Willamette Valley


Etude Wines was founded in 1982 in Napa Valley by Tony Soter to focus on cabernet sauvignon and pinot noir made from purchased grapes grown in highly regarded vineyards. After a series of purchases, acquisitions and transformations, Etude is owned by Treasury Wine Estates, along with a rather astonishing roster of properties in California, Australia and other regions. The winery still concentrates on pinot noir and cabernet sauvignon, usually produced from named vineyards in small quantities. Under review today are six of Etude’s single-vineyard pinot noir wines from 2014, touching AVAs in Carneros, Sonoma Coast, Santa Maria Valley, Sta. Rita Hills in California; Yamhill-Carlton in Willamette Valley; and Central Otago in New Zealand. Winemaker is Jon Priest. These are, let me just say, splendid examples of the pinot noir grape and the resonance rung upon it by specific locations. Priest sensibly employs a minimal amount of oak, as well as keeping alcohol levels to reasonable levels. These are all worth searching for.

Samples for review.
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The Etude Ellenbach Vineyard Pinot Noir 2014, Sonoma Coast, aged 13 months in French oak, percent new barrels. The steeply sloping vineyard sits at around 800 feet elevation, just above the morning fog line, four miles east of the Pacific Ocean. The color is dark ruby-mulberry with a slightly paler rim. A burst of cloves, allspice and sandalwood precedes notes of a compote of black and red cherries and plums, wreathed with loam and graphite, mint and iodine, presided over by high-tones of pomegranate and cranberry; pretty heady stuff, all right. On the palate, this pinot noir brings in more red fruit — cherries and currants — its deeply spicy character buoyed by slightly flinty minerality, dusty tannins and lively acidity that cuts a swath on the tongue. The finish delivers a polished melange of spice, graphite tinged minerals and an element of heathery meadow flowers. 14.8 percent alcohol. Now through 2020 to ’24. Excellent. About $60.
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The Etude Grace Benoist Ranch Estate Grown Pinot Noir 2014, Carneros, aged 12 months in French oak, 25 percent new barrels. Located at the northwest corner of the Carneros AVA, the vineyard features various types of well-drained, rocky volcanic soils and is influenced by breezes from the Pacific. The color is medium mulberry-magenta shading to a transparent circumference. Scents of red and black cherries are permeated by notes of sassafras, pomegranate and cranberry, talc, lilac and rose petals; the perfume grows deeper and more redolent as the moments pass. This pinot noir embodies beautiful shape and substance, flowing on the tongue like perfection in a lithe, supple stream of satiny texture; there’s a touch of baked plum in the red and black fruit flavors and a strain of dusty graphite minerality to the subtle yet skillfully chiseled tannins. 14.3 percent alcohol. Now through 2020 to ’24. Excellent. About $45.
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The superlative transparent violet-magenta hue of the Etude North Canyon Vineyard Pinot Noir 2014, Santa Maria Valley, belies the seriousness of its frame and foundation and its earthy, loamy character. The vineyard, planted in calcareous clay sandstone, lies in a secluded canyon that’s a bit more exposed to sunlight and a bit warmer than the rest of the valley. The wine aged 10 months in French oak, 25 percent new barrels, the least oak influence of these six wines. A complex array of spicy effects — cloves, sassafras and cumin — heightens elements of ripe red and black cherries that open to notes of wild berries and oolong tea, pomegranate and cranberries. A profoundly earthy, loamy character penetrates the entire enterprise, lending deep roots for its graphite-tinged tannins and minerality. 14.4 percent alcohol. Now through 2021 to ’25. Excellent. About $45.
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Location is everything, n’est-ce pas? For example, the Fiddlestix Vineyard lies in the Sta. Rita Hills AVA that is part of the larger Santa Ynez Valley AVA, all encompassed by Santa Barbara County. The hills and ranges run east and west here, unusual for California where the typical etu_12fiddlestix_pinot_nv_400x126 mountainous orientation is north-south, and a configuration that allows a direct inlet for fog and cooling ocean breezes. The vineyard receives its share of those daily climatic events but stands low enough against the hills to be sheltered from strong afternoon winds. The combination of exposure and protection with well-drained clay-loam and calcareous marine shale soils results in pinot noir wines of great depth and finesse.

The Etude Fiddlestix Vineyard Pinot Noir 2014, Sta. Rita Hills, aged 12 months in French oak, 25 percent new barrels. The color is a transparent medium ruby-magenta hue of transfixing radiance; aromas of rhubarb, sassafras and sandalwood, pomegranate and cranberry, smoky black cherries and plums achieve a Platonic level of loveliness, while on the palate the wine is lithe, supple and satiny. juicy black and red cherry flavors reach down to elements of some rooty black tea, talc and chalk and a kind of gravelly condensation of graphite minerality. A few minutes in the glass bring out notes of rose petals and lavender. Redolent, even pungent; deeply spicy and flavorful; elegant and fine-boned yet with a dynamic of bright acidity, lightly dusted tannins and the shaping force of subtle oak — this is one of the most complete and wholly beautiful pinot noirs I have tasted this year. 14.3 percent alcohol. Now through 2020 to ’24. Exceptional. About $45.
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This wine takes us to Oregon’s Willamette Valley. Approved in 2004, the Yamhill-Carlton District AVA is a horse-shoe shaped region that includes only acreage that lies between 200 and 1,000 feet elevation, where marine sediments compose some of the oldest soil in Willamette Valley. The vineyard from which this wine is derived stands at 600 feet. The Etude Yamhill Vista Vineyard Pinot Noir 2014, Yamhill-Carlton District, aged 13 months in French oak, 33 percent new barrels. The color is transparent medium ruby shading to a mulberry rim; to notes of black cherries and plums, pomegranate and cranberry, the wine adds touches of tobacco and black tea, mint and iodine, as well as the deep loamy character typical of Willamette Valley pinot noir. The texture is superbly satiny, though powered by swingeing acidity and energetic tannins; the wine is quite dry, revealing an immediacy of granitic minerality that leads to a brooding, chiseled finish. 14.3 percent alcohol. Now through 2021 to ’24. Excellent. About $60.
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Talk about far afield, this wine takes us to New Zealand and Central Otago, the world’s southernmost wine region. The Etude Bannockburn Pinot Noir 2014, Central Otago, spent 12 months in French oak, 30 percent new barrels. I found this to be an extremely fine-grained, richly detailed and slightly exotic pinot noir. The color is transparent magenta-mulberry with a delicate rim; aromas of macerated and lightly stewed red and black cherries are permeated by notes of cloves and allspice, red licorice and violets, loam and damp wood ash; after 15 or 20 minutes, the bouquet unfurls hints of cedar, iodine and rosemary. Nothing opulent or flamboyant here, the wine is spare and honed, riven by arrows of acidity and borne by gravel-like minerality and layers of loam and foresty elements. 13.8 percent alcohol. I loved it. Now through 2020 to ’24. Excellent. About $60.
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I know, I could have written, “Two Groups of Pinots, Three Each,” but I like the off-rhyme of “trios” and “pinots,” as well as the rhythm of the line. So be it.

In any case, the two groups of pinot noir wines, three each, under review today have little to do with each other except for the grape variety. Inman Family Wines is in Sonoma County’s Russian River Valley AVA, while Zena Crown lies in the Eola-Amity Hills AVA of Oregon’s Willamette Valley, considerably to the north. Jackson Family Wines purchased the vineyard just west of Salem in 2013. The other quality these wines share is that, whatever differences they display because of the divergence in geography, geology, climate and terroir (and oak regimen), each is a model of what can be done with the grape by thoughtful growers and winemakers concentrating on a particular place.

