Oregon


I suspect that while many readers may find the annual roster of “50 Great Wines” interesting, they don’t necessarily find it essential. Today’s post, however — “30 Great Wine Bargains of 2017” — I hope will be greeted with expectation and gratitude. Who doesn’t love a bargain, especially when the price is attached to a wine that performs above its weight and class? Prices on this list range from about $7 to $20. Twenty-five of these selections rate Excellent, with the next five rated Very Good+, and each one offers a hefty and distinguishing serving of quality. The breakdown by genre is 15 white, 13 red and 2 rosé. By country or state: Italy 7; California 6; France 5; Spain 3; Germany 2; and one each from Argentina, Chile, New Zealand, Oregon, Portugal, South African and Washington. Whatever, it’s not the statistics that count but the wine inside the bottle. Many of these models I would recommend for buying by the case to enjoy in the months ahead, in moderation, of course.

These wines were samples for review.
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Alain de la Treille Chinon 2015, Loire Valley, France. 100 percent cabernet franc. Excellent. About $19.

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Armas de Guerra Mencia Rosado 2016, Bierzo, Spain. Rosé of 100 percent mencia grapes. Excellent. About $13.

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Aveleda Vinho Verde 2016, Portugal. 70 percent loureiro grapes, 30 percent alvarinho. Very Good+. About $7-$10.

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Averaen Pinot Noir 2015, Willamette Valley, Oregon. Excellent. About $20.
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Weingut Binz Nackenheimer Pinot Gris Kabinette 2015, Rheinhessen. Excellent. About $14.

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Camino Roca Altxerri 2015, Getariako, Spain. 100 percent hondurrabi zuri grapes. Excellent. About $16.
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Chelsea Goldschmidt Merlot 2015, Alexander Valley, Sonoma County. Excellent. About $19.

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Contrade Negroamaro 2015, Puglia, Italy. Very Good+. About $10.

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Chateau La Freynelle 2015, Bordeaux Blanc. 60 percent sauvignon blanc, 30 percent semillon, 10 percent muscadelle. Very Good+. About $13.
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Maquis Gran Reserva Carménère 2014, Colchagua Valley, Chile. Excellent. About $20.
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Marchesi di Gresy Barbera d’Asti 2015, Piedmont, Italy. Excellent. About $18.

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Masseria Li Veli Verdeca 2015, Valle d’Istria, Apulia, Italy. 90 percent verdeca grapes, 10 percent fiano minutolo. Excellent. About $18.

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Luli Sauvignon Blanc 2016, Arroyo Seco, Monterey County. 504 cases. Excellent. About $18.

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Mercer Estate Sharp Sisters Red Blend 2015. Horse Heaven Hills, Washington. 29 percent cabernet sauvignon, 27 percent syrah, 18 percent merlot, 14 percent petit verdot, 10 percent grenache, 2 percent carignane. Excellent. About $20.
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Mt. Beautiful Sauvignon Blanc 2016, North Canterbury, New Zealand. Excellent. About $16.
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Olema Pinot Noir 2014, Sonoma County. Second label of Amici Cellars. Excellent. About $20.

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Olianas Vermentino 2016, Vermentino di Sardegna. Excellent. About $15.

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Paul Durdilly “Les Grandes Coasses” 2016, Beaujolais, France. Excellent. About $15.

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Principe de Viana Garnacha Roble 2015, Navarra, Spain. Very Good+. About $11.
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Renwood Premier Old Vine Zinfandel 2014, Amador County, California. With 6 percent petit sirah, 5 percent barbera, 4 percent syrah. 50-to-103-year-old vines. Excellent. About $20.
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The Royal Old Vines Steen Chenin Blanc 2016, Western Cape, South Africa. Very Good+. About $11.

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Castel Sallegg Gewürztraminer 2015, Südtirol-Alto Adige, Italy. Excellent. About $16.
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Una Seleccion de Ricardo Santos Semillon 2016, Mendoza, Argentina. Excellent. About $16.
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St. Urbans-Hof Nik Seis Wiltinger Alte Reben Riesling 2015, Saar Valley, Germany. Excellent. About $18.
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Tenuta Sant’Antonio Monti Garbi 2014, Valpolicella Superiore Ripassa. Excellent. About $19.
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Serra Lor Rosato 2016, Isola dei Nuraghi, Sardenia. An unusual rosé blend of 50 percent cannonau, 25 percent monica, 20 percent carignano and 5 percent bovale grapes. Excellent. About $15.

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Steele Wines Pinot Blanc 2016, Santa Barbara County, California. Excellent. About $19.
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Chateau Tire Pé “Diem” 2012, Bordeaux. 100 percent merlot, no oak. Excellent. About $12.

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Valley of the Moon Pinot Blanc Viognier White Bland 2015, Sonoma County. 85 percent pinot blanc, 15 percent viognier. Excellent. About $18.
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Vincent Crémant de Bourgogne Brut nv, Burgundy, France. Excellent. About $20.

