Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Got $30-$40 to waste? Buy some Oregon Pinot.

OK, sometimes subtlelty is not my greatest strength. Allow me to enlarge on the headline above.

My tasting group met last week to taste six brown bagged wines. Only one of us, Jeffrey Porter of Drink Eat Love fame, knew what the wines were as he organized the tasting. Though I knew these were all wines made from Pinot Noir, I did not posit a successful guess as to what region they were from. With two exceptions, they tasted very alcoholic, overoaked, and sweet. So I came to the conclusion that we were tasting CA Pinot Noir. To be more precise I posited that they were all from Santa Barbara county. The tasting was very educational, or rather, an affirmation of what I suspected of most Oregon PN: they are over-priced, increasingly unbalanced, undrinkable wines. Nonetheless, there were a few winners, and I am glad that Jeff picked Oregon PN as a theme since I have not been as up on current releases as I should be.


Brandborg Pinot Noir Umpqua Valley 2005

Maybe this was an '06? I don't remember. Mixed small berry red fruits and dark fruits on the nose lead to a fresh, fruity palate that is plenty forward and refreshing. As this was the first wine we tasted, and did not know the theme, I was thinking '05 Bourgogne Rouge or Marsannay. It was a clear favorite for me, and a re-affirmation because my favorite Oregon PN I drank last year was a bottle of Shady Grove Pinot Noir (vintage '02?), also from Umpqua Valley. At roughly $20 a pop for both of these wines, I'll have to seek out more wines from Umpqua. They're doing it right.

Stoller Pinot Noir 'Dundee Hills' 2004

While obviously heavier and a bit clumsier than the wine above, there was still some semblance of balance. Plum, spice and very new world PN on the nose, leading to a slightly woody, spicy dark fruited palate. This was the wine that made me think of guessing Santa Barbara PN. Not bad.

Chehalem Pinot Noir 'Ridgecrest' 2005
Charred embers and muddled dark fruit on the nose. Equally unfocused initially on the palate, the wine opened up a bit and became more drinkable, if in an 'I'll finish my glass if this is what I'm being served' kind of way.


The other four wines were just not doing it for me. Too oaky, alcoholic, jammy, sweet, etc, etc. I wouldn't pay $10 for them, let alone $30-$40. Here are the other wines Sineann Pinot Noir 'Shindler Vineyard 2006', Methuen Pinot Noir 2005, Raptor Ridge Pinot Noir Williamette Valley 2006.

Thankfully the evening was bookended by some refreshing Greek whites, the best of which was an '06 Santorini that I had never seen before which was terrific. I did not jot down the name and, even for a Greek wine, its amount of letters and syllables posed a formidable challenge to the memory. There was a crisp, earthy cava from i Raventos and a delicious Cremant de Jura from Berthet-Bondet.