The Wine Whisperer: Some nice Oregon offerings

One of the wonderful things about Oregon Pinot Noir is the great availability consumers are able to see and purchase in the stores today. This is also true as we sit down with a menu in front of us at many of our favorite restaurants. Oregon Pinot has hit the world stage with a boom and we are now, perhaps within the last five years, seeing first-class wines emerge from around the state.

One of the nicest aspects of this noble grape grown in Oregon is the diversity of the offerings. We are seeing soft, easy Pinot with nuance-driven bouquets, as well as Pinot with muscle and length destined for the cellar.

We live in amazing times when we consider this grape and where it has come from. When I opened the Wine Cellar in 1980, there were just a handful of Oregon Pinot Noir and, with the exception of David Lett at Eyrie and David Adelsheim at his winery, there was not much to crow about. Today we have numerous producers who are hitting home runs in national tastings on a regular basis. There is no doubt that this noble red grape (a native of Burgundy, France) put the wine scene of Oregon on the map and has made wine drinkers from around the globe sit up and take notice.

Let me list a few of my favorites this week for you to think about. These wines are worth a special trip to find as they are quite something. Okay, here we go:

There are many folks who believe that the 2006 vintage just can't be beat and this offering from the Willamette Valley Vineyards is very special, indeed. The 2006 vintage that weighs in at 14.5 percent alcohol is a wine that, even with quite a bit of alcohol, has so many lovely taste treats to experience I don't know where to begin. Once open, the nose in the glass is redolent of just a hint of sweet dark cherry spice but not overdone in any way. This bouquet broadens out to a very mature underlying fruit, which is capped off by just a touch of oak. This wine is very heady and I just sat there letting the nose build in the glass. On the mouth the wine is very silky and long in the finish with terrific palate grip and a very long finish. We had this wine with a brace of grilled lamb and it was quite something! At more than 40 bucks a bottle, this is not your usual, everyday purchase, but should be saved for those holidays that are screaming toward us very quickly. This is a terrific wine.

  • Boedecker 2006, Athena vineyard, Carlton — This winery has the knack of making very well-crafted Pinot Noir thattastes like it should: not overdone and very balanced. This dry and spicy bottle of wine comes from the Athena vineyard, which traditionally produces solid fruit and clean offerings. The wine sits just under 14 percent alcohol and the fruit and texture of the wine on the palate integrates well with this level of heat. There is a hint almost of cedar in the nose, as well, which makes this wine a real sweetheart when blended with the inherent spice of the Pinot grape. About $35 and worth every drop.
  • La Velle 2006, Vintage Select, Elmira — This wine is fun to drink because it is very open, fruity, soft and lovely in the finish. I love the clean very varietal tones of this wine and I think it is a winner at under 25 bucks per. This might be one of the nicest salmon wines on the shelf, as its upbeat flavors and light oak make it a salmon favorite. I like wines such as the La Velle because they are a mouthful of good winemaking and affordable for Pinot Noir, which, as I'm sure you have noticed, can be very spendy.
  • Stangeland 2007 — There has been some unkind words written about the 2007 vintage in Oregon and I am here to tell you that there are some wonderful values from this vintage if you are willing to shop around. This winery has made a very nice Pinot at under $20. This wine is a very clean, varietal, mouth-watering offering with intense flavors and and an admirable finish that seemingly goes on forever. A hint of light berry in the nose and a wonderful warmth in the finish make this wine a charmer for the price. Here is a winemaker telling us that we can have a wonderful wine at an affordable price. A don't-miss Pinot.

More nice releases next week. See you then.

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