On the occasion of drinking some fun wine with friends in the wine business last night, it seemed a perfect opportunity to open the last 1998 Oregon Pinot Noir in my possession. The vintage created excitement about the region and the grape and paved the way for a good string of vintages that cemented Oregon's place in the upper echelon of Pinot Noir production around the globe.
A few quick facts, straight from the back label (love a label that actually informs!): Elevation about 440 feet, Willakenzie soil, grapes planted in 1990, farmed organically, harvest was a mere 1.1 tons/acre, the wine spent 19 months in 43% new barrels (I assume French), no fining or filtration. Amusingly, the final line is, "will benefit from up to 6 years of bottle age" - or 15 apparently!
Here are my tasting notes for the same wine opened in 2009. I was thrilled to find no iodine note and the wine showed brilliantly as soon as it was poured. Fresh earth and just small hints of mushroom mingled with some dried berry aromas, providing that rare experience where smelling the wine is almost enough.
The palate was the highlight though. Silky, seamless and with incredible power still, the wine filled the mouth and I'm not sure I could conjure up another wine I would have chosen over this palate experience. The finish could not live up to the excitement created by the nose and taste, however. While it didn't fall flat, it clearly lacked some focus and staying power. The other parts more than made up for it and the wine vanished all too quickly.
I am amazed at how happy I was with the wine based on those earlier notes. For those interested in some other 1998 Oregon Pinot tastings, here are two more links.
Other St. Innocent wines
Other 1998 Oregon Pinots
St. Innocent remains a leader in producing top-notch Pinot noir and if there was to be a ranking of Oregon producers, they surely would merit Grand Cru status.