You’ve long heard Oregon’s Willamette Valley is home to world-class Pinot Noir.
But admit it, when it’s time to order from the wine list, or pluck one from the shop shelf, something often stops you and, instead, you sip yet another Pinot from Burgundy or California’s Russian River Valley.
And you’re not alone, ya scaredy cat.
California and Burgundy (Pinot’s hallowed ground) are home to delicious wines and are the regions you know. But you’re really missing out on one of wine’s most exciting treasures: well-crafted sips that marry New World strengths—bright, vivid fruit and natural, juicy acidity—with Burgundian finesse, detail, texture and herb and truffle nuances.
But, again, you’ve heard this all before. The only true cure for a case of Oregon-Pinot Phobia is to taste them.
Here are five Willamette Valley bottles that will change your wine life for the better.
The Proof Is In The Pinot
Brick House 2012 Cuvée du Tonnelier; $45, 94 points. Like many elite wineries in Burgundy, Brick House farms biodynamically. This wine is loaded with black cherry and cassis fruit, to be sure, but also with veins of cola, moist earth, chocolate and espresso. Brick House is in the tiny Ribbon Ridge AVA, within the larger Willamette AVA, and home to several of Oregon’s best producers.
Sokol Blosser 2012 Big Tree Block, $70; 94 points. Located within the Willamette subappellation of Dundee Hills, Big Tree is farmed organically. This effort dials in the wine’s terroir, boasting dense black cherry, cassis and dark chocolate flavors, streaked with graphite and tar. It’s expressive, long and compact, with pinpoint focus.
Penner-Ash 2012; $48, 92 points. If delicacy and suppleness are two of Pinot’s defining qualities, Lynn Penner-Ash’s wines express those attributes beautifully. The mouthfeel is soft and supple, and the delicate balance of fruit, acid and barrel never lets you down, from first sniff to last sip.
Ponzi 2012; $40, 91 points. All of Ponzi’s wines display an elegant and sensitive hand at the helm. Many are small batches consisting of just a few barrels, but this 8,000-case effort captures much the same complexity and depth of detail, with a deft mix of briary berry, mineral, pepper, chocolaty barrel notes and fine-grained tannins.
Scott Paul 2012 La Paulée; $39, 91 points. Over the past nine vintages, this cuvée has a proven track record for quality, with an average score of 91. Admire its pretty scents of rosewater, raspberries and cherries, its forward fruit and delicate frame. Then watch it put on weight and complexity as it breathes; $39.