Burgundian Pinot Noir From Willamette Valley

Today’s Story: Cristom Vineyards

Cristom Vineyards was founded in 1992 by Paul and Eileen Gerrie in the Eola-Amity Hills AVA of the Willamette Valley. I previously wrote about them when I reviewed their 2016 Estate Viognier in Textbook New World Viognier and I am excited to explore one of their single vineyard Pinot Noirs today. Cristom consists of eight estate vineyards totaling just over 100 acres, four of which are planted to Pinot Noir (Eileen, Jessie, Louise, and Marjorie) and four that are planted to Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, Viognier, and Syrah. Using sustainably farmed estate fruit, winemaker Steve Doerner practices minimal intervention in the cellar to produce wines that transparently showcase the terroir of each site.

Today’s Wine: 2013 Louise Vineyard Pinot Noir

100% Pinot Noir; 13.5% ABV

The 2013 Louise Vineyard Pinot Noir is slightly translucent pale ruby in color with hints of garnet. Given 45 minutes or so to open up, the wine blossoms with a nose of cherry, black raspberry, stemmy strawberry, cola, bacon fat, dried tobacco, forest floor, dried green herbs, and cinnamon. On the palate, I get notes of sweet plum, black cherry, licorice, worn leather, tobacco, sous bois, nutmeg, rocky mineral, and light oaky spice. This is medium-bodied with medium (+) acidity, medium (-) and slightly chewy tannins, and a medium (+) length finish.

Price: $40. I got this for an incredible deal, which makes it a fantastic value proposition for my tasting. With an average price closer to $60 or more in the marketplace, however, this falls into the category of “worth it” but not classified as a great value. Pair with herb roasted chicken, rack of lamb, or charcuterie and cheese.

Textbook New World Viognier

Today’s Story: Cristom Vineyards

Cristom Vineyards was founded in 1992 by Paul and Eileen Gerrie in the Eola-Amity Hills AVA of the Willamette Valley. Established out of an appreciation of winemaking, the land, and Burgundy’s concept of terroir, Cristom is known for their estate Pinor Noirs. Cristom consists of eight estate vineyards totaling just over 100 acres, four of which are planted to Pinot Noir (Eileen, Jessie, Louise, and Marjorie) and four that are planted to Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, Viognier, and Syrah. Cristom’s vineyards are all certified sustainable and carefully tended such that come harvest all fruit is as healthy and expressive of the terroir as possible. Cristom winemaker Steve Doerner practices minimal intervention in the cellar and wines are fermented whole cluster with native yeasts, all in an effort to produce high quality and elegant wines with a sense of place.

Today’s Wine: 2016 Estate Viognier

100% Viognier; 14% ABV

The 2016 Estate Viognier is pale straw/yellow in color with medium gold and water white hues. On the nose, I get aromas of tangerine, white peach, honeysuckle, toffee, vanilla bean, and saline mineral. Once in the mouth, the wine showcases notes of apricot, mango, peach, white florals, wax, and herbs with an almost medicinal character. This is medium- to full-bodied with medium (-) acidity and an oily mouthfeel into a rounded, long finish. 978 cases produced.

Price: $30 average (I paid $22). I would surely pay $30 for this, because it is a great example of New World Viognier, but I can call it a value much closer to the $22 I paid. There wasn’t as much depth in this that I hoped for. Pair with quail, lobster, or sea bass.

Perhaps the Most Interesting Wine I’ve Ever Had

Today’s Story: Hiyu Wine Farm

Hiyu Wine Farm, established by Nate Ready and China Tresemer, is a 30 acre working farm in the Hood River Valley of Oregon. The property consists of 14 acres of vines, 4 acres of fields and pastures, 4 acres of forest and a pond, and 0.5 acres of market garden with the balance devoted to food forests. Guided by the practices of biodynamics and permaculture, Hiyu tends very little to their vines and they do not hedge or green harvest. Rather, all mowing or tilling is accomplished by pigs, cows, chicken, ducks, and geese that live in the vineyards in cycles throughout the year. Hiyu does not use any sulfur in the vineyards and claims to spray 85% less material than a standard organic or biodynamic vineyard, with the majority being cinnamon oil or herbal teas. Interesting to note, the vineyards are divided into 0.5 acre blocks each planted to a field blend of varieties. There are 80 different varieties and even more clones planted on the farm! In the cellar, Nate practices minimal intervention winemaking and prefers long aging in oak before the wines are bottled unfined and unfiltered with minimal SO2 (5ppm max).

Today’s Wine: 2015 Ramato

80% Pinot Gris, 15% Gewürztraminer, 5% Pinot Noir; 15% ABV

The 2015 Ramato is medium copper/amber orange in color while being transparent yet hazy. Once this blossoms in the glass, the nose showcases aromas of tangerine, orange rind, peach, rose petals, hibiscus, fresh cut wheat, hazelnut, and bright mineral. In the mouth, this intriguing wine displays notes of apricot, grapefruit, orange marmalade, cantaloupe, mixed wildflowers, ginger, and white pepper. This is medium-bodied with medium acidity, light tannins, and a thought-provoking medium (+) finish.

Price: $80. The value perspective is a bit difficult with this one, because I feel this wine is more about the experience. Yes, it is of supreme quality and so well-balanced you will say “wow;” but this is certainly a wine for the explorers who want to shock their palate back to life and compare prices more for how a wine makes them feel. With that out there, I would certainly buy more of this…if I could find it. Pair with salmon, oysters, or Parmigiano-Reggiano amongst other strong cheeses.