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So here we are, friends, the last post in the 11th edition of “12 Days of Christmas with Champagne and Sparkling Wine.” It’s Twelfth Night, traditionally a time of revels and misadventure, though of course I devoutly hope that no misadventure befalls you. Tomorrow is the Feast of the Epiphany, a word that means “made manifest” but which we nowadays think of as implying some sort of revelation, as in “When I was watching ‘The Big Sick’ last night I had an epiphany about the meaning of life.” Well, in any case, good luck with that. Today I offer four sparkling wines, an actual and true Champagne and examples from Bordeaux, South Africa and Oregon’s Willamette Valley. I hope, as always, that this series is entertaining and educational, and I wish you all a Happy New Year and prosperous 2018. Peace and love will triumph yet. Maybe.

These products were samples for review.
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Crémant de Bordeaux must be one of the least known products of that august region. A good introduction to this genre is the Celene Brut, nv, Crémant de Bordeaux, a blend of 50 percent semillon, 30 percent muscadelle and 20 percent cabernet franc, made in the traditional method of aging in the bottle on the lees. It’s very clean, fresh and crisp, displaying a pale blonde hue and an excellent array of tiny bubbles; it’s all lemon and limestone with a trace of peach and grapefruit, quite delicate and charming in its plangent effervescence, very dry in its chalk-flinty minerality, a bit austere and high-toned on the finish. 12 percent alcohol. Perfectly appropriate for sipping while cooking dinner or watching the “News Hour” on PBS. Very Good+. About $16.
Imported by Superb Wines International, Pensacola, Fla.
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The Simonsig Kaapse Vonkel Brut 2015, Western Cape, South Africa, is a blend of 48 percent chardonnay, 49 percent pinot noir and 3 percent pinot meunier; information about time aging in bottle (en tirage) was not available. The color is pale gold with tarnished silver highlights enlivened by myriad tiny glinting bubbles; notes of green apples and roasted lemon unfold to spiced pear and flint; a sort of seashell brininess frames the palate with pert limestone minerality, while crisp acidity adds verve and drive, leading to a citrus and stone-fruit finish. 12.6 percent alcohol. Lots of charm. Very Good+, edging close to Excellent. About $25.
Imported by Quintessential, Napa, Calif. The vintage date on the label image is one year behind.
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Champagne Gremillet Brut, nv, is a blend of 70 percent pinot noir and 30 percent chardonnay, derived from four or five vintages and using 20 percent reserve wines; it aged 22 months in the bottle on the lees. It’s as pale platinum blond as Jean Harlow’s hair, with effervescent both notable and refined; this is all smoke and steel, an elegant and fine-boned Champagne that unfurls hints of pear and quince, acacia and heather and a chiseled line of flint-and-chalk minerality; it’s crisp and vibrant, exhibiting high-toned nerve and presence on the palate, and a sleek, glacial finish. It’s the refreshing and bracing Champagne you take a glass of before meeting your opponent on the dueling ground at dawn. 12.5 percent alcohol. Excellent. About $40.
Imported by Esprit du Vin, Syosset, N.Y.
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Gran Moraine Brut Rosé, nv, Yamhill-Carlton District, comes from a Jackson Family Wines property in Oregon’s Willamette Valley. It’s a blend of 53 percent chardonnay and 47 percent pinot noir, aged in bottle on the lees for two years. It displays a very pale coral-salmon hue and a dynamic array of tiny bubbles; notes of orange zest and lime peel are woven with hints of macerated raspberries and touches of red currant and almond skin. It’s dry, crisp and lively on the palate, offering the energy of acid and a scintillating limestone element, yet overall embodies elegance and delicacy. It is, in fact, delightful. 12.5 percent alcohol. Excellent. About $50.
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The prices of these 50 Great Wines of 2017 range from an unprecedented $15 to a whopping $250. Not that I expect My Readers to hasten out and snatch up a bottle of wine that costs $250, but when an extraordinary wine crosses my horizon and I rate it “Exceptional,” well, it goes on this list no matter the price. That’s one of the criteria for this annual roster: Every wine I rated Exceptional in 2017 is included automatically, followed by wines I rated Excellent and that I go back through the reviews and parse very carefully. Now I’m sure My Readers understand that by “50 Great Wines” I’m not saying that these are the 50 greatest wines in the world, just that they’re great wines — as I interpret greatness — that I tasted during the year in question. What makes a wine great? Purity, intensity, integrity, authenticity, as well as a sense of individuality and, if possible, a connection to a region or, in more rarefied examples, to a vineyard. Not all wines, even great ones, display this spectrum of virtues completely; winemaking is too intuitive a craft to allow for cookie-cutter sameness. Often, it’s the differences among wines from vintage to vintage that make them intriguing and exciting. I hope the wines listed here pique your interest and that you have a chance to try some of them. Many of them are entrancing and beautiful, and we could all stand a little enchantment and beauty in our lives.
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Alois Lageder “Porer” Pinot Grigio 2015, Alto Adige, Italy. Excellent. About $25.
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Bonny Doon Vineyard Old Telegram 2014, Contra Costa County. 100 percent mourvedre. 277 cases. Excellent. About $45.
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Brooks Wine “Janus” Pinot Noir 2014, Willamette Valley. Exceptional. About $38.

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Capofaro Didyme Malvasia 2016, Salina, Sicily. Excellent. About $25.

