Oregon Strikes Back with A Creme De La Creme of Pinot Noirs

The battle rages on! Who will win, they’re both so good? Photo courtesy of http://www.nwsportsbeat.com

Hello, friends! I’ve been vacationing, drinking wine, cooking delicious things, soaking up summer sun and neglecting the blog… you might call it conducting research. Summer is a grand season for recreating and relaxing, and my view is the more we can peel ourselves away from technology when it’s lovely out (smart phones included!) the better off we’ll be. But I can’t keep you all chomping at the bit, can I? The last wine I wrote about we were in the midst of a fierce interstate rivalry, so now let’s pick back up where we left off. Commence Part Deux of the Battle of Pinot Noirs: Oregon vs. Washington! Draw your wineglasses!

What is the point of living life without a few extravagant indulgences? A life of perfect discipline and piety might be beneficial, but is it natural to maintain or joyful to live out? If you sense the spirit moving, it’s time to take a road trip to the Willamette Valley and purchase a decadent wine. While you’re there, don’t miss De Ponte Cellars. It’s one of the better wineries I’ve tried so far.

De Ponte Cellars Estate 2008 Pinot Noir Dundee Hills shows Washington why Oregon dominates the realm of superb Pinot Noir. It’s on the spendier side, but once you taste it, you’ll understand why.

This is easily the BEST Pinot I have had to date that hits all my requirements for a good Pinot; medium to full body for most expression, deep color in glass, aromas of fruit and smoke/ash (thanks to the volcanic Jory dust of the Dundee Hills AVA) and overall balance (everything works together in harmony in your mouth). Trust me, it is very well worth the price.

Pinot Noir is now my husband’s favorite wine. Pinot Noir is one of the more intriguing grapes out there; very finicky, mysterious, hard to control, but super expressive and
fascinating once you hit a good one that pleases your palate. As I’ve mentioned
before, this is also a factor in Pinot’s generally higher prices and tasting fees (or maybe Oregon is just resting on its laurels a little too much? Hmm, another thought for another day.).

And now, the tasting notes from the back of the bottle: “Nurtured by our rich Jory soil and our cool Oregon climate, our wines are handcrafted with uncompromising quality. Our goal is to produce memorable Old-World style Pinot Noir. It is our mission, our focus and our passion. This is a special limited bottling to showcase De Ponte’s unique terroir in the Dundee Hills. From some of our most prized blocks of the De Ponte Vineyard, this wine is a softer and more delicate expression of our traditional style. Floral with subtle aromas of raspberry, dark cherry and notes of vanilla. The ‘08 Estate has harmonious and silky texture while the tannins are soft and perfectly integrated giving this wine an elegant and graceful frame. The finish is long and fresh, full of red fruit and spices. Very approachable now though will develop much more complexity during bottle aging. It is the perfect example of the delicate nuances of the Dundee Hills.”

So, what is my conclusion, you ask? Which is better, Oregon or Washington Pinot Noir? Oregon’s climates tend to favor Pinot Noir, and thus they produce a lot of it and very well. Washington, while not sharing exactly the same climate as Oregon, may not be able to produce the same STYLES of Pinot Noir, but that doesn’t mean they don’t produce some very good ones that are distinct in their differences from their Oregonian counterparts. My conclusion is to treat each bottle of wine, be it from Washington or Oregon, with an open mind and an open mouth!

© Brenna Arnesen and The Rambling Vine, 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Brenna Arnesen and The Rambling Vine with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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Oregon, You’ve Been Upstaged!

Anything you can do I can do better… can Washington rival Oregon at making excellent Pinot Noir? Photo courtesy of http://www.nwsportsbeat.com.

Fact: Oregon’s Willamette Valley region is an ideal climate for growing world-class Pinot Noir: it is cool and at the same latitude as Burgundy, France, where Pinot Noir has been cultivated for ages. Fact: Washington’s AVAs (winegrowing regions) such as Columbia Valley, Yakima Valley, Walla Walla, etc. tend to favor bold, earthy reds, such as Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon. Different vines flourish in different climes, and this is the magic of biology and terroir! Like East Coast versus West Coast swing or rap, both are distinct art forms in their own right; both calculatingly sizing up their opponent, abiding side by side, careful not to step on each other’s toes or get cacked by a hater. No puns intended, of course.

So what happens when a Washington Pinot Noir sidles up to an Oregon Pinot Noir (gasp!)? When an ambitious “newbie” contender enters the competitive ring of primo Pinot Noir? Does it even stand a chance? Can the shepherd’s stone even graze, let alone slay, a giant?

