Photo: R. Stuart & Co. Winery
2008 was a banner year for Oregon Pinot Noir grapes -- particularly those in the Willamette Valley, one of the state's AVAs. Located just an hour or so west of Portland, this region produces Pinots that are earthy, complex and layered. Each layer, in fact, is expressed quite well, from the nose to the finish.
We recently sipped a flight of Pinot Noirs from this region. Here are our favorites. Note that when you are tracking down these particular wines that the majority of these wineries produce more than a few Pinot Noir wines for each vintage, so be sure to look for the Willamette Valley designation.
R. Stuart & Co. Winery "Autograph" Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley ($30)
The "Autograph" Pinot Noir is typically a blend of several Pinot-Noir vineyard blocks, and the 2008 vintage is no exception. Extremely dark-red in color, a plum bouquet evolves into plum notes that mix with currants on the palate. Intense and sultry, there is a trace of spice on the finish.
Ponzi Vineyards "Tavola" Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley ($25)
An infusion of white pepper emerges mid-palate and it effortlessly coasts into soft tannins. This medium-bodied Pinot also has a distinct clove nose, and plum and red-currant notes. It would pair well with spicy, grilled or braised foods.
Spindrift Cellars Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley ($24)
Cloves and cedar (and a sense of that "forest floor" aroma you often get on red wines) on the nose are a nice introduction to a style of Pinot that's earthy and light in body, with a kick of black cherries on the finish.
Anne Amie Vineyards "A" Cuvee Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley ($25)
A cedar nose on this bright red wine is a nice match with the nutmeg and cinnamon notes throughout. Before a finish with silky tannins comes flavorful notes of just-ripe cherries.
Torii Mor Winery Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley ($22)
Intricate layers of spices, including black pepper, explode into red currants and red cherries by the finish where it is combined with oak. An intriguing nose contains hints of mushrooms and grapes, as well as an earthy perfume.
The Four Graces Winery Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley ($29)
Smoke on the nose -- and with pomegranate, black cherries and cranberries as the dominant fruit notes, as well as an undercurrent of tobacco -- contribute to this Pinot being the most savory of the bunch we tried. If you have a grilled or braised food, match it up with this and you won't be disappointed.
ArborBrook Vineyards Hermitage Cuvee Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley ($35)
Bing-cherry aromas and a hint of cedar are lovely in this lighter-style Pinot with delicate, cherry notes on the finish and some plum notes throughout.
Montinore Estate Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley ($19)
Very earthy, the delightful notes of mocha and milk chocolate are so approachable, as are the flavors of bright red fruit. There is only a little bit of spice, but just enough to make it food-friendly. Pairing it with salmon would celebrate the wine's nuances even more. Montinore is among the region's leaders in biodynamic grape farming and wine production using organic methods.