Welcome to Oregon, March’s Wine of the Month. These selections grew out of a slew of tastings we have had over the last six weeks. It is no surprise that we are featuring two Pinot Noirs – 64% of all grapevines in Oregon are Pinot. The quality of Oregon Pinot is constantly on the rise as producers fine-tune site selection and clonal material. Stylistically, these Pinots often exist between leaner, finer-grained red Burgundies and richer, fruit-forward California Pinots. One thing to remember is that Pinot Noir in Oregon is young, and quality will undoubtedly continue to climb. The first vineyards were established in 1967 by David Lett at Eyrie Vineyards!
Pinot Noir’s primacy of place in Oregon is nonparallel, but there are exciting developments in Syrah, Riesling & Chardonnay. The Syrahs show lots of savory elements (reminiscent of Syrah’s home in the northern Rhone, France) to counter-balance the grapes inherent berry-inflected fruit. Riesling is starting to show real promise, especially the dry versions. (Dry is a wine-geek term we use to describe a wine that doesn’t have any sugar left in it after fermentation is complete. A wine can be fruity, or fruit-forward, in its taste profile while still being dry.) Chardonnay is really on the upswing also – stylistically emphasizing freshness & precision.
Gran Moraine Yamhill-Carlton Pinot Noir 2015
Gran Moraine, formerly known as the Solene estate, is one of the crown jewels in Yamhill-Carlton district of the Willamette Valley. Long days with lots of sunlight allow Pinot Noir to ripen slowly, developing aromatic complexity with abundant structure that allows for medium term aging. This is a bold wine: smooth cherry, vanilla and spice with significant tannins.
Grapes: 100% Pinot Noir
Soils: Ancient marine sedimentary over sandstone
Aging: 10 months in 41% new oak
Cowhorn ‘Spiral 36’ White Blend 2016
Cowhorn is an exciting, boundary-pushing producer located in the Applegate Valley. They are completely devoted to environmentally friendly wines. So much so, they are Demeter-certified Biodynamic farmers. (Biodynamics being a system of organic farming that emphasizes a holistic view of grapes as part of a dynamic local ecosystem.) They are also unique in their focus on Rhone varieties (think Syrah, Marsanne, Roussanne, Viognier) in Oregon. The Spiral 36 is concentrated, supple, broad, floral – very pretty.
Grapes: almost equal part Viognier, Roussanne, Marsanne
Region: Applegate Valley
Soils: Alluvial fans, some granite
Farming: Certified Biodynamic
Aging: Several months in barrel, a small percentage new