Friday, April 22, 2011

Elk Cove and Chehalem Pinot Noirs

I addressed their Pinot Gris recently and following through on the Pinot Noirs completes the circle and makes my mouth happy.

I'll offer one extra wine here, a bonus because it may save you money, or a throwaway if you have some already. Willamette Valley Vineyards produces some good white wines. Pinot Gris has some weight to it and remains dry without being tart while the Riesling, one of the top selling wines in all of Oregon, makes good porch wine or a refreshing foil for spicy food. However, their reds have always disappointed. I don't expect Pinot Noir to be muscular but it should still have some substance. In an exciting vintage like 2008 to produce a thin wine that mostly left me focused on what was missing rather than what was there prompts me to move on from their reds. Granted, this was the entry level Pinot Noir but I'm done. I love their Whole Cluster Pinot Noir, a nod to Nouveau but with some sensibility, but find it too expensive for the style.

Elk Cove Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley 2008 - I remain a fan of the winery and this wine usually offers depth and intrigue exceeding the price. The 2008 is deep, as expected, but a tad inelegant. I find black cherry on the nose but the palate is closed and even a bit spritzy. The final impression is more driven by aroma than flavor or texture. This style is uncharacteristic of the winery and I was left a bit disappointed. Based on their stellar track record, I should try this again. $25-27

Chehalem 3 Vineyard Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley 2008 - Sourced from three estate vineyards, Ridgecrest, Stoller and Corral Creek, this wine impresses much more often than it doesn't. All French oak, 22% new keeps things in balance. The hallmark of Chehalem for me, in particular this bottling, is the purity of the fruit. 2008 offers that and more. The nose is nearly a distillation of cherry without seeming manipulated in the least. A hint of slightly earthy forest floor lingers around the edges and stamps this wine as pure Willamette Valley. The earth tone borders on funk on the palate, but it is gorgeous Pinot Noir funk, not stinky barnyard stuff. the wine is lively in the mouth, fairly dancing down the tongue and leaves a structured and spicy finish. I'm hard pressed to recall a Pinot Noir I have enjoyed more in its youth that also shows the elements necessary for another five years or so of welcomed evolution. Top notch! $26-28

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