Monday, August 12, 2013

Ode to Oregon's 2010 Pinot Noirs: It Was a Very Good Year

As the 2013 vintage is really getting into the thick of things, and looking by all indicators to be another warm vintage I can't help but reminisce a bit about what may be one of the best Pinot Noir vintages Oregon has seen in quite sometime. 2010. The 2010s are almost universally good and in some cases, they border on sheer genius, I figure I had to write this missive soon because more and more of the 2011s are starting to make their way to market and pretty soon the 2010s will be a thing of the past.  There is good news though, the 2011s are also going to be pretty spectacular.

What was 2010 even like? Do you remember? I mean, it seems like ancient history at this point doesn't it? In 2010 we saw some substantial losses, major earthquakes in both Haiti and China devastated those countries. There was political turmoil, most notably the kick off of the Arab Spring, and American originals, Lena Horne, Dennis Hopper and Harvey Pekar passed away. Humans also trapped anti-matter for the first time ever, for a whole 1/6 of a second at the CERN particle accelerator/collider thingy in Europe.

In the Willamette Valley, in 2010 people were a bit on the nervous side come harvest, but not because of the condition of the fruit, it was damn near perfect. The cooler vintage meant that folks had to leave the fruit out there quite a long time, with many folks picking 2 plus weeks later than they did in 2009. Unfortunately it went long enough that most of it was still out there when birds started migrating south for the winter. That made the Willamette Valley a popular stopover for birds moving through for destinations in California, or as far south as Chile. Birds like the Eurasian widgeon, the varied thrush, and the chestnut-backed chickadee, they, among others played a bigger role in the wines produced in 2010, because they ate so many of the damn grapes. Yields were down across the board because of the Hitchcockian bird flocks.

The other factor at play were the impeding rain storms. Few vintages, even cool wet years are marked with a nearly universal end date. For 2010 it was October 23rd. The valley saw serious storms that day that lasted a few days, that was more or less the end of harvest 2010. Fortunately, most of October was just about perfect, and so, it may be argued are the Pinot Noirs.

The 2010s for me are different than the 2007s, which may still be my favorite vintage in that, they were good right out of the gates. The 2007s were a little shy at first but have become noted for their extreme elegance and grace. I think that a lot of those same characteristics are showing up in the 2010s but now as opposed to four years later. There's a common theme in the dried floral element in the aromatics for 2010, as well as those marked forest floor aromas that Oregon seems to reliably produce.

Alcohol levels are low across the board but the wines were plenty ripe from a flavor standpoint, thanks to that long hang-time and the lower yields, many vineyards produced half of what they would in a normal year. The result generally, is medium bodied wine, with lots of red and blue fruits, and really fine, pretty tannin structures. As great as they're drinking now, the acidity allows you to hold onto some favorites, it appears to be a very age worthy vintage.

2010 Carabella Pinot Noir, Estate The Carabella estate vineyard is in the Chehalem Mountains one of the northernmost reaches of the Willamette Valley. The growing area has developed a reputation with me as a favorite for it's intense aromatics of forest floor and this Pinot Noir certainly delivers on that reputation along with red fruits. A blend of several clones deliver some husky dark berry flavors, think black raspberry and loads of minerality, along with clove and a touch of nutmeg. $37 (sample from winery)

2010 Luminous Hills Pinot Noir Lux This Pinot from Byron Dooley is marked by a soft texture and very pretty mouthfeel. Pretty and vibrant aromatics of red fruit and white pepper and a very elegant palate of early season blackberry and sweet candied blueberry notes. As an indicator of how low yields were in 2010, this was the only bottling Byron produced, in 2009 he had three different Pinot Noirs. This wine is a blend of Pommard and 777 and all of it is gone. $35 sold out

2010 Scott Paul Les Gourmandises Dundee Hills A great example of the vintages ageability the acidity on this Pinot is downright uplifting. Fresh fruit expressions dominate this Pinot Noir and certainly shine brighter than the hints of spice and earth that are barely there. So fresh and so clean, clean is the constant theme though with clean fruit aromatics and bright, again uplifting red berry and montmorency cherry flavors. $40

2010 Anam Cara Estate Pinot Noir A perennial favorite of mine, the Nicholas Estate, a former nut orchard produces a reliably aromatically lively Pinot Noir. Red berry fruit, hints of earth and a touch of the gun powdery minerality up in the aromatics. The 2010 is light red fruits, raspberry and cranberry with fantastic mouthfeel, finishing with some black plums and a touch of barrel spice. $30

2010 Tendril White Label Pinot Noir A more dark and brooding 2010 with more dark fruit and earthen aromatics than much of what I have tasted. The palate is a bit meatier as well and a bit fuller in mouthfeel with a fair bit of oak influence. Black and red fruits, clove and cinnamon mingle with a lightly acidic lift at the finish. The wine is from Tony Rynders formerly of Domaine Serene and blends fruit from all of the Willamette Valley's sub appellations. $48 (sample from winery)


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