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Archive for October, 2009

Tasting The Wines of Perrier-Jouët Fleur de Champagne With Hervé Deschamps

Posted by Gabe on October 28, 2009

PJWhat is it about Champagne that causes so many Americans to relegate it to celebrations? Don’t get me wrong I think it’s a perfectly fine wine to toast with. That said I think so many people are missing tremendous experiences when they don’t reach for it more often. Champagne like many other kinds of wine is made in an array of styles. And depending on what you’re going to have for dinner, lunch or brunch it’s a pretty solid bet that there’s a Champagne that will match your meal.

Last week I had the opportunity to taste the wines of Perrier-Jouët Fleur de Champagne alongside Hervé Deschamps, their Chef de Cave. In the history of Perrier-Jouët, which is closing in on 200 years, he is only the seventh Chef de Cave. In speaking with him about his tenure, which started in 1983, it was interesting to note what his goals are. For many Winemakers taking over where a long history exists they yearn to leave their stamp on the wines. This is a bit different in Champagne. The style and quality at Perrier-Jouët has been both high and consistent for almost 200 years. So Hervé’s goal was not to change it but rather to maintain the integrity of the house style and overall quality of the wine.

Tasting through the current Perrier-Jouët offerings it’s apparent that the goal has been met. The wines are of high quality, consistent in style, lovely, and also quite importantly, distinct from each other.

The current releases we sampled were as follows:

Perrier-Jouët Grand Brut NV – This wine which is composed of Pinot Noir (40%), Pinot Meunier (40%) and Chardonnay (20%). The non-vintage cuvee is the most widely produced and available of the Perrier-Jouët wines. For a suggested retail price of $45 it’s also their entry level offering. However the quality of this wine is anything but entry level. This is a serious Grand Brut with citrus aromas and flavors followed by flaky biscuit and brioche. It has an excellent finish and this wine is likely best suited for the widest array of cuisine in the portfolio.

Perrier-Jouët Blason Rosé NV – This Rosé is made up of Pinot Noir (40%), Pinot Meunier (30%) and Chardonnay (30%). This selection has a suggested retail price of $75. The non-vintage Rosé was one of my favorite selections in the portfolio. I enjoyed the length of its finish as well as the firm structure it showed off. If I was going to drink one of these on its own, this would likely be my choice.

Perrier-Jouët Fleur de Champagne Brut 2000 – 50% Chardonnay, 45% Pinot Noir and 5% Pinot Meunier make up this vintage release. This offering has a suggested retail price of $139. I found this wine to be terrific now. Full, round mouth feel and hints of creaminess and toasted nuts on the finish are amongst the highlights. That said I expect this selection to evolve and improve for quite a few years. The best is yet to come for this wine. A solid bet to put away for a special occasion or holiday meal.

Perrier-Jouët Fleur de Champagne Rosé 2002 – This selection is a blend of Pinot Noir (55%) and Chardonnay (45%). The suggested retail price for this vintage Rosé is $349. This wine starts impressively from its brilliant pink hue. Berry flavors intertwine throughout the palate and the finish which is impressively lengthy is soft, lush and delicate at the same time that it is layered and complex. This is an absolutely brilliant selection that deserves to be both enjoyed for its beauty and contemplated for its complexity.

Perrier-Jouët Fleur de Champagne Blanc de Blancs 2000 – This offering is a single vineyard selection composed exclusively of Chardonnay. The suggested retail price for this wine is $399. While I mentioned above that Hervé’s goal was to maintain the integrity and quality of the wines during his tenure, this offering is his singular mark on Perrier-Jouët. This is a selection that wasn’t produced previous to his tenure. It’s only made in exceptional vintages. I really enjoyed the nose of the offering. A hint of candied ginger and honey really come through. The palate of this wine is perhaps the gentlest and most alluring of these six wines. The finish lingers and echoes well after the last sip.

