Saturday, December 5, 2009

The First 2008 Pinots From Oregon

Last year I speculated that 2008 could be an interesting vintage in the Willamette Valley, as the long-range forecast called for a cool and dry summer. It turned out to be just that. In fact, winemakers were concerned that the delayed budbreak and the cool conditions combined would not allow the grapes to ripen properly, particularly if rain hit during harvest.

Not only was there no rain at harvest, but Indian Summer conditions allowed the grapes to ripen evenly and well. Winemakers were ecstatic about the potential quality.

I've now tasted two 2008 Willamette Valley pinots — both of them, coincidentally, made from certified biodynamically grown grapes — and things are indeed looking good, especially as the acids in both these wines are particularly nice. Montinore Estate aims for translucent purity, and if their 2007 was too light and tart, thanks to that challenging and wet vintage, their 2008 Estate Pinot Noir is just right. It's fresh and lively, with really nice acidity, nifty cherry fruit, and a light sprinkling of earth. I dig its vibe. It should deepen over the next year but it's fine to drink now. And at $19 a bottle, I like it even more! (Sidenote: these guys also make an excellent and quite dry gewurtztraminer.)

The 2008 Select Pinot Noir from Brick House Vineyards is really impressive, if painfully young — it's prickly, almost carbonic at first, and this will require some time to settle down. As with the Montinore, I'm really impressed by the quality of the acidity, as it's strong and robust but not brittle or thin. There's good depth to the fruit, and that red Ribbon Ridge earthiness is screamingly pure. I know that "elegant" is one of the most overused words in the wine world, but I can't think of a better one to sum things up. Give it some time so it can let it all hang out. (Sidenote: these guys also make a terrific gamay.)

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