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Above, Archery Summit's Estate Vineyard- January 2005-
note pruned vine pieces piled up in the rows

Oregon Pinot noir
What to Expect in 2005
by Jean Yates
February 2005

Maybe it's the "Sideways" effect (the award-winning movie about Pinot noir lovers), maybe it's the economy, but Oregon Pinot noir is attracting attention. Oregon Pinot noir is receiving more coverage in print, in both wine related publications and general interest magazines, and on the tube, and Avalon's website has seen many more visitors to our Pinot noir related pages in the last few months.

 

 

 

Second Labels- A Boon to All Pinot noir Makers

Pinot noir is not such a specialized sale as it used to be. The change can be attributed to many factors, two of which are especially influential - the increasing quality of Oregon Pinots overall, and the impact of new, lower cost, delicious "Second Label" Pinots made with high quality fruit by experienced winemakers.

For many years, most Oregon Pinot noirs selling for under $25 were found in the grocery, and were not the most tasty examples of Oregon winemaking. Exceptions existed, but many were, well, not good. Sorry if anyone's feelings are hurt.

Enter Bill Hatcher, manager of Domaine Drouhin for many years. He joined forces with Sam Tannahill and Cheryl Francis (Francis Tannahill Winery) in 2003 and made an entry level, under $20 Pinot noir from fruit sourced from all over Oregon (thus the "A to Z" reference). The wine was made from high quality fruit by some of the best winemakers in the state, and it rocked. The A to Z Pinot noir ($18.50/$16.65) has gone from being an idea of Bill Hatcher's to something of a phenomenon. Mike put plans for his own Hatcher Wineworks on the back burner after A to Z started selling beyond his wildest expectations, and the 2003 Pinot noir was joined by a Claret and Pinot gris.

A to Z's success difd not go unnoticed, and was quickly followed by second labels from Sineann (Jezebel), Owen Roe (O'Reilly's and Sharecroppers), R. Stuart (Big Fire), and Dobbes Family Estates (Wine by Joe).. Other wineries introduced entry level Pinot noirs at under $20 with great success. Brick House's Clos Ladybug, Adelsheim's Walla Brooks, and Rex Hill's Kings Ridge Pinot noirs have been well received and sell out quickly.

Through the 2002 harvest, there was a glut of grapes in Oregon, and there were plenty of Pinot grapes around to make high quality under $25 Pinot noir. That changed in 2003, and by 2004, wineries were hunting for Pinot noir grapes as their vineyards produced low yields (largely due to weather). Whether high quality, under $25 Pinot noirs will continue to be available will be deterimined in 2005 by the willingness of winemakers to offer delicious Pinot noir at prices below what they might be able to get if marketed as one of their higher priced offerings. There are fewer really great bargains this year, and they will sell out quickly. But they exist. Here are a few of them:

Under $25 Oregon Pinot Noirs
Avalon's Choice of the Best Available

see entire list of under $25 pinot noirs

A to Z Pinot noir 03 $18.50/$16.65
Great value from Bill, Deb, Sam, and Cheryl

Chehalem Three Vineyards Pinot noir 02 $21/$18.90
Harry Peterson-Nedry's entry level Pinot offers lots of flavor and balance

Bethel Heights Pinot noir 03 $19/$17.10
Great value! Outstanding value, full flavored, well structured,
lots of wine for the price -just released, will sell out fast

Cherry Hill "Papillon" Pinot noir 03 $20/$18
Fruity, tart red cherry and crisp, refreshing flavors

Daedalus Cellars Pinot noir 02 $24/$21.60
Aron Hess's (Rex Hill) own label, big, lush, fruit forward

Lumos Pinot noir 02 $22/$19.80
Jean's favorite - Fresh, lively, makes me smile, balance is just right

Pheasant Valley Pinot noir 03 $25/$22.50
Made by Peter Rosback, tastes like his $40 Sineann Wyeast PN 03

Scott Paul Pinot noir Cuvee Martha Pirrie 03 $20/$18
Talented new winemaker gives buckets of lush fruit at a great price

 

 

Under $25 Pinot noirs to Watch For

Owen Roe will release its second label Pinot noir, O'Reilly's, in May and there's less than half of the amount made last year. It'll come and go in a flash.