These wines were samples for review.
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The Zena Crown Vineyard Conifer Pinot Noir 2013, Eola-Amity Hills, aged 17 months in French oak, connifer75 percent new barrels. The grapes derive from the vineyard’s East 12 and West 1A and 14 blocks, grown in volvanic soil of varying depths. The color is a beautiful transparent medium ruby shading to an ethereal rim; aromas of red and black cherries are wreathed with notes of sassafras, rhubarb and cloves, all becoming a little meaty and fleshy as the moments pass and then opening to a hint of some shy astringent woodland flower. This is a rooty, tea-like pinot noir that expands to touch areas of loam, briers and brambles as well as reaching to depths of real tannic and acidic power, yet displaying a delicate floral filigree around the circumference. There’s a mineral edge that becomes more spare and chiseled through the finish, which contributes a final fillip of resiny pine and rosemary and an autumnal haze of leaf-smoke. 13 percent alcohol. Drink now through 2020 to ’23. Production was 240 cases. A pinot noir of awesome, paradoxical and wholly gratifying complexity. Excellent. About $75.
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The Zena Crown (Sigma) Pinot Noir 2013, Eola-Amity Hills — the Greek capital Sigma is a symbol for zena-259“sum” in mathematics, though that’s putting the case rather simply; WordPress will not allow the symbol to be uploaded to this page — aged 17 months in French oak, 71 percent new barrels; the grapes are grown in Blocks 4, 5 and 12 of the vineyard, providing a varied background of characteristics. First is the dark ruby hue that shades to vivid magenta, then a wealthy perfumed bouquet of talc, lavender and violets, cranberry and pomegranate, graphite and loam. This is a deep rich pinot noir that feels sifted and layered in complexity, and while you note with a touch of alarm the presence of oak, that element subsides to become a shaping factor rather than a dominant influence. Lip-smacking acidity keeps the wine taut and animated, while it practically vibrates around a core of graphite, iodine and iron. 12.9 percent alcohol, a truly benign presence in this age of 14.5 percent and higher. Production was 302 cases. Drink now through 2021 through 2024. Excellent. About $75.
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Blocks East 5 and 6 of the Zena Crown Vineyard start at 600 feet elevation and slope to the south, allowing plenty of sunlight exposure. The Zena Crown “Slope” Pinot Noir 2013, Eola-Amity zena_slope_laydownHills, aged 17 months in French oak, 85 percent new barrels, which seems to me to be an extraordinary amount of new oak for pinot, but the wine apparently soaked up that wood influence and came out with tremendous confidence and elan, with lovely heft and balance, and a lithe supple, satiny texture; it rolls across the palate like liquid money. (You’ll need some money if you want to buy a few bottles.) The color is brilliant medium ruby shading to an ephemeral, invisible rim; it’s a rooty, brambly and briery pinot noir that offers plenty of earthy-loamy elements to shore up scents and flavors of black cherries, currants and plums with a tinge of red fruit and hints of sassafras and cloves. It’s a large-framed wine within its context of succulence, acid brightness and dusty tannins, all subsumed to a broad component of graphite minerality. 12.7 percent alcohol, and when was the last time you saw a wine from California with this sensible an alcohol level? Drink now through 2020 to ’23. Production was 348 cases. Excellent. About $100.
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Let’s start with an email statement from owner and winemaker Kathleen Inman:

“As for barrel regime, I purchased six new Sirugue barrels and 2 Billon barrels (used for the inman-sexton
Sexton only) for my Pinot in 2013 and I think I began with 78 or 80 barrels of Pinot that year. That would be about 10% new each year. I use my barrels for up to 8 years. I do not keep track of how many new, one-year, two-year or older barrels go into each final blend. My answer to how much oak is – the right amount of oak for my taste.” In other words, new oak at this winery is held to a bare minimum, with the emphasis placed on a blend of wines from barrels of myriad ages.

So, let’s go now to the Inman Family Wines Sexton Road Vineyard Pinot Noir 2013, Sonoma Coast. The color is moderately dark ruby shading to lavender transparency; you notice immediately the notes of black and red cherries with the slight astringency of their skins and pits, hints of cloves, sassafras and sandalwood. This pinot is substantial, with real heft and thrust, but it feels weightless on the palate in a wonderful contention and resolution of the feminine and masculine elements; a few moments in the glass bring in layers of leather and loam and forest floor, rhubarb and beet-root, all encompassed in a super supple satiny texture. Give this an hour and the finely-milled and sifted tannins assert themselves. 14.3 percent alcohol. Drink now through 2019 or ’21. Excellent. About $68.
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The Inman Family Pratt Vine Hill Pinot Noir 2013, Russian River Valley, displays a ravishing hue of transparent medium ruby fading to an invisible rim; if you could exist on color alone, this would be it. Aromas of cloves and pomegranate, sandalwood, red cherries and currants, lilac and rose petals, red licorice and loam circulate from the glass; it’s a dark, spicy, feral pinot noir, fleet with musky, meadowy notes of melon and cloves, loam and leather. The texture is supple and lithe, with a satin drape on the palate cut by rigorous acidity, dusty tannins and graphite minerality. 13.8 percent alcohol. Drink now through 2019 to 2023. Excellent. About $68.
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The Inman Family OGV Estate Pinot Noir 2013, Russian River Valley, retains a grip on inscrutability and reserve while exhibiting a panoply of sensual pleasures and potential. The color is a transparent mulberry-magenta hue; aromas of pomegranate and cloves, cranberry and sassafras open to notes of red and black cherries, leather and loam. Layers of sanded, polished and insistent tannins offer enough grit to provide some resistance on the palate, while bright acidity cuts a swath through the remarkably supple, satiny texture. The sense of animation blanaced by a paradoxical dark, brooding quality lends the wine great personality and character. 14.2 percent alcohol. This could use a year to age, but try through 2022 to ’24. Excellent. About $73.
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Entry-level, of course, rests in the wallet of the beholder. The idea behind these wines — most of which were delivered to me as one package — is that they’re not single-vineyard, specific-block pinot noirs that cost $75 to $100. On the other hand, these prices range from about $20 to $48. Do I see anyone raising a hand for a $48-entry pinot noir? Only if it’s a Burgundy Premier Cru, s’il-vous plait. On the other hand, again, some enticing, some well-made, even some exciting wines are included in this group, as well as a few bargains that would make an eagle grin. As usual in these Weekend Wine Notes, I eschew the technical, historical and geographical information I normally dote upon for the sake of incisive reviews ripped as it were from the fevered verbiage of my notebooks. Enjoy, always in moderation!
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adelsheim
Adelsheim Vineyard Pinot Noir 2014, Willamette Valley. 13.5% alc. Dark ruby shading to a delicate magenta rim; black cherries, cloves and sassafras, with notes of leather, loam and woodsy framboise with a hint of leafy rasp; satiny smooth but slightly roughened by a light sandpapering of polished oak and dusty tannins; a few minutes in the glass bring in hints of tobacco and rhubarb. Very attractive. Now through 2019 or ’20. Excellent. About $32.
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anne-amie
Anne Amie Vineyards Winemaker’s Selection Pinot Noir 2014, Willamette Valley. 13.4% alc. Dark ruby shading to a transparent mulberry-hued rim; very spicy and loamy; rich and ripe black cherries and plums highlighted by sassafras, sandalwood and pomegranate; increasingly exotic, with notes of rose petals, lavender and cloves; a bounty of autumnal smoke and forest floor, briers and brambles; very silky texture, permeated by dusty, velvety tannins. Very attractive if a bit de trop. Now through 2019 or ’20. Excellent. About $28.
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A to Z Wineworks Pinot Noir 2014, Oregon. 13.5% alc. Transparent medium ruby fading to an ethereal rim; brambles and sassafras; smoky and highly spiced black cherries and plums; elements of leather, loam and graphite; light and lithe on the palate. Think of it like a Beaujolais-Villages at your favorite bistro. Very Good+. About $20.
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broadley
Broadley Vineyards Pinot Noir 2014, Willamette Valley. 13.2% alc. Vivid medium ruby hue with a transparent magenta rim; lovely and enticing bouquet that melds loam and heather, black cherries and currants steeped in oolong tea; rose petals and lilacs, cloves and sandalwood, and, after a few moments in the glass, notes of cranberry and pomegranate; totally irresistible; the texture is super satiny and supple, displaying gratifying heft and presence with the slight resistance of dusty, leathery tannins and bright acidity. Now through 2019 to ’20. Excellent. About $20, representing Great value.
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chehalem
Chehalem Wines Three Vineyard Pinot Noir 2014, Willamette Valley. 14% alc. Dark ruby color shading to a delicate magenta rim; first, the notes of rooty, woodsy elements, with forest floor and loam; then the ripe and spicy raspberries and red and black cherries; smoke and leather, hints of cloves and orange rind; plenty of tannic and acid grip keep the wine on a weighty but well-balanced keel, while a fruit-driven character drives through to the finish. Now through 2019 or ’20. Excellent. About $32.
The label image is one year behind the vintage reviewed.
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Erath Winery Willakia Pinot Noir 2014, Eola-Amity Hills. 13.5% alc. A dark, strapping, earthy pinot noir, dense, super satiny and lithe; syrah-like in its density and iodine-iron-infused graphite elements. Try from 2018 to 2022. Very Good+. About $48.
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Illahe Vineyards Estate Pinot Noir 2014, Willamette Valley. 14% alc. Transparent medium ruby with an invisible rim; earth and loam, black cherries, blueberries and cranberries, pomegranate and sandalwood; dusty graphite, mint and heather, super sleek and satiny, with mild, slightly velvety tannins; the cherry element gets riper, though the wine is quite dry; smoke and ash, briers and brambles, a little raspberry leaf rasp; lovely, balanced and integrated but with real structure. Now through 2018 to ’20. Excellent. About $22, a local purchase.
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Montinore Estate Pinot Noir 2014, Willamette Valley. 13% alc. Dark ruby with a garnet flush and a light rim; musky, woodsy, loamy, with scents and flavors of crushed raspberries and spiced plums; very immediate and forward, immensely intriguing and appealing; briery-brambly tannins, bright acidity and a hint of graphite minerality complete an attractive and individual package. Now through 2018 to ’20. Very Good+. About $20.
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Picture 020 Ponzi Vineyards Tavola Pinot Noir 2014, Willamette Valley. 13.7% alc. Deep ruby color shading to a lighter, almost transparent rim; a dark, smoky, spicy, earthy, intense and brooding pinot noir, qualities consistent with my encounters with this wine in previous vintages; black cherry and plum flavors are imbued with dusty loamy tannins and invigorating acidity; the emphasis in this pinot noir is on power over finesse. Now through 2019 or ’20. Very Good+. About $27.
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Roco Winery Gravel Road Pinot Noir 2014, Willamette Valley. 145 alc. Dark ruby-mulberry 16436_ROW-GRPN-14_F-1lightening toward a transparent magenta rim; if you crushed black and red cherries and currants and let them steep in the sun in a jar of oolong tea, it would smell like this fresh, seductive wine; to which add a dusty, loamy element and notes of apple skin and cranberry, dried rosemary and sage; this is fairly deep and substantial, rich, spicy, foresty and savory, with inner hints of tar and bittersweet chocolate allied to velvety tannins; still, though, it avoids being plush or sumptuous because of its bright acidity and mineral character. Now through 2020 to ’22. I loved this one’s complexity and sense of risk and resolution. Excellent. About $30.
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R. Stuart & Co. “Love, Oregon” Pinot Noir 2014, Willamette Valley. NA% alc. Dark ruby shading to an almost invisible mulberry rim; seductive aromas of black and red cherries infused with smoke and sassafras, pomegranate and cranberry, lilac and lavender, with a visitation of loam and fennel seed; a high-minded and high-toned wine that gathers heft and presence in the glass and edges pinot noir into syrah territory. Now through 2018 to ’20. Very Good+. About $28.
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60-souls
60 Souls Pinot Noir 2014, Willamette Valley. 14.5% alc. Medium ruby shading to transparent magenta; cloves and loam, smoky black cherries and currants, notes of cranberries and pomegranate; woodsy and briery, with a hint of raspberry’s rasp; appealing satiny texture; lots of virtues but not much personality. Now through 2018. Very Good+. About $25.
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O.K., not a totally A to Z line, but the roster for today’s Weekend Wine Notes runs from albariño to zinfandel, with several alphabetical stops between those points, nine of them including a couple of real bargains, though all represent good value. As usual in these Weekend Wine Notes, I eschew the plethora of technical, historical, geographical and personnel data that we dote upon so dearly for the sake of quick and incisive reviews intended to pique your interest and whet your palate. Enjoy!

