Oregon Pinot Noir
February 27, 2017
Only two days left of the big wine sale at Apollo. In my endeavor to recommend great wines to you during the sale, I was trying to think of a wine that is very versatile in food pairings and has broad appeal to red wine lovers. It didn’t take long before it hit me that Pinot Noir fits the bill. Only Pinot Noir has the grace, finesse and complexity to go with the finest seafood meals and still be able to hold up to a hearty steak. When thinking of great Pinot Noir regions in the world, the list is short. Pinot Noir is a finicky grape that needs a cooler region than most red grapes. It can test the patience of even the best grower. Burgundy is always first to my mind when it comes to great Pinot Noir, but for me a close second and more affordable is Oregon. I have enjoyed Pinot Noir from all over the world but only Burgundy and Oregon seem to be consistently great. The only turn off I have about Burgundy is to get a good to great Pinot from there, your price point will start around $100. In Oregon, a good to great wine will start around $20.
Oregon Pinot Noir MapOregon’s wine history started around 50 years ago when a small group of pioneering growers decided to give the Williamette Valley a try to grow some grapes. The conventional wisdom was that these people were nuts! Why go to Oregon where the weather is usually too cold to ripen grapes, the precipitation is unpredictable, and frost can hit virtually anytime of year. Why not stay in California, where the sun is seemingly always shining and the weather reliable. Nevertheless, the adventurous group gave it a try and after several trying years of trial and error, they discovered that when the stars aligned, the Williamette Valley could produce truly great Pinot Noir. Some even rivaling the great Burgundy!
As far as flavor and style, Oregon can produce a wide range depending on where the grapes grow. Most have a characteristic raspberry and cranberry note with distinctive earthy tones. The flavors are powerful but there is still always a beautiful finesse to the finer examples. The good examples can age for decades and will still show the beautiful terroir from the stunning valley. This balance is truly hard to achieve anywhere else in the world!
When deciding on food, simpler is better. The classic pairing is salmon prepared simply. Poultry also pairs up great. Fuller bodied Pinot Noir can even pair beautifully with steak. To me the key is to keep the food simple. The complexity of Pinot Noir will shine when it doesn’t have to compete with complex dishes.
Great producers are Montinore, Drouhin, Eyrie, Penner Ash and Maysara. Due to the difficulty of growing great Pinot Noir, most of the producers are small production. While this makes certain producers hard to find and the wines difficult to keep in stock, it keeps up the great quality.
Pinot Noir, when done right, can be one of the greatest wines you will ever drink! It is hard to make this wine consistently great, so I would stick with the tried and true regions that have the terroir to pull off great Pinot Noir. Oregon is one of the select few regions of the world that I can say achieves the feat of great Pinot.