Tasting these wines side by side over several hours I went back to each of them more than once. As I mentioned I was struck not only by the quality but also by the distinction. Each of these wines stands on its own and provides a unique drinking experience. Whether you’re picking up the Non Vintage Grand Brut for everyday drinking or putting the Fleur de Champagne Rosé away for a special meal you really can’t go wrong with the wines of Perrier-Jouët. This is a classic Champagne House, 200 years into its history, that keeps on keeping on. In a world where change for the sake of change is often embraced, it’s good to see stability and consistency. Happily I can highly recommend these wines across the board.

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Dinner With Winemaker Cristobal Undurraga

Posted by Gabe on October 25, 2009

Terrapura_Sauvignon_Blanc_Label_mainDating back to the 1880’s the Undurraga family has played a significant role in the Chilean wine industry. As it relates to Chilean wine in the US they were the first to export here. And when Chilean wine started to find a significant home on US shelves they led the charge in brand recognition. In 2006 they sold their namesake winery, brand name and vineyard. But instead of retreating from the wine business they approached it anew. Alfonso Undurraga Mackenna great nephew of Undurraga founder Francisco started a new brand with his sons. Thus Koyle Winery was founded. I recently had the chance to sit down with winemaker Cristobal Undurraga and taste the wines he’s making with and for his family winery.

The goal at Koyle Winery is two-fold. They want to show off the fact that Chile can produce small lot premium wines. And within that focus their goal is to over deliver on each release. Throughout dinner, Cristobal who is a charming speaker told us very passionately about their goals for the Koyle brand. Before tasting the Koyle wines though we tasted through the family’s value brand Terrapura.

The wines in the Terrapura range are varietal selections. With 25,000 cases of each made they’re going to be widely available on US shelves. Each of them has a suggested retail price of $9.99.

Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Merlot, and Carmenere are the Terrapura wines we sampled. There is also a Cabernet Sauvignon in this line. While I felt they were each well made and more than fairly priced, two stood out as favorites for me:

Terrapura – 2009 Sauvignon Blanc. This first wine of the night also turned out to be one of the favorites for both myself and others at the table. It’s loaded with lots of very fresh fruit flavors. Citrus abounds. It has tremendous acidity and a touch of creaminess on the finish. For $10 this wine is a steal.

Terrapura – 2008 Merlot. This offering has a big an alluring nose filled with rose petals and cherry aromas. Throughout the palate it features continued cherry, as well as chocolate and plum notes. The finish is beautifully dry with earth, chicory and spice. This Merlot is well balanced with good acidity. It’s tough to find a Merlot in this price category with this type of varietal character. That’s going to make this selection hard to beat.

Cristobal spoke knowledgeably about the Terrapura wines though he doesn’t make them. One of the decisions the family made when they started anew in 2006 was to operate their value and premium lines as separate wineries as opposed to different lines in the same winery. I can’t speak to what they would have tasted like if they didn’t make that decision. But I can tell you that what they decided worked very well. There are style differences in addition to qualitative differences in these wines that make them distinct.

Koyle Winery was named after a purple plant that can be found in their mountain vineyards. The wines are produced from both estate fruit and sourced grapes. The fruit they source comes from long term growers who have relationships with the Undurraga family that date back many years, assuring they get the quality they are looking for. Currently Koyle has four releases. The total case production for them stands at around 12,000. This encompasses two Cabernet Sauvignons and two Syrahs.  Each wine has a standard release ($16.99) and a “Royale” ($25.99) which is their version of a reserve offering. The 2007 vintage that we tasted is the first for the Royale wines. My impressions of these offerings follow:

Koyle_Syrah_2007_BottleKoyle – 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon. This selection also has 12% Carmenere blended in.  This Cabernet has a really big and expressive nose showing lots of dark, brooding berry fruit. Berry flavors continue through the palate joined by spice and earth notes which lead to a nice finish. This wine has firm tannins. If you’re drinking it now decanting is heartily recommended.

Koyle – 2007 Syrah. 13% Carmenere is also blended in. Blueberry, plum and blackberry are all prominent in the nose of this wine. The palate has an appealing jammy feel to it. It seems to find a sweet spot that nestles itself between the very ripe offerings that often come from Australia and the more reserved old world selections. This would pair beautifully with barbecue foods.