With one exception, these wines were samples for review.
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Arios Albariño 2014, Rias Baixas, Spain. 12.5% alc. Pale pale straw-gold hue; roasted lemons and ariospears, dried thyme and heather, white flowers and a touch of flint; very dry, scintillating with pert acidity and a brisk limestone element; lovely lemon and peach flavors, lightly glossed with cloves and honey. Super attractive and eminently drinkable. Very Good+. About $15.
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FEL Wines Chardonnay 2014, Anderson Valley, Mendocino County. 14.2% alc. Pale gold color; FEL-Logo_850x500roasted lemon, lemon drop, pineapple and grapefruit; beguiling notes of jasmine and gardenia, quince and ginger, with flint in the background; marked purity and intensity, vibrant and resonant with keen acidity and limestone and chalk minerality, yet seductive in its supple, talc-like texture that laves the palate; ripe citrus flavors with a touch of baked stone-fruit; a beautifully shaped, high-minded and crystalline chardonnay, for drinking through 2018 to 2020. Excellent. About $28.
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Vento di Mare Nerello Mascalese 2013, Terre Siciliane. 13% alc. Deep ruby-purple; robust and CMYK basehearty, featuring intense aromas of violets and lavender, dark spicy cherries, with something of cherry skin and pit pungency and bitterness; plums and currants; leafy, woodsy notes of cedar and dried rosemary, with the latter’s characteristic resinous nature; shaggy tannins, dense and chewy; penetrating acidity and granitic minerality. Perfect for full-flavored pizzas and pasta dishes, burgers with bacon and cheddar cheese, grilled pork chops with a Southwestern rub; you get the idea. Very Good+. About $12, so Buy It by the Case.
Imported by Middleton Family Wines, Shandon, Calif.
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Giesen The Brothers Pinot Noir 2013, Marlborough, New Zealand. 14.5% alc. 500 cases imported. Medium transparent ruby color; ferrous and sanguinary, with notes of iodine and mint, pomegranate and cranberry, baked cherries and raspberries; deep and warm, spicy and savory; a definite foresty element animated by fleet acidity; fairly tannic for a pinot noir, dusty and almost velvety, but reigned in by sleek elegance; polished oak stays in the background, giving the wine shape and suppleness. Drink through 2019 to ’21. Excellent. About $30.
Imported by Constellation Brands, Gonzales, Calif.
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2012PastoralRouge
Two Shepherds Pastoral Rouge 2012, Russian River Valley, Sonoma County. 12.5% alc. 45% grenache, 30% mourvedre, 25% syrah. Production was 200 cases. Medium ruby hue shading to garnet; smoked plums, bruised raspberries and a touch of blueberry, hints of red licorice, leather and loam; slightly spicy and tea-like, meaning black tea; lithe and expressive on the palate, very clean, a bit chiseled in its graphite-tinged minerality and lightly dusted tannins that take on more heft through the finish; a southern Rhône-style blend that’s elevating and balletic rather than dense and earth-bound; “pastoral,” indeed, in its irresistible, meadowy appeal to life and eating and drinking al fresco. Drink through 2018 to 2020. Excellent. About $36.
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La Domitienne Rosé 2015, Vin de Pays d’Oc, France. 12.5% alc. 50% each cinsault and grenache. Pale la_domitienne_rose_GWP_2015_label-no-guidescopper-onion skin color; delicate and slightly leafy strawberry and raspberry scents and flavors, though it’s a wild and bosky rosé, suave and fairly robust, savory and saline, dry and flinty, and lively in its bright acidity. A real thirst-quencher, with surprising complexity for the price. Very Good+. About $10, a Raving Bargain.
Imported by Guarachi Wine Partners, Woodland, Calif.
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Star Lane Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc 2015, Happy Canyon of Santa Barbara County. NA% alc. Pale straw-gold hue; star-like clarity of grapefruit, lime peel and papaya, with spiced pear and hints of lemongrass and lilac; bright acidity paired with clean limestone-flint minerality, yet a fairly earthy sauvignon blanc, with seeming connections to the loamy soil from which it sprang. Now through 2017 or ’18. Very Good+. About $22.
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Illahe
Illahe Viognier 2015, Willamette Valley, Oregon. 12.5% alc. Very pale gold hue; jasmine and gardenia, pears and green apples, hints of lanolin and bee’s-wax; very dry, spare, but with a ravishing silken texture and flavors of lightly spiced and macerated pear and peach; crystalline acidity and a hint of a limestone edge, leading to a touch of grapefruit on the finish. Really lovely. Excellent. About $17. (A local purchase at $20.)
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Dry Creek Vineyards Heritage Vines Zinfandel 2014, Sonoma County. 14.5% alc. 78% zinfandel, 20 2014_Heritage_label_rgbpercent petite sirah, 1% each primitivo and carignan. Dark ruby; blackberries, currents and plums, notes of cloves and black pepper, orange rind and oolong tea; quite dry, an evocative woodsy zinfandel, seething with briers and brambles, a hint of damp leaves, supported by dusty, graphite-tinged tannins and lip-smacking acidity; a supple, spice-laden finish. gratifyingly balanced and layered for drinking through 2019 or 2020. Excellent. About $22.
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I am fond of pinot noir wines from Oregon’s Willamette Valley, particularly for what I perceive to be a general feature of such wines, a thread of rich, damp loamy character that bolsters the other qualities of fruit, acidity and minerality. I love this sensation that feels like a grounding in the earth, this evidence of things unseen under the vineyard. The Willamette Valley AVA was approved in 1984, and over the years was divided into six sub-AVAs as variations in micro-climate and soil were identified. The smaller AVAs are Dundee Hills, McMinnville, Eola-Amity Hills, Chehalem Mountains, Ribbon Ridge and Yamhill-Carlton. What’s interesting about the last region is that only grapes grown in vineyards from 200 to 1,000-feet elevation are entitled to the appellation; the federal government is typically not so fastidious about such matters. The wines under review today originate from the general Willamette AVA and from three of the sub-AVAs. The vintages run from 2011 to 2014, but are mainly 2012 and ’13, both excellent years for the area. As usual in the Weekend Wine Notes posts, I eschew details of technical, historical, geographical and personality elements for the sake for incisive reviews, ripped, as it were, from the pages of my notebooks and designed to pique your interest and whet your palate. With two exceptions, duly noted, these wines were samples for review. Enjoy!
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Argyle Nuthouse Lone Star Vineyard Pinot Noir 2013, Eola-Amity Hills. 13.5% alc. Beguiling 15112_ARG-NHPN-13-F_1transparent medium ruby hue; a complex and seamless layering of iodine, plums and graphite, sassafras, rhubarb and pomegranate, with plenty of smoked black cherries as highlights; supple, light and racy but offering pleasing depth and dimension in texture and structure; almost succulent in its tasty ripeness but honed by bright acidity; some time in the glass brings in hints of leather and loam. Pretty much a masterpiece, for drinking through 2020 to 2023. Excellent. About $50.
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David Hill Vineyards and Winery Black Jack Pinot Noir 2012, Willamette Valley. 13.8% alc. This pinot noir spent two years in new and used French oak, a device that contributes both to its superficial exoticism and to a general flattening and muting of varietal character. Very Good. About $55.
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Domaine Serene Evenstad Reserve Pinot Noir 2011, Willamette valley. 13.1% alc. Medium ruby color with a brick-red rim; cloves and sandalwood, violets and lavender, graphite and loam; spiced and macerated red and black currants and cherries with a background of plums; displays the profound structure and presence that a reserve wine should evince, but not without elegance and finesse; a deep foresty element with a glossy iodine and iron sheen. Now through 2023 to ’25. Excellent. About $75. (A local purchase, about $85.)
