2016 Release, 2014 Grapes: The Best in Oregon Pinot Noir
Oregon is a very unique and special area for Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. The benchmark for these two grapes is the Burgundy region between Dijon and Lyon. The combo of ancient soils and cool climate offer the perfect home for these two noble varieties. Many places trying to emulate the wines of this great region are often to hot as the grapes like long ripening without heat pressures which creates early harvesting.
Oregon’s Willamette Valley has become known as the best area for Pinot Noir outside of Burgundy and incredibly popular around the world. Many of the best wines are made in pitifully small quantities making for intense demand for the best wines. Read on for my pick of the very best in Oregon Pinot Noir, released in 2016.
2014 Thomas Pinot Noir
Most of you have heard my spiel on John Thomas. Suffice to say I think his wine is among the great wines of the world. If you’ve ever had a perfectly aged Thomas of 15 years or more you know what I’m saying.
The Thomas Pinot is, like great Burgundy, different each and every vintage. For years like 2010 & 2011 you MUST leave the wines alone for a few more years in order to develop into, what eventually leads to a most interesting style of Pinot. With significant age these become the most complex of all. But there are those vintages that are more forward and you can enjoy while waiting on others. 2012 is a keeper but it won’t be a crime to enjoy on the early side. Drink 2009, 2006 and 2003 but wait on 2007, 2008 and 10 & 11, &13.
This is as natural a wine as there is. It’s made in the vineyard. Johns real forte is as a wine farmer. Once the grapes are crushed the wine is left alone to allow the expression of the place and individual micro climate where it’s grown. It’s hard to believe but the after fermentation ends the wine is moved to barrel without ever being pressed. Yep, 100% free run juice; Almost unheard of but John sacrifices quantity for quality. Bottled by hand and delivered in his station wagon (it’s amazing his back end doesn’t drag the ground/ the car, that is!) As you can see in the new pics from vintage 2016, John is happiest on his tractor. By the looks of the white buckets it looks like more liquid pleasure is just two years away. You have to love the beautiful Dundee Hills red dirt.
As far as 2014, it’s a rock solid vintage of dark, robust but velvety Pinots. As is usual with John, his wine is unique and vintages are not as important. 1997 was a really tough growing year and when we did a vertical of Thomas a few years ago, from 1988- 2007, the 1997 was the best of a stellar lineup. I was honored to participate! You can drink 2014 on the early side but it will certainly improve for many years in a cool space.
2014 Cameron “Clos Electrique” Pinot Noir
Learn about Cameron wines from the man himself: “John Paul, the irrepressible owner and winemaker of Cameron, founded the winery in 1984. After working out of a roofless warehouse on the other side of the tracks in McMinnville, we moved to our current location in the hills above Dundee. Here, we planted Clos Electrique, a 4 acre dry-farmed vineyard that included Pinot noir and Chardonnay. Clos Electrique was planted in a traditional Burgundian manner, using several different clones of each varietal. Over the years the vineyard has expanded to 7 acres. Varietals now also include Nebbiolo and a field blend of white Italian grapes.”
2014 Stephen Goff “Weber” Pinot Noir
From the Stephen Goff website, the whole story behind the wine: “Little did I know that when I quit my day job working for a Bay Area book publisher and took a harvest position for a Carneros-based Pinot Noir producer that there would be no turning back. What followed was a post-graduate degree in enology and viticulture from Fresno State University and upon its completion in the Spring of 2001 an unlikely–but fortuitous–move to Portland, Oregon and the northern Willamette Valley.
“I was offered the job of Assistant Winemaker at venerable, Oregon grower-producer Beaux Frères Vineyards. After six years at Beaux Frères working in both the cellar and vineyard, I moved into my current role as the full-time Winemaker and Vineyard Manager of Colene Clemens Vineyards, a project dedicated to the production of estate-grown Pinot Noir. While tending the vineyards and cellars of Colene Clemens occupies the majority of my time, this label is my opportunity to explore making Pinot Noir from different sites, soils and AVA’s from other Willamette Valley vineyards of pedigree. I hope you enjoy tasting the journey with me.”
2014 McKinlay “Mt Tabor Fine Wines Cuvée” Pinot Noir
Matt Kinne is the real deal. Making handcrafted Pinot Noir from his own vineyards since 1987, Matt has always had a “hands off” approach to wine making before it was fashionable.
Steeped in the best of Burgundian tradition, he has farmed organically from the beginning, always using older oak as an aging vessel as opposed to a new oak, “spice” box approach. Indigenous yeasts from the vineyard and winery begin the fermentation naturally. Nothing is added.
If a vintage comes along that he’s not happy with, Matt has gone to the extreme of declassifying the entire vintage into just one wine, the $18 Willamette Valley, foregoing higher income in the name of doing what’s right. To him, it’s a priority that everything with the McKinlay name be of a certain high standard.
You can buy these wines with a confidence that you’re getting something real, made with sweat and integrity by a small wine farmer and his family. These qualify as “real wines made by real farmers!”
2015 Walter Scott Pinot Noir
These are wines you need to get on board with. Their tiny quantities are already severely allocated.
Temperance Hill sings of the savory qualities we expect from this high elevation Eola-Amity Hills vineyard, with signature dried sage, rosemary blossom and crushed raspberry. The wine has beautiful elegance and density with high-toned raspberry and huckleberry fruit, finishing with juicy acidity and a complex finish given to the wine by the 24 year old vines of this block. Fermentation is done with ambient yeasts and then aged for 15 months in barrel, all French oak with 40% new oak in the final.
In 2011, the winemakers began leasing a beautiful 2.8 acre vineyard on the South East slope of the Eola-Amity Hills off of Spring Valley Road. Slowly, with the help of great friends, Ken began to learn about farming, doing tractor work, sprays and lots of the hand work within the vines. Today the vineyard is farmed Organically.
On the southern end of the Eola-Amity Hills, facing west towards the coast range, sits the Sojourner Vineyard. At 650 feet in elevation, the site overlooks the valley and surrounding vineyards. After over 30 years with Eola Springs Vineyard, Denny found the Sojourner property and developed it into an incredible 16 acres, planted to three clones of Pinot Noir: Dijon 115, Pommard, and Wadenswill, and 3.26 acres of Chardonnay! The soils are a rocky, volcanic clay with lots of round stones littered throughout.