It's the Willamette Dammit!

"The three things that make a vineyard great are the climate, the soil, and the exposure. Bien Nacido Vineyard ~ James Ontiveros  

The Willamette Valley in Oregon is known as a 'mecca' of sorts; it's where powerful, yet delicate, soulful Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, and Chardonnay are grown, harvested, fermented, aged, bottled and eventually sold to wine enthusiasts around the world. I thought it was high time, I give some content space to the Wines of Oregon, just because that's the kind of guy I am.

Secondly, because of some of these relatively inexpensive [$18-$28] examples of Pinot Noir, which I tasted, slurped, sniffed, vigorously aerated, were in a few words, better than good. You can also see there's a bit of a theme, with four of the five wines below labeled Willamette Valley AVA. Now with no further ado, here's the skinny on what I've found over the years, many found in your local off-premise chain stores (read that grocery stores and the like). Keep in mind, there were more than a few wines which didn't make the cut. 

2010 Big Fire R. Stuart Pinot Noir: I acquired this bottle as a sample in 2013, it became lost in the cellar. After moving up to Oregon, unpacking my wine collection, I spotted it and was finally able to give it a swirl. This wine, which is packed under screw cap, did age wonderfully and is a testament to the fantastic winemaking going on with this producer. I've tasted many of their wines [many from barrel] over the years, I've always been impressed. This is not one of their most expensive wines, but the power, soul, and substance of this Oregon AVA labeled Pinot was really impressive. Considering the direct to the consumer price of this wine is under $20. As you can see from the glass, it's very light in color, a shimmering ruby color, bright and vivid. 

A point of interest, I didn't finish this wine on the first go-around, I just put the [screw] cap back on, dropped it in my cellar overnight, and finished it the next day. It was still fresh, and thoroughly enjoyable to drink on day two. 

I didn't decant this wine at all, I wish I had. The aromas, bursts of cranberry, summer strawberry, fresh baking spices, cut black tea, and freshly broken damp earth. On the palate, it's fresh, vivid and inviting. The fruit to acid ratio, spot-on, it couldn't have been better. Spice, cranberries, strawberry, sandalwood, and cherry. The finish long and lasting, a food pairing champion, to delight the senses. Sadly, as much as I could find out, there's none left to be had, except one small wine shop in Illinois, but I think I did see a goodly number of their BFPN current releases which are widely available at their tasting room in downtown McMinnville. The Score: 91 points.  Highly Recommended. 

2013 Elk Cove Vineyards, Willamette Valley Pinot Noir: As you can, in the background, this wine was decanted and enjoyed slowly over a long snowy evening in early January. The color again, transparent, a bright vivid, garnet-colored core. Only ten months in French oak, produced from the grape of all five of the ECV properties, plus some purchased grapes. Pommard and Dijon clones play nicely together. A splash in the glass brings up a nice plume of, raspberry jam spread on warm toast, black tea bags, baking spices, and a bit barnyard. 

The palate has a smooth and creamy texture, the round mouthfeel begs for a second sip, but is light with bright cranberries, toasted strawberry, dark cherries delight and deftly balanced. In the mix, medium to light tannins are delightfully integrated and a vivid streak of acidity helps hold it all altogether. A great example of a relatively inexpensive Pinot Noir, which over-delivers for its price point. I've seen this wine selling someplace as low as $19 and as high as $26. No matter how you slice it, dollars to donuts this one of the very best bottles of 2013 Oregon Pinot you'll find at this price point. My Score: 93 points. Highly Recommended. 

2014 Rex Hill, Willamette Valley Pinot Noir: This bottle I just opened last night, needs decanting, it's a bit of wallflower. In the glass it's darker in color, not the bright garnet color, instead, the color leans toward a dark ruby, but it's not opaque. I paired this wine with chicken-fried steaks, grits, and a summer fresh salad, dressed up with a raspberry vinaigrette. This was not a terribly aromatic wine, still, you could get some notes of fresh rhubarb, freshly broken moist earth, black cherries. 

On the palate, I found it more earthy, than fruit-driven. Still, cherry and cranberry played a fun tune, while dusty baking spices, black tea leaves, and funky damp earth played bass in the background. The tannins are more evident in this wine than the others ranked above, making me think, perhaps six more months of bottle time would do wonders for the maturity of this wine. It's an excellent food wine, very balanced fruit to acid ratio. You can find this wine selling between $24 and $28 in most places. Score: 90 points, Recommended. 

2015 Black Magnolia Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, OR: It was with great delight, I received a request to review [sample alert]  the wine you see above. As you can see from the copyright, this is a borrowed image. My image, vanished from my phone, most likely the victim of an accidental delete, doh. That said Black Magnolia Wines was gracious enough to allow me to use this image, which I did edit a bit, for formatting. The bottle shot was taken by Brian Richardson. Now with those formalities out of the way, it's time to dive into this wine. This wine does not need decanting to show off its round, rich, enticing aromas and flavors, but as I always recommend, when in doubt, decant.

In the glass, a light-colored garnet, mostly transparent. Giving it a good swirl, the aromas rise easily from the glass, sandalwood, sweet baking spices, wet earth funk, and cranberry toast, so very aromatic. On the palate, the tannins are seamlessly integrated, this wine coats the mouth nicely, generously embracing. Taste-wise, generous amounts of cranberry, sweet strawberry, baking spice, orange tea, and damp earth. I would say this wine is more fruit-forward, less about the earth tones. The acid to fruit ratio is excellent, the finish long and sumptuous. Score: 93 points. Highly Recommended.
When I asked Anthony Van Nice Co-Founder of BMW about how they came up with the name of the wine, he answered, 

"The name evolved over a few glasses of wine. My wife is from the South and is found in magnolias. I wanted the name to describe the wine indirectly and magnolias are beautiful, fragrant, and velvety just like great pinot. There is no such thing as a black magnolia, at least there was not until now. We wanted it to evoke something new, a little dark, and intriguing." 

I really liked this answer, it's a great name. Coming up with a wine label, that sets you apart from the competition is not as easy as it sounds. The grapes pressed into service to deliver this fantastic juice, I hear come from some well-regarded acreage. You can expect to see many tasty vintages from this label in the future.  

At least two of the wines in this report are media samples, the others were acquired the old fashioned way, cold hard cash, earned by the sweat of my brow, don't you know. That said, keep in mind the reason behind this article is not because I was asked to do so by a PR company, not that that's a bad thing. I'm just doing a bit of virtue signaling, so you, dear reader can be assured of the fact, that I have no other motive than my love of the grape varietal Pinot Noir.


Rand Paul said…
Oh Bill, sensational and riveting reviews as always, thanks for the signal of virtue, not all heroes wear capes.

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