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Noiregon: First Look at 09s and Late Release 08s

The Oregon Wine Board, in its 2009 Oregon Harvest Roundup, reported that the harvest period began warm and dry, but then cooler weather prevailed in late September and early October. A three day late September heat spike pushed the sugar levels up, concentrating flavors and hastening harvest. Winemaker Harry Peterson-Nedry of Chehalem commented: “There is a personality to each vintage, a pedigree made of weather and terroir that is both intellectually and hedonistically interesting. This (2009) vintage is similar to 2002, with good weather during harvest and lots of fruit. Pinot Noirs will be flashy and spectacular this year.....with great wines in good quantity.” Scott Wright of Scott Paul Wines said, "A worthy successor to the magnificent 2008 vintage, 2009 in Oregon will go down as a delicious vintage of pure pleasure. The wines are rich, fruity and succulent, and ready to give immediate pleasure and the instant gratification that we all crave from time to time. I don't think the '09s will be as long lived as their '08 predecessors."

According to the USDA National Agricultural Statistical Service (reported in Oregon Wine PressApril 2011) overall tonnage in 2009 was 40,300, 16 percent larger than in 2008. Roughly 1.37 million cases of wine were produced in Oregon in 2009.

When I tasted some of the 2009 Willamette Valley Pinot Noirs out of barrel last summer, I was impressed at how precocious and gregarious the wines were. Alcohols are higher, but the wines have bodacious flavor. Unlike another ripe vintage, 2006, the wines appear to have better acidity and freshness.

Williamette Valley Pinot Noirs from the 2008 vintage continue to be released into the marketplace. The 2008 Pinot Noirs are magnificent, but reluctant wines that need time to evolve. Producers who were able to keep the wines in bottle for an extended time are offering wines that just now are approachable. The most sage advice I can give you is to stock your cellar with all the 2008s you can afford, and forget about them for a couple of years while you drink the 2009s.

2009 Westrey Willamette Valley Pinot Noir

13.5%, $19. · Moderate plum color in the glass. Aromas of black plums, prune juice and oak. Dark fruits are featured that have a ripe, cooked quality. Soft with supple tannins and a silky finish. Decent.

2009 St. Innocent Villages Cuvée Willamette Valley Pinot Noir

13.5% alc., 2,640 cases, $20. 54% Vitae Springs Vineyard with fruit from young vines elsewhere (22% Zenith Vineyard and 24% Momtazi Vineyard). 2- day cold soak, fermented in stainless steel tanks, aged 12 months in 15% new French oak barrels. Unfined and unfiltered. Winemaker Mark Vlossak. · Moderately colored in the glass. Dark red fruit aromas are buried in scents of wood shed, oak and brier with a whiff of alcohol evident. Red-fruited on the modest palate with a savory bent and oak in the background. Very soft in the mouth with adequate tannic support. Decent.

2009 Anne Amie Cuvée A Williamette Valley Pinot Noir

13.8% alc., pH 3.60, TA 0.59, 3,770 cases, $25. Release date is May, 2011. A blend of grapes from eight vineyards including some estate fruit. Clones 115, 667, 777, 828, Pommard 4 and 2A. Willakenzie and Laurelwood soils. Aged 10 months in 16% new, 18% 1-year old, and 66% neutral French oak barrels. 100% de-stemmed, extended cold soak and maceration (on skins 28-40 days), free run and press juice combined. Aged 6 months in bottle before release. · Subdued aromas upon opening, evolving in the glass to reveal attractive scents of cherries, mixed berries, oak and roses. A wine that aims to please with its easy drinking cherry, cranberry, grape soda flavors wrapped in supple tannins and framed by lively acidity. A solid back porch pounder that is ready to go now. Good (+).

2009 Westrey Oracle Vineyard Dundee Hills Pinot Noir

13.5% alc., $26. · Moderate reddish-purple color in the glass. The nose is slow to emerge, but over time becomes flamboyant, displaying hitone aromas of black cherries. The most intensely flavored and structured of the three Westrey Pinot Noirs reviewed here, with plenty of black cherry and spice pleasure, ripe well-proportioned tannins, and a refreshingly juicy finish. Very Good.