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Davis Bynum Jane’s Vineyard Pinot Noir 2014, Russian River Valley. Excellent. About $35.
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Duckhorn Three Palms Vineyard Merlot 2014, Napa Valley. Exceptional. About $98.

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Champagne Egly-Ouriet Grand Cru Brut Tradition nv, Champagne, France. 70 percent pinot noir, 30 percent chardonnay. Excellent. About $68.

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Ehlers Estate Sauvignon Blanc 2016, St. Helena, Napa Valley. Exceptional. About $32.

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Enzo Bianchi Red Wine 2012, San Rafael, Mendoza, Argentina. 75 percent cabernet sauvignon, 10 percent cabernet franc, 8 percent petit verdot, 7 percent malbec. Excellent. About $55.

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Esporão Private Selection 2011, Garrafeira, Alentjo, Portugal. 40 percent each aragonez and alicante boschet, 20 percent syrah. Excellent. About $65.
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Fathers & Daughters Ella’s Reserve Pinot Noir 2014, Anderson Valley, Mendocino County. 110 cases. Exceptional. About $42.
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Gamble Family Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc 2016, Yountville, Napa Valley. Exceptional. About $25.

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Gary Farrell Russian River Selection Rosé of Pinot Noir 2016, Russian River Valley. 393 cases. Excellent. About $32.

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Ghost Hill Cellars Bayliss-Bower Vineyard Pinot Noir 2014, Yamhill-Carlton district, Willamette Valley. Exceptional. About $42.

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Grgich Hills Estate 40th Anniversary Chardonnay 2014, Napa Valley. Exceptional. About $50.

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Grgich Hills Estate Miljenko’s Selection “Essence” Sauvignon Blanc 2015, Napa Valley. 646 cases. Exceptional. About $55.
The label vintage date is one year behind.
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Grgich Hills Estate Paris Tasting Commemorative Chardonnay 2014, Napa Valley. 942 cases. Exceptional. About $94.

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Heitlinger Tiefenbacher Schellenbrunnen Trocken Riesling 2014, Baden, Germany. Exceptional. About $30.

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Inman Family Endless Crush Rosé of Pinot Noir 2016, Russian River Valley, Sonoma County. 672 cases. Exceptional. About $35.
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Iron Horse Chinese Cuvée 2012, Green Valley of Russian River Valley. A brut rosé, 76 percent pinot noir 24 percent chardonnay. 300 cases. Excellent. About $65.
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Domaine Jessiaume Les Cent Vignes Beaune Premier Cru 2014, Beaune, Burgundy. 300 cases. Excellent. About $45.

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Jordan Vineyards Chardonnay 2015, Russian River Valley. Excellent. About $32.

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Cantina Kaltern Pfarrhof “Kalterersee” Classico Superiore 2015, Südtirol-Alto Adige, Italy. 95 percent schiava. 5 percent lagrein. Excellent. About $24.
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Dr. Konstantin Frank Gewurztraminer 2015, Finger Lakes, New York. Exceptional. About $15.
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Chateau Lagrezette Le Pigeonnier 2011, Cahors, France. 100 percent malbec. 1,070 six-bottle cases. Exceptional. About $250.
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La Jota Vineyard Co. Howell Mountain Merlot 2014, Napa Valley. Exceptional. About $85.

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Lioco “Sativa” Carignan 2014, Mendocino. 650 cases. Excellent. About $30.
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Louis Picamelot Cuvée Jean Baptiste Chautard 2012, Crémant de Bourgogne. 77 percent chardonnay, 23 percent aligote. Excellent. About $38.
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Domaine Marc Roy Les Champs Perdrix 2015, Marsannay, Burgundy. 100 percent chardonnay. 175 cases. Excellent. About $50.
The vintage date on the label image is one year behind.
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Mayacamas Vineyards The Terraces Special Bottling Chardonnay 2013, Napa Valley. Exceptional. About $95.
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Chateau Montelena “The Montelena Estate” Cabernet Sauvigono 2013, Calistoga, Napa Valley. Exceptional. About $160.

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Morgan Winery Tondre Grapefield Pinot Noir 2014, Santa Lucia Highlands, Monterey County. 45 cases. Exceptional. About $60.
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Onward Wines Capp-Inn Vineyard Skin-Fermented Malvasia Bianca 2015, Suisun Valley, Solano County. Exceptional. About $28.
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Paul Blanck Scholssberg Grand Cru Riesling 2012, Alsace. Excellent. About $34.
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Penner Ash Shea Vineyard Pinot Noir 2015, Yamhill-Carlton District, Willamette Valley. 915 cases. Exceptional. About $65.

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Chateau Peybonhomme-les-Tours “Le Blanc Bonhomme” 2016, Blaye Cotes de Bordeaux. 50 percent each sauvignon blanc and semillon. Excellent. About $22.

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Robert Mondavi Fume Blanc 2014, Oakville District, Napa Valley. Excellent. About $40.
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Sidebar Kerner 2016, Mokelumne River, Lodi. 193 cases. Excellent. About $25.

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Siduri Wines Pinot Noir 2015, Santa Lucia Highlands, Monterey County. Excellent. About $35.

