I find myself excited about the wines as I continue my exploration, but fear that they will come off too light for many palates. That should not be viewed as a flaw of the vintage so much as a flaw in people's perceptions of Pinot Noir. I imagine many consumers tasting and wondering where the stuffing is, because I have witnessed it time and again. I admit to similar reactions to wines from time to time, including Pinot Noir.
We are mostly trained to expect more brawn, more beef and more general oomph as we spend more money on wine. The $25 bottle should be bigger and more intense in the mouth than the $15 bottle. That is an unfortunate result of some cult wines and, in my opinion, flawed winemaking. Squeezing every massive, opaquely colored drop out of the grapes can result in a terrifically concentrated wine, but it can also result in horribly out of balance wine. This can, and does, happen with nearly every red grape on the planet from time to time. Pinot noir is a regular victim because due to the price charged for most versions of the grape, people expect a certain amount of power in the bottle.
We're trained in restaurants the same way. What's the least expensive item on the menu (more often than not)? Chicken. Lighter, less complex, less interesting on some level. The most expensive item? Beef. Bigger, brawnier, meatier and more intense, regardless of the sauce. Chicken can become big and rich, but often only in sacrificing its 'chickenness.' Pinot Noir is the same way, when manipulated with excessive extraction, lots of new, toasty oak and sometimes even some other (darker) grapes it loses its inherent delicacy, finesse and nuance.
I am no apologist for Pinot Noir in the same way I wouldn't dream of apologizing for an acoustic band playing ragtime. If you don't like that music, move on to something else, don't keep going to listen to them live and complaining they don't sound like Led Zeppelin.
Okay, enough of that...bring on the wine.
Broadley Vineyards Willamette Valley Pinot Noir 2007 - A veteran producer in the valley for over 20 years. I have found their wines to be well balanced, with a moderate oak influence, and the few older versions I have tried have at least been intriguing. The 2007 Willamette Valley has a subtle nose, pretty, vibrant color and a lovely palate. There is good, fine tannin on the finish. Pure Oregon Pinot Noir, cherry, subtle earth notes (found consistently in their wines), and bright acidity. The 2007 fairly dances on the tongue with just the right balance of fruit and earth. Delicious. Wait another six months or so and the nose should open up nicely. $20 - a relative steal! More from this producer later.
Kings Ridge Pinot Noir 2007 - Ryan Harms has worked at Rex Hill, Bergstrom and Torii Mor while his vineyard manager, George Hillberry is a second generation member of a vineyard owning family. The fruit is mostly Willamette Valley with about a third from Umpqua Valley and there is less than 20% new French oak used for aging. This is their third release of Pinot Noir; however, I must admit to ignorance until now. Smoky deep cherry fruit on the nose, very ripe, and nearly sweet. The palate is round, soft and juicy with more smoke notes. Although the wine is a tad simple it has good body and proper acid with no noticeable tannin and for a mere $16 a bottle it is a ridiculous bargain; no, that's not strong enough, I felt like I stole the bottle for $16 less 10% for buying a mixed case along with it. Tasty and well done. This is easy access Pinot and may even satisfy those who want the deeper, bigger style, although, I also found myself quite pleased with it and I prefer the lighter style generally. You will neither confuse this with Syrah, nor water. They made 13,000 cases, so you should be able to locate some. By the way, kudos to the winery on the website, they actually have real information about making their wine and names and phone numbers of distributors around the country. Thank you!
Adelsheim Vineyard Willamette Valley Pinot Noir 2007 - While in Oregon I had the distinct pleasure of being able to spend considerable time with David Adelsheim. He is not only a thoroughly engaging, passionate wine man but his attention to detail with everyday things shows his level of care for wines bearing his name. I have always enjoyed his reds, but found the whites more intriguing, unique, and (sorry David) better values. He produces one of the best Pinot Noir Roses I have ever had the pleasure to taste...well, truth be told, we actually were drinking it, quite a few bottles as I vaguely recall. However, he and Dave Paige, the winemaker since 2001, hit a home run with the 2007 vintage. I think it may be the best Adelsheim Willamette Valley Pinot Noir I've ever had. 75% of the grapes come from the estate vineyards in the Chehalem Mountains, the remaining 25% come from various Willamette Valley locations, hence the designation. The color is vibrant, strawberry at the edge, it is nearly a Gamay color - consistent through the glass. Deep cherry resonates on the nose with just a hint of earth tones. The earth note is that enticing, come hither, loamy kind of earth, not funky or mushroomy. The wine is on the light side. although I often find this bottling to be that way, but with great focus. The nose is a bit raw, but the wine was just opened, and not quite together. The fruit is beautiful, juicy, correct and very Pinot noir. Juicy, even succulent, Bing cherry appears on the mid-palate. More strawberry notes on the back end, quite lovely. It is a tad short now, but clearly all there, give it some time - at least 6 months and up to 5 or 6 years. The next day things came together nicely which led me to claim this as the best Adelsheim Willamette Valley Pinot I have tasted. $30-$34.