2009 Westrey Abbey Ridge Vineyard Dundee Hills Pinot Noir

13.5% alc., $32. · Moderately light reddishpurple color in the glass. Bright aromas of cherries, strawberries with hints of oak and dried herbs. Tasty array of red fruits with notions of spice and cola. Crisp and charming, soft and elegant, with supple tannins. Rather simple but well-crafted and blessed with finesse. Good.

2009 Sonría Shea Vineyard Yamhill-Carlton District Pinot Noir

14.4% alc., 180 cases, $60, released January 29, 2011. Keith and Stacy Emerson named their label Sonría after their daughter Aubrey’s smile. Sonría is derived from the Spanish verb Sonreír which means, “To smile.” Keith is a graduate of U.C. Davis, the Director of Winemaking at Vineyard 29 and its custom crush clientele, and Stacey is a 10-year veteran of the wine industry with a focus on marketing. This wine is made from Pommard and Wädenswil clones, processed at Vineyard 29 in St. Helena. Aged 11 months in 50% new and 50% once-used French oak barrels. · Moderate reddish-purple color in the glass. The aromatics are nicely fruited with appealing complimentary scents of spice, dried roses and a hint of spearmint. A hearty layered core of blackberry, black raspberry and cherry fruit impresses the mid palate and lingers aromatically on the finish that has a slight confected note. The oak is well integrated, an attractive spiciness prevails, and the mouth feel is dreamy. Still sporting ripe, firm tannins that will benefit from a year or two in the cellar. This wine will fortify the already admirable reputation of Shea Vineyard. Very Good.

2008 Johan Vineyards Willamette Valley Pinot Noir

13.3% alc., 396 cases, $28. Aged 18 months in French oak barrels. · Subdued aromas of cherries and berries with oak and spice in the background. Very tasty pop on the mid palate of red plum and red and black berry fruits wrapped in firm tannins. The flavors trump the aromas at this stage. The wine should shed its tannic muscle over time and I suspect this will improve with another year or two in the cellar. Good (+).

2008 Argyle Reserve Willamette Valley Pinot Noir

14.0% alc., 700 cases, $30, screw cap. The best vineyard blocks from Argyle-farmed properties. · Attractive aromas of black cherries, grilled mushrooms, and forest floor. Moderately intense core of dark red berries nicely framed by a hint of oak and a healthy tannin backbone. Closed upon opening, but gradually coming to life over time in the glass with more fruit intensity and spice coming to the forefront. Even better the next day from a previously opened and re-corked bottle. This wine should definitely be aged in the cellar and has the balance to succeed.

2008 Colene Clemens Vineyards Estate Reserve Chehalem Mountains Pinot Noir

13.5% alc., 440 cases, $36. Inaugural release (along with an Estate bottling) from a 23-acre estate vineyard planted in 2006 in the Ribbon Ridge AVA. The winemaker is Steve Goof, who spent several years as an assistant to Beaux Frères winemaker Mike Etzel. Clones are 115, 667, 777 and Pommard. Aged in 50% new French oak barrels. · The nose is dominated by oak with very little fruit to the front. Discreetly intense flavors of black cherries with prominent accents of grilled mushrooms and toasted oak. The tannins are restrained, and the texture is satiny, but there is too much oak on board now. The oak may integrate over time, but I suspect this will always be an oaky wine. Decent.

2008 Alexana Dundee Hills Willamette Valley Pinot Noir

13.8% alc., $38. Six clonal selections from microblocks in the Revana Vineyard. Proprietor Dr. Madaiah Revara bottles several Pinot Noirs under the Alexana label, a tribute to his daughter, Alexandra. The winemaker is Lynn Penner-Ash. · Moderate reddish-purple color in the glass. Nuanced perfume of strawberries, red cherries, spice, vanilla, biscuit and oak. Delicious array of red berry and red stone fruits with a pop of cherry on the finish. A seductive, silky wine that really shows off the red fruit character of the Dundee Hills. Has the balance to last in the cellar. Very good (+).