Koyle – 2007 Royale Cabernet Sauvignon. Malbec (9%) and Carmenere (6%) are blended into this selection. I found this Cabernet to have even darker fruit than its counterpart.  It also has bigger, firmer, chewy tannins and a notably lengthy finish. This wine is nice now, but I don’t think it’s close to being at its best yet; 5 years of proper storage should help this one really evolve. It should drink well for several years after that.

Koyle – 2007 Royale Syrah. 11% Malbec and 4% Carmenere are blended into this wine. The nose of this Syrah is loaded with floral notes. Cassis, blackberry pie and copious baker’s spice emerges throughout the full bodied and rich palate. Dry fruit and espresso notes kick in on the lengthy finish. As with the Cabernet this wine will easily get better in the upcoming years under proper storage conditions.

Speaking with Cristobal throughout the evening and tasting the wines his family is producing was a noteworthy experience. His passion for wine in general and the promise of Chile in particular shines through with every word he utters. The Undurraga family has played a key role in the history of Chilean wine. It stands to reason that they will be one of the producers that causes the world to realize, on a larger scale than they currently do, that Chile stands not only for value but for premium quality as well.

Most impressive to me is that each of these wines does meet their stated goal of over-delivering on their price-points. That’s no small feat. If you drink Chilean wines, keep your eyes open for the Koyle and Terrapura wines, they’re well worth giving a shot. If you currently don’t drink much wine from Chile, this wouldn’t be a bad place to start.

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Hess Collection – 2006 19 Block Cuvée

Posted by Gabe on October 22, 2009

hess 19 blockI’ve been fond of wines form Mount Veeder for many years now. But over the last year I’ve made a more concerted effort to try more of them. While I think a wide array of varietals shine up on Mt. Veeder the classic Bordeaux grapes are amongst those I feel stand out most often. Today I’m going to take a look at a selection from Hess Collection. They’re the largest winery on Mt Veeder by case production. Within their size though they do a wide variety of things; both small and large production wines are part of their portfolio. Their estate boasts 310 acres of vineyards which are sustainably farmed. Today I’ll look at one of their blends.

The Hess Collection 2006 19 Block Cuvée is produced from estate fruit. The vineyard site the fruit was sourced from ranges in altitude from 1,300 to 2,000 feet. Fruit was selected from 19 blocks within the vineyard, thus the name of the wine. This selection is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (69%), Malbec (11%), Syrah (10%), Merlot (5%), Petit Verdot (3%) and Cabernet Franc (2%). Oak aging was accomplished over 18 months in French oak; 50% of the barrels were new. Just over 14,000 cases of this selection were produced and the suggested retail price is $35.

Leather and cherry notes are prominent on the nose of this Mt. Veeder blend. A host of berry fruit, (particularly blackberry) along with spice, and cigar box are part of the palate. Somewhere around mind-palate, dark, rich unsweetened chocolate notes kick in. The finish is nice and lengthy with black pepper, mineral notes and cherry that keeps echoing. This wine has a firm tannic structure that softens with some air, as well as firm acidity.

This is a very well rounded wine. While this selction is mostly Cabernet Sauvignon, the other varietals shine through and create a very cohesive blend that makes this offering a clear case of the whole being greater than the sum of its parts. Though this wine also includes Syrah, stylistically it drinks like a Napa Valley Bordeaux or Meritage style blend. For a suggested retail price of $35 this wine over delivers in spades. With over 14,000 cases made it should be easy to locate too.

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Posted in Blends, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Merlot, Petit Verdot, Syrah/Shiraz, Wine | Leave a Comment »

Soquel Vineyards – 2007 Lester Family Vineyard Pinot Noir / 2007 Saveria Vineyard Pinot Noir

Posted by Gabe on October 17, 2009

svToday marks the finale for The 12 Days of Pinot Noir. That said stay tuned for some additional Pinot Noir coverage over the next few weeks sometime. Today’s finale is another stop in the Santa Cruz Mountains. Soquel Vineyards. This winery was started in 1987 by Peter and Paul Bargetto along with their friend Jon Morgan. Their grandfather was one of the founders of Bargetto Winery which is of course also located in the Santa Cruz Mountains. Soquel Vineyards current production stands at around 4,500 cases per year. They focus on Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Zinfandel and of course Pinot Noir. They’re recently acquired a vineyard to grow some of their own fruit. This will complement what they currently source locally in the Santa Cruz Mountains as well as in Napa and the Russian River Valley of Sonoma. Today I’ll look at two of their current release Pinot Noirs.

