Back-to-the-Basics Pinot noir
Avalon's Marcus Looze on trends in Oregon winemaking
Younger generations don't often like to follow their elders. They rebel, change the rules, bring upheaval. In wine terms, that can mean modern cellar techniques, more oak, a departure from traditional wines.
There's a new generation of Oregon winemakers who don't fit that mold. Their rebellion is rooted in tradition, their style more of an anti-style. They learned winemaking from a venerable list of Oregon craftsmen, not from a school. They've adopted a back-to-the-basics approach to Pinot noir - their 2007 wines are reminiscent of the early Pinots that put Oregon on the winemaking map. In two words: Old School.
The new generation of old school producers is Jason Lett (The Eyrie Vineyards), Tyson Crowley (Crowley Wines) and Jim Arterberry Maresh.
We hear all the time about winemakers who want to express the vineyards and express the vintage. This trio is less about making wine - they're not trying to move wine in a direction. Think of them as sushi preparers, where it's all about simplicity and how well the raw ingredients are presented. They ceded control to the grapes and have some of Oregon's most authentic Pinot noir to show for it.
$149.95 - save $19.75 from $169.70 retail
2 bottles - Crowley Wines Pinot noir Willamette Valley 07 $24.95
2 bottles - The Eyrie Vineyards Estate Pinot noir 07 $24.95
2 bottles - Arterberry Maresh Dundee Hills Pinot noir 07 $34.95
Simply mouthwatering. At first pour, there's a whiff of youth which quickly gives way to ethereal aromas of fresh red fruits, cedar and turned earth. The seamless cherry, raspberry and strawberry flavors glide into the finish with that uniquely-Pinot sweetness. White pepper, strawberry and cream, sweet herbs and truffles delicately resonate.
Jason Lett and his Daughters,
Longtime staff member/friend of Eyrie, Russ Margach, compares the young 2007 Eyrie Estate Pinot to the young mid-70's Eyrie Pinots that caused the world to take notice of Oregon.
For Jason Lett, the 2007 vintage "is why we make wine in Oregon. It was like panning for gold and raw ore was falling into the pan." Jason was thrilled with the tremendous ripeness and extract, without excessive alcohol.
Jason took over winegrowing at The Eyrie Vineyards with the 2005 vintage. The Eyrie Vineyards is Oregon's Pioneer winery; David Lett (aka "Papa Pinot") planted the first Pinot noir vines in the Willamette Valley). Jason carries on the Eyrie tradition and adds to it with his superb Black Cap Pinot noir and Chardonnay.
Initial scents are dusky and woodsy, with cherry, licorice and cola spice. The flavors build gradually from fleshy cherry to a deep blueberry, dark raspberry into the finish. Complex weavings of vanilla cream soda and savory herbs add delicate length. Decant.
For Tyson, making wine is a balancing act - it's getting out of the way of the grapes while still making solid wines, not leaving too much to chance. He sees a stylistic throwback to distinct wines that represent where and when they were grown, with a transparency that allows the winemaker's personality and style to show through. Tyson says, "We're making something from nature, so we have to come to grips with vintages."
Crowley Wines was founded by Tyson Crowley in 2007. Tyson trained "on the job" at Erath, Cameron, J.K. Carriere, and Brick House wineries in Oregon's North Willamette Valley. In three short weeks, Tyson will be going solo, which is to say he'll be leaving his "day job" at Cameron and focusing solely on his Crowley label. We have a special spot reserved for Tyson's wines - he's a drummer and a Rush fan. It takes one to know one.
at right above, Tyson Crowley
Like the 07 Arterberry Maresh Maresh Vineyard Pinot noir, there's a sweet edge that has nothing to do with sugar, and everything to do with the essence of Pinot noir. Very silky, with a ribbon of dried thyme and Dundee Hills minerality. Beautiful, higher-toned fruit grows in complexity with air, and we recommend decanting or cellaring for 1-2 years.
The Dundee Hills 07 is made primarily from Maresh Vineyard, with with the youngest planted in 1992, and the oldest in 1970. Jim's one barrel of White Rose Vineyard went into the 2007 Dundee Hills.
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