Wine of the Week: 2011 Elk Cove Vineyards, Willamette Valley Pinot Noir

“Give me wine to wash me clean of the weather-stains of cares”  Ralph Waldo Emerson

Welcome to Monday and another wine of the week. In today's spotlight is the 2011 Elk Cove Vineyards, Willamette Valley Pinot Noir. I encountered this fantastic example of 'true' Willamette Valley Pinot Noir during a #winechat on the Twitter machine more than a few years ago, sent as a sample for the review process. Have you heard it said, "clones matter" a phrase coined and or attributed by/to the folks at Willakenzie? There is truth in those words because clones do matter and also a host of other activities, many unknown and unseen by the average wine consumer.

Many folks throw around the word 'terroir, but what does it really mean? It's origins come from a French term which roughly means an all-encompassing set of conditions which help make wines of distinction. While to some, it's simply a quasi-cheap marketing lure to bait unsuspecting wanna-be wine enthusiasts; it's my contention and that of the French in general, that terroir is what ultimately distinguishes one region from another.

Just returning from a press trip to both Spain and France, with a focus on Garnacha and Grenache, the distinctions in terroir, were significant, the contrast jumps out of the many glasses, where we sampled the finished wines. In each visit to the vineyards, which veered from large galets dotting the vineyard soils, to sandy, beach-like soils. The tastes profiles of these wines, though the same grape, were stark. Expect to read more about those adventures and find out the many exciting Garnacha and Grenache wines and fantastic producers I uncorked, so stay tuned.

I've tasted far more wine than the average wine enthusiasts ever will, it's my opinion that terroir is not only real, it is part of what makes wine, so wildly different than any other beverage in the world. Nothing even comes close. But this distinction is reserved not for the bulk; crass commodity 'plonk' massed produced lining the bottom of grocery store shelves; no this definition is carved in stone for real wine from real producers who care about the wine industry and their reputations.

This Elk Cove Pinot is planted to Pommard and Dijon clones. It's also said gravity is a bitch, ask any of those attempting to selfies in questionably safe locations in a quest to be insta-famous. That said there's nothing risky about the use of gravity in winemaking, it's through the gentle handling of their gravity flow system which helps alleviates excessive handling of the grapes and the wines seem to reflect that process.

For many winemakers, there was a huge collective sigh of relief when the harvest that 2011 was over. Unfortunately for vino-sapiens, that mean wines of restraint were going to be far more common, than normal. The picking season was pushed back much further, than most expected, making for one of latest harvest in Oregon winemaking history. It meant that there was not going to be the same level of ripeness that many vintners experienced in 2009. That said, despite the cooler vintage some of the best producers, Elk Cove included, were still able to produce wines of complexity, delicacy, and substance. I'm a big fan of the 2011 vintage, the quality of those wines are just now coming into focus.

The silver lining, despite the lack of overall sunshine in 2011, according to the folks at Elk Grove, "the good news is that birds were not quite as hungry in 2011 as they were in 2010" thus allowing for a near 'normal' harvest (weight wise).

For those bargain hunters in the audience, this wine is one great one to grab. 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 2011 Oregon Pinot you'll find in this price point. While this vintage is likely no longer available, you should give their current release 2015 a swirl.

Here comes the tasting note: A splash in the glass brings up a beautiful plume of, raspberry jam spread across warm toast, black tea bags and a bit of barnyard. The palate has a smooth and creamy texture, the round mouth-feel 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 and a tame streak of acidity helps hold it all together. Soon as you pop the cork, this wine comes dressed to impress, no fuss and no muss. My score on this wine is 90 points, making it a no-brainer.

Recalling my youthful salesman days and now my iconic catchphrase, "you can pay more, but you won't get more" could not be more accurate. Begging the question, do you really want to pay more than you have to for a premium PN? No? That's what I thought, thus I introduce to a wonderful producer of delightful and most of all reasonably priced (IMO) New World Pinot Noir, Elk Cove. Do they have more expensive wine? Certainly, most every producer does, but when their entry-level or as like to refer to it as a (familiar catchphrase) "keep the lights on" selection, is this good, from vintage to vintage, there's much joy in the glass. So until next time folks remember life is short, so sip long and prosper cheers!

All original content: Including text and photographs remain the copyright © of the author, (W.R. Eyer) and © Fotogui Photography except where otherwise noted.

Full Disclosure: Reviewed wines are from medias sample provided (not for sale) for the review process.


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