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PinotFile on Oregon's 2007 Vintage

Oregon Wine, 2007

"The 2007 Vintage in the Willamette Valley: Unfairly Maligned"

by Rusty Gaffney, Avalon Wine Guest Columnist

Pronouncements about the success or failure of vintages have brought fame and fortune to many wine critics. The truth is, however, sweeping condemnations of vintages miss the whole point of wine.

Beaux Freres Vineyard on a cloudy day, 2007

As Neil Beckett has said (and I paraphrase), "We have to see beyond the vintage to the wine itself and those with whom we share it, receptive not only to where it has come from but where it can take us." The special charm of wine, and in particular, Pinot Noir, is that its expression is so diverse from year to year.

The 2007 vintage for Pinot Noir in the Willamette Valley was widely derided by the wine press when the wines were first presented for tasting.

Matt Kramer, a respected wine columnist for The Oregonian, noted, "Oregon's 2007 Pinot Noirs are emerging as rather light, sometimes excessively thin wines that may prove to be overpriced for their quality."

As a general pronouncement, this statement may have some validity, but my experience in tasting many wines from this vintage over the past year is that the 2007 Pinot Noirs are classic and elegant in style, with lower alcohols, higher acidities, and charming aromas and flavors.

The 2007 Willamette Valley Pinot Noirs have taken on more weight and flavor interest with an additional year in bottle since many wines were released, resulting often in stellar wines that provide superb near-term drinking as well as age ability.

Rain is synonymous with Oregon, but unfairly so, for there is no more rain in the Willamette Valley than many cool climate wine growing regions of the world. During the growing season from April to September there is usually no rain, albeit rain in late September can threaten harvest.

From 1998 to 2003, Oregon welcomed a string of warm, dry vintages without significant rain at harvest. From 2004 to 2007, however, rain had a significant impact on each vintage. The 2007 vintage was plagued by rain at harvest, with between 5 to 6 inches of rain occurring between late September and late October.

The truth is, however, advances in viticulture in Oregon have enabled winegrowers to craft quality Pinot Noir despite challenging weather during the growing season, and the 2007 vintage is a testament to this progress.

If you delight in more classic, restrained Pinot Noir (think Burgundy), look to the 2007 vintage Oregon wines. Offering restraint, nuance and plenty of pinotosity, the 2007 Oregon Pinot Noirs have that French "jene sais quoi."

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