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Pacific Northwest Current Releases: Oregon Pinot and More

September 5, 2010

PACIFIC NORTHWEST CURRENT RELEASES: OREGON PINOT AND MORE – K&L Redwood City and Wine Club, Santa Clara, California (8/28/2010)


Two retail tastings the same day, at K&L and Wine Club, gave a sense of new releases and the ’07, ’08 and beginning of ’09 vintages from a number of well known Pac Northwest producers.

Back in the early years of the decade, I was a big fan of Oregon Pinot. Oregon Pinot had an extraordinary string of vintages from ’98 to ’02. Something happened after 2002, however, and I fell out of love with Oregon Pinot. I was turned off by excessive greenness and too much whole cluster. 2006 was supposed to be a great vintage there, and there’s been even more excitement about ’08. Both the ’06s and ’08s in these two tastings reinforced what I’ve heard and tasted from those vintages. I think Cali Pinots have improved at a more impressive pace than Oregon Pinots, and the better ones have gotten a lot more interesting than Oregon Pinots. Nonetheless, Oregon Pinot from good vintages is still worth checking out. I’m also a fan of Washington State Bordeaux varietals, but one has to choose very carefully. I was hoping to get a sense of what’s worth drinking now from these two tastings, and a few themes did arise.

The focus was very different at these two tastings. At K&L the theme was red varietals other than Pinot, although there were a couple of Pinots in the mix. At Wine Club, the focus was all on Oregon Pinots. My favorites from the K&L tasting were the ’06 St. Innocent Pinot Noir Zenith, and the ’06 DeLille Harrison Hill. In the Santa Clara Wine Club tasting, the winners were the ’08 Shea Pinot Shea Vineyard, and the ’06 Domaine Serene Evenstad Reserve (which I’ve tried before, with consistent notes).

I have yet to be really excited by any Northwest Syrahs, and the line up at K&L didn’t alter that impression. I think DeLille did a good job with the Harrison Hill Meritage, but I also thought their ’08 Chaleur Estate Blanc was a nightmare. Chehalem, which makes very good Pinots, is making a Grüner. I’m not sure why. I was underwhelmed. The “House of Independent Producers” made a Chardonnay that’s selling for $10. It’s not bad, so that’s a good thing. Evening Lands is making a Gamay for $20. It was decent, but I can get good Gamays for $20 or less from Beaujolais, so I’m not sure why I’d turn to Oregon for that. The Iota Pinot Pelos-Sandberg was remarkably good for a rough vintage, ’07, and the ’08 St. Innocent Zenith, their shared estate vineyard (with Ramey) was quite good. The two K Vintners wines, including their ’07 Syrah, were not very good at all. The ’07 Trust Syrah, for $30, was decent, but with so many good Cali Syrahs available, I’m still wondering why I should turn to the Pac Northwest.

K&L Pacific Northwest tasting

  • 2009 Chehalem Grüner Veltliner Wind Ridge Ribbon Ridge – USA, Oregon, Willamette Valley, Ribbon Ridge
    Very light canary yellow color; tart peach, mineral nose; creamy textured, tart peach, ripe palate, lacking in acidity; medium finish (87 pts.)
  • 2009 Hedges Family Estate Chardonnay The House of Independent Producers – USA, Washington, Columbia Valley
    Very light yellow color; apple, pear nose; pear, apple palate with balance; medium finish (a decent value at $10 retail) (88 pts.)
  • 2008 DeLille Cellars Chaleur Estate Blanc – USA, Washington, Columbia Valley
    Light canary yellow color; reduction, oak nose; reduction, oak, stinky palate; medium finish (I can’t understand the high scores from Tanzer and others based on this sample) (81 pts.)
  • 2009 Elk Cove Vineyards Pinot Noir Rosé – USA, Oregon, Willamette Valley
    Light, slightly orange, pink color; ripe pink grapefruit, blood orange nose; tasty, light, tart strawberry, tart cantaloupe palate with poise; medium finish (90 pts.)
  • 2009 Evening Land Vineyards Gamay Noir Celebration Seven Springs Vineyard – USA, Oregon, Willamette Valley, Eola – Amity Hills
    Dark cherry red color; nice tart red fruit, Gamay, tart red currant, mineral nose; tight, tart red currant, mineral palate; medium finish 90+ pts. (90 pts.)
  • 2007 Iota Pinot Noir Pelos-Sandberg Vineyard – USA, Oregon, Willamette Valley, Eola – Amity Hills
    Medium cranberry red color with pale meniscus; nice tart red fruit, forest floor, camphor nose; tasty, tart red fruit, forest floor, camphor, spice, tart cranberry palate with medium acidity; medium finish 91+ pts. (91 pts.)
  • 2008 St. Innocent Pinot Noir Zenith – USA, Oregon, Willamette Valley
    Dark red color; earthy, tart cherry, camphor nose; tasty, tart cherry, red fruit, strawberry palate with integrated stems; medium-plus finish (92 pts.)
  • 2006 DeLille Cellars Harrison Hill – USA, Washington, Columbia Valley, Yakima Valley
    Dark red violet color; nice cassis, red currant, cedar nose; tasty, cassis, red currant, berry palate; medium-plus finish 92+ pts. (65% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Merlot, 9% Cabernet Franc, 1% Petit Verdot) (92 pts.)
  • 2008 Owen Roe Red Wine Yakima Valley – USA, Washington, Columbia Valley, Yakima Valley
    Very dark red violet color; cassis, red currant nose with a little herbaceousness; focused, ripe cassis, vanilla oak, red berry palate; medium finish (36% Cabernet Sauvignon, 33% Merlot, 31% Cabernet Franc) (91 pts.)
  • 2007 Trust Syrah – USA, Washington, Columbia Valley, Walla Walla Valley
    Opaque purple red violet color; deep berry, plum, oak nose; tight, ripe berry, red fruit, French oak palate; medium-plus finish (90 pts.)
  • 2007 K Vintners Syrah Milbrandt Vineyard – USA, Washington, Columbia Valley, Wahluke Slope
    Dark red violet color; roasted plum, herbaceous nose; vegetal, tart plum palate; medium finish (85 pts.)
  • 2007 K Vintners Ovide En Cerise Vineyard – USA, Washington, Columbia Valley, Walla Walla Valley
    Dark red violet color; oak, toast, plum nose; ripe plum, oak, red berry palate; medium finish 87+ pts. (87 pts.)