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Erath Winery Prince Hill Pinot Noir 2012, Dundee Hills. 13.5% alc. Limpid medium ruby color; first come exotic notes of cloves, sandalwood and rose petals, followed by red cherries and currants, leather and loam, briers and brambles; a lithe and sinewy interpretation of the grape, with acid that plows a furrow on the palate and a background of graphite minerality; soft, slightly talc-like tannins take on more rigor as the moments pass, serving as framework for red berries seemingly steeped in some rooty black tea. Elemental. Now through 2022 to ’25. Excellent. About $50.
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Ghost Hill Cellars Bayliss-Bower Vineyards Pinot Noir Blanc 2013, Yamhill-carlton. 13.5% alc. I ghostfind the white pinot noir phenomenon inexplicable, though this example is appealing enough, with laudable delicacy and elegance. Brilliant topaz-light copper hue; orange zest and peaches, notes of red cherries and currants; slightly loamy, a touch meadowy; bright acidity but still, the wine is curiously characterless. Drink up. Very Good. About $25.
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Grochau Cellars Pinot Noir 2012, Dundee Hills. 14.1% alc. Transparent medium ruby-garnet; earthy grochau-cellars-logoand spicy, with loam, briers and brambles, cloves and allspice; macerated red and black cherries with a hint of cranberry; spare and sinewy, with acidity that plows a furrow; very dry, a lovely texture, but a fairly rigorous and demanding pinot noir (which I like). Now through 2018 or ’19. Excellent. About $33.
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Grochau Cellars Pinot Noir 2012, Eola-Amity. 14.1% alc. Slightly darker ruby color with a tinge grochau-cellars-logoof magenta; red currants and cherries with a note of pomegranate; dense, spicy; graphite-edged tannins and a lithe, supple texture; you feel the earth, the leather, some root-like tea and smoke-etched autumn leaves; grows loamier and spicier as the moments pass, while the hints of dried red berries circulate. Now through 2018 to 2020. Excellent. About $33.
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12LenneEstateLarge
Lenne Estate Pinot Noir 2012, Yamhill-Carlton. 14.5% alc. 586 cases. A delicate medium ruby hue; red and black cherries, pomegranate and cranberry, cloves, sassafras and white pepper; just a lovely, lithe, graceful pinot noir that gradually pulls up elements of loam, sour cherry and melon, briers and brambles; it gets denser and more intense as the moments pass, but never loses its foothold in elegance and an eloquent expression of the grape. Now through 2018 to 2020. Excellent. About $45.
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LenneKillHill2012
Lenne Estate Kill Hill Pinot Noir 2013, Yamhill-Carlton. 13.5% alc. 75 cases. Transcendent medium ruby hue shading to magenta; cloves and sassafras, black cherries and currants freighted by a seam of loam, briers and brambles; a sort of talc-like powderiness about the texture cut by bright acidity; a finish of leather, loam and graphite and a high note of cranberry. Beguiling marriage of elegance and energy. Now through 2019 to ’21. Excellent. About $55.
The label image is one vintage behind.
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green
Patricia Green Cellars Reserve Pinot Noir 2014, Willamette Valley. 14% alc. Medium ruby shading to a transparent magenta rim; spiced and macerated black and red cherries and currants, iodine and mint, loam and licorice; quite lively and engaging, with resonant acidity and scintillating graphite minerality, these elements bolstering a compote of red and black berry flavors whose hints of dried spices and herbs — cloves, sage, thyme — serve to point up the wine’s purity and intensity. Try from 2017 through 2022 to ’24. Excellent. About $25. (A local purchase, $28.)
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Ponzi Vineyards Tavola Pinot Noir 2014, Willamette Valley. 13.7% alc. Medium transparent ponzi logoruby-magenta color; smoky and spicy black cherries, opens to cloves, sandalwood and rose petals; lots of energy and presence and a definite tannic structure; super-satiny texture laves the palate; the loamy aspects burgeon; terrific substance but at the expense of elegance and finesse. Now through 2020 to ’22. Very Good+. About $27.
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Vidon_PN_13
Vidon Vineyard 3 Clones Estate Pinot Noir 2013, Chehalem mountain. 14.3% alc. 480 cases. Medium transparent ruby color; bright, fresh and vital, with red cherries and raspberries and a hint of cranberry, notes of cloves, rhubarb and beetroot; incisive acidity cuts a swath; quite graceful, nothing obvious or opulent; pulls up more spice and a slightly dusty tannic element; touches of melon, sour cherry and apple skin on the elegant finish. Now through 2020 to ’22. Excellent. About $40.
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2011_Vidon_PN_DSC_0028-new_fitbox_600x600
Vidon Vineyard 3 Clones Estate Pinot Noir 2011, Chehalem Mountain. 13.9% alc. 518 cases. Medium Ruby-garnet hue; heady aromas of mint and sassafras, cranberry, pomegranate and cloves, dried cherries and currants; almost supernaturally sleek, supple and satiny in texture, with a chiseled arrow of acidity that lends spareness to a fairly rigorous structure; a few minutes in the glass bring up notes of underbrush and loam. A beautifully constructed pinot noir, now through 2018 to 2020. Excellent. About $40.
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Youngberg Hill Jordan Pinot Noir 2011, Willamette Valley. 12% alc. It’s interesting that I wrote 2012-Jordan-PN-300x207about the 2012 versions of these Youngberg Hill wines a year ago but received the 2011s for review later; here’s a link to those reviews. A lovely limpid light ruby color; lean and incisive, with elevating aromas of cranberry and cloves, sassafras, a hint of rhubarb and pomegranate, red raspberries and currants; beautifully-wrought, with acidity that carves a path through tasty red berry flavors and a haze of leafy-herbal notes; the spice element expands through the graphite-laden finish. Now through 2018 to 2020. Excellent. About $50.
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Youngberg Hill Natasha Pinot Noir 2011, Willamette valley. 11.5% alc. Entrancing transparent 13_NatashaPinotNoir-300x210ruby hue; first come earth and leather, loam and briers, presaging a pinot noir focused on structure; smolders with smoke and graphite, buoying ripe, dark and spicy red cherries and raspberries, permeated by dried sage and heather; the texture is silky, lithe, spare; acidity cuts a path through the foresty-underbrush elements; a few minutes in the glass unfold whiffs of tobacco and cigarette paper. Now through 2017 to ’19. Excellent. About $50.
As you can see, these label images are for later vintages of the wines mentioned here.
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When Dick and Nancy Ponzi founded Ponzi Vineyards in 1970, they were pioneers in Oregon’s Willamette Valley, Wines_Images1along with such legendary figures as Dick Erath and David Lett. Today, with their daughter Luisa Ponzi as winemaker and daughter Maria as president, the winery continues to grow and thrive as one of the state’s venerable institutions. Our Wine of the Day is the Ponzi Pinot Noir 2013, Willamette Valley, the grapes for which derive from a number of estate vineyards. The wine aged 11 months in French oak, 35 percent new barrels, and was gravity-bottled unfined and unfiltered. The color is a beguiling transparent medium ruby; first, the wine expresses its earthiness in a welter of dust, loam and graphite that opens to notes of ripe black and red currants and cherries inflected with hints of sassafras and cloves, pomegranate and cranberry. Boy, this is a supple, lithe and satiny pinot noir that flows like money across the palate, but that’s not all the tale; its seductive texture is buoyed by swingeing acidity and a scintillating mineral element that builds layers of graphite and flint until the wine feels as if it had been chiseled from obsidian, and I mean that in the most positive manner. Even as it feels more deeply rooted in the earth through the finish, the wine somehow increases the heady floral and dried spice aura of its bouquet. 13.2 percent alcohol. Drink now through 2020 to ’23 with roasted chicken or game birds. Excellent. About $40.