First up is the Soquel Vineyards 2007 Lester Family Vineyards Pinot Noir. Included in the plantings of this sustainably farmed vineyard are 7 different clones of Pinot Noir. 65% is dedicated to Dijon clones. This offering has an alcohol content of 14.4% and a suggested retail price of $40.

Plum, cherry and berry pie spice notes, including vanilla make up the vibrant nose of this Pinot Noir. Throughout the palate red and black plum flavors play a large role along with wild strawberry and rhubarb characteristics. Sour cherry, earth and an abundance of mineral notes make up the above average finish of this wine. This 2007 releases has firm tannins and everything is framed by excellent acidity.

This is a very even and well balanced Pinot Noir. That along with the excellent overall structure and good length are the things that appeal most to me about this offering. It’s tasty enough on its own but will be enhanced greatly when paired with the right foods. Lamb dishes are an obviously excellent choice to match this wine. Whether it’s Grilled Lamb Chops or Lamb Souvlaki you can’t go wrong.

The second selection from Soquel Vineyards is the 2007 Saveria Vineyard Pinot Noir. This vineyard is farmed by the same folks who tend to Lester Vineyard. alcohol content for this offering is a robust 15.5%. The suggested retail price for this wine is $55.

From the get go everything about the Saveria Vineyard Pinot is a bit more than the Lester. That starts with a darker black cherry hue. Baker’s spice notes as well black cherry and blueberry are present in the nose of this Pinot. The palate presents a rich core of opulent fruit. Lots of cherry, blackberry and black plum are underscored by a persistent layer of racy acidity that keeps everything balanced. Cranberry, sour cherry, earth and cola notes make up the memorable finish which lingers on the tongue and back of the throat for a long while. This selection has firm tannins and very good structure.

The Saveria Vineyard Pinot Noir will match up nicely with bigger and bolder than average cuisine for a Pinot Noir. The rich flavors of Wild Boar Ragu will be balanced nicely by the expressive and flavorful fruit this wine features. I was surprised to see the alcohol at over 15%. I didnt notice it until after I’d tasted the wine. Despite that seemingly high number this selection is thankfully not hot in the least. It’s got nice balance and will surely drink well for a number of years.

Both of these selection from Soquel Vineyards do a fine job of representing Santa Cruz Mountains Pinot as a whole and their specific vineyard sites as well. These are well worth making an effort to acquire.

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Coelho Winery – 2006 Paciência Pinot Noir / 2007 Paciência Pinot Noir

Posted by Gabe on October 16, 2009

coelhoToday marks the second to last day for The 12 Days of Pinot Noir. The stop today is up in Oregon at a relatively new Winery. Coelho Winery was founded in 2004 by Dave & Deloinda Coelho. They’re both 2nd generation Portuguese-American and there are tie ins between the winery and their heritage. Currently they have 30 acres of their 40 acre property under vine. Pinot Noir represents 28.5 of those acres with Pinot Gris (1 acre) and Chardonnay (1/2 acre) making up the rest. Pommard and Dijon 777 represent the clones of Pinot Noir they have planted. Current production stands at about 2,500 cases per year. Approximately 50% of their fruit is sold to other producers. Today I’ll look at successive vintages of their Pinot Noir.

First up is the Coelho Winery 2006 Paciência Pinot Noir. This selection is made from 100% sustainably grown, estate fruit. Barrel aging was accomplished in French oak; 15% of the barrels were new. This wine was bottle unfiltered and unfined. 1,566 cases of this vintage were produced and the suggested retail price is $35.

Ripe plum, blackberry, vanilla and hints of cedar emerge in the nose of this 2006 Pinot Noir. Throughout the palate cherry plays a large role in the flavor profile. Other flavors and notes come and go but the rich cherry is persistent and stays the course. Cinnamon, cloves, and lots of spice overall are part of the finish which also has sour cherry, black tea and cola notes. Brown sugar reference points kick in early and come back over and over throughout this Pinot as well. Firm but yielding tannins and fine acidity frame this wine.

