The Wonder of Willamette Pinot Noir

Big Table Farm impressed

Big Table Farm impressed

We got our mission. Find the “Pinot in the City” event and taste the best of wines there. It was better than Disneyland. And when we were done, like Capt Willard grabbing Corporal Lance on his way out of the Montegnard stronghold, through the dazed tribesmen and ex-soldiers, Dotoré led tBoW away from the madness into a new hell. The afternoon was approaching 100 degrees; cooler than inside the grand ballrooms where the tasting had wound down.

We had driven far. Faced down native hordes. Exercised tradecraft. Fulfilled our mission. We were good soldiers. We fared better than Col Kurtz and the unfortunate water buffalo at the end of the great film. Auteurs may discuss how CGI will never capture the authentic horror of a live slaughter from multiple angles. Our attention was on the emblematic tasting we had just survived.

kurtz1WEBWe agreed the most interesting domestic Pinot Noir wines still come out of the Willamette Valley. These wines share many of the qualities we like in red Burgundy, moreso than Pinots from the Russian River, Santa Rita Hills, Santa Lucia Highlands and even Carneros. There are exceptions of course but the superiority of Oregon PN has become axiomatic as Colonel Kilgore never getting hit by incoming fire. We expect low alcohol, light color and light to mid weight liquid. And recognizable Pinot Noir flavors. Willamette never gets hit by fruit bombs.

The Ebell Theater – where the tasting was held – has its own filmic history. However, we here to taste the stars not watch them. willardemergesWEBThe 60 plus wineries were assembled in two ballrooms suitable for a well attended bat mitzvah. Food was served and the pours were hearty. And this was for the commercial freeloaders. The retail tickets would not arrive until 6:00. The Willamette Valley Wineries Association handed us necklace badges, a notebook [ed. handy, no?] and a USB drive with digital data. Step up WVWA!

The only knock: the place was warm. The city has been warm for the past four weeks and will stay warm for another two or longer. The winers became whiners. Ehhh. Good thing the wines proved medicinal. Here is what we tasted.

CDTmainbannerWEB2010 Coeur de Terre Estate Pinot Noir $36: CDT wines are widely available. Just not everything he makes. You can buy this wine directly from the winery. Dotoré says it’s a no brainer. We liked Scott Neal’s wines when we tasted them four years ago at the vanished Indie Pinot Wine Fest. Premium Pinot Noir at decent retail. Make friends and get a friendly discount. His wines show fruit but are not fruit forward. They have the characteristic smoke and earth we view as the starting point with Willamette Pinot. And of course the alcohol is LOW. 13%

BTF-Wirtz-PN-2011WEB2011 Big Table Farm Wirtz Vineyard Pinot Noir $45. When we encountered this group in 2009 we were not so impressed. Times have changed… for the better. Much better. Masculine, structured, impressive. Owners – who were pouring – say they are getting a bit “culty.” Buy directly from winery. She also showed us a 2011 Cattrall vineyard that came in at 11.9%. This Wirtz is higher. 119 cases. 13%

2010 Et Fille Kalita Pinot Noir $42: We have been fans awhile. Still only making 2500 cases. Got our pours from Father Howard pouring since Jessica was “hapai.” Dotore prefers the Kalita vineyard. They buy somebody else’s grapes so sources change. tBoW likes ’em all. The Kalita has cola, lush flavors. These guys are closer to the strawberry-cherry spectrum probably because the fruit is Yamhill and Carlton. We are suckers. 13%

2010 Lange Three Hills Pinot Noir $42: For some unknown reason tBoW is always surprised how much he likes Lange wines; despite a history of loving them. This is the premium blend with 12 y.o. vines. Spiced like cardemon, clove and cinnamon. 13%

langeRSV11WEB2011 Lange Reserve Willamette Valley Pinot Noir $32: We got the funk! Gotta have that funk. Forest floor up my nose. This is what it smelled like in Col Kurtz’s lair. Briny, funky, exotic like an ancient Laotian temple covered in jungle growth. Peppercorn. Love the wine. Good price. 13%

2011 Omero Cellars Ribbon Ridge Pinot Noir $58: This was the day’s “discovery” winery.

owners

proud owners

Owned by David Moore. His winemaker is Sara Cabot who put in time at Belle Pente which is a good sign. She shows a deft touch. They are former food industry workers. Loved the juice but the price is steep. This is from his “third leaf” which means only the third bud break-vintage-grape production. Vineyards are planted and dry farmed on 26 acres. 13%

This was a worthwhile tasting. Lots of industry folks in attendance making the rounds. We tasted other wines but these were the ones we liked most. We were left with last words inspired by Col Kurtz… the wonder… the wonder.

Here is one of our favorite scenes from Apocalypse Now that has nothing to do with wine.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *