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More Sips of 2008 Oregon Pinot Noir

Wine enthusiasts have tired of vintage hype, but in the case of Oregon’s 2008 vintage for Pinot Noir, all the exalted publicity is fully warranted. What sets this vintage apart is a combination of perfect ripeness and luscious flavors at lower alcohol levels (the wines rarely cross over 14%) and impeccable balance that predicts age ability. Veteran Oregon winemakers liken the vintage to 1999, when late harvest sunshine allowed vintners to pick leisurely. Probably the only negatives of this vintage are the reduced yields making top wines challenging to source, and the need for many of the best wines to be cellared for at least five years, delaying the instant gratification that pinotphiles have become accustomed to with Oregon vintages of the past. When you taste, the wines are flirty, teasingly good now, but clearly in need of time to reveal the complexities that are deep within. There were a good many spectacular 2008 Pinot Noirs that I reviewed over the past year, but some have only recently reached the marketplace, and some noted producers, such as Anam Cara and Cristom, are still working through their inventory of 2007s (which, by the way, are ready to drink now while your 2008s rest).

2008 Matello Willamette Valley Pinot Noir

13.9% alc., 336 cases, $20. From Mad Wines Company owned by winemaker Marcus Goodfellow. Sourced from several vineyards. · Moderate reddish-purple color in the glass. On the nose there is a demure perfume of dark cherry fruit with notable scents of oak, earth and cut flowers. An austere and currently disjointed wine with piercing acidity and flamboyant tannins that overwhelm the red cherry, raspberry and savory herb flavors. I don’t find the balance for aging. Decent.

2008 Cooper Mountain Vineyards Reserve Willamette Valley Pinot Noir

13.5% alc., $24. Sourced from certified organic and Biodynamic vineyards. · Moderate reddish-purple color in the glass. Shy black cherry, blackberry and redwood aromas. Rich and intense layered core of black cherries and dark plums wrapped in ripe, firm tannins, and sparked by a lift of acidity. Showing more on the palate than the nose now, but possessing the balance to develop nicely in the bottle. Patience needed. Plenty of Pinot for the price. Good.

2008 Montage Vineyards The Etzel Vineyard Ribbon Ridge Willamette Valley Pinot Noir

13.8% alc., pH 3.81, <120 cases, $24.95. Clones 115 and 667 from the Upper Terrace of the Beaux Frères Estate. 100% de-stemmed, native yeast fermentation, reductive winemaking, aged on the lees for 18 months in 25% new French oak barrels. · Very shy nose hinting at strawberries, cherries, herbs and loamy earth, coming to life slowly in the glass. Delicate flavors of red berries and cherries with a touch of oak in the background. Simple, yet pleasant, this wine will appeal to lovers of feminine-styled Pinot Noir. Good.

2008 Chehalem 3 Vineyards Willamette Valley Pinot Noir

13.1% alc., pH 3.64, 4,529 cases, $27, screw cap. 45% Stoller Vineyard, 30% Corral Creek Vineyard, 25% Ridgecrest Vineyard (all estate). Always the first Chehalem Pinot Noir released (February, 2010). Aged 9 months in 23% new, 33% one-use and 44% multiple-use French oak barrels. · Demure fruit aromas with a heavy slug of toasty oak and toffee. The oak is less noticeable on the palate with pleasing flavors of strawberries and black raspberries framed by mild and slightly astringent tannins with balanced acidity. Hints of tea and pepper add interest. An everyday drinker. Good.

2008 ROCO Willamette Valley Pinot Noir

13.7% alc., 1,600 cases, $30, screw cap. Sourced from Wit’s End Vineyard and other vineyards all of which are certified sustainably farmed. This is the second vintage at Rollin Soles’ new winery located on a small rural farm property on the Willamette Valley floor at the northern foot of the Dundee Hills. The estate vineyards are located in the Chehalem Mountains. A tasting room and offices are being added, but the winery currently is open to the public only a few days a year. · Moderately light reddish-purple color in the glass. Appealing scent of black cherries, red berries, cinnamon apple and sandalwood. Tasty melange of red berries and cherries with a hint of pomegranate. The wine is on the delicate side, but there is an impressive blast of cherry flavor in the mid palate, carrying over to the finish. Flavors build in intensity over time in the glass. Well proportioned tannins and acidity round out the wine. Even better the next day from a previously opened and re-corked bottle indicating further aging will enhance this wine. Very good.

2008 The Eyrie Vineyards Estate Grown Dundee Hills Willamette Valley Pinot Noir

13.5% alc., $30.25. A blend of four estate vineyards with an average vine age of 29 years. · A red-fruited aromatic profile is accented by notes of herbal oak and pine needle. Moderately rich on the palate with vivid dark red berries, plums and savory herbs singing in harmony, framed by a spark of acidity. Elegant and approachable now, this is a solid wine with exemplary Eyrie style. Good (+).

2008 Verve Stoller Vineyard Dundee Hills Willamette Valley Pinot Noir

12.5% alc., 75 cases, $30. 100% de-stemmed, fermented in one Rousseau 2 ton French oak open-top fermenter. 14 days on skins. Aged an average of 18 months in 65% new French oak barrels. Bottled March 29, 2010. · Lovely perfume of raspberries, cola and complimentary toasted oak. Fresh flavors of cherries and raspberries with a hint of herbal oak and a citrus tang on the bright finish. Silky, light in weight, with some dusty tannins. A wine with Burgundian sensitivity that can be drunk now. Good.

2008 Verve Momtazi Vineyard McMinnville Willamette Valley Pinot Noir

13.0% alc., 75 cases, $33. 100% de-stemmed with no crushing, aged 18 months in 35% new French oak barrels. Bottled March 29, 2010. · Very shy nose hinting of sweet dark fruits but showing more prominent aromas of pipe smoke, old wood and herbs. The flavors trump the nose with a hearty medley of dark red Pinot fruits wrapped in firm tannins and an appealing citrus lift on the finish. I would probably wait on this one. Good.

2008 Domaine Drouhin Oregon Willamette Valley Pinot Noir

13.9% alc., $34 (winery retail is $40). Natural yeast fermentation. Aged in 20% new French Oak barrels. 21st vintage. · Moderate reddish-purple color in the glass. Beautifully fruited perfume with accents of toasty oak and coffee. Delicious and suave, with vibrant flavors of cherry pie, red currant and strawberries that persist on the long and lush finish. The soft mouth feel is downright seductive. A stellar young wine that will last 15 years and should be part of any serious pinotphile’s cellar. There are few competitors in Oregon that produce such consistently excellent, elegant and age worthy wines vintage after vintage.

2008 Matello Souris Willamette Valley Pinot Noir

14.0% alc., 165 cases, $36. A blend of Whistling Ridge, Bishop Creek and Cherry Grove vineyards. Aged for 18 months in 33% new French oak barrels. · Moderately intense reddish-purple color in the glass. Demure aromas of ripe Pinot fruits. The tasty core of cherries and berries takes a back seat to a citrus tone imparted by brisk acidity. Linear now with plenty of tannin, but possesses good upside potential. The Matello style reflects the winemaker’s background in the restaurant industry and will appeal to acid lovers. Good.

2008 Soter Vineyards Mineral Springs Ranch Yamhill-Carlton Willamette Valley Pinot Noir

13.8% alc., $40. 30 acres of estate vineyard just east of town of Carlton. 4th vintage from this vineyard. 100% de-stemmed, 3-4 day cold soak, 7-10 day extended maceration, aged 12 to 15 months in 60% new and 40% neutral French oak barrels. Aged 6 months in bottle before release. · Moderate reddish-purple hue in the glass. Terrific nose with bright aromas of ripe berries, forest floor and good barnyard. Remarkably flavored in the mouth with a depth and richness of cherry and berry flavor that defies description. Soft and elegant with well-proportioned tannin and acidity. One of the best 2008 Oregon Pinot Noirs I have tasted and a superb cellar candidate.

2008 ROCO Private Stash Chehalem Mountains Willamette Valley Pinot Noir

14.0% alc., 150 cases, $75, screw cap. Sourced entirely from the Soles’ family Wit’s End Vineyard. · Moderately light reddish-purple hue in the glass. The nose is closed for business initially, opening up over time in the glass to reveal hi-tone aromas of red Pinot fruits and spice. Pleasing, middle weight dark red cherry and berry flavors with a hint of candied spice and Red Vines. The taste profile is more typical of Pinot Noir from the Dundee Hills. A classy wine with admirable elegance that is very smooth in the mouth and literally grows on you over time. Definitely decant if you drink now.

2008 Beaux Frères The Beaux Frères Vineyard Ribbon Ridge Willamette Valley Pinot Noir

13.6% alc., $80. Made from fruit grown on the original estate vineyard. Primarily Pommard and Wädenswil clones planted on their own roots between 1988 and 1995. The vines are not irrigated and farming is organic with some biodynamic practices. Unfined and unfiltered. · Moderately light in color with a red tone. The aromatics are relatively closed, revealing little fruit but notable toasty oak. The wine offers more on the elegant palate, with moderately rich and pleasing flavors of strawberries, cherries and oak accents that linger on the juicy finish. Well-integrated acidity and tannins offer a harmony that predicts 10+ years of longevity. Stunning the next day from a previously opened and re-corked bottle. There is nothing like older vine fruit.

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