Wine Club Santa Clara Oregon Pinots

Vintage is incredibly important in Oregon, and the ’08s in this tasting helped show why that vintage has been getting a lot of buzz, as did the ’06 Domaine Serene for Oregon ’06. The ’07s were less interesting. The ’09 Owen Roe was the only rep for the latest vintage, and it was green and camphory, so the jury is still out for me on that vintage.

  • 2007 Stoller Pinot Noir JV Estate Grown – USA, Oregon, Willamette Valley, Dundee Hills
    Dark red color with pale meniscus; tart red fruit, forest floor, menthol nose; tart red fruit, cinnamon, camphor palate; medium finish 88+ pts. (88 pts.)
  • 2009 Owen Roe Pinot Noir “Sharecropper’s” – USA, Oregon
    Medium dark red color with pale meniscus; tart red fruit, camphor nose with green notes; tart red fruit, camphor palate with green notes; medium finish (89 pts.)
  • 2008 Elk Cove Vineyards Pinot Noir – USA, Oregon, Willamette Valley
    Dark cherry red color; tart red fruit, raspberry nose; tasty, tart red fruit, tart red berry, mineral palate with grip; medium finish (91 pts.)
  • 2008 Patton Valley Vineyards Pinot Noir Estate Grown – USA, Oregon, Willamette Valley
    From 375 ml – dark cherry red color; menthol, earthy nose; nice tart cranberry, tart red fruit, mineral, menthol palate with definition; medium-plus finish 91+ pts. (91 pts.)
  • 2007 Penner-Ash Pinot Noir – USA, Oregon, Willamette Valley
    Medium red color with pale meniscus; tart red fruit, forest floor, raspberry nose; light bodied, tart red fruit, cinnamon palate; short-medium finish (90 pts.)
  • 2008 Shea Wine Cellars Pinot Noir Estate Shea Vineyard – USA, Oregon, Willamette Valley, Yamhill-Carlton
    Dark cherry red color; tart cherry, tart raspberry, floral nose; solid, tart raspberry, cherry, mineral palate; medium-plus finish (92 pts.)
  • 2006 Domaine Serene Pinot Noir Evenstad Reserve – USA, Oregon, Willamette Valley
    Big, complex, raspberry, tart cherry nose with subtle oak; tight, raspberry, cherry, black raspberry palate with balance, needs 2+ years; medium-plus finish 92+ pts. (blend of 55% Dijon, 27% Pommard and 18% Wadenswil clones; aged 15 mos. in barrel, 48% new) (92 pts.)
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One Comment leave one →
  1. Zach permalink
    September 6, 2010 12:47 pm

    I had a different impression of a number of the wines at the K&L tasting: http://www.grapestories.com/event.asp?iEvent=11725

    I’ve had great experiences with K Syrahs (the Milbrandt was my WOTF) so I wouldn’t give up on them based on this one experience.

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