A sample for review.

We tend to know when a wine is great from the first sniff and taste, because it possesses that ineffable yet very real quality called charisma. Renewed sniffing and tasting confirm that assessment, while adding depth and character. These factors hold true whether a wine costs $19 or $350, the range represented in today’s 2015 edition of the annual “50 Great Wines” post. I wouldn’t pay $350 for a bottle of wine — though apparently some people would — but I appreciate the occasional opportunity to encounter one. Of the wines on today’s roster, 18 rate Exceptional and 32 rate Excellent. Often the dividing line between Excellent and Exceptional is fine indeed, with permutations and intimations running silent and deep in each direction, but since my inclination is toward distinctions, rankings and hierarchies — that’s what graduate school will do for you — I always include a rating for each wine reviewed on BTYH. On the other hand, I refuse to employ the famous 100-point system; I would rather leave room for some ambiguity and imagination.

A great wine satisfies every point of interest and essence that we desire from a wine, exuding a feeling of utter completion and comprehension. Each wine accomplishes this purpose in a different way, of course, and to varying degrees, necessitating different responses. Some of these wines I admire, gravely and humbly; others, I adore rather shamelessly. The ultimate test, I think, is that when we drink a bottle of great wine, our conclusion is thus: “I wouldn’t want it to be anything other than this,” a sentiment we might also share with works of art and love affairs.

Today’s roster is presented alphabetically. Where a wine is a blend of grapes, I include the percentages that compose the blend. I also mention the case production for wines released in limited quantities, of which many on this list, not surprisingly, are. I do not include alcohol levels or names of importers or technical, geographical or historical date That sort of information is available in the reviews. These wines were selected from examples that I wrote about during 2015. The preponderance were samples for review, for which I thank the wineries, importers and marketing people who sent them.

For whatever eccentricities this list of “50 Great Wines of 2015” embodies, blame them on my taste, knowledge, experience and intuition. That is all I — or any of us — have to go on.
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achaval-ferrer-CMendoza-2013
Achaval Ferrer Cabernet Sauvignon 2013, Mendoza, Argentina. Excellent. About $25.
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valadorna 09
Arcanum Valadorna 2009, Toscana IGT, Italy. 85 percent merlot, 8 percent cabernet franc, 7 percent cabernet sauvignon. Exceptional. About $80.

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14537_ARG-NHRS-13-F_1
Argyle Nuthouse Riesling 2013, Eola-Amity Hills, Oregon. Exceptional. About $30.
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sangioveto
Badia a Coltibuono Sangioveto di Toscana 2009, Toscana IGT, Italy. 100 percent sangiovese. 750 cases. Excellent. About $60.
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Benovia-2013-Russian-River-Valley-Pinot-Noir
Benovia Pinot Noir 2013, Russian River Valley, Sonoma County. Excellent. About $38.
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occultumlapidem2012us
Bila-Haut Occultum Lapidem 2013, Côtes du Roussillon Villages Latour de France. 50 percent syrah, 40 percent grenache, 10 percent carignan. Excellent. About $30.
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BlackKite
Black Kite Cellars Stony Terrace Pinot Noir 2012, Anderson Valley, Mendocino County. 200 cases. Excellent. About $60. (Not exactly the correct label, but this is what they look like.)
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terras gauda
Bodegas Terras Gauda O Rosal 2014, Rias Baixas, Spain. 70 percent albariño, 15 percent loureiro, 15 percent caiño blanco. Excellent. About $24.
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Riesling
Chateau Montelena Riesling 2014, Potter Valley. Excellent, About $25.
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clemens-busch-vom-grauen-schiefer-riesling-trocken-mosel-germany-10529188
Weingut Clemens Busch Grauen Schiefer Riesling Trocken 2012, Mosel, Germany. Excellent. About $30.
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Terrunyo_Sauvignon_Blanc_Front_Label-300x218
Concha y Toro Terrunyo Los Boldos Vineyard Block 5 Sauvignon Blanc 2012, Casablanca Valley, Chile. Excellent. About $26.
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cornerstone 11
Cornerstone Cellars The Cornerstone 2011, Napa Valley. 85 percent cabernet sauvignon, 10 percent merlot, 5 percent cabernet franc. 100 cases. About $150.
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duckhorn merlot
Duckhorn Vineyards Merlot 2012, Napa Valley. With 7 percent cabernet sauvignon, 2 percent cabernet franc, 1 percent malbec. Excellent. About $54.
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ehlers
Ehlers Estate Sylvanie Cabernet Franc Rosé 2014, St. Helena, Napa Valley. Exceptional. About $28.
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FEL-Logo_850x500
FEL Savoy Vineyard Pinot Noir 2012, Anderson Valley, Mendocino County. 645 cases. Excellent. About $65.
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Foursight Jpeg Logo
Foursight Wines Charles Vineyard Pinot Noir 2012, Anderson Valley, Mendocino County. 224 cases. Excellent. About $46.
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FINAL 2013 ESS LABELb
Grgich Hills Estate Miljenko’s Selection Essence Sauvignon Blanc 2014, Napa Valley. 1,204 cases. Exceptional. About $55.
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Grgich Hills Estate Miljenko’s Selection Cabernet Sauvignon 2012, Napa Valley. 485 cases. Exceptional. About $90.
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inman-rose
Inman Family Endless Crush Rosé of Pinot Noir 2014, Russian River Valley, Sonoma County. 1,500 cases. Excellent. About $25.
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iron-horse-brut-x
Iron Horse Brut “X” 2010, Green Valley of Russian River Valley. 69 percent pinot noir, 31 percent chardonnay. 500 cases. Excellent. About $50.
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jacquard
Champagne Jacquart Brut Rosé nv. 53 percent pinot noir, 35 percent chardonnay, 12 percent pinot meunier. Excellent. About $55.
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La Jota Vineyard Co. W.S. Keyes Vineyards Merlot 2010, Napa Valley. 296 cases. Exceptional. About $50.
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cuvee rose
Champagne Laurent-Perrier Cuvee Rosé Brut nv. 100 percent Grand Cru pinot noir. Excellent. About $99.
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laurent 2006
Champagne Laurent-Perrier Brut Millesime 2006. Excellent. About $65.
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lokoya
Lokoya Cabernet Sauvignon 2011, Mount Veeder, Napa Valley. Exceptional. About $350.
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ember-site
Loomis “Ember” Red Wine 2012, Napa Valley. Syrah, grenache, mourvedre. 75 cases. Excellent. About $38.
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maggy
Maggy Hawk “Afleet” Pinot Noir 2012, Anderson Valley, Mendocino County. 156 cases. Exceptional. About $66.

