the qualities of the Domaine Serene, Domaine Drouhin, and Archery Summit 2002's.

The grapes for the 2002 Bridgette Catherine Pinot Noir came from Durant Vineyard (83%) and Winter’s Hill Vineyard (17%). Durant Vineyard is located in the Red Hills between Sokol Blosser Vineyard and Domaine Drouhin Vineyard. Located in the "sweet spot" occupied by Sokol Blosser, Domaine Drouhin, Domaine Serene, and Archery Summit, the grapes for this wine came from vineyards contiguous, in some cases, with the vineyards that produced the higest rated wines of the vintage.

The grapes for the Brigette Catherine came from the Casita block of Durant Vineyard, one of the highest elevation blocks of the vineyard. Casita contributes incredibly rich flavors of black currants, pears and small ripe Oregon strawberries to the wine. While the vines were young, they show great promise as evidenced by this fine wine. Additional grapes for this Pinot came from Winter’s Hill Vineyard, also located in the Red Hills between Stoller Vineyard and Domaine Serene Vineyard. The Winteres Hill fruit is from old Pommard vines. The wine made from these Winter’s Hill vines balances the luscious fruit of the Durant with notes of tobacco, licorice and spices. The wine is full-bodied and smooth with an excellent tannin profile.

The grapes from both vineyards were carefully picked and then, after being chilled to 40 degrees Fahrenheit, were gently destemmed and allowed to cold macerate for four days. With about 1% sugar remaining in the grapes they were lightly pressed and the wine transferred to French, oak barrels (33% new) to finish fermentation. The winery allowed this wine to age for 16 months in barrel before bottling. The wine was racked a total of four times to achieve clarity and stability, it is unfined and unfiltered. 154 cases were produced.

For more 2002 Pinot noirs still available, with tasting notes and reviews, check out
Oregon 2002 Wines o
n the Northwest-wine.com site.

 



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Wine Spectator rates Oregon's 2002 vintage 97 points


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