2008 Argyle Nuthouse Reserve Series Eola-Amity Hills Willamette Valley Pinot Noir

14.0% alc., 3,200 cases, $42, screw cap. Named for the old hazelnut drying facility or nuthouse which is now the Argyle winery. Composed of carefully chosen vineyard blocks with pedigree. · The nose is reserved, offering delicate aromas of dark stone fruits and berries with complimentary oak. Vivid and intense red and black berry compote on the palate including a striking attack of black raspberry fruit on entry that lingers on the finish. Well-rounded, smoothly textured, with a lively acid underbelly. More approachable than the 2008 Argyle Reserve, but will also benefit from cellaring. Impressive!

2008 Anne Amie Prismé Willamette Valley Pinot Noir Blanc

14.1% alc., $47. · Pale yellow-straw color in the glass. Similar aromatic profile to the 2007 vintage but less evolved and opening slowly in the glass. Perfume of pears, pastry cream, confected nuts and toasted bread. Very creamy on the palate with subdued but appealing flavors of hazelnuts, caramel corn, citrus, vanilla, and white stone fruits. Bright acidity with supple tannins. Give this more time in the cellar for full expression. Very good.

2008 Anne Amie Anahala Vineyard Anderson Valley Pinot Noir

14.1% alc., $50, screw cap. A Fall 2011 release. This is an unusual offering: an Oregonmade Pinot Noir sourced from Anderson Valley. Winemaker Thomas Houseman’s winemaking career began in the Anderson Valley, he was used to working with Anderson Valley fruit, and when a few tons of grapes became available, he said, “Why not?” Remember, Anderson Valley is often referred to as “Baja Oregon.” · Moderate reddish-purple color in the glass. Scent of oakimbued black cherries and dark red rose petals. Discreetly concentrated core of dark red berries and cherries with a subtle smoky oak underpinning. Softly textured with restrained tannins and highly charming as well as approachable now. Very good.

2008 Anne Amie L’iris Willamette Valley Pinot Noir

13.5% alc., pH 3.52, TA 0.62, 210 cases, $75, screw cap. 34% Anne Amie Estate, 55% Twelve Oaks Estate, 11% Hawk’s View Vineyard. Pommard, Wädenswil, 114, 667 and 777. Aged 18 months in 33% new, 67% 1-year old French oak barrels. Willakenzie and Laurelwood soils. Extended bottle aging. Unfined and unfiltered. · Moderately deep ruby hue in the glass. Aromas of black cherries, spice, wooded forest and slight oak char. Tasty core of black cherry, cranberry and raspberry fruit with hints of spice, chocolate, loamy earth and oak. Light and elegant with a clinging intensity that hangs on through the long finish. Bright acidity with restrained fine-grain dusty tannins. Exhibiting a noticeable dose of oak upon opening but integrated over night when re-tasted the next day. Good now, but will reward even more patience.

2007 Anne Amie Prismé Willamette Valley Pinot Noir Blanc

14.1% alc., 390 cases, $45. A serious wine made from some of the winery’s finest vineyard blocks. Grapes are gently pressed, liberating the freerun jjuice, but not the color or tannins from the skins. Barrel fermented and aged on the lees in French oak barrels fro 18 months. · Moderate straw color in the glass. Complex aromatic profile that changes constantly in the glass offering scents of banana peel, lemon, lychee, pear, browned banana and roasted nuts. A red wine masquerading as a white wine. Delicious and creamy in the mouth with a Baskin-Robbins array of flavors including cream soda, Asian pears, cooked banana, white peach, honey and nutty butter. Hard to describe and clearly unique with the bright acidity displaying the fruit notes beautifully. You can have plenty of fun with this wine which has picked up considerable interest since tasted last year. Not cheap, but well-worth the tab considering the intense production methods employed and the quality of the wine.

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