Andrew Rich makes a Pinot noir "Cuvee B" and the 2003 vintage is due out in June. As with the 02, it's great value and has quite the following, but there should be enough 03 to last a few months. His wines are always professionally crafted, beautifully balanced, and the Cuvee B last year was just the kind of fresh and fruity Pinot that goes with summer.

I heard something about a second label from Penner Ash, but don't quote me. If she does one, it'll be a wine to check out. Lynn and Ron's Rubeo 03 $20/$18, a blend of Pinot noir and Syrah, is an unlikely combination that's lively, friendly, easy to drink and enjoy.

Evesham Wood's Eola Cuvee 03 $20/$18 will be out in April. It's one of the true best deals for Burgundy lovers- restrained, earthy, complex, really something for $20.

Blockbusters- The Top Pinot noirs to be Released in 2005

The 2003 vintage in Oregon's Willamette valley was a difficult one, and it was surprising to find really world class 2003 Oregon Pinots - Bergstrom's Pinots were released in late 2004 and were quite well received. Bergstrom tasting notes are here. The Black Cap Pinot noir 03 was so well received, we've sold out after less than two weeks. Brick House Cuvee du Tonnelier 03 was released in January and is also gone, although members of Avalon's Reserve Pinot noir Club wll receive the wine in their May 2005 wine club shipment. The Black Cap 03 will be in their March shipment.

Two of the wineries whose new releases we wait for with great anticipation are Shea Wine Cellars and Beaux Freres. Their new releases are reviewed here:

Beaux Freres - Followup to 95 Point Estate Pinot -
The 2003 Vintage - Extremely Impressive

Beaux Frere's 2002 vintage was one of their best, and was certainly their highest rated ever. A confluence of factors - a mature and healthy vineyard, ten years of experience with the site, great weather, great fruit, and a sunny warm harvest season - resulted in wine that received some of the highest ratings ever given to Oregon Pinot noir.

So how's the new vintage, scheduled for release in May, 2005? Are we going to have a case of "second book" syndrome here? Will the followup vintage be as impressive?

After tasting the wines three times, the 2003 vintage from Beaux Freres is, imho, as good or better than the 2002. The wines are available in smaller quantities than the 2002's- Beaux Freres, like most of the Oregon Pinot noir producers, had small crop levels, and was forced to ruthlessly sort out any unsound berries, the result of extreme heat in the summer of 2003.

Here are our tasting notes from the 2003 wines, or you can read all the notes here:
http://www.northwest-wine.com/beauxfreres.html

Beaux Freres Pinot noir The Beaux Freres Vineyard 03 $75/$67.50
Dark garnet/plum color, classic Pinot nose with fresh earth, chocolate, plum, and saddle leather scents, and an intriguing hint of rose petals under the surface. Flavors are rich, expansive sweet plum, blackberry, black raspberry, black cherry, cola, spice, white pepper, with hiints of licorice and spice. The finish goes on and on, seductively restating and elaborating on the flavors initially perceived. Acid-tannin balance is just about perfect, there's tremendous potential for an even better wine by cellaring 3-8 years. Tasted side by side with the 2002 Estate (Wine Spectator 95 points) I'd have to say this wine is at least its equal. -jy

Beaux Freres Pinot noir Upper Terrace 03 $75/$67.50
Scents of black cherry, spice, and saddle leather lead to hugely concentrated flavors of sweet plum, cherry, chocolate, and spice, lots of depth and complexity while sustaining a fresh, lush quality. The flavors of plummy chcolate continue in the long finish, with a hint of white pepper rising from fine grained tannins. The complexity, balance and sophistication of this wine makes it a world class Pinot noir and a candidiate for cellaring for 5-8 years. Remarkably good in the face of a difficult vintage, this 2003 wine sets a high standard for others to match. -jy