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Smith-Madrone Cabernet Sauvignon 2013, Spring Mountain District, Napa Valley. With 12 percent cabernet franc and 6 percent merlot. Excellent. About $50.
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Smith-Madrone Riesling 2014, Spring Mountain District, Napa Valley. 1,551 cases. Exceptional. About $30.
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Stewart Cellars Beckstoffer Las Piedes Vineyard “Nomad” Cabernet Sauvignon 2014, Napa Valley. 180 cases. Exceptional. About $175.
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Stony Hill Chardonnay 2014, Napa Valley. Excellent. About $48.

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Tongue Dancer Wines “Pinot de Ville” Pinot Noir 2015, Sonoma Coast. 125 cases. Excellent. About $65.

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Troon Kubli Bench Blanc 2016, Applegate Valley, Oregon. 55 percent marsanne, 45 percent viognier. 180 cases. Excellent. About $25.
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Domaine Weinbach Grand Cru Schlossberg Riesling 2013, Alsace. Exceptional. About $40.
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Yount Ridge Cellars Epic Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2014, Napa Valley. Exceptional. About $250.

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Yount Ridge Cellars Sauvignon Blanc 2015, Napa Valley. 160 cases. Exceptional. About $35.

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ZD Winery Founder’s Reserve Pinot Noir 2013, Carneos. 800 cases. Exceptional. About $75.
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Zind Humbrecht Pinot Gris 2014, Alsace. Excellent. About $26.

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Nothing highly extracted or forceful here, the Troon Vineyard Grenache 2016, Rogue Valley, Oregon, is lithe, limpid and lyrical. Fermented by native yeast, grapes trod by foot and aged only in French oak barrels of three or more years use, the wine offers a lovely, transparent medium cherry hue and pert aromas of spiced cherry compote, with notes of cherry skin and pit, and raspberry, with a touch of the rasp of raspberry leaf; a few minutes in the glass unfurl foresty and woodsy elements of flowers and herbs and a beguiling hint of candied orange peel. Whiplash acidity keeps the wine lively and appealing, while moderate and supple tannins are more in the briers and brambles range than minerally, though a line of flint opens in the finish. A delicious grenache for those who want their wines to reflect the grape’s purity and intensity. 14.8 percent alcohol. Winemaker was Steve Hall. Production was either 143 or 173 cases, depending on what medium one is looking at. Excellent. About $25.

A sample for review.

Technically, these three pinot noir wines (and one riesling) from Penner-Ash Wine Cellar’s 2015 vintage are not products of Jackson Family Wines, because that ever-expanding entity didn’t purchase Penner-Ash until April 2016. Lynn and Ron Penner-Ash founded the winery in Oregon’s Willamette Valley in 1998, launched with 125 cases, developing over the years to about 12,000 cases annually. The winery specializes in single-vineyard pinot noirs, made by Lynn Penner-Ash, of which I look at three today. She’s a meticulous winemaker, as you can see by the carefully calibrated oak regimens these wines are given, none exactly alike, and she will remain on board in that position under JFW’s regime. These are impressive wines, fine in detail, deep in dimension, and they will benefit from several years aging.