The second wine is the Coelho Winery 2007 Paciência Pinot Noir. This wine is also made from 100% sustainably grown, estate fruit. The 2007 was barrel aged in French oak with 12% of the barrels being new. This offering was bottled unfined and unfiltered. 1,570 cases of this selection were produced and the suggested retail price is $32.

Wild Strawberry, cherry, plum, mushroom, and vanilla notes fill the nose of this 2007 release. Baker’s spice, hints of molasses and abundant dried fruit notes form a full flavored but gentle palate that coats the senses while never getting very big. Cherry cola, burnt sugar and hints of caramel emerge on the above average finish.

What stands about most two me about these two wines is how distinct they are. The fruit came from the same Estate source and the oak treatment and winemaking was pretty much identical. At that point you have to attribute most of the differences in these wines to vintage variation. Tasting them side by side as a mini-vertical, which I did, is certainly fun. But well beyond that it’s instructive and really quite fascinating. The 2006 features a richer, riper, fuller palate. It’ll marry well with bigger foods than the average Pinot Noir. Braised Short Ribs would work well. The 2007 is a bit softer and more aromatic with lots of gentle fruit flavors. It’ll pair well with a many of the typical Pinot foods such as pork or mushroom based dishes. However the 2007 is right up my alley as they style of Pinot I really enjoy on its own with just my thoughts. If you have the chance though, try them both.

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Chamisal Vineyards – 2007 Edna Valley Pinot Noir / 2007 Califa Pinot Noir

Posted by Gabe on October 15, 2009

chamisalToday The 12 Days of Pinot Noir goes into overtime. This was necessitated by a larger than anticipated number of tasty wines worth reporting on. The next stop is the Edna Valley. Chamisal Vineyards was the first winery that planted in Edna Valley that was back in 1973. Since that time they’ve seen a lot of changes. That included being dormant for several years, a renaming to Domaine Alfred in the early 90’s and more recently new ownership that rechristened it Chamisal Vineyards once again. Pinot Noir plays a large role in their production and today I’ll look at two of their current releases.

First up is the Chamisal Vineyards 2007 Edna Valley Pinot Noir. This wine is produced using estate fruit. They have 10 clones planted, and 9 made their way into this offering. Barrel aging was accomplished over 14 months in French oak; 40% was new. 2,140 cases of this selection were produced and the suggested retail price is $38.

Black cherry and underlying spice notes are the most prominent characteristics to leap from the nose of this wine. The palate is layered with intense dark fruit that never stops coming and attacking your senses; but it doesn’t stray over the top either. Firm black tea notes, plum pudding spice and dark berry fruit that continues to echo, make up the generous finish. Velvety tannins and bracing acidity mark this wines structure.

What I like about this wine is that it’s a fine example of a bigger style of the Pinot that still retains the balance and varietal character that are both so important to this grape. This offering will drink well over the next 3-5 years.

The second wine today is the Chamisal Vineyards 2007 Califa Pinot Noir. This selection is made from estate fruit and limited to clones 114, 667 and Pommard. Beyond clonal selection, standout barrels are picked for this offering. The barrels that show the most opulence as well as best representing the sense of place are the ones used for this release each year. Barrel aging was accomplished over 14 months in French oak; 60% of the barrels were new. 580 cases of this vintage were produced and the suggested retail price is $60.

Violets, black cherry, plum, blackberry and flourishes of sage fill the expressive and outgoing nose of this 2007 Pinot Noir. A rich and intense core of fruit forms the berry filled palate. Chocolate Bosco sauce notes underlie the berry pie characteristics and form a self-indulgent explosion of flavor that also has hints of licorice. Intense flavors continue through the lengthy finish which showcases this Pinots solid structure, all framed by generous acidity.

As far as Pinot goes this is a pretty big wine. It’s New World in style to be sure and packs lots of flavor and punch. If you’re drinking this selection over the next 2-3 years an hour or two in the decanter is highly recommended. Time will soften the tannins a bit and allow this wine to open up. Regardless of when you drink it though this selection is built for immediate pleasure.

