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Tag Archives: Oregon wine

Oregon and pinot noir

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oregon and pinot noirOr, how a state that everyone laughed at when it first started making wine has turned into one of the best regions in the world for pinot noir. That’s the subject of a story I wrote for the Wine Business International trade magazine. Given Oregon’s success over the past 30 years, and how little too many consumers still know about the state, and it’s worth noting the story’s highlights about Oregon and pinot noir:

 • Oregon’s lesson for other states that want to be something besides a winemaking curiosity? Don’t be afraid to zig when the rest of the wine world is zagging. In this case, it was growing pinot when everyone else said it couldn’t be done, and not accepting the conventional wisdom that said they should do what California did. “The people who came to Oregon in the first place were pioneers, not just because it was a new region, but because they had a different spirit,” says Thomas Houseman, the winemaker at the 15,000-case Anne Amie Vineyards, who worked for Ponzi Vineyards, one of the state’s first producers. “They really didn’t have an idea about what they wanted to do. They just figured it out as they went along. And that’s still part of Oregon.”

• Legend says that a group of growers smuggled the first pinot cuttings from Burgundy in France, home to the world’s greatest pinot noir, to get around federal regulations. Ask about the legend, and you get a lot of winks and grins.

• Pinot noir isn’t the only grape Oregon’s producers do well. Its pinot gris, fruit forward and crisp, puts most of the rest of the world to shame, and I have always enjoyed Oregon sparkling wine. Ironically, chardonnay has never fared well, despite the state’s favorable terroir, but producers are making another effort with the grape, and have enjoyed some success.

• Price is also an important part of Oregon and pinot noir. My pal Wayne Belding, MS, a wine educator and reformed retailer, says that “at $50 and $60 for the top-end wines, they provide value not seen with pinot noir anywhere else in the world. There’s a common style, delicacy and nuance. They aren’t trying to make powerhouse wines.”

Want Oregon wine suggestions? Use the search box on the right side of the page and type in Oregon.

Mini-reviews 70: Ponzi, white Rhone, lemberger, pinot blanc

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wine reviews PonziReviews of wines that don’t need their own post, but are worth noting for one reason or another. Look for it on the final Friday of each month.

Ponzi Vineyards Pinot Gris 2014 ($17, sample, 13.2%): Needs more time in the bottle, but when this Oregon white is ready in a couple of months, it should be classic, elegant Oregon pinot gris — fresh tropical fruit, rich mouth feel, and long finish.

• Dauvergne-Ranvier Côtes du Rhône Vin Gourmand 2012 ($15, purchased, 13.5%): Uninspired white French blend that was overpriced and lacking in anything to make it interesting. A hint of viognier (peach?) and not much else. We do this kind of wine much better in Texas.

Weingut Schnaitmann Lemberger 2012 ($15, sample, 13%): Unfortunately for those of us who like lemberger, a red grape that’s hard to find, this isn’t the answer. There’s lots of red fruit, but this German wine is disjointed and needs something more than just the fruit.

Rudi Wiest Dry Pinot Blanc 2012 ($12, sample, 12%): This German white was delightful, with candied lime fruit, fizzy acidity, and just a touch sweet. It was everything I hope it would be; the catch being that availability is limited.

Expensive wine 67: Brandborg Pinot Noir Estate 2012

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Brandborg pinot noirOne of the controversies amusing the Winestream Media, which allows its members to toss cyber-objects at each other, is the state of expensive pinot noir. It’s convoluted beyond description; for our purposes, it’s enough to know that some of my colleagues are throwing a hissy fit because other of my colleagues want to drink pinot noir that doesn’t taste like cabernet sauvignon. Sommelier Rajat Parr seems to be particularly disliked for advocating this kind of pinot noir, and I admire his thick skin.

The Wine Curmudgeon, of course, could care less about what his colleagues drink. Or argue about. Which is one of the differences between us.

Rather, I mention the controversy because the vitriol has gotten to the point where wines like the Brandborg ($38, sample, 12.8%) are dismissed because they don’t fit the current style. In this, the Brandborg is part of the resurgence in traditional pinot noir — which, oddly, I’ve noted here in several recent reviews, including this one and this one, without realizing it.

The Brandborg is quite nicely done, being both a varietally correct Oregon pinot and a wine with much more going on that just varietal correctness. It’s even big enough (though still balanced) that it needs food. Look for low alcohol, more fruit than a red Burgundy (black cherry?), and minerality, as well as a wine that’s still young and not quite all together. It’s going to get more complex and taste even better over the next couple of years, and offers fine value even at its price.

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