These wines were samples for review.
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The Penner-Ash Shea Vineyard Pinot Noir 2015, Yamhill-Carlton District, aged 10 months in French oak, 31 percent new barrels, 33 percent one-year-old, 23 percent two-years-old, 13 percent neutral. The color is dark ruby shading to a transparent magenta rim; it’s a pinot noir of blazing purity and intensity, featuring spiced and macerated black cherries, currants and plums permeated by cloves and ground cumin, hints of sandalwood and sassafras and a touch of pomegranate; the super-satiny texture drapes the tongue in a dense, almost chewy enfolding, though kept dynamic through elemental bright acidity; the wine becomes increasingly loamy and foresty through the intense and concentrated finish. 13.7 percent alcohol. One of the best pinot noirs I tasted this year. Drink through 2022 to ’25. Production was 915 cases. Exceptional. About $65.
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The color of the Penner-Ash Estate Vineyard Pinot Noir 2015, Yamhill-Carlton District, is very dark ruby shading to a transparent rim; it’s a wine formidable in size and dimension, starting with its potent elements of loam and graphite minerality, its heady and intense aromas of lilacs and rose petals, its deeply spicy scents and flavors of black and red cherry and currant compote; dense, chewy and succulent, it’s a powerful and muscular expression of the grape, its texture equal parts talc and flint, its electric acid strain seemingly chiseled from granite. 14.1 percent alcohol. The oak regimen was 10 months in French barrels, 27 percent new, 35 percent one-year-old, 27 percent two-years-old, 11 percent neutral. Try from 2019 or ’20 through 2025 to ’28. Production was 1,000 cases. Excellent. About $65.
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The Penner-Ash Zena Crown Vineyard Pinot Noir 2015, Eola-Amity Hills, reveals a large-framed, intense and concentrated wine animated by penetrating graphite minerality and vibrant acidity while unfolding lovely details of spiced and macerated black and red cherries and currants infused with pomegranate and cranberry, sandalwood and sassafras; as with its stablemates mentioned above, texture and structure are fused by the power of its slightly dusty, velvety tannins — it’s the most tannic of this trio — leading to a sleek finish packed with cedar and tobacco, flint and juicy black fruit. 14.5 percent alcohol. Wood regimen was 10 months in oak, 30 percent new barrels, 46 percent one-year-old, 12 percent two-years-old, 12 percent neutral. Try from 2019 or ’20 through 2028 to ’30. Production was 500 cases. Excellent. About $65.
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By the way, don’t miss the Penner-Ash Hyland Vineyard Old Vine Riesling 2015, McMinnville, a true classic of a pale, dry riesling that makes a powerful expression of petrol, heather, peaches, lime peel and intense aromas of jasmine and gardenia, its lithe texture wrapped in vibrant and vigorous acidity and a scintillating limestone element. Excellent. About $35.
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You know what I mean by “alternative white wines.” Not chardonnay or riesling or sauvignon blanc. Not that there’s anything wrong with the Big Three, except when chardonnay is sodden and strident with oak, as happens too often in California, but dozens, scores, perhaps hundreds of grapes for what we call white wine exist in the world’s multifarious wine regions. In today’s edition, we look at nine examples. As usual in these posts, I omit details of history, geography, method and personality to offer quick and incisive snapshots of a wine’s character. I will mention at the outset that two of these wines, from Onward Wines and Stinson Vineyards are so-called “orange wines,” meaning that they’re produced from white grapes that ferment on the skins, not the typical process for whites. A lot of pleasure is to be gleaned from this selection, which is designed to introduce consumers to a range of products available beyond the usual choices. Enjoy — in moderation, of course.
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Aveleda Vinho Verde 2016, Portugal. 9.5% alc. 70% loureiro grapes, 30% alvarinho. Very pale gold color; quite fresh and clean, slightly frizzante; apples and limes, hint of “greenness,” like sunny leaves and crushed herbs; crisp and vibrant with a stony spine. The definition of quaffable and charming. Very Good+ About $7 to $10, buy it by the case and enjoy.
Aveleda Inc., Pawtucket, R.I.
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Camino Roca Altxerri 2015, Getariako, Spain. 11% alc. 100% hondurrabi zuri grapes. Pale gold with a green tinge; hay and heather, green apple and lime peel, dried thyme and almond skin; a few moments in the glass bring in notes of melon and gooseberry; mineral element runs to a dusty roof tiles effect; slightly frizzante; quite dry but lively and engaging; limestone and bracing salinity in the finish. Loads of personality. Excellent. About $16, representing Fine Value.
Valkyrie Selections, Healdsburg, Calif.
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Godeval Godello 2015, Valdeorras, Spain. 13.5% alc. Medium gold; enticing scents of mint, thyme and lemon, hints of cloves and cumin; very dry, fairly austere with limestone and flint minerality but enlivened by brisk acidity; certainly a savory white. Very Good+. About $15.
Valkyrie Selections, Healdsburg, Calif.
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Höpler Grüner Veltliner 2015, Burgenland, Austria. 13% alc. Pale straw-gold with a delicate green tint; hay and quince, yellow plums and golden raspberries; very clean and crisp, a bit saline, with a savory background; a lime peel, lilac and gunflint finish. Charming and delightful. Very Good+. About $16, a local purchase.
USA Wine Imports, New York.
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Onward Wines Capp-Inn Vineyard Skin Fermented Malvasia Bianca 2015, Suisun Valley. 12.8% alc. Pale gold hue; glorious bouquet of jasmine and honeysuckle, quince and ginger, poached apple and pear; hints of mint, candied orange rind, iodine and graphite; very dry, resonant and animated; woodsy spices and meadowy flowers; lip-smacking acidity and a dry, elegant, almost austere finish. Brilliant winemaking. Exceptional. About $28, representing Extraordinary Value.
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Pazo Cilleiro Albarino 2015, Rías Baixas, Spain. 12.5% alc. Straw-yellow with faint green highlights; a ripe, fleshy yet chiseled albarino; lime peel, pears and roasted lemon; riveting acidity and a filigree of scintillating limestone; hints of dried mountain herbs and a spare network of white flowers. Really charming. Very Good+. About $16.
Imported by Quintessential Wines, Napa, Calif.
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Steele Wines Pinot Blanc 2016, Santa Barbara County. 13.5% alc. Very pale gold hue; roasted lemons and spiced pears, lime peel and grapefruit, white tropical flowers, backnotes of hay, heather and dried thyme; all knit with spareness and a delicate touch; very dry and crisp, heaps of limestone and flint minerality. Really lovely. Excellent. About $19.
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Stinson Vineyards Wildkat 2015, Monticello, Virginia. 10.5% alc. 100% rkatsiteli grapes. 75 cases. Very pale coral-gold; red apple and tomato skin, roasted almonds, cloves and a touch of honey; crisp, delicate, lively, well-balanced; very dry, with a light dusting of fine loam. Very Good+. About $28.
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Troon Kubli Bench Blanc 2016, Applegate Valley, Oregon. 12.5% alc. 55% marsanne, 45% viognier. 180 cases. Pale gold, practically shimmers in the glass; roasted lemon and spiced pear, bees’-wax and camellia, dried thyme, ginger and quince; an intriguing whiff of ground cumin; spare and sinewy on the palate, with bright, lithe acidity and a glittering limestone and flint quality. Beautifully made. Excellent. About $25.
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Well, rats, there were supposed to be 20 wines in this post, but one seems to have disappeared. The world and its ways are so mysterious! Anyway, here’s a roster of 19 pinot noir wines from Oregon’s Willamette Valley, rated from Very Good+ to Exceptional, so, generally, I liked these wines a great deal, with quibbles here and there. With a couple of exceptions, these are from 2014. Many are produced in small quantities. As is the case with Weekend Wine Notes, I eschew all (or at least most) technical, historical, geographical and personnel information for the sake of incisive reviewers ripped, as it were, from the pages of my notebook. (“Ripped” may be taken literally, since a dog narfed a number of pages of this particular notebook and tore the covers off. Bad Dog!) These wines were samples for review. Enjoy, and consume in moderation.

