Among the noble varieties of wine grapes, perhaps the most revered is Pinot Noir. In its native Burgundy in France, it produces some of the world’s most cherished and expensive wines.
In California, Pinot Noir has adapted well, resulting in wines of grace and depth from such regions as Sonoma’s Russian River Valley, Sonoma Coast, Carneros and in Santa Barbera County (made famous in the film “Sideways”).
Here in the Pacific Northwest, vintners continue to prove that Pinot Noir travels well. All serious wine lovers know how well Oregon has adapted to Pinot Noir, having sliced up that vast Willamette Valley into regions that help define different styles of Pinot.
But the center of the Oregon wine industry doesn’t have the Pinot Noir market cornered. Wine Press Northwest magazine’s recent 19th annual Platinum Judging again revealed that superb Pinot Noir can come from anywhere in our region. We find this exciting because fans of Pinot love to make new discoveries.
Here are five examples of Northwest Pinot Noirs, three from Oregon, one from British Columbia and one from the cool Puget Sound region. Ask for them at your favorite wine shop or order directly from the wineries.
Blue Grouse Estate Winery 2016 Quill Pinot Noir, British Columbia, $25: The Brunner family’s stewardship of this beautiful Cowichan Valley property on Vancouver Island suits winemaker Bailey Williamson. Both lots were harvested at 22 Brix, and half of the fruit came from across the province in the Okanagan Valley, where Williamson trained. The results are beautiful, bright and rounded with notes of cranberry cocktail, plum, orange zest, rose petal, Baker’s chocolate and tobacco leaf. Restrained tannins and lingering acidity make for a superb structure that’s remarkably balanced.
Lumos Wine Co. 2015 Temperance Hill Vineyard Pinot Noir, Eola-Amity Hills, $45: Dai Crisp’s 25 years of work with the sprawling 97 acres of Temperance Hill has played a key role in raising the profile of the Eola-Amity Hills. Julia Cattrall, longtime winemaker for his own Lumos Wine Co., brand, shows restraint with this ultra-expressive Pinot Noir that’s beautifully red-fruited with maraschino cherry, raspberry and cranberry sauce.
Cardwell Hill Cellars 2015 Estate Bottled Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, $24: Dan Chapel, among Oregon’s most overlooked winemakers, produces one of the state’s most approachable and affordable examples of independently grown Pinot Noir. His dry-farmed, four-clone collage of Dijon 115, Dijon 777, Pommard and Wadenswil is perfectly bright with candied cherry, Craisins and pomegranate.
Spoiled Dog Winery 2014 Estate Reserve Selection Pinot Noir, Puget Sound, $38: Trained in chemistry prior to 20 years as an international attorney, Karen Krug shows a keen understanding of winemaking with the grapes she and her husband, Jack, planted across their 25 acres on the south end of Whidbey Island. This Pinot Noir, selected from top lots of seven clones, spent 18 months in 25 percent new French oak, and the nose is exceptional with cherry, Mud Pie crust and earth. Inside, there’s beautifully bright red fruit akin to cherry pie with a Graham cracker crust.
Brandborg Vineyard & Winery 2014 Ferris Wheel Estate Pinot Noir, Elkton Oregon, $38: This marks the sixth Platinum that Terry Brandborg has won for Pinot Noir, and half of those are from his Ferris Wheel Vineyard. There’s a purity to the expression of this Pinot Noir with a sense of Burgundy, too. Charming strawberry jam aromas lead to delicate flavors of Craisin and raspberry. Its smooth tannin structure is joined by a beautiful finish.
Andy Perdue and Eric Degerman operate Great Northwest Wine, an award-winning media company. Learn more about wine at greatnorthwestwine.com