Both of these Pinot Noirs are good examples of more California style Pinot Noir. They retain varietal character and aren’t overblown, but they do tend towards the bigger style of Pinot. If that’s up your alley each of these would be fine additions to your cellar.

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Adelsheim Vineyard – 2007 Elizabeth’s Reserve Pinot Noir / 2007 Bryan Creek Vineyard Pinot Noir

Posted by Gabe on October 14, 2009

07ER_FrontThe 12 Days of Pinot Noir continues to tour the Willamette Valley in Oregon. Today’s stop is at Adelsheim Vineyard. They’re one of those stalwart Oregon producers that for many lovers of Pinot Noir were likely an early introduction to the sorts of wine the state can produce. Several of their offerings are widely available; inclusing a Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris and Chardonnay with Willamette Valley designations that come in at friendly prices for folks seeking an entry point into Oregon wine. Adelsheim Vineyard has a history that dates back over 35 years. They currently have over 170 acres under vine. Today however I’ll look at a couple of their smaller release wines.

First up is the Adelsheim 2007 Elizabeth’s Reserve Pinot Noir. Each year this reserve style wine is produced using what the winery considers the best barrels of wine from the highest quality lots. For the 2007 vintage lots from 8 vineyards were used to create this offering. Barrel aging was accomplished over 10 months in French oak; 30% of the barrels were new. 1,192 cases of this selection were produced in 2007 and the suggested retail price is $48.

Vanilla bean notes underscore cherry, strawberry and raspberry characteristics in the fresh nose of this wine. Continued strawberry and cherry along with cinnamon dominate the very even keeled palate. Light hints of plum, cedar, white pepper and flourishes of sour cherry emerge in the finish. This reserve Pinot Noir has very good structure and firm acidity.

This balanced and somewhat gentle expression of Pinot Noir is lush and layered with lots of flavor in its subtle undercurrent. This is a classic example of a cuvee style offering from Willamette Valley. It’s delicious now but it’ll easily evolve positively for the next 6-8 years and drink well for quite a few after that. For $48 I feel this selection over delivers in complexity and its ability to age. A very solid bet and with over 1,000 cases made it shouldn’t be too hard to find.

The second selection today from Adelsheim is the 2007 Bryan Creek Vineyard Pinot Noir. This fruit is from a single vineyard situated across the road from the original Adelsheim Estate Vineyard. This parcel of land, belonging to their neighbors, was planted in 1988 and by 1998 enough of the fruit was distinct enough to be made into a designate wine. Aging occurred in French oak; 30% of the barrels were new. 280 cases of this wine were produced and the suggested retail price is $68.

Red fruit along with hints of mushroom and splashes of rhubarb make up the nose of this 2007 single vineyard Pinot Noir. Throughout the palate sumtupuous layer after sumptuous later of wild strawberry is joined by nutmeg, clove and white pepper. Terrific mineral and earth character emerges in the finish which is prodigious in length and structure. Excellent acidity frames this offering which has firm tannins.

The 2007 Bryan Creek Pinot Noir is a wonderful, singular expression of Pinot Noir. It features tremendous purity of fruit and has textbook varietal characteristics in spades. As with the Elizabeth’s reserve this Pinot has a long life ahead of it. It’ll improve for 5-6 years and drink well for 5 after that. This small production wine was just released as a wine club offering and can be purchased directly from Adelsheim Vineyard.

Side by side these Pinot Noirs provide an intersting snapshot into what Adelsheim Vineyard was doing in 2007. One represting the best fruit from throughout their vineyard, the other a specific look at one spot and what type of Pinot it produced in 2007.

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Cristom Vineyards – 2007 Mt. Jefferson Cuvee Pinot Noir / 2006 Sommers Reserve Pinot Noir / 2006 Marjorie Vineyard Pinot Noir

Posted by Gabe on October 13, 2009

marjorieAs The 12 Days of Pinot Noir starts heading into the home stretch it’s back to Willamette Valley in Oregon. Cristom Vineyards is the subject today. This producer has 65 acres under vine; within that are 7 distinct vineyard sites. Founder Paul Gerrie is an engineer and he has a winemaker, Steve Doerner, who is a biochemist. Together they started with a scientific approach, their ultimate goal being to make terroir driven wines. Today I’ll look at three of their Pinot Noirs.

