Sultry Summer Reds
5 Great Willamette Valley Pinots (under 5,000 cases) to Enjoy this Late Summer/Early Fall
As we enter the second half of summer, fall is surprisingly close on the horizon. When thinking about perfect reds for summer fare (grilled chicken, fish, vegetables, etc.), something more light-to-medium bodied is usually apropos. Oregon pinots are often a crowd pleaser given their fruit-forward character perfectly balanced with the structure and depth almost always associated with their “Burgundian” counterparts.
About the Willamette Valley:
Oregon’s Willamette Valley is named for the river that runs through the valley from Portland to Eugene. The valley is best known for its pinots- pinot noir and pinot gris- though its beautiful floral and aromatic whites like riesling are also beginning to rise to international acclaim.
About these Pinots:
I am a big fan of the velvety, supple pinot noirs from the Willamette Valley for their trademark black cherry, sweet tobacco, and dusty cocoa notes. The best Oregon pinots offer these “New World” (fruit-forward) flavors in harmony with the structure and depth we all have come to expect from fine red Burgundies (also made of pinot noir).
Without further ado, here are five tasty pinot noirs under 35 from Oregon’s Willamette Valley that are also less than five-thousand cases in production to enjoy this summer and fall.
In alphabetical order:
Anne Amie Vineyard 2014 Pinot Noir (Willamette Valley, OR; Cases Produced: 4000; Price: $28)
When Dr. Robert Pamplin, one of Oregon’s most forward-thinking philanthropists and businessmen, purchased the historic Chateau Benoit Winery in 1999, his vision was to create wines of the highest quality to reflect his passion for excellence. It is no surprise that he thus pushes his winemaking team to craft “extraordinary pinot noir.”
Anne Amie’s 2014 pinot offers expected dark cherry, sweet tobacco, and dried rose petal notes, with a smooth and velvety finish.
Broadley Vineyards 2014 Pinot Noir (Willamette Valley, OR; Cases Produced: 3000; Price: $20)
Broadley Vineyards has put a stake in the ground on its wines, stating that “Pinot noirs are distinctive. We make wines the way we like them, not the way we’re told the ‘market’ likes. Over the years our style of Pinot noir has created a loyal following among people who like bold, rich, layered and ageworthy, hand-crafted and exceptional Pinots. One reviewer once criticized our wines as being ‘decadent.’ You know what decadent means? It means ‘marked by or providing unrestrained gratification.’ Yes, our wines are decadent. You bet they are!”
And their $20 price tag means you can personally assess their decadence without breaking the bank, always a bonus.
On the nose you’ll find red raspberry, cranberry and red cherry aromas and flavors, with hints of leather and earth.
Chehalem Three Vineyards Pinot Noir (Willamette Valley, OR; Cases Produced: 1909; Price: $32)
In Chehalem’s own words, the winery traces its history back to vineyard operations started by Harry Peterson-Nedry in 1980. Bill and Cathy Stoller joined Harry in the winery in 1993 and subsequently began Stoller Vineyards—a densely planted, 125 acres on Stoller family farmlands at the southern tip of the Dundee Hills. Corral Creek Vineyards, adjacent to the winery facility, is Chehalem’s third estate vineyard. Their first release was the 1990 Ridgecrest Pinot Noir.
Chehalem’s Three Vineyard pinot noir naturally pulls in fruit from the estates three vineyards. It offers beautiful, ripe black cherry and cassis notes on the nose, with fresh wet earth, dusty cocoa, and tobacco flavors throughout, and is overarchingly supple and balanced.
Erath 2013 Estate Pinot Noir (Eola-Amity Hills AVA, Willamette Valley, OR; Cases Produced: 5,058, Price: $34)
As one of Oregon’s wine pioneers, Dick Erath has been described as being “as tenacious in his approach to Pinot as the Pinot grape is stubborn.” The engineer-turned-viticulturist was first inspired to pursue winemaking in 1965 after an early “garage” experiment. After completing coursework at UC-Davis in 1968, Erath relocated his family from California to the untamed red hills of Dundee, Oregon. An unheated logger’s cabin on 49 acres would serve as their new home, completing the image of “wine pioneer.”
Erath’s 2013 estate pinot offers the traditional aromas of blackberry, black cherry, toasted hazelnuts and mocha.
Roco 2013 Pinot Noir Gravel Road (Willamette Valley, OR; Cases Produced: 3300, Price: $30)
Rollin Soles purchased a breathtaking hillside property down a gravel road in the Chehalem Mountain Range in 1987. The property’s perfect combination of elevation, soil type, natural springs, and geological aspect were the seed of a dream that would eventually become Roco Winery. Their small-lot pinots have even been poured at the White House.
To quote the winery’s founder Rollin Soles, the Roco 2013 pinot noir is “light on its feet, yet grounded by a balanced tannin foundation.” It offers the Willamette Valley’s signature red cherry notes and flavors throughout.
Post Script: For those of you Oregon pinot lovers, don’t miss the Willamette Valley’s pinot noir barrel auction coming up March 31-April 1st 2017 at the Allison Inn and Spa!