07/17/07 – Oregon Pinot Noir

By Jesse on July 17, 2007


I don’t have any envy for those of you who didn’t make it out to Leah and Andrew’s combined birthday party at Santa Monica’s “Gas Lite,” that bastion of restrained civility and polite indulgences.  The birthday boy was heard to sing “Ring of Fire” in between slices of amazing chocolate cake, and several other wine club members who had signed up to sing but never got called wound up belting out their selections while annoying regulars performed “Love Shack” for the ninth time that night.  Next time you get an invite to a non-wine related event on the wine listserv, it’s imperative that you go.

This week, Andrew has requested that we do Oregon Pinot Noir, as you’ve probably already read.  We did Oregon reds in January, so some of this may be familiar:

According to Karen MacNeil, Oregon is the only major region outside of Burgundy that specializes in Pinot Noir — she refers to it as the “soul of winemaking here,” particularly those grown in the Willamette Valley.  Apparently, the French journal Progres Agricole et Viticole (roughly translated as Our Wine is the Best in the World ) did a study in which they compared the climates of the town of McMinnville in the Willamette Valley and the city of Beaune in Burgundy, and discovered that the two regions mirror each other almost identically in sunlight, temperature, and average rainfall.  The hallmark of both regions is a cool climate combined with high amounts of precipitation.  MacNeil elaborates: “grown where they are bathed in the hot sun, [Pinot Noir] grapes end up as a wine that tastes something like pureed prunes mixed with flat cola.”  In Willamette’s cool maritime climate, however, grapes “do not burst into ripeness but instead make their way slowly and methodically toward maturity.”  The result is some of the world’s best Pinot Noir — Willamette examples placed third in an international competition as early as 1979 — and we hope to taste several good bottles on Wednesday evening.  For more information on Oregon wines, please check out the website that you were all supposed to visit in January: http://www.winesnw.com/orhome.html

Brief mention should be made of the “Single Vineyard” designation that you may encounter while shopping for your Oregon red.  As we encountered on our trip to Santa Barbara, the phrase refers to a wine made from grapes grown exclusively in one vineyard rather than “sourced” from multiple locations within the region identified on the bottle.  These wines, as you’ll remember, are typically more expensive and allegedly more indicative of a particular terrior.  According to the Wine Bible, the single-vineyard wines from Oregon may not necessarily reflect better quality, and here’s why: “blending from different vineyards has historically been the way Oregon Pinot Noir has achieved complexity.  The idea is a good one, and it works.”  Please don’t let this discourage you from paying a few dollars more for a single-vineyard wine if it looks really appealing for some reason.  However, if the price difference between two wines is extreme, the single-vineyard designation may not be sufficient reason to break your bank for the pricey one.  (As always, feel free to bring a $10 “no-wine” donation if you can’t make it to your local wine dispensary.)

We’ll be meeting at Andrew’s new place in Hollywood!  Find yourself a delicious bottle of Oregonian Pinot Noir (or a no-wine donation), buddy up if necessary, go the extra mile and get tasting notes…. and we will see you in Boys Town (wtf?) tomorrow night at 9pm.