A lack of label or bottle images for some of these selections is a result of winery websites not providing adequate (or any) help in that direction.
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Alloro Vineyard Estate Pinot Noir 2014, Chehalem Mountains. 14.1% alc. 1,600 cases. Transparent medium mulberry-magenta hue; cloves, sandalwood and loam; smoky black cherries and currants; beetroot, rhubarb and sassafras; crush violets and lavender; dense, supple and super satiny; surging acidity like an electrical current; a lively and dynamic pinot noir that demands further sipping as you go. Now through 2022 to ’24. Excellent. About $35.
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Alloro Vineyard Estate Riservata Pinot Noir 2014, Chehalem Mountains. 14.1 percent alcohol. 300 cases. Medium transparent ruby; dark, rich, warm and spicy; straight from the exotic spice box; macerated and slightly roasted black and red cherries and currants; sandalwood, sassafras, hint of cumin; briers, brambles and loam, intriguing note of fennel seed; slightly sinewy tannins; dense, satiny, hefty on the palate but elegant and well-knit; lovely balance and integrity. Not through 2020 to ’24. Excellent. About $45.
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Brooks Wines Pinot Noir 2015, Willamette Valley. 13.8% alc. Lovely transparent mulberry hue; intense aromas and flavors of spiced and macerated black cherries and currants with wood smoke, heather and autumn leaves; a few moments in the glass open notes of cloves, sassafras and sandalwood; dense and satiny, rich in loam; from mid-palate back through the finish oak that had been in the background comes forward, lightly dusted and burnished, and the graphite-iodine minerality burgeons. Now through 2020 to ’22. Excellent. About $28.
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Brooks Wines “Janus” Pinot Noir 2014, Willamette Valley. 13.8% alc. Transparent medium ruby with a magenta tinge; opens the whole box of spices and dried fruit: cloves, sandalwood and sassafras, pomegranate and cranberry, macerated black cherries and currants; delivers a real tannic and earthy presence, and you feel the oak as a subtle framing device, but a sleek, supple texture; builds a floral character as the moments pass, while the whole package feels spontaneous, individual and feral; becomes quite rooty and woodsy, with depths of iodine and iron. A spectacular performance of detail and dimension that remains true to the grape. Now through 2024 to ’28. Exceptional. About $38.
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Ghost Hill Cellars Bayliss-Bower Vineyard Pinot Noir 2014, Yamhill-Carlton District. 13.9% alc. 520 cases. A color both transparent and intense, medium ruby-mulberry shading to cerise delicacy; an exotic pinot noir, featuring sandalwood and sassafras, smoked red and black cherries and currants, loam, lavender and lilac; a few minutes in the glass bring in notes of cloves, allspice and new leather; supple, lithe and satiny, with lovely, almost weightless heft on the palate, yet gaining substance and deliberation as the moments pass; though the wine remains fresh and appealing, you feel the tug of slightly dusty oak from mid-palate back through the graphite, underbrush and iodine-infused finish. Try from 2018 or ’19 through 2026 to ’28. A great achievement. Exceptional. About $42.
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Ghost Hill Cellars Prospector’s Reserve Pinot Noir 2014, Yamhill-Carlton District. 13.5 percent alc. 141 cases. Entrancing transparent ruby-garnet with an invisible rim; a multi-layered bouquet of sassafras, pomegranate and cranberry, sandalwood, loam and forest floor, smoke, tobacco and cigarette paper; intense and concentrated black cherry, plum and blueberry scents; all segues seamlessly onto the palate, where the wine is supple and satiny yet feels slightly roughened, with a hint of resistance, as if lightly rubbed with fine sandpaper; as a whole, dense, tense, dynamic and pretty damned exotic. Now through 2020 to 2024. Excellent. About $55.
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Illahe Estate Pinot Noir 2015, Willamette Valley. 14% alc. Dark ruby graduating to a transparent mulberry rim; cranberry and pomegranate, loam, briers and an intriguing note of mint; lavender and iodine under red and black cherries; silky and supple, acidity cuts a swath; uncomplicated, with direct appeal to nose and palate. Very Good+. About $22.
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Illahe Vineyards “Percheron” Pinot Noir 2014, Willamette Valley. 14.5% alc. 270 cases. Dark ruby shading to a transparent rim; loam, cherry pit and skin, briers and brambles, sandalwood and cloves; a blossoming compote of red and black cherries and currants loaded with violets and lilac, all with an intense graphite background; super satiny texture riven by incisive acidity that cuts a swath; a hefty, sumptuous pinot noir that brings out the oak on the spice-and-mineral flecked finish. Now through 2021 to ’24. Perhaps a bit too sizable for its own good. Very Good+. About $40.
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Lenné Estate Pinot Noir 2014, Willamette Valley. 14.2% alc. 250 cases. Intense dark ruby shading to a magenta rim; plums and black currants, distinctly loamy, leathery and briery; cloves and sandalwood, rose petals and violets; very lively and alluring; dense and velvety, with dusty tannins, very brambly and brushy; gains depths of spiced and macerated black fruit; notes of moss and autumn leaves. An intriguing earthy style, quite palatable yet serious. Now through 2020 to ’22. Excellent. About $45.
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Lenné Jill’s 115 Pinot Noir 2014, Yamhill-Carlton. 14.2% alc. 100 cases. A dark, earthy, spicy and intense wine, featuring a dark ruby color shading to a transparent mulberry rim and notes of espresso, tobacco and tar, concentrated black cherry and raspberry scents and flavors and a super-satiny texture that carries lots of heft on the palate; in its briery-brambly nature, its fairly shaggy tannins and its long loamy, mineral-laden finish, this is a pretty darned syrah-like pinot noir. From 2018 through 2022 to ’24. Very Good+. About $55.