Beaux Freres Belles Soeurs Pinot noir 03 $45.00
Dark color, intense and succulent aromas of black raspberry, blackberry, clean earth, hints of rose petal. Flavors of sweet plum, blackberry, black raspberry,cherry, and earthy spice, a bit fruit forward, but balanced with a fresh, crisp finish with nicely balanced tannins. No problem at Beaux Freres with the tempermental 2003 vintage, there's not a trace of heat, just a long, spicy finish with white pepper, pie spices, and continued echoes of juicy black plum and berry. Delicious, complex, sophisticated, and promising even more with a bit of cellaring.-jy

Shea Wine Cellars - Samm Tannahill Raises the Wines to New Heights

You may know of Sam Tannahill- he was co-winemaker with Gary Andrus at Archery Summit during the years when the Archery Pinot noirs received a series of the highest ratings for Pinots in the country. He's expert at producing Pinot noirs of dark color, with silky texture, complex multilayered flavors, long finish, and continued satisfaction across the cellar life of the wine.

Last year, Sam's first vintage for Shea Wine Cellars (Patricia Green made the previous vintage) received high ratings, and was a hit with Avalon's Pinot-philes - we are still getting requests for the 2002 wines, although the wines sold out in a few weeks.

The 2003s are even better wines - Sam is now settled in to the winery, has more experience with the Shea Vineyard fruit, was able to draw from some of the very best fruit in the vineyard, as contracts with some wineries lapsed and were not renewed. Although 2003 was a very tough vintage, the Shea vineyard management team know what they are doing and were able to avoid the problems of overripe fruit and uneven ripening that plagued some vineyards during the super hot vintage. And you give Sam good fruit, you know he's going to make an extraordinary wine.

Sam does something very difficult in fermenting his Pinots that I believe he learned both in France and while working with Gary Andrus. He uses large wooden fermenters, rather than the stainless or plastic bins most other wineries use. Fermentation is harder to control in wood, but the process seems to increase the texture of the wine, it adds that subtle shot-silk sensation across the roof of your mouth, and perhaps (my idea) increases the intensity of the floral notes in Pinot noir (violets and roses). His meticulous winemaking and talented choice of oak result in really great wine, and he is a proven expert, with highest ratings over many vintages.

The Shea Wine Cellars "Homer" 03 has already sold out, except for the Avalon Reserve Pinot noir Club, but the following new wines are available, or will be available this spring:

Shea Wine Cellars Block 23 03 $48/$43.16 - Seductive, rich, always an intense, dark Pinot noir, the 2003 is a bit more fruit forward and immediately approachable than the 2002 vintage. It's yummy now, and a good acid/tannin balance lends itself to cellaring for 5-8 years. Hearty, black fruit flavors are intermingled with hints of fresh earth, and just a hint of violets in the finish.

Shea Wine Cellars "Estate" Pinot noir 03 $35/$31.50 - Will be released in March 2005, and is a biiger, more fruit forward. more rounded, structured and broad wine than the 2002. Sam really took the effects of the hot weather and used it to Shea's advantage.

Because the harvest was small, there will be no Block 32 Pinot noir 03 ot Block 25 Pinot noir 03

Top Pinot noirs To Be Released

Here's a list of some of the most anticipated Pinot noirs to be released in 2005. It's not complete, but does provide a sense of what to watch for, and when.

Penner Ash Pinot noir 03
Penner Ash Goldschmidt 03 (??)

May/June 05
Ana Vineyard Pinot noir 03 (made by Beaux Freres) May 05
Belle Pente 2002 Pinot noirs May 05?
St Innocent 2003 Pinot noirs May 05?
Van Duzer 2003 Pinot noirs summer 05
Stoller Vineyard 03 Pinot noir (young, very promising vineyard) summer 05?
Dusky Goose Pinot noir 03 (made by Lynn Penner Ash) May 05
Francis Tannahill Pinot noir "The hermit" 03 (YEA!) May 05?
Roads End Pinot noir 03 March 05
Bergstrom Pinot noir 04
Bergstrom Pinot noir Estate 04
Bergstrom De Lancelotti 04
other single vineyard wines?
December 05?

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