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MFW_Rose_Face
MacPhail Family Wines Rosé of Pinot Noir 2014, Sonoma Coast. 492 cases. Exceptional. About $22.
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loidana-nueva-imagen-def_0_0
Marco Abella Loidana 2010, Priorat, Spain. 60 percent grenache, 25 percent carignane, 15 percent cabernet sauvignon. Excellent. About $30.
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mccay zin
McCay Cellars “Trulux” Zinfandel 2012, Lodi. 479 cases. Excellent. About $32.
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mcintyre
McIntyre Vineyards Estate Pinot Noir 2013, Santa Lucia Highlands, Monterey County. 368 cases. Exceptional. About $42.
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Morgan_2012_Double_L_Chardonnay
Morgan Winery Double L Vineyard Chardonnay 2012, Santa Lucia Highlands, Monterey County. 530 cases. Exceptional. About $42.
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beautiful pinot gris
Mt Beautiful Pinot Gris 2014, North Canterbury, New Zealand. 1,500 cases. Exceptional. About $19.
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Pahlmeyer and Jayson Wines Line Up
Pahlmeyer Merlot 2012, Napa Valley. Exceptional. About $85.
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pfendler
Pfendler Pinot Noir 2013, Sonoma Coast. 350 cases. Excellent. About $45.
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post and vine
Post & Vine Testa Vineyard Old Vine Field Blend 2012, Mendocino County. 42 percent zinfandel, 37 percent carignane, 21 percent petite sirah. 143 cases. Excellent. About $28.
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quivira zin
Quivira Zinfandel 2012, Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma County. With 10 percent petite sirah, 1 percent carignane. Excellent. About $26.
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innocent
St. Innocent Freedom Hill Vineyard Pinot Noir 2012, Willamette Valley, Oregon. 948 cases. Exceptional. About $42.
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sequoia grove cab
Sequoia Grove Cabernet Sauvignon 2012, Napa Valley. With 11 percent cabernet franc, 10 percent merlot, 1 percent each petit verdot and malbec. Excellent. About $38.
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smith madrone 11
Smith-Madrone Cabernet Sauvignon 2011, Spring Mountain District, Napa Valley. 1,070 cases. Excellent. About $45.
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tonella sb
S.R. Tonella Cellars Sauvignon Blanc 2014, Rutherford, Napa Valley. Excellent. About $29.
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2014EstateSauvBlanc
Stonestreet Sauvignon Blanc 2014, Alexander Valley, Sonoma County. Exceptional. About $35.

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tanner dafoe
Tanner Dafoe Cabernet Sauvignon 2010, Santa Ynez Valley, Santa Barbara County. 141 cases. Exceptional. About $110.

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taylor
Taylor Fladgate Vargellas Vintage Porto 2012, Portugal. Exceptional. About $53.
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joon
Tin Barn “Joon” Coryelle Fields Vineyard Rosé of Syrah 2014, Sonoma Coast. 158 cases. Excellent. About $23.
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torre
Torre San Martino Vigna della Signore 2013, Colli di Faenza Bianco, Italy. Chardonnay, sauvignon blanc, albana grapes. Excellent. $NA.
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two shepherds logo
Two Shepherds Grenache Rosé 2014, Sonoma Coast. 90 cases. Exceptional. About $24.
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Vietti Castiglione Barolo 2011, Piedmont, Italy. 100 percent nebbiolo grapes. Excellent. About $50.
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chateau-villa-bel-air-graves-france-10213716
Chateau Villa Bel-Air 2013, Graves, Bordeaux. 65 percent sauvignon blanc, 35 percent semillon. Excellent. About $25.
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2012-Jordan-PN-300x207
Youngberg Hill Jordan Block Pinot Noir 2012, Willamette Valley. 300 cases. Excellent. About $50.
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The word “interesting,” of course, is a double-edged sword, as when one says that someone’s boyfriend or girlfriend is interesting, meaning “What a dork!” No, I don’t mean that! I mean interesting as “of real interest to My Readers” and white wines to look out for as alternatives to chardonnay, sauvignon blanc and riesling. Not that there’s anything wrong with those grapes — well, chardonnay is too often over-made and fiddled with — and I’m distinctly fond of sauvignon blanc and especially reisling. Many more types of white wine exist, however, and it’s in that less-traveled direction that I send My Readers today. We touch many countries and regions and a variety of grapes, both single and in fascinating and somewhat exotic blends. Look particularly at the wines priced between $11 and $17; real bargains abound there. As usual, I avoid lengthy mentions of technical, historical and geographical information in this Weekend Wine Notes — though I dote on that sort of material — for the sake of quick, incisive reviews deigned to pique your, ahem, interest and whet your palates. Enjoy!

