Taste-Testing 2008 Oregon Pinot NoirMarch 9th, 2011 by Alan A. Barone
For the past couple of years, there has been a great deal of media touting the 2008 vintage of Pinot Noir in Oregon’s Willamette Valley… and rightfully so. It is a truly exceptional vintage. I had the pleasure of visiting a host of Willamette Valley wineries last year, precisely during their release of the 2008’s. The lengthy and moderate growing season was picture perfect, capped-off by a warm, dry October that improved concentration of the low yielding crop of Pinot Noir grapes. They have achieved that great combination of fruit intensity, similar to 2006 and the bright, food-friendly acidity of the 2007 vintage.
The Willamette Valley American Viticultural Area (AVA) was established in 1984, and six separate AVAs within the Willamette Valley AVA have been created since 2004. Throughout its history, the Willamette Valley AVA’s growers and producers have worked together to create a system of regulations that ensures quality and encourages sustainable viticulture.
Vintage tells us precisely what has happened during the year: weather, soil, growing techniques and the winemaker’s acumen all contribute to this piece of history. Pinot Noir has given the Willamette Valley its beginning, put it on the map and has made it a star in the wine world. The 2008 vintage is well worth exploring through a variety of styles and price levels.
Here are my recommendations for the 2008 vintage from Willamette Valley Pinot Noir:
$20 or Under
Willamette Valley Vineyards “Whole Cluster”
Soft and refreshing with pretty aromas of strawberry and cherry that continues in flavor with a touch of smoke and anise over bright acidity.
Archery Summit “Forefront”
Fragrant blackberry and licorice aromas are a prelude to rich, spicy cherry fruit and toast flavors, against a mild grip of tannin.
Ponzi, Willamette Valley
Red fruit and spice aromas become more specific on the palate, showing black cherry, blueberry and clove flavors with an undertone of beef stock.
Cameron, “Arley’s Leap”
Dense and focused with appealing red currant, raspberry and plum combined with herbal and spice on the nose and palate with soft minerality.
$40 and Above
Ken Wright Cellars, Carter Vineyard Eola-Amity Hills
Pleasing plum and blackberry fruit mingle with an earthy, vanilla spice and hints of molasses and oak on the slightly restrained, yet balanced palate.
Domaine Serene, Yamhill Cuvee
Red fruit and forest floor scents lead to ripe black cherry and blackberry compote flavors with undertones of cardamom and mushroom with a firm texture.