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.
Ovum ‘Base Line’ Riesling 2016
Ovum is quickly making a name as one of the best white wine producers in Oregon, established in 2011 & led by husband & wife team John & Ksenija. The wines are über-artisanal: hand-harvested & minimal intervention. Only native, wild yeasts. No additives or preservatives other than a tiny amount of sulphur at bottling. A great example of a rich Riesling that is profoundly & resolutely dry.
Grapes: 100% Riesling
Region: Umpqua Valley
Soils: Silt loam, Gray clay, Sedimentary rock
Aging: 8 to 9 months in concrete egg & neutral barrels
Maison Noir ‘Horseshoes & Handgrenades’ v12
Maison Noir is the brainchild of André Hueston Mack, one-time banker turned sommelier turned winemaker. Mack recognizes that the wine world revolves around tradition – and seeks to upset that tradition at every turn. His labels are very tongue-in-cheek (one wine is labeled ‘O.P.P.’!) ‘Horseshoes & Handgrenades’ exemplifies this daring attitude – it’s mainly Oregon Syrah with a touch of Merlot & Cabernet. Look for a lush, full-bodied & silky red.
Grapes: Mainly Syrah with some Merlot & Cabernet Sauvignon
Region: southern Willamette Valley, Oregon & Klipsun Vineyard, Washington State
Soils: Loam & loess
Aging: 10 months in neutral oak barrels
Evesham Wood Pinot Noir 2016
Evesham was founded in 1986 but has really taken off since Erin Nuccio took over in 2011. Nuccio emphasizes elegance & delicacy in Pinot Noir. Production is simple, letting the grapes & vineyard speak: farm organically, dry-farm, only native yeasts, minimal amounts of suphur added, very small percentage of new barrels for aging. This is Oregon Pinot we love – fresh dark berries, peppery spice with hints of dried herbs.
Grapes: 100% Pinot Noir
Region: Mix of vineyard across the northern Willamette Valley
Soils: Mainly volcanic
Aging: 10 months in barrel, 10% of which are new French