These wines were either samples for review or encountered at wholesaler trade events.
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scaia-garganega
Tenuta Sant’Antonio Scaia Bianca 2014, Delle Venezia IGT, Italy. 12% alc. 55% garganega, 45% chardonnay, according to the label; website and printed material say 50% garganega, 30% chardonnay, 20% trebbiano Soave. Medium straw-gold color; ripe, lively, crisp, bristly; brimming with notes of green apple and melon, lemon and peach; a few minutes in the glass bring in hints of jasmine and gardenia, lime peel and grapefruit; very dry, zings and sings across the palate with bright acidity and tantalizing limestone elements; heaps of personality. Excellent. About $11, a Raving Amazing Bargain.
Dalla Terra Winery Direct, Napa, Calif.
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villa-wolf-2012-pinot-grigio-gris-gris-pfalz
Villa Wolf Pinot Gris 2012, Pfalz, Germany. 13% alc. 100% pinot gris grapes. Medium burnished gold hue; straw, melon and orange rind; lemongrass and ginger, jasmine and honeysuckle; saline and savory, a touch exotic in its ripe, spicy yellow fruit and yellow flower elements; quite dry, with clean acidity and a sense of fading limestone and flint minerality; quite attractive, but drink up. Very Good +. About $12, representing Real Value.
Loosen Bros. USA, Salem, Oregon.
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Alamos Torrontés 2014, Salta, Argentina. 13% alc. 100% torrontés grapes. Pale straw color; jasmine and gardenia, very lemony, hints of lemongrass and figs, honeydew and greengage; a little musky; saline briskness and crisp acidity; lovely, lively silken texture. Very Good+. About $13.
Alamos USA, Haywood, Calif.
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Les Vignes de Bila-Haut 2014, Côtes du Roussillon, France (Michael Chapoutier). 13% alc. Grenache gris, grenache blanc, macabeu (or sometimes maccabeu). Pale straw-gold color; ripe and fleshy, apple peel and peach skin; lemon, lime peel, tangerine and yellow plum; cloves and a wisp of dried thyme; crisp and sassy, very spicy and quite dry but with spare and tasty stone-fruit flavors. Very Good+. About $13.
An R. Shack Selection, HB Wine Merchants, New York.
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pecorino
La Valentina Pecorino 2014, Bianco Colline Piscarese, Italy. NA% alc. 100% pecorino grapes. Pale gold hue; very fresh, clean and appealing; lemon balm, lime peel, almond skin and almond blossom; limestone and oyster shell, savory with a salt marsh-sea breeze edge of vitality; pert and lively, a burgeoning of stone-fruit and meadowy herbs; extremely charming but with a thread of seriousness. Very Good+. About $16.
Dalla Terra Winery Direct, Napa Calif.
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VR_Label_14_WHITE4_Front
Vina Robles “White 4” 2014, Paso Robles, California. 14.9% alc. 54% viognier, 22% vermentino, 15% verdelho, 9% sauvignon blanc. Pale straw color with faint green highlights; delicate, lightly spicy, a slight sense of sunny, leafy figs and briers; all citrus with a flush of stone-fruit; a few minutes in the glass bring in heady notes of lilac and Evening in Paris; very appealing, with a beautiful texture and structure that fill the mouth with almost powdery talc-like elements cut by bright acidity. Drink now through 2017. Excellent. About $16.
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alleme
Bodega de Txakoli Tadai Berri Alleme Txakolina 2014, Getariako Txakolina. NA% alc. 100% hondarribi zuri grapes. The wine is pronounced chakoli; txakolina means “the txakoli.” The hondarribi zuri grape is primarily grown, where it is cultivated at all, in Spain’s Basque country. Very pale straw color; just faintly effervescent, as a sort of quiet, persistent tickle; white flowers and yellow fruit, let’s say, gardenia, peach and yellow plums, all quite gently expressed, with hints of almond blossom and lychee; lively, crisp, clean, caressing. Drink up as a very pleasant and unusual aperitif; these wines are not meant to last. Very Good+. About $17.
Kysela Pere et Fils, Winchester, Va.
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ponzi pb
Ponzi Vineyards Pinot Blanc 2014, Willamette Valley, Oregon. 13.4% alc. 1,000 cases. 100% pinot blanc grapes. Very pale straw-gold hue; roasted lemons and spiced pears, notes of quince, nectarine and ginger; subtly floral, like some tiny white slightly astringent flower; mountainy and meadowy; incisive acidity with elements of steel and limestone and a haze of smoke and talc; quite dry but immensely appealing and satisfying. Excellent. About $20, representing Great Value.
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amity-vineyards-pinot-blanc-2013-bottle
Amity Vineyards Pinot Blanc 2013, Willamette Valley, Oregon. 13% alc. 181 cases. 100% pinot blanc. Medium straw-gold hue; lemon balm, lime peel, slightly caramelized grapefruit; intriguing notes of cedar and hay; a fresh, breezy and bracing wine, lovely purity and intensity; hints of quince, peach skin and ginger; lithe and supple on the palate with crystalline acidity and vibrant limestone minerality. Now through 2016. Excellent. About $22.
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mccay viognier
McCay Cellars Viognier 2014, Lodi, California. 14.1% alc. 100% viognier grapes. Very pale gold color; peach, roasted lemon and lavender; slightly honeyed, with notes of beeswax, dried thyme and rosemary, with the latter’s hint of resiny quality; very clean, pure and intense, lovely presence and weight; more on the graceful, spare and elegant side of the grape, though a hint of caramelized fennel lends something exotic; a lingering finish that turns a bit austere with limestone and flint minerality. Now through 2018 to 2020. Excellent. About $24.
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Clos le Vigneau 2013, Vouvray, Loire Valley, France. (Alexandre Monmousseau). NA%alc. 100% chenin blanc grapes. Bright straw-gold hue; vouvrayhay, damp stones, jasmine; hazelnuts and almond skin; notes of peach, apricot and yellow plums; lean and lithe, chiseled limestone minerality and chiming acidity yet a soft approachable texture; a hint of sweetness on the entry but very dry from mid-palate back through the spice and mineral freighted finish. Now through 2018 to 2020. Excellent. About $19.
Kysela Pere et Fils, Winchester, Va.
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anaba white
Anaba Wines Turbine White 2013, Sonoma Valley, California. 14% alc. 42% roussanne, 20% grenache blanc, 20% picpoul blanc, 18% marsanne. 354 cases. Shimmering pale gold hue; roasted lemon, dried thyme, beeswax, lanolin, lilac; notes of heather and peach and a hint of some exotic floral and pressed nut oil; bountifully presents a full-bodied, seductive texture packed with spiced and roasted peach and apricot flavors but balanced by riveting acidity and an element of damp-stone minerality. Super appealing, practically glitters in the glass. Excellent. About $28, and Worth a Search.
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While no one would try to assign a date to when vineyards were first planted in Tuscany or Burgundy, Rheinhessen or Bordeaux, it’s a pretty safe assertion that grape-growing in the Willamette Valley began in 1966, when David Lett came from California to Oregon and planted pinot noir vines in the Willamette Valley, specifically in the Red Hills of Dundee. Lett was followed two years later by Dick Erath, who also planted pinor noir in the Red Hills. (Lett had planted pinot noir vines further south, near Corvallis, in 1965, and transplanted them the next year.) Both of the pioneering wineries they launched — Eyrie Vineyard and Erath Vineyards (originally Knudsen-Erath) — thrive today, as well as about 400 more. Willamette Valley, lying between the Oregon Coast Range to the west and the Cascade Mountains to the east, stretches from just north of Portland to south of Eugene and is influenced by Pacific winds that flow through gaps of the coastal mountain ranges. Few of the wineries, mostly family-owned, produce more than 20,000 cases a year, with many releasing numbers well below that, facts that contribute to the general feeling in the region that they’re more authentic and artisanal and less greedy than their counterparts in California. The primary red grape, by far, is pinot noir. Chardonnay was widely planted in the 1960s and ’70s, usually in the wrong sites, and was replaced by pinot gris and riesling, though chardonnay is making something of a comeback, more carefully sited.

In addition to the broad Willamette Valley AVA (American Viticultural Area), approved by the federal government in 1983, the region encompasses six smaller and more geologically and geographically focused AVAs: Yamhill-Carlton (approved in 2005), Ribbon Ridge (2005), McMinnville (2005), Dundee Hills (2005), Chehalem Mountains (2006) and Eola-Amity Hills (2006), all north of Salem. Of the nine wines considered in this post, seven carry Willamette Valley designations and two more specific AVAs. All display, to greater or lesser degree, an element that to me is a constant and essential feature of Willamette Valley pinot noirs, and that is a vein of deeply rich brambly loaminess that ties the wines to the earth whence they came.

