Sunday, April 19, 2009

An Eyrie's Autumnal Length

The Eyrie Vineyards 2002 Reserve Pinot Noir2002 is an oft-hyped vintage for the Willamette Valley, but is it even true, and what do people mean when they say it?

I dunno about the first part of the question, as I don't have enough experience with the vintage. I can tell you that I'm skeptical of vintage guides. Many observers rank the warm (err, hot) 2006 vintage in the Willamette Valley considerably higher than the cool 2005 vintage. I, on the other hand, find that the 05s are not only apt to be fresher and more transparent than the forward 06s but also deeper. Even when the fruit in the 2006s isn't slightly cooked, gobs of fruit can smother elegance.

The 2002 vintage was warm and dry but lacked heat spikes, while September rains refreshed the grapes prior to harvest, so the rap on these wines is that they are (or were) both full and structured, with good acidity. True?

The Eyrie Vineyards Willamette Valley Reserve 2002
I of course can't make judgments about the vintage overall from just one wine. Besides, in their pursuit of very quiet elegance the Letts are the exception in Oregon and not the rule. What I can tell you is that this reserve wine, which comes from vines that were at the time 35+ years old, shows a gorgeous autumnal depth that is, yes, full and structured, and I've never had a finer Oregon pinot noir.

As you can see in the above photo, this seven year old is showing brick-to-orange colors at the rim; not shown are the aromas of dried cherries and dried flowers. But there's nothing tired about this wine, and it shows tremendous if quiet energy on the palate. It's downright silky and everything is in harmony, from the graceful acidity to the light earthiness to the dried fruit characteristics. Moreover, the wine shows excellent presence at midpalate, great length, and X factors of elegance and complexity that are difficult to describe but simple are.

Between its autumnal characteristics and the fact that it's drinking so well right now, I'm hesitant to say you can or should hold this for a particular amount of time, although the energetic acidity suggests you can hold for some time. Eric Asimov would be the better guide here, and his relatively recent experience with Eyrie reserves at ages 19 and 28 suggests that holding is hardly a problem.

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