One of Oregon's oldest vineyards was planted by Dr. Donald Olson in 1972 in the Dundee Hills in the northern Willamette Valley.
Two decades later, Olson launched his winery, the now-iconic Torii Mor Winery.
Through the years, Olson has employed such top winemakers as Patty Green (Patricia Green Cellars) and Joe Dobbes (Dobbes Family Estate, Wine By Joe).
Since 2004, Jacques Tardy has been the head winemaker. The former Montinore Vineyards winemaker grew up in Burgundy -- ancestral home of Pinot Noir -- and is a fifth-generation winemaker, so Oregon's signature variety is undoubtedly in his blood.
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Torii Mor's name comes from two cultures. "Torii" comes from the Japanese term for ornate garden gates, and "Mor" is a Scandinavian term for "earth."
Today, Tardy crafts many distinctive wines, including Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc and even Viognier and Syrah. But his focus is Pinot Noir, and he makes no fewer than eight different bottlings, depending on the vintage.
Here are some of Torii Mor's newest releases. Ask for them at your favorite wine merchant or contact the winery directly (800-839-5004).
Torii Mor Winery 2009 La Colina Vineyard Pinot Noir, Dundee Hills, $55: This opens with aromas of cedar, saddle leather, cherries, chocolate and violets. On the palate, this wine is mostly about strawberries and Bing cherries -- classic Dundee Hills -- as well as hints of Baker's chocolate and cola. It is loaded with bright acidity and should continue to grow in complexity for the next several years.
Torii Mor Winery 2009 Olson Estate Vineyard Pinot Noir, Dundee Hills, $60: Olson Estate is one of the oldest plantings in the Dundee Hills, with vines dating to 1972. This opens with luscious aromas of dark plums, forest floor, raspberries and hickory smoke, followed by flavors of cherries, blackberries, blueberries and even a hint of lime zest, all backed with dark chocolate. We like this wine now, and we'll really love it in another two to three years.
Torii Mor Winery 2009 Deux Verres Reserve Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, $35: This superb example of an Oregon Pinot Noir is a blend of six vineyards in the northern Willamette Valley. It opens with aromas of black currants, raspberries, licorice and sweet pipe tobacco, followed by pleasing flavors of red currants, cherries and white strawberries. It is a complex wine backed with tannins that fan out across the palate and offer layers of flavor. This is beautifully balanced wine that will age well for a decade or more.
Torii Mor Winery 2009 Dundee Hills Select Pinot Noir, Dundee Hills, $45: Four vineyards went into this bottling -- La Colina, Olson, Bella Vida and Nysa -- and it emerged with a brooding nose of black cherry candy, poached plums, vanilla bean, cola and smoke. Flavors feature more brightness of cassis and cranberry with accompanying acidity and a building of black cherry skin tannin.
Torii Mor Winery 2009 Nysa Vineyard Pinot Noir, Dundee Hills, $55: This distinctive wine opens with aromas of cherries, raspberries, strawberries, a hint of vanilla and hints of anise. On the palate, it reveals flavors of black cherries, red currants and raspberries. This is loaded with acidity, so it should age beautifully for a decade or more. Can't wait that long? Pop the cork and enjoy with veal or sirloin.
Torii Mor Winery 2009 Chardonnay, Willamette Valley, $24: Using grapes from Torii Mor's estate vineyard in the Dundee Hills planted in 1972, this white wine opens with aromas of toast, coconut milk and handcrafted caramels, followed by bright flavors of pineapples, apples and lemons.
Torii Mor Winery 2010 Pinot Blanc, Rogue Valley, $20: This launches with aromas of spearmint, lime peel and freshly popped popcorn, followed by flavors of lemongrass, freshly squeezed lemon juice and kumquat. It was aged sur lie for three months, then put on oak for three months, both of which add a richness to the mouth feel without overwhelming the fruit.
*Andy Perdue and Eric Degerman run Great Northwest Wine, a website that provides news and information about the wines of Washington, Oregon, British Columbia and Idaho.