I received these wines as review samples in conjunction with the 50th anniversary of David Lett’s first planting of pinot noir vines, a bold and visionary act that launched an industry.
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The grapes for the Adelsheim Elizabeth’s Reserve Pinot Noir 2012, Willamette Valley, were drawn 70 percent from eight Printestate vineyards, with the remaining 30 percent coming from selected vineyards throughout the Willamette Valley. The wine aged 10 months in French oak barrels, 31 percent new. The color is medium ruby with a magenta-mulberry tinge. At first, the impression is of something delicate and ethereal, tissues of nuances; as moments pass, however, the wine takes on weight and character, deepening and broadening its appeal with elements of spiced and macerated black and red cherries and currants and notes of smoke and loam, cloves and sandalwood and some exotic rooty tea. This sense of dimension and detail is shot through with vibrant and fairly tart acidity that keeps the wine lively and alluring, while moderately dense graphite-laced tannins contribute to overall structure. …. percent alcohol. Production was 2,261 cases. Drink now through 2019 to 2022. The winery produced its first vintage in 1978. Winemaker is Dave Paige. Excellent. About $60.
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The Broadley Vineyards Pinot Noir 2013, Willamette Valley offers a radiant transparent medium ruby hue and shape- broadley-vineyardsshifting scents of underbrush and loam, cranberries and raspberries and hints of black tea, sassafras and cloves. The wine aged nine or 10 months in neutral French oak barrels, meaning that the barrels had been used during enough wine-making cycles that the wood influence is not just minimal but subliminal, a sculpting rather than a dominating influence. This is a lean and lithe (and tasty) pinot noir in which acidity cuts a swathe on the palate and mineral elements build through the finish. 13.5 percent alcohol. Production was 3,000 cases. I think that this is a terrific pinot noir, and the price makes it irresistible for drinking through 2018 to 2020. Excellent. About $20, so Buy It by the Case.
The winery was founded in 1982 by Craig and Claudia Broadley. Winemaker is their son, Morgan Broadley.
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The Chehalem Ridgecrest Vineyards Reserve Pinot Noir 2012, Ribbon Ridge, brings out the exuberant and forceful aspect of chehalemthe grape. The wine aged 11 months in French oak barrels, 39 percent new, 39 percent 1-year-old and the rest, uh, older, I guess. The color is dark ruby-mulberry with a lighter magenta rim; this is all loam-infused black and red cherries permeated by cloves and black pepper, touches of sandalwood and lavender and a potent edge of graphite. The wine is very dry, intensely smoky, woodsy and mossy, with a super satiny, supple texture that doesn’t conceal a thoughtful interpretation of pinot noir’s robust and powerful side. 14 percent alcohol. Drink now through 2019 or 2020. Production was 440 cases. First vintage was 1990. Winemaker is Wynne Peterson-Nedry. Excellent. About $50.
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cooper
The Cooper Mountain Pinot Noir 2012, Willamette Valley, made from organic and biodynamic grapes, displays a brilliant deep ruby hue shifting to mulberry-purple. The wine aged in French oak, 32 percent new barrels for an unspecified amount of time. It’s a very — perhaps even excessively — dark, rooty, loamy and spicy pinot noir that sacrifices nuance and finesse for earthy power, feeling a bit too syrah-like for its own good. A year or two of aging may bring this wine to rights. Production was 2,800 cases. Winemaker was Gilles de Domingo. The winery’s first vintage was 1987. Very Good. About $28.
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The Lange Estate Winery & Vineyards Reserve Pinot Noir 2012, Willamette Valley, spent 11 months in neutral oak lange labelbarrels, so the focus is on the grape’s purity and intensity, which this wine possesses in spades. The color is dark ruby shading to transparent magenta at the rim; notes of cloves, sandalwood and sassafras permeate elements of black cherries and plums that feel slightly macerated and roasted, while a few moments in the glass bring in hints of loam, mocha, tobacco and tea leaf. This is one of those pinot noirs that so dexterously melds delicacy, elegance and power — luxury married to spareness — that you wish it would take up residence in your mouth forever, though you have to spit it out or swallow eventually. Paradoxically, despite this sensual appeal, the wine is quite dry, fairly bristling with touches of rooty, mossy underbrush and bright acidity. 13.7 percent alcohol. Drink now through 2019 to 2022. Winemaker was Jesse Lange. The winery’s first vintage was 1987. Excellent. About $35.
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Founded in 1974, Ponzi Vineyards is one of Willamette Valley’s stalwart pioneers. Grapes for the Ponzi Pinot Noir 2012, Willamette Valley, were drawn from sustainably farmed estate vineyards as well as a number of other sustainable vineyards in the region. The wine aged 11 months in French oak, 35 percent new barrels. Winemaker is Luisa Ponzi. The color is dark ruby with a mulberry-magenta cast; the first impression is of an exotic amalgam of cloves, sandalwood and sassafrass, pomegranate and rhubarb, all supporting high, bright scents of red and black fruit etched with slightly dusty graphite. The wine is fairly substantial on the palate, delivering a sleek, satiny texture that’s almost plush, while quite engaging and animated by clean acidity; a few moments in the glass bring in notes of briers, brambles and underbrush, leading to a finish pretty dense with roots and leather, though the wine is never less than deft and dexterous, but more untamed than elegant. The alcohol content is 13.5 percent. Production was 8,000 cases. Drink now through 2019 to 2022. Excellent. About $40.
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rex hill
Gratifying largess and dimension characterize the Rex Hill Pinot Noir 2012, Willamette Valley, though there’s also pinpoint focus on detail that feels chiseled in stone. The color is a beguiling transparent medium to light ruby — nothing extracted here — while the wine practically smolders in the glass in embers of lavender, loam, sandalwood and spiced and macerated red and black cherries and plums; it’s all quite fleshy and meaty, almost feral in its primal dynamic, its piercing elements of briers and brambles and graphite-tinged tannins, yet in that lovely equilibrium of the best pinot noirs, it displays a balancing sense of delicacy and filigree, all this in a wine that aged 14 months in French oak, 28 percent new barrels. 14 percent alcohol. Production was 9,518 cases, so there’s plenty to go around. Drink now through 2019 to 2022. Rex Hill’s first release was from the 1983 vintage. Winemaker is Michael Davies. Excellent. About $35.
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Let’s say upfront that the Saint Innocent Freedom Hill Vineyard Pinot Noir 2012, Willamette Valley, is a great pinot innocentnoir wine that delivers all the power and elegance, the earthiness and airiness that we expect from Willamette Valley in an excellent year. The color is medium transparent ruby; first come the loam and underbrush, deeply rooted, then more frangible layers of spiced and macerated black and red cherries and currants imbued with notes of moss, lavender and graphite. This is a lovely, lively, lithe and highly structural expression of a grape and vineyard that offers something essentially piney and and briery, as well as a fairly tannic element burnished with dusty graphite. It’s neither dense nor chewy, however, as the presence of tannins often implies, being, instead, dynamic and light on its feet. 14.5 percent alcohol. Production was 948 cases. Drink now through 2020 to 2022. A delightfully detailed wine worthy of meditation. Winemaker was Mark Vlossak. Exceptional. About $42.
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sokol
When I read that a pinor noir wine underwent 16 months aging — as it happens in 40 percent new French oak — my heart sinks and the words “uh-oh” form in the thought-cloud above my head. Readers, that’s a lot of wood. However, the Sokol Blosser Pinot Noir 2012, Dundee Hills, managed to absorb that oak influence and emerge superbly sleek, satiny and supple. The color is a radiant, transparent light ruby hue; notes of cloves, sassafras and rhubarb are woven with elements of red cherries and raspberries, briers, moss and loam, the latter earthy qualities burgeoning in nose and mouth as the minutes pass. Despite the sleek and suave texture, this is a wine that offers a rigorously structured character and a demanding finish that seem to require some time to become more balanced and integrated, so try from the end of 2016 or into 2017 through 2021 through ’23. 14.5 percent alcohol. Production was 800 cases. Excellent potential. About $38.
The Sokol Blosser family planted five acres of grapes in 1971 and produced its first wine in 1977. The second generation operates the winery today, with Alex Sokol Blosser as winemaker.
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Argyle’s Lone Star Vineyard in Willamette Valley’s Eola-Amity Hills AVA allots just under seven acres to the riesling grape, amounting to a bare two percent of the cultivation of the estate’s vineyards. The three blocks of riesling are divided into grapes that will undergo fermentation and aging in stainless steel, coming out with a smidgeon of residual sugar, and those that go into neutral French oak, coming out totally dry. That combination lends the Argyle Nuthouse Riesling 2013, Eola-Amity Hills, remarkable vibrancy and resonance, as well as real presence on the palate, though you would swear that the wine was weightless. The color is pale straw-gold; aromas of peach and spiced pear are wreathed with notes of lychee and petrol, quince and ginger, jasmine and honeysuckle; give the wine a few moments in the glass — serve it chilled and let it gradually and softly warm up — bring in hints of nectarine and lime peel. This is a richly golden, slightly honeyed reisling whose riveting acidity drives through a generous talc-like texture to allow the emergence of burgeoning limestone minerality; it displays a liveliness that goes beyond just crisp acidity to an essential dynamism that does not negate its delicate and elegant structure. 12 percent alcohol. Production was 1,300 cases. I happily drank a glass of this wine with a Parmesan cheese omelet with tomatoes and green olives. Now through 2019 to 2023. I consider this riesling among the best not only in Oregon but on the West Coast. Exceptional. About $30.

A sample for review.

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