First up is Cristom Vineyards 2007 Mt. Jefferson Cuvee Pinot Noir. This cuvee style offering is made from fruit sourced at 13 different Willamette Valley vineyards. Four of those are Cristom estate vineyards. They have produced this selection since the 1994 vintage. Barrel aging was accomplished over eleven months in French oak; 8% of the barrels were new. 5,161 cases of this vintage were produced and the suggested retail price is $30.

Raspberry cinnamon and vanilla form a lovely trio of scents that emerge from this 2007 Pinot Noir. Throughout the palate red fruit such as cherry, raspberry and cranberry are prominent and provide the core flavors with a wave of black cherry underlying things. Earth, chicory, flint and hints of graphite are all part of the finish which is medium in length. This has good overall structure and nice acidity.

For a suggested retail of $30 this wine is a good value. With over 5,000 cases it shouldn’t be difficult to find either. This cuvee is a good primer into Willamette Valley Pinot Noir. It’ll drink well for several years. If you choose to open it now I suggest a solid hour in the decanter to get the best out of it. Once it opens up this is a lovely wine.

The second selection is the Cristom Vineyards 2006 Sommers Reserve Pinot Noir. This selection is produced primarily from fruit sourced at four of their estate vineyards as well as some purchased fruit. In total 15 vineyard sites contributed fruit to this cuvee. Barrel aging was accomplished over seventeen months in French oak; 44% was new. 2,734 cases of this offering were produced and the suggested retail price is $41.

Strawberry, violets, and hints of sage emerge from the nose of this reserve style cuvee. Black currant, cherry, wild strawberry, star anise and touches of orange zest form the rich palate of this Pinot Noir. Hints of sour cherry emerge in the solid finish along with cinnamon, mocha, berry compote, and pie crust notes. This wine has yielding tannins and racy acidity. While this offering will pair well with a wide array of foods I think it would be particularly well matched with Turkish food; mixed grills and other meats will work fantastically.

As with the Mt. Jefferson cuvee the Sommers Reserve will show at its best now if you take the time to decant it. This is a really solid Pinot Noir, a notch up in complexity and length from the Mt. Jefferson and an equally good value in its price category.

The final wine from Cristom today is the 2006 Marjorie Vineyard Pinot Noir. As the name indicates this is a single vineyard selection. This vineyard was planted in 1982. Barrel aging occurred over 18 months in French oak; 64% of the barrels were new. 752 cases of this offering were produced and the suggested retail price is $60.

A horn ‘o’ plenty of dark berry aromas as well as hints of lavender, violets and cinnamon make up the expressive nose of this Pinot. The palate is incredibly layered with berry fruit, minerals and spice notes coming in wave after wave of flavor. Black tea and copious earth notes emerge on what is a notably lengthy finish. The overall structure and acidity this wine shows are impressive as well. While this Pinot will match well with food I liked it quite a bit on its own. A good choice to share with friends and drink while you contemplate the mysteries of life. Decanting this wine is also highly recommended

Each of these selections from Cristom Vineyards is well made and delicious. However the 2006 Marjorie Vineyard is the most remarkable of the three. This wine is loaded with striking flavors and layers of complexity that build to a tremendous finish. I expect this wine to improve over the next 2-3 years and drink well for 4-5 after that. This would be an excellent choice to sock away for a special occasion.

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Domaine Serene – 2007 Yamhill Cuvée Pinot Noir / 2006 Evenstad Reserve Pinot Noir

Posted by Gabe on October 12, 2009

DS ERThe 12 Days of Pinot Noir heads back to the Willamette Valley in Oregon. When I visited, a few years back, both the wines and the setting at Domaine Serene were impressive. The Estate itself was easily one of the most beautiful settings I visited tasting wine in Oregon. Domaine Serene is dedicated to Pinot Noir and Chardonnay with 150 acres under vine and planted to those two varietals. They also produce Syrah & Viognier under the “Roadblock” label from sourced fruit. Today I’ll take a look at two of their current release Pinot Noirs.

