Thursday, April 23, 2009

2007 Oregon Pinot Noir

First, let me be clear about the 2007 vintage.  There are issues for many reds, especially in the Willamette Valley, in particular Pinot Noir.  The growing season was relatively cool and rain arrived during harvest for many.  According to Ken Wright, it was the rainiest harvest he remembered (although 1984 could have been worse according to him).  The unfortunate 1995 vintage is second, but 5+ inches of rain fell during harvest in 2007, more than twice the amount in 1995.  Trucks were dripping juice as they drove down the road, grapes released juice with tiny amounts of pressure.  There was a lot of rose made in 2007.  However, the weather stayed cool and rot did not become epidemic (although at least one producer I spoke with said he lost 15-20% of his harvest at the sorting table due to rot issues).  Ken Wright says, "2007 was the most challenging vintage we've ever had."  However, he ended up pleased with the wines. Experience, more mature vines, and better technology helped make the vintage viable for all concerned.
The following quotes are taken from an Oregon Wine Press article by Hillary Berg, Dec. 2007 - David Paige (winemaker Adelsheim) says, "there are a lot of pretty wines."  Eric Hamacher says, "I am thrilled with the wines...it was a vintage about elegance."
I will reiterate my joy about the purity of the fruit, elegance of the wines, and potential expression of terroir, at the same time that I will admit that I would not want a cellar full of 2007 Oregon Pinot Noirs exclusively.  They tend to the lighter side, but I have found plenty of ripe fruit and beautiful acids in my exploration so far.  I do not find any heady alcohol as I did in many wines from 2006 and 2003 nor do I wonder whether any of these wines have Syrah in them as I did with many wines from the same vintages.
A quick aside: Not too long ago, I tasted a 2006 Joe Dobbes Pinot Noir (a reserve of some sort) that retailed around $50.  My notes?  "This is a great $15 bottle of Syrah."
So, If you love the big, extracted, monster styles of Pinot Noir avoid the 2007 vintage.  Try some, you may get lucky, but I doubt it.  However, if you love Pinot Noir for red fruit, acidity, and versatility with food, you will likely fall in love with the vintage.  
That being said, there will be some suspect examples of Pinot Noir since some winemakers will not know how to handle the vintage or may have been unwilling to sacrifice dubious juice to make the wine better  Stay tuned for plenty of Oregon Pinot Noir reviews here and further thoughts about the vintage.
Patricia Green writes that 6% of the vintage was sold off in bulk, compared to 2006 where all of the fruit was retained.  She also writes, "[t]here is an extreme level of purity in these wines."  I love pure fruit, ripe, intense, a bit like biting into a fruit 'Jelly Belly' jellybean selected with closed eyes, there is no mistaking the flavor.  I love their description of why vintages like 2007 show more terroir than other, bigger, riper, vintages.  "Sometimes though the vintage is so dominant that these subtle differences [between appellations/vineyard sites] can be obscured or dumbed down."  
The winery produced a very inexpensive 2007 Pinot Noir $13.50-$14.95/bottle - It was under a second label, Dollar Bills Only.  It was nearly translucent, and a bit bitter on the back end, but had a nice touch of earth and reminded me of a simple Bourgogne Rouge.  There was a bit of spice on the back end.  Overall, I found it a bit inelegant, but for the price it is fairly solid.
Matello 2007 - Marcus Goodfellow used to wait tables.  He has quickly staked out a soft spot in many Pinot Noir fans' hearts.  Little use of new oak, indigenous yeast fermentation and good sourcing contribute to that success.  I found his 2005's to be riveting and all the more impressive since he has only been at this for a few years.  His 2006's displayed amazing balance, remaining lithe and seemingly able to leap tall buildings at a single bound despite the general weight of the vintage.  Alas, total production is about 500 cases, so good luck finding it outside of Oregon.  (Hello out there, I'll need care packages on a regular basis here in New Orleans).  A bit cloudy in the glass, but no worries there.  Light, pretty fruit with an 'mmmmmm' inducing creamy mid-palate.  The lovely, red cherry fruit is lifted by fresh acidity; fine tannin on the back end keeps the wine focused.  The finish is persistent and thoroughly enjoyable.  I find this wine darn tasty.  $20
Brick House Select 2007 - All estate fruit from the biodynamically farmed vineyards in Ribbon Ridge.  Same color as Matello, but much higher toned - nostril-flaring actually.  The wine itself is deeper, with more bass notes.  Unfortunately, it was also less open and generally harder to evaluate.  I bought a few anyway since the producer is good and the wine seemed to be headed in the right direction.  $25
More in the next post...

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