Saturday, April 25, 2009

More 2007 Oregon Pinot Noir

Pinot Noir gets in the blood.  If you drink a good bottle of Pinot when it shows all it has to offer and the wine evolves and intrigues all the way through the bottle, it is nearly impossible not to get hooked.  However, trying to find Pinots in this state drives many away since it is the most mercurial wine around.  While it could be said that every bottle of 'real wine' (not that formulaic, over-manipulated plonk which has more in common with soda than a product of the vine) is like a snowflake (no two are alike) I defy most people to tell the difference.  A slight variation in fill level, tasting two bottles a week or two apart, having bottles from different storage conditions, and perhaps even the difference from the top of the barrel to the bottom, lead to potentially perceptible differences...good luck finding them.  Pinot Noir seems to change at the drop of the hat.  Deciding when to drink prized bottles of Pinot dominates conversation in certain circles, more so than discussions of when to drink any other style of wine. 
While Cabernet, Merlot, Syrah, etc. change, evolve, and go through phases, I do not find that their true character ever becomes as muted and hard to find in the glass as Pinot's can.  There is no better grape to describe as lightning in the bottle.  Perhaps because it is a more delicate grape to begin with its 'dumb' periods are so much more noticeable.  Whatever the reason, more than a few people have finally thrown their hands up and quit buying Pinot Noir.  If a band you really like plays a bad show do you throw away their CD's?  Do you move their songs to trash in your iPod?  Of course not.  The finicky, flighty, fascinating grape's rewards are worth the risk of occasional disappointing lows.
I find that most Pinot Noirs drink well upon release and for the first six months or so after. That can change based on how long the wine rested in the winery.  After that, more serious versions tend to go into a quiet stage.  That can last for a year or more before the moping ends and the wine is ready to be social and engaging once more.  Go to tastings, talk to others about what drinks well now.  Don't be afraid to decant young Pinot Noir; let it breathe and have a back up bottle handy if the wine of choice is closed up like a sullen teen.  Don't throw it away, try it a day or two later...you may be pleasantly surprised.
Some more 2007's...
Evesham Wood Eola-Amity Hills 2007 - One of my favorite producers.  They make subtle Pinot, medium-bodied but full-flavored.  Earth, forest floor and good fruit mingle in their wines with a delicacy I do not often associate with this appellation.  I tasted this and fell in love immediately.  With all apologies to Oregon, this wine took me to the magic place of Burgundy, specifically villages level Savigny-Les-Beaune.  I bought four bottles and wish I had more.  that being said, the last taste I had was a bit odd, nearly fishy on the nose and closed.  The palate-feel was good, but the wine showed little and appeared a bit gritty on the finish.  I think it was a phase, and I will taste another bottle tonight...perhaps with a grilled ham and swiss after a long day at Jazz Fest.  The bottle from last night was improved, but still a bit mute on the nose.  At least the oddness was not in evidence.  Dusty, red cherries, like a country road on a warm spring day, dominate the palate and the finish lingers nicely.  the lively snap of acidity I found initially (in the fall) has softened and is broader and more welcoming because of it.  Still wish I had more...  $18-$20
Illahe Willamette Valley 2007 - According to their website, "Illahe is a Chinook Jargon word meaning 'earth', 'land', or 'soil'."  I have little experience with the winery and was pleased to see it included in a recent 2007 Pinot tasting I attended.  The winery is in Dallas, OR, due east of Salem; the Eola-Amity AVA is the closest.  Although the winery was not established until 2000, the vines were planted in 1983, relatively ancient by Oregon standards.  Aromas of oak were more obvious here than with any other wine that night.  I found a hint of 'marks-a-lot' pen too...but just a hint, and in a good way if that even sounds remotely possible.  Of course, I used to sniff mimeograph sheets in grade school.  Deep, dark fruit, impressively so for 2007, but it does not appear manipulated.  The wine is huge, in fact, by 2007 standards.  I don't love it, but it is a tasty bottle of wine for slurping, on the porch or at the table, at a reasonable price.  $20
Quercus Winery Harmonia Willamette Valley 2007 - Michael Beckley moved to Oregon from California and worked in the cellar at Domain Drouhin and then at Erath before striking out on his own.  He consults for other wineries but there is a rumor he is getting out of the business.  That's a shame.  I enjoyed the two previous vintages quite a bit, but this 2007 appears to be his masterpiece.  Quercus is the genus of oak used to make barrels, but you won't find any heavy wood usage here.  Pretty red color, with some smoke and some cherry, I found the aroma not quite closed, but seeming to have even more than it showed, which was substantial.  There was a clove note on the finish (not my favorite, but it worked here) with good acid and some fresh earth that arrived with time open.  For fans of lighter style Pinot Noir, this wine is delicious!  As I sipped my way through  a second glass, I found impressively round, juicy fruit, nearly creamy.  Wish I'd bought more...  $20-$23

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