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Lenné cinq élus Pinot Noir 2014, Yamhill-Carlton District. 14.2% alc. 100 cases. Intense ruby shading to a transparent magenta rim; nothing ethereal here, but expresses the grape’s deep, dark, earthy side; cloves, sandalwood and allspice, with the latter’s hint of fragrant woody astringency; blueberry and black cherry, notes of rhubarb and pomegranate; loam, beetroot and old leather; velvety texture laced with iron, delivers real heft and substance. Try 2019 through 2025 to ’26. Excellent. About $72.
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Montinore Estate Pinot Noir 2015, Willamette Valley. 13.9% alc. Medium ruby fading to a delicate rim; quite a loamy, foresty pinot noir; raspberry, cranberry and raspberry leaf, hint of black cherry; graphite and iodine, leather, dried thyme and rosemary, briery and brambly, notes of moss, wood-smoke and dried porcini; sleek and lithe, quite animated; keeps you going after another sip. Now through 2021 or ’22. Excellent. About $20, representing Good Value.
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Nicolas & Jay Pinot Noir 2015, Willamette Valley. 13% alc. 2,400 cases. A collaboration between Jean-Nicolas Meo of Domaine Meo-Camuzet in Burgundy and music and media entrepreneur Jay Boberg. Beautiful deep ruby-mulberry hue shading to transparent magenta; very clean, pure and intense; black cherries and plums, sandalwood and sassafras, notes of violets, rose petals and loam; in fact, a definitive loamy character that connects the wine to the earth; with dusty, graphite-ridden tannins, yet expresses the elegance and nuance of pinot noir. Now through 2021 to ’25. Excellent. About $65.
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Vidon Vineyard 3-Clones Estate Pinot Noir 2014, Chehalem Mountains. 14.3% alc. 710 cases. Transparent medium ruby hue; offers the spectrum of earthy loam, roots and autumn leaf qualities with deeply spiced raspberries and plums; texture feels like silk slightly roughened by sandalwood; vibrant acidity keeps it lively and appealing, while moderate and lightly dusted tannins provide structure. A lovely pinot noir. Now through 2019 to ’22. Very Good+. About $40.
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Vidon Vineyard Brigita Clone 777 Pinot Noir 2014, Chehalem Mountains. 14.3% alc. 125 cases. Vibrant ruby color shading to a transparent rim; woody spices and loam; macerated and slightly roasted black cherries and blueberries, though more spicy than fruity; a firm foundation of lightly dusty tannins and oak; feels more about structure now. Try 2019 through 2014 or ’25. Very Good+. About $50.
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Vidon Vineyard Hans Clone Pommard Pinot Noir 2014, Chehalem Mountains. 14.3% alc. 148 cases. Beguiling transparent ruby hue fading to an invisible rim; a stalwart pinot noir, the intensity, concentration and oak much in evidence; earthy and loamy; very dry; fruitcake, cloves, sandalwood, black fruit scents and flavors very deep, spiced and macerated, rooty and intense; a powerful and muscular expression of the grape. Try from 2019 through 2024 or ’25. Very Good+, with Excellent potential. About $50.
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Vidon Vineyard Mirabelle Clone 115 Pinot Noir 2014, Chehalem Mountains. 14.3% alc. 100 cases. Dark to medium ruby; spiced and macerated black and blue fruit scents and flavors; sandalwood, lavender, lilac and loam, with notes of tobacco and cumin; deeply spicy, rooty and earthy, quite dry, spare yet juicy, sleek, almost sumptuous but saved by keen acidity; tremendous presence and density. Now through 2021 to ’24. Excellent. About $50.
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Youngberg Hill “Jordan” Pinot Noir 2014, Willamette Valley. 13.7% alc. 448 cases. Medium transparent cherry-red hue; loam, iodine and iron; raspberry and plum, slightly spiced and macerated; autumnal forest floor, raspberry leaf and briers; acidity cuts a swath; texture like satin slightly roughened by sandpaper; epitome of a deftly balanced earthy style of pinot noir, spare, elegant and nuanced. Now through 2020 to ’22. Excellent. About $50.
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Youngberg Hill “Natasha” Pinot Noir 2014, Willamette Valley. 137 cases(?) The color a riveting medium mulberry-magenta hue; exotic and seductive yet rigorous on the palate; loam, rhubarb and beetroot, cloves, sandalwood and sassafras, macerated black cherries and currants; lovely, lithe satiny texture through which urgent acidity plows a furrow; shadings of dusty graphite and tannin lend darkness to the bright red and black fruit flavors. An entrancing pinot noir to drink through 2020 to ’22. Excellent. About $50.
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It’s always easy to toss around the word “unique,” especially in the realm of the world’s wines, since an infinite number of grapes, blends, regions and styles exists in a dazzling and confounding array. Still, I will venture out to the tip of the twig here and assert that the Borealis non-vintage white blend, Willamette Valley, is pretty damned unique. It’s a product of Montinore Vineyards, one of whose pinot noir wines I will write about soon. It is, first, of interest because non-vintage wines are unusual from the West Coast. “Non-vintage” really means “multi-vintage,” because as a concept it allows winemakers to assemble a cuvée from several harvests in order to achieve the particular balance they’re looking for, also the basis for non-vintage Champagne and sparkling wine. Second, the blend on this Borealis is straight out of Alsace, reflecting the style called edelzwicker, in this case being a provocative combination of 38 percent müller-thurgau, 32 percent gewürztraminer, 19 percent riesling and 11 percent pinot gris. The color is very pale gold; aromas of honeysuckle and quince, peaches and spiced pears are spare and delicate and serve as introductory foil to the wine’s lip-smacking succulence jazzed by bright acidity. A few moments in the glass bring in notes of lychee, apple skin and almond blossom. This is quite dry, fine-boned and chiseled in structure, like the most fragile of china tea-cups, yet there’s tensile power too, as the racy acidity propels the wine through a finish flecked with petrol and grapefruit rind. 12.3 percent alcohol. A lovely aperitif or for drinking with mildly spicy Southeast Asian food, seafood risottos and stews, or, paradoxically, with pork roast and apples. Excellent. About $16, representing Great Value.