Chateau Faire Le Pont Milbrandt Vineyards Pinot Noir (90% Pinot Noir, 10%
Syrah) is a Washington Pinot Noir that upsets the apple cart… or the grape bin,
choose your fruit metaphor. We purchased this wine this past summer 2011 while visiting Leavenworth and then dilly-dallying into Wenatchee (a juicy wine destination you must visit!). Chateau Faire Le Pont is one of my favorite wineries because every wine you try is pure awesomeness brimming with wow factor. Though stepping onto long-hallowed “exclusive” Oregon turf, this winery proves it can pull off a remarkably delicious Pinot Noir made from Washington grapes that can compete with the best of them.

After having tasted a number of Oregon Pinots now, I have to admit I like this
Washingtonian better than many of its Oregonian counterparts, perhaps due to
the generous 10% Syrah that gives it a bit more tartness and dimension. See my previous post about AVAs for more deets on the Wahluke Slope and Milbrandt Vineyards, where these stellar grapes hail from.

This Pinot will not disappoint and will surprise many Oregon Pinot fans. It
could not have been pulled off without the talented winemakers of Chateau Faire
Le Pont. From the back label: “… our 2007 Pinot Noir was created in a more
graceful, enjoyable medium-to-full-bodied style. Refreshing and extremely well
balanced, rose petal and violet aromas intertwine seamlessly with raspberries,
strawberries, chocolate covered cherries and delicate tannins throughout the
smooth, lingering finish.”

Take a sip, sit back and experience psychedelic visions of chocolate covered
fruits and flower petals swirling and waltzing around in your head! (Red wine
is so much safer than LSD).

Oregon, you’ve been upstaged!

To be continued….

© Brenna Arnesen and The Rambling Vine, 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Brenna Arnesen and The Rambling Vine with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

A Primer on Pinot Noir (And A Couple to Get You Going)

Ah, Pinot Noir! In the wine world, saying you’re a fan of Pinot Noir tends to signify you’ve made it to the wine big leagues. Pinot Noir is an enigma; classy, mysterious, shapeshifting. It has soared in popularity since the film Sideways came out, which in large part contributed to killing off Merlot production in California. (Just you wait, Merlot’s comeback is just around the corner… if shoulder pads can come back, certainly Merlot can – and to me, Merlot never went out of style in the first place).

At first, I didn’t understand the appeal of Pinot Noir. The first glass I intentionally ordered tasted like fruity water (it wasn’t a good wine – otherwise I would have liked it – and I think it had been open too long, too). But with so many friends claiming it as their favorite wine of all time, I knew I couldn’t throw in the towel just yet.

So, you’re asking, what is all the hype about Pinot Noir and WHO will explain it to me? First of all, a quick quasi-science lesson: Pinot Noir is the picky princess of the grape family, so she demands a very specific climate, weather, sun/rain mixture, careful, painstaking tending, and the list of demands goes on as long as J-Lo’s artist rider. But this lavish TLC pays off royally and can lead to some truly awesome, world-class wines. Once you taste a great Pinot Noir, you appreciate its refined qualities and everything it represents in terms of excellent winemaking craft. It also explains the sticker shock you might experience when surveying fine Pinots in your favorite wine shop.

Fear not! If you’re new to Pinot Noir, let me give you a couple of easy-going, easy-drinking Pinots that are at or under $10 a bottle. While they may not be superstar arena rock concert material, they are still the equivalent of a surprisingly good coffee shop open mic night.

Whole Foods Market has a section of very good affordable wines, and very knowledgeable wine stewards, so always chat them up for their best recommendations. Redtree Pinot Noir is from California and is around or under $10 a bottle. From the tastings notes: “Our 2010 Pinot Noir displays aromas of fresh fruits and strawberries, with a hint of oak in the background. This lighter-bodied wine provides cherry flavors on the palate and more red fruits, finishing with soft tannins.” Not bad, actually. Underwood Cellars Pinot Noir is from Oregon, $10 at Whole Foods Market, and is also quite tasty. From the tasting notes: “The Underwood Pinot Noir exhibits aromas [of] cranberries, red raspberries, with notes of smoke and spice. The palate is filled with sweet raspberry fruit intertwined with warm cinnamon tones. The wine’s bright acidity and fine tannins come together in a fruit laden finish.”

Even if you love red wine, you don’t always want a 10 on the Richter scale of a bold, dark, intense red wine. Be surprised by these light and delicious Pinot Noirs. Let me know how you liked them!

© Brenna Arnesen and The Rambling Vine, 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Brenna Arnesen and The Rambling Vine with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.