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Oregon Pinot Noir

WoW
"The Big Canoe Wine Group blind-tasted 12 Oregon wines; all were good but three stood out as exceptional." Photo by Wayne Crawford

Wayne On Wine
By Wayne Crawford

 Wayne Crawford 110
 Wayne Crawford

Last year Wine Enthusiast magazine’s top wine of the year was Ken Wright’s 2012 Abbott Claim Vineyard Pinot Noir, Yamhill-Carlton District, Oregon. The 2012 growing season in Oregon was exceptional for Pinot Noir.

Oregon, the fourth largest wine-producing state in U.S., remains in the top three in total wineries at 632 (Wines & Vines). This is a $3.35 billion industry in Oregon and the exceptional pinot noir grapes grown benefit from the cooler weather in the region. When I think of Oregon winegrowing, I immediately think pinot noir, though chardonnay, pinot gris and Riesling are increasing well crafted in the state.

Pinot noir is a challenging grape to grow with little produced in warm climates. I have for many years considered this the great all-purpose red wine to pair with food from salmon to grilled beef. Depending on the region and terroir, this wine expresses cherry, raspberry and cranberry and flavors with hints of earth, anise, mushroom and caramel packaged with lower tannins and medium-to-high acidity.

Pinot noir grapes are a top-10 varietal in France and in the world. In terms of production, pinot noir grapes are well known for the quality of the red wines in Burgundy, Northern California and Oregon, with New Zealand and Argentina increasingly adding pinot noir vines. It is also the leading wine grape in the Champagne region, where the clear juice is used for blending into sparkling wine.

  WoW
  Ron Reemsnyder and Nancy Huegel enjoy Pinot Noirs from Oregon. Photo by Wayne Crawford

In 2014, 87 percent of the wineries in Oregon reported excellent harvest quality, the highest in the U.S. (Silicon Valley Bank 2015 wine report). What this means to wine lovers is now is a great time to enjoy Oregon Pinot Noir wines. The better news is many good wines are already available in the North Georgia market at reasonable prices.

In addition to Ken Wright Cellars, there are a wide range of exceptional wineries in the Willamette Valley containing 74 percent of Oregon’s total winery operation, accounting for almost 85 percent of the Pinot Noir: Adelsheim Vineyard, Archery Summit, A to Z Wineworks, Chehalem, Erath, King Estate Winery, Ponzi Vineyards and St. Innocent Winery showcase a few.

Food-pairing tips for this all-purpose wine start with mild or creamy cheeses, like Brie, transitioning to fruits, particularly blackberry, blueberry, plums and figs. Lean meats like chicken, turkey, pork and more robust meats such as sausage and smoked or roasted beef are enhanced with this wine. Complement the meats with wild mushrooms and sweeter vegetables, caramelized onions, bell peppers and tomatoes topped with rosemary, oregano and thyme. Finally, do not overlook smoked salmon and scallops.

The Big Canoe Wine Group blind-tasted 12 Oregon wines; all were good but three stood out as exceptional. The three oldest pinot noirs, seven to 10 years, transformed into smooth, rich, well-structured and complex wines with long finishes.

Wines drinking well now
Domaine Serene 2005 Yamhill Cuvee, $42: The Yamhill Cuvee uses juice from Evenstad Estate, Winery Hill Estate, Two Barns Vineyard and Guadalupe Vineyard in the Dundee Hills and Jerusalem Hill Vineyard in the Eola Hills. This ruby-red wine radiates aromas of red cherry, raspberry and blueberry fruit. On the palate, plum, raspberry, caramel, spice and floral dominate. Complementing the wine is a balanced acidity and a long, lingering finish. This was the first choice in the blind tasting. Highly Recommended.

Ken Wright Cellars 2007 McCrone Vineyard, Ore., $50: This ruby-red wine presents aromas of cinnamon, black cherry, black raspberry and spice. On the palate, it brings cherry, raspberry and cola flavors with sweet, smooth tannins with moderate acidity and a long finish. Highly Recommended.

Shea Wine Cellars 2008 Estate Wine Shea Vineyard, $41.99: This wine is deep ruby-red in color with aromas of red cherry, plum, and black raspberry with hints of floral, spice and earth. The palate offers smooth, red and black fruit supported by soft tannins – a complex wine with a long finish. Highly Recommended.

Other wines receiving high marks included: Both A to Z 2009 and 2012, $20; Stoller Family Estate 2011, $24.99; and Purple Hands 2013 Pinot Noir, $25. Additional wines to consider include: Underwood Cellars 2011, $12; Adelsheim Willamette Valley 2012, $32; and River’s Edge 2012 Barrel Select, $23.

Drink what you like

In my next article, the focus is on another little-known but very affordable wine region, Languedoc-Roussillon tucked along the Mediterranean coastline. It is the largest wine region in France and the birthplace of the oldest sparkling wine, Blanquette de Limoux.

Wayne Crawford is a certified specialist of Wine CSW and a member of the Society of Wine Educators, American Wine Society and French Wine Society.  

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