A sample for review.


Here’s a pinot noir wine that lovers of the grape should buy by the case. The Averaen Wines Pinot Noir 2015, Willamette Valley, is a product of the same team that owns Banshee Wines in Sonoma County. The grapes derive from vineyards found in four of Willamette’s sub-AVAs: McMinnville, Yamhill-Carlton, Eola-Amity Hills and Van Duzen Corridor. The grapes fermented in a combination of stainless steel tanks and well-used French foudres, that is, quite large barrels, followed by aging 10 months in French barriques. The color is an entrancing, totally transparent medium to light ruby hue; aromas of sandalwood and sassafras, black and red cherries and pomegranate are delicate yet tensile, gaining deliberation through subtle notes of graphite and loam, rose petals and lilacs. The texture is pure, light, winsome satin, lithe and lovely; it’s a dry pinot noir yet juicy with red and black berry flavors upheld by bright acidity and given a touch of seriousness by a burgeoning structure dark with elements of underbrush and forest floor. 14.1 percent alcohol. Winemaker was Adam Smith. Drink now through 2020 or ’21. Excellent. This was a local purchase; prices nationally are about $19 to $22, representing Good Value.

Syrah is not the red grape that leaps to mind when we think of Oregon; that would be pinot noir. Still, a surprising number of wineries produce syrah in the Beaver State, and among the best is Penner-Ash Wine Cellars, also known, of course, for its excellent pinot noir wines. The Penner-Ash Syrah 2015, carrying a general Oregon designation, derived from six vineyards. The wine aged 17 months in French oak, 30 percent new barrels, 35 percent one-year-old, 15 percent two-year old and 20 percent neutral. The result is a syrah that displays plenty of power and energy without being overwhelmed by a tide of oak, the influence of which remains steady but suave and subtle. The color is unimpeachable motor oil black-purple that devolves to a narrow, gleaming magenta rim; aromas of spiced and macerated black cherries, currants and plums are permeated by penetrating beams of iodine and iron, a characteristic graphite-granitic quality that drives the wine from initial sniff and sip through the spice-and-mineral-packed finish. Velvety, grainy tannins provide a bolster for the lip-smacking acidity that helps animate the wine, while a few minutes in the glass unfurl an intense core of lavender and violets, loam and bittersweet chocolate. 14.9 percent alcohol. A classy, well-knit syrah for drinking with hearty fare through 2021 to ’23. Production was 495 cases. Excellent. About $40.

A sample for review.

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