Luxurious but Terroir-Driven Oregon Pinot Noir

Today’s Story: North Valley Vineyards (Soter Vineyards)

North Valley Vineyards is a partnership between Tony & Michelle Soter, winemaker James Cahill, and Director of Sales & Marketing Brian Sypher. Though the wines are produced and bottled by Soter Vineyards, North Valley Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Rosé are in a sense the “regional” wines coming from sustainably-farmed vineyards in the Willamette Valley rather than Mineral Springs Ranch, Soter’s estate vineyard. Diving a bit deeper, the team sources their fruit from the Dundee Hills, Eola-Amity Hills, Ribbon Ridge, Yamhill-Carolton, and McMinnville viticultural areas with vineyards including Roe & Roe, Beacon Hill, Momtazi, and Zena Crown. Though Tony and James are highly involved in the farming of these vineyards (affectionately referred to as “satellite estate vineyards”) and they could certainly yield exceptional single vineyard bottlings, North Valley Vineyards carefully blends the wines from each site into the finished product. Tony and James produce their North Valley wines with gentle, traditional winemaking practices and age them in French oak typically only 5-15% new.

Today’s Wine: 2017 North Valley Reserve Pinot Noir

100% Pinot Noir; 13.8% ABV

The 2017 North Valley Reserve Pinot Noir is moderately opaque pale ruby/purple in color. This needs an hour to breathe, but once it does the nose showcases aromas of black cherry, dried blueberry, blood orange peel, leather, rocky soil, wet slate, pine, and cola. There is some slight heat but I think it’s due to the young age. On the palate, I get notes of black raspberry, baked cherry, juicy blackberry, blue florals, silt, mushroom, eucalyptus, allspice, and stony mineral. This is medium-bodied with medium (+) acidity, medium (-) tannins, and a long finish.

Price: $60 from the winery (though I paid $42 retail). I think this is somewhere between fairly priced and a good value at $60, but if you can find a deal like I did it is an absolute steal. This has all the characteristics of great Oregon Pinot Noir and, while it has that luxurious feel to it, doesn’t seem too heavy handed by the winemaker. Pair with duck breast, herb roasted pork, or dark chocolate.

Remarkably Profound Oregon Pinot Noir

Today’s Story: Antica Terra

Antica Terra was established in 2005 by Scott Adelson, John Mavredakis, and Michael Kramer, three friends and partners who had collaborated before and dreamed of owning a vineyard together. This being said, vines were first planted in 1989 on the property, an 11 acre vineyard on pre-historic seabed in the Eola-Amity Hills of Oregon’s Willamette Valley. Having taken ownership of their new vineyard, Scott, John, and Michael started seeking a winemaker and their crosshairs quickly fell upon Maggie Harrison. Maggie began her winemaking career at Sine Qua Non (known for $200-$1,000+ bottles of cult Rhone varietal wines) working for Manfred Krankl and her expertise was quickly realized. In 2004, Manfred encouraged her to begin her own Syrah project on the side, and Lillian was born (I reviewed two of these Syrahs previously). Maggie worked tirelessly on her passion project wines while still tending to barrels at Sine Qua Non, demonstrating her pure passion for the craft. When Scott, John, and Michael asked Maggie to become their winemaker, she refused profusely though the three friends ultimately convinced her to simply visit the property to offer her opinions of the vineyard. 26 seconds after Maggie stepped foot into the vineyards and observed the fossils, oaks, and vines, “she found herself hunched beneath one of the trees, phone in hand, explaining to her husband that they would be moving to Oregon.” Source

The vineyard of Antica Terra is rather intense, both in appearance above the earth and underground for the vines. The vines find home amongst fossilized oyster shells and sandstone with no topsoil, leaving them to struggle for nutrients and in turn producing incredibly unique fruit. Aboveground, the vineyard is strewn with boulders, steep grades, and vines that (due to the soil) appear spindly and frail. Fruit for Antica Terra wines forms in tiny clusters with thick-skinned grapes that are half the size that is typical for their varieties and the canopy of these plants is incredibly sensitive. Maggie provides immense care and attention to these delicate vines, which culminates into unique and immeasurably profound wines. Antica Terra produces four Pinot Noir bottlings, two Chardonnays, and one Rosé.

To explore the wines of Antica Terra, join the mailing list, or plan a visit, check out their website here.

Today’s Wine: 2017 Botanica Pinot Noir

100% Pinot Noir; 14% ABV

The 2017 Botanica is pale ruby in color with slight variation toward deep garnet. This was surprisingly approachable right out of the bottle, though changed over time revealing aromas of cherry, cranberry, smoked game, earth, wet gravel, sweet tobacco, ground green cooking herbs, black licorice, rocky minerality, and a touch of oak. Once in the mouth, the wine showcases notes of crunchy raspberry, strawberry, cranberry sauce, smoke, rose, white pepper, loamy earth, a hint of nutmeg, and graphite. This Pinot is medium-bodied with medium (+) acidity, medium tannins, and a medium (+) length finish. There was some slight heat on the nose, but all around this is approachable and that heat should integrate with a couple more years of cellaring.

Price: $110 direct from winery. I am a huge fan of Antica Terra when it comes to American Pinot Noir, and Maggie Harrison’s winemaking skill for both this wine and her Lillian Syrahs make them worthy of trying. Pair this with duck, pork tenderloin, or grilled salmon.