The Tasting Panel magazine

October 2018

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68  /  the tasting panel  /  october 2018 SPEED-TASTING NEARLY 100 OREGON PINOT NOIRS WITH MERIDITH MAY AND ANTHONY DIAS BLUE by Albert Letizia T racing the history of Willamette Valley wine is a fairly simple task. Plantings began as early as the late 1960s with winemaker David Lett of The Eyrie Vineyards; increased in the 1970s thanks to the pioneer families of Erath, Ponzi Vineyards, Sokol Blosser, and Adelsheim; and made some giant leaps in the 1980s with the arrival of Domaine Drouhin from Burgundy and a visit from Robert Parker. By the 1990s, Willamette had earned a reputation as the first producer of distin- guished Pinot Noir outside of France. Not long after the 32nd annual International Pinot Noir Celebration (IPNC) in McMinnville, Oregon, came to a close in late July, The Tasting Panel hosted an all-out-blitz tasting of nearly 100 Oregon Pinot Noir wines, the vast majority from Willamette Valley. The goal was to see where the wines are weighing in, what's new and exciting, and how the OGs of Oregon are holding up. The panel—comprising Editor-in-Chief Anthony Dias Blue, Publisher Meridith May, and Contributing Editor Albert Letizia—tasted a wide range of styles, from lean and Burgundian to incredibly ripe and modern. Most importantly, the wines we sampled tended to be true representations of the AVAs they hailed from. An equally expansive range of winemaking ability was also on display. It's obvious the state's "great producers" are great for a reason: Houses like Domaine Serene, Chehalem, and the aforementioned Domaine Drouhin and Sokol Blosser continue to make consistently good wines regardless of AVA. There were a few pleasant surprises, too. We were very impressed with the lineup from Luminous Hills and Montinore Estate, as well as the selections from Pike Road, Resonance, Project M, and Coelho Winery, among others. In the end, Dias Blue seemed even more convinced of what he already knew. "I was very impressed with Oregon in general, not just Willamette Valley," he said. "Having grown up on Burgundy, I find these wines to be comparable. Of course, there is some bad winemaking here, but seeing what the French producers are able to do along with Domaine Serene and some of the old-timers, it's clear this is a world-class area for Pinot Noir." The tasting notes and scores, while decided upon swiftly, were reached by consensus. Badly corked and acutely flawed wines were not reviewed. To view the full version of this story online, visit WILLAMETTE VALLEY Established: 1983 Planted Area: 19,300 acres (7,800 hectares) Predominant Soils: Marine sedimentary, volcanic, loess Unique Terroir: The Willamette Valley features one of the coolest winegrowing climates in North America. 1. Boedecker Cellars 2014 Athena Pinot Noir ($38) A tart-cherry nose with a bit of cedar; earthy and sweet on the palate with finesse. Light, refreshing, and lovely. 90 2. Chehalem 2016 Three Vineyard Pinot Noir ($30) This wine has a bright, tart nose with spiced notes of cinnamon and cardamom. White pepper and woody tones on the palate. 90 3. Coelho Winery 2016 Pinot Noir ($45) This wine is bursting with fresh cran- berry and black tea on the nose. Bright and fresh, the palate features a touch of earth, cherry, and plum. 91 4. Domaine Serene 2015 Evenstad Reserve Pinot Noir ($75) Perfumed, savory, herbal nose. There are lanolin, sandalwood, and floral tones throughout with cranberry and great depth on the palate. Juicy, elegant, long, and intense. 95 5. Domaine Serene 2015 Yamhill Cuvee Pinot Noir ($52) Cranberry/pomegranate nose with lilacs, cherry jam, and high-toned acid on the palate. Very expressive, silky, and elegant. 93 6. Holloran Vineyard Wines 2014 Oregon Pinot Noir ($28) Ethereal and bright on the nose. Very drinkable, pretty, and tartly Burgundian in style. Finishes a little quickly. 91 7. Lange Estate Winery 2015 Freedom Hill Vineyard Pinot Noir Some earthy notes on the nose and palate with herbs and black olives. It's juicy with intrigu- ing undertones of cherry, earth, and mushroom. 89 8. Lavinea 2015 Pinot Noir ($65) There seems to be a hint of brettanomyces on the nose, but once you're past it, the wine is gorgeous. Notes of earth, cin- The Willamette Express

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