Sunday, October 12, 2008

St. Innocent's 2006 Pinot Noir and some 1998's

Founded by Mark Vlossak in 1988. He made wine at Panther Creek from 1994-1999. Mark makes the wines at St. Innocent and has watched the winery grow from less than 400 cases to nearly 7,000 a year currently. The philosophy is one of letting the wines speak and making sure they pair well with food. That means, to me, bright acids and moderate use of oak. Those are also excellent ingredients for ageability...see below, since two 1998's were included as well. This tasting clearly showed to me that they are not built for easy access and slurpability, but that is not a negative! A few years in bottle should round them out or an hour or two in a decanter.

The winery is located in the SE corner of Eola-Hills although they also source some fruit as you will see below. The 2006 vintage was warm, second only to 2003, and produced wines that were big, juicy and deep in color. Some wineries made jammy, simple wines and some produced wines with great structure that perhaps reminded one's palate more of Syrah than Pinot Noir. A few produced deep, complex, intense wines that also had a bright focus about them. St. Innocent appears to have been one of the latter.

I recently tasted the Villages Cuvee and thought I would include it even though it was not part of the tasting line-up.
Villages Cuvee 2006- from three vineyards, young vines in the Freedom and Temperance Hills Vineyards and some from the Vitae Springs vineyard. All are in the Eola-hills.
Also from a tasting the week before -
White Rose 2006- spicy acidity, perhaps a bit aggressive, and so lively on the palate, it's almost tingly. Clearly a good, perhaps great vineyard, but at this point the wine came off too tart for current enjoyment. I do believe it will present more opulent fruit and provide pleasure a year or so down the road. In the interest of full disclosure, there was a cranberry note to the fruit that I do not enjoy in Pinot Noir. Others have no issues in most cases, but it really makes my palate unhappy.
Presented in the order they appeared at the tasting

Shea Vineyard 2006 - In Yamhill-Carlton, this vineyard produces much sought after fruit. Most of the planting was done in the late 1980's. Lots of Pommard clone in the St. Innocent version. Sweet oak is evident along with big, dark fruit. The wine has a big, round feel, but that is accompanied by tongue-smacking tannin. Juicy entry, but very dry on the finish. Big and wild wine with hints of sweetish plum on the back end. Hard to judge now, except that it has a great source, great winemaker and is very young. There is no doubting the structure and the fruit appears sturdy enough to outlast the tannin. $40
Temperance Hill 2006 - Eola-Hills, at a fairly high altitude (700-800 feet) which leads to later harvests, accompanied by the risk of rain and ruined vintages but offset by the beauty of more hang time before the grapes reach full maturity. The longer a grape hangs before reaching that elusive 'optimum' maturity the more complex it becomes. The vineyard is farmed organically. More cherry aroma and flavor. The wine is sweeter and jammier and spicier with a great silky palate feel. Gorgeous cherry notes with plenty of skin, keeping it from being too juicy or one dimensional. The wine is very dry at this point. Here comes some black cherry now. Well done, and much more accessible than the Shea. $31
Seven Springs and Anden Vineyards 2006 - essentially the same vineyard in Eola Hills, until the owners divorced in 2001. Anden is the lower portion and Seven Springs the upper. No more Oregon winemakers will have access to this fantastic fruit after 2008, and most are done after the 2007 vintage. (for more on this story -
Seven Springs has lots of juice, more bass notes than Temperance. Not sweeter, but clearly more drinkable now. Slight forest floor notes, beautiful, elegant, more nuanced than intense. Great mushroom wine...very pretty. I really like this bottle. $40
Anden - supposedly called 'the best vineyard in Oregon' by a well respected producer. Lots of Pommard clone, with some age. The vineyard(s) were planted from 1982-1989 and are beginning to develop some phylloxera. Deep bass notes here, very grippy palate, but damn good. Wow, big, intense and spicy but still lively. a bit closed on the nose, some sweet oak, but not overdone. Classic Pommard, almost plummy fruit. This will no doubt turn out to be top notch, but give me the Seven Springs for shorter term. $40
Momtazi 2006 - From the McMinnville AVA, west of Eola-Amity Hills, the vineyard is farmed biodynamically. Again a bit closed on the nose, the wine is much more deep - lower palate - and tannic. Not a lot of pleasure tonight. The wine is very textural now rather than expressive in aroma or flavor. Difficult to judge in my opinion. There doesn't appear to be anything wrong with the wine, but based on this taste, it's years away from being approachable. Not a bad thing if you plan on that. $37

The following two wines came out of Mr. Mike's cellar:
Freedom Hill 1998 - The vineyard is in the Coast Range, on the western edge of grape growing in the Willamette Valley. The wines from this vineyard are dark, full, somewhat tannic and supposedly age well. This bottle was hard to judge - a tad funky, perhaps even stewy, with some interesting earthy berry fruit showing through. Still some firm tannin. The color is great, but the wine shows a bit of clumsiness, not unappealing, not quite a pleasure, but intriguing. The wine still has a firm grip about it with some lovely strawberry preserve on the palate. Interesting, but more of a curiosity than a treasure.
Shea 1998 - This also still had some tightness, but it was much less tannic. Well done! That ethereal old wine/old Pinot noir thing is fully present here - hard to put into words until you've tried one. The color shows a much more pronounced edge of fading red, but there is still a core of red color in the center and red fruit on the palate. Sweet darker fruit, but still clearly berry, the texture if great and the finish is long, long, long! Excellent!

1 comment:

  1. In a world filled with mediocrity, I think there's always room for someone to do this right. Glad to see the inclusion of prices on wines. Be sure, however, to include some lower priced selections for your impoverished readers with liberal arts degrees -- the ones who appreciate good writing best.

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