Oregon – Willamette Valley Pinot Noir and more
Wine country of the Dundee Hills
Oregon is rightly known for the quality of its Pinot Noirs from the appellations of the Willamette Valley. We will look at a few of these in this brief tour around the State but also other well-priced and characterful wines and grapes. In preparation for our 10th editions, the wineries mentioned here I think are producing some great wines both in terms of price and quality.
First of all, the Willamette Valley which is the centre of the States winegrowing. Amalie Robert is based in the south of the region a small distance from the small town of Salem. Her Silhouette is a great value un-oaked estate grown Chardonnay full of zesty, citrus and melon fruits with the malolactic fermentation blocked for freshness. Pricier although still good value is the Chardonnay Heirloom Cameo. Again estate grown, this is barrel-fermented and aged on lees adding a rich, creamy texture with intense and zesty lemon and lime flavours. Larger 500 litre puncheons are used to keep the fruit and oak nicely balanced. Among their small range they also produce Viognier, Syrah and of course Pinot Noir. The Reserve is the top label Pinot and mighty impressive it is. Fermented in small lots, block by block it offers a rich and rounded texture, firm and balance tannin structure with intense and concentrated dark cherry fruit.
Torii Mor Winery
A couple of other premium Pinot Noirs that also impressed were the De Lancellotti Family Vineyards with their Lachini Pinot Noir and the Olson Estate Vineyard example from Torii Mor. De Lancellotti, who are located just to the north-west of Newberg also produce a number of other worthy Pinots, including the Willamette Valley AVA Onelia and very well priced La Sorella. The Lachini Vineyard is located in the Chehalem Mountains, and the vines farmed biodynamically from a couple of clones. New oak is minimally used, just 10% and the wine has an elegant red fruits character with restrained intensity and fine structure. Expect at least half a decade’s development with ageing. It’s also worth taking note of their excellent Anderson Vineyard Chardonnay from the Anderson Vineyard in the Dundee Hills.
Torii Mor was established with planting on the site of what is now the Olson Estate Vineyard in the Dundee Hills in 1972, so the vines now have some significant age and an Old Vine Reserve selection is also made. The Estate Pinot Noir made by French winemaker Jacques Tardy, is fermented conventionally without whole bunches and also has restrained use of new oak. Full of complex, dark berry fruits the wine offers a fine underpinning structure with supple tannins and nicely edgy acidity. We can also recommend readers to look for premium Pinots from the Nysa, Alloro and La Colina vineyards. The Dundee Vineyard and Yamhill-Carlton Select examples both offer good value, as does the very well priced Willamette Valley bottling.
Fans of Domaine Drouhin, who are based in the Dundee Hills, will be interested in their new Roserock label Pinot Noir and Chardonnay sourced from their vineyard of the same name in the Eola-Amity Hills. These are well-priced and elegant wines full of character. The Pinot is vinified individually by vineyard block, of which there are 35. The wine is restrained, offering dark cherry fruit and a fresh, balanced structure. There are three further blocks of Chardonnay, which are like the Pinot sustainably farmed. Fermentation is part barrel and part tank, followed by the malolactic. Restrained melon and green fruit aromas are underpinned by fresh and zesty acidity and just a subtle hint of oak.
The Applegate Valley AVA is in southern Oregon and proving a good spot for Rhone style wines and Cowhorn is an excellent exponent. Amongst their small range Spiral 36 is a blend of Viognier, Marsanne and Roussanne with the varieties all co-fermented. The wine gets three months in oak, which is kept in the background with just 20% of new barrels with the wine showing attractive citrus fruit. The wine offers excellent value. A touch pricier but still good value is the Syrah 20, which is a 100% varietal example getting 10 months in wood, again well reined in. The dark berry fruit is balanced by an attractive black pepper spice quality. Look out also for a Viognier, a Marsanne/Roussanne and a Grenache. A Reserve Viognier and Reserve Syrah are also made.