One thing that really stuck out about these wines was their relative delicacy. Now, I won't be confusing too many of these with Burgundy, but the color and texture of most was, in fact, downright Burgundian! Most of these wines are at their best today and over the near term, say 2 or 3 years or so; my comments are mostly about what the wines are offering today.
The famed earthiness of Oregon's Pinots was apparent in a few of these wines, but what was really striking about these wines, as a group, was the marriage of ripe, sweet fruit to the rather lacy structures.
This is exactly what Oregon should be doing, in my opinion, and this small sample shows that many are doing it very well. My top wine was the superb Winter's Hill Pinot, which I preferred to the pricier Cuvee du Vigneron. The regular bottling had everything one could ask for in a Pinot, and is $20 winery direct. A stunning value!
The runner-up in our tasting was the Plowbuster, which showed more fruit in a round, supple style, but lacked the finesse, purity, and complexity found in the Winter's Hill. Nonetheless, it's another winner and also a good value at $20.
Two wines from Arcane cellars showed well, but shared an aggressively smoky quality that may integrate with time, making them the only wines of this group that I can see improving noticeably in the cellar. These are well-made wines but all that smoke will be off-putting to many consumers, so they're definitely wines to taste before you buy. Finishing somewhat at the bottom, but still a wonderful example of Pinot, were the base-level wines from two of the regions leaders: Adelsheim and King Estate. I'm not surprised that these wines lacked some of the distinctiveness of the higher-scoring wines. They are solid standbys and their national distribution makes them worth recommending and remembering.
Finally, the King Estate Acrobat was a pretty simple, easy-drinking style of wine. There is nothing wrong with it, but not much for me to recommend either.
This is full of forest floor, stem, mushroom and light cherry fruit paired with faint baking spice. It’s a lovely, fresh, and complex nose. In the mouth, this has a lovely richness, feeling absolutely round and almost lush on the palate. The flavors of fresh berry fruit are wonderful and paired with great inner-mouth perfumes of mushroom, beetroot, sage, and cherry candy. There is a really nice structural tension in the mouth as well, to the point that you don’t even notice the acidity or the tannins until you look for them. There’s a black cherry medicinal tone on the backend, and the succulent tannins add a hint of refreshing astringency and some stemmy tones that lead to a long, layered, fruit-driven and spice-toned finish. Wonderful Pinot, richly flavored with a lovely texture. 92pts
Pale and more garnet that one would expect from such a youthful wine. The nose is certainly not fruit-driven but it is subtly complex with a touch of cinnamon Tic-Tac immediately upon pouring that is slowly joined by some quinine, marshmallow, and graham cracker. The notes sound like this is sweet and confected but, somehow, it’s not. It’s a touch stemmy and that helps offset the sweeter tones but even the fruit, dark and reminiscent of blackberries, doesn’t come off as sweet. On the palate this has some depth to it and is fairly seamless. It’s a very interesting wine, seemingly combining the best traits of a more fruit forward style without ever losing its sense of restraint. The flavors are a touch minty and earthy with rich wild berry notes that float across the palate. There’s a little meatiness on the backend and the finish is gentle and moderately with a hint of vanilla to the red cherry fruit. This is an elegant style of Pinot, not fruit driven nor the most complex, but exceptionally well-balanced and complete and an excellent value. 90pts
With a fruity, new world nose, this is not trying to be something it’s not. There’s just a ton of dark cherry and blue fruit here with vanilla, Oreo cookie, and sweet, toasty oak backing it up. It’s rich on entry but with great acidity keeping this light and lively. There‘s a fair amount of oak-derived spice, vanilla, and cookie tones in the mouth, too, but the very bright cherry fruit is more than intense enough to never lose one’s attention. The moderate finish is really the wine’s highpoint as the acidity drives the fruit, which is surprisingly fresh, on to a nicely tannic finale. It’s a wine that captures its sweet fruitiness without becoming vulgar. 90pts
This smells surprisingly autumnal out of the gate, with leafy, damp soil tones that gain a sweet, slightly confected edge to them. This is fairly smoky and with the same strong earthiness as the 2007 but with clearer fruit and a spicier edge. It's soft and round in the mouth with good volume and a sense of delicacy, even though it’s not a small wine. There is a distinct grilled meatiness to the wine that battles with the dark raspberry fruit for prominence on the mid-palate, and a top note of burnt orange/tangerine peel. The finish is light and refreshing with lovely tannins and a hint of vanilla that is a bit off-putting due to the wine’s meaty, earthy character. It’s complex and well-proportioned, but the sweet/earthy dichotomy is a bit jarring. I think I may enjoy this more than many others will. 88pts
Another translucent Pinot that makes you want to taste it. This has a touch of meatiness on the nose with lots of spicy porcini tones and notes of forest floor, flowers, and toasted oak over a dark base of cherry with hints of apricot. Absolutely silky in the mouth with nice acidity that may be a bit pronounced for some palates. The fruit is very crisp and fresh in the mouth and the tannins almost non-existent. This really develops lovely inner-mouth perfume that is very well-balanced by the fresh fruit. There are note of forest floor and earth with a subtle medicinal edge that leads to a medium length finish that really focuses on the red fruit. 88pts
This smells terribly smoky and reduced on opening. With air this reveals a deep, earthy, and bitter root element on the nose that never fully loses that smoky edge but incorporates it into a more layered bouquet that hints at Necco wafers and has elements of bacon and hot iron. In the mouth this has fine, stemmy tannins that support an earthy, meaty palate profile. The raspberry fruit takes a back seat to the distinctly earthy mid-palate, which leads to a light, refreshing finish that ends with some youthful tannins. 87pts
This just looks good, pale but vibrant with a lovely ruby tone. It’s very aromatic as well with cherry, soil, black raspberry and hints of pressed flowers and tree bark on the nose. This is a lightweight wine but its got very nice pure, fresh Pinot fruit. There’s a hint of spice up front, and a touch of vanilla, but the mid-palate is dominated by red berry fruit with integrated acidity and the softest tannins. It finishes with a nice mineral edge that gives it some mouthgrab and just a hint of heat. It’s got excellent length and is an all around crowd-pleasing style of Pinot, but this is no cocktail wine. 87pts
This has a definite creamy edge to the nose with nice backing notes of herb and spice. There’s a nice fruitiness but it is a bit anonymous. Really flat and a bit loose on entry, but the intensity of flavor quickly plasters over those issues. This is a fun drink, full of sweet, slightly candied red cherry fruit with modest spice notes and a nice finish that is all about the fruit. It’s ultimately a bit simple but well made nonetheless. 86pts
Oregon's Pinots offer Great Value
2007 Plowbuster Pinot Noir
This is a bit of an unusual wine. It's not really fruit-driven, but it does has a noticeable amount of oak on it, and the earthy and herbal complexity of the wine manages to help the light fruit balance out those vanilla and spice tones. A wine that makes you think, and continues to evolve.2006 Winter's Hill Pinot Noir
This is just a wonderfully perfumed, delicately balanced Pinot Noir that is perfect for current consumption, and a great value to boot. There are solid notes of forest floor, stemmy herbs, rich fruit, and a dusting of baking spices that create a truly alluring, complex yet accessible package.