First up is the Domaine Serene 2007 Yamhill Cuvée Pinot Noir. This offering is produced from fruit primarily sourced at two estate vineyard sites in Eola Hills and Dundee Hills. Three clones of Pinot are included (Pommard, Dijon & Wadenswil). Barrel aging was accomplished over 10 months in French oak; 43% of the barrels were new. The suggested retail price for this offering is $42.

Lavender, violets and red cherry aromas highlight the expressive nose of this 2007 Pinot Noir. Throughout the palate cranberry plays a large role supported by rhubarb and raspberry. The flavors throughout the palate are gentle, full flavored and layered. Loads of spice note are present and emerge as the wine opens up in the glass; vanilla and light nutmeg are particularly noteworthy. Black pepper, mineral elements and moderate cola notes all emerge on the lengthy finish. This Pinot has excellent acidity.

The second wine up is the Domaine Serene 2006 Evenstad Reserve Pinot Noir. The fruit for this release is sourced from estate vineyards in the Eola Hills (59%) and Dundee Hills (41%). Barrel aging was accomplished over 15 months in French oak; 48% of the barrels were new. The suggested retail price for this release is $58.

The nose of the Evenstad Reserve gives off hints of candied cherry as well as charred wood reference points. Throughout the full flavored palate there is a persistent core of rich fruit; cherry, blackberry and strawberry are prominent. These form a berry pie component that’s complemented by plum pudding spice notes and sweet dark chocolate. Black tea and cherry cola characteristics underwritten by vanilla bean are each part of the excellent, lingering and quite noteworthy finish. This Pinot has excellent structure and terrific racy acidity.

I found that each of these Pinot’s is terrific in its own right. What they have in common is that they are well made and true to their varietal. The Evenstad is a bit richer and fuller where the Yanhill Cuvée is a touch gentler in style and approach. I’d be happy to have either on my table at any time and each should drink well for approximately 6-8 years. If you’re drinking now, decanting will benefit both of these, the Evenstad a bit more dramatically. A nice job by Domaine Serene on these wines. Definitely a producer to look up if you visit Willamette Valley.

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Black Ridge Vineyards – 2007 Pinot Noir

Posted by Gabe on October 12, 2009

The next stop for The 12 Days of Pinot Noir is back to the Santa Cruzbrv Mountains. Black Ridge Vineyards is a small producer of Estate grown wines. Their small lot productions are made at Testarossa Vineyards. Of the 1,200 cases they produce the lot sizes range from 50 cases up to 500 cases. In addition to Pinot Noir they produce Viognier and a Bordeaux style blend that uses all 5 of the classic varietals. They have 22 acres under vine. Today I’ll look at their second commercial vintage ever of Pinot Noir.

The Black Ridge Vineyards 2007 Pinot Noir is produced from estate fruit. Barrel aging was accomplished in French oak. 198 cases of this Pinot Noir were produced and the suggested retail price is $39.

The nose of this Pinot shows toasty oak, vanilla and dark fruits such as plum and blueberry. Black cherry is dominant throughout the palate along with blackberry and hints of orange zest. The fruit takes on a savory edge around mid-palate and that continues through the finish and clings to the back of your throat followed by copious mineral and cranberry notes as well as black pepper, earth and a final wallop of dust. This offering has yielding tannins and excellent acidity.

This Pinot Noir is well made and suitable for drinking for several years or so. It’s quite tasty on its own and will pair well with a wide range of foods. I matched it up with rotisserie chicken and roasted potatoes which worked nicely.

One of the pleasures of tasting through so many Pinot Noirs over several weeks is the discovery of fine releases by producers I wasn’t previously too familiar with. This is one of those cases. I had read about Black Ridge Vineyards on the web but hadn’t tried their wine previously. This Pinot Noir, particularly from a second vintage is impressive and well worth seeking out. I look forward to following the evolution of this winery to see what they do going forward.

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