A look at some Oregon and California Pinot Noirs.
By Louis Marmon
Gazette Newspapers November 20, 2008
The most recent U.S. releases of Pinot Noir are well suited for the myriad of flavors of classic holiday meals. Fruit-forward with bright, complex personalities, good balance and lasting finishes, the West Coast Pinot Noirs continue to improve due to more mature vines, better site selection and careful attention in the vineyards and during the winemaking. These wines should be served slightly chilled to bring out their finest qualities.
While best known for the Aquarium and Cannery Row, Monterey has been steadily acquiring a reputation for quality wines. The region stretches south of San Francisco along the Pacific from the terrace of the Santa Lucia Highlands and the Carmel Valley to the San Bernabe and San Antonio valleys. The northern portion sees the cool sea breezes and fog from Monterey Bay, while the southernmost sites are drier. The better wine producing sites are in the well-drained, mineral-rich, higher elevations.
The Morgan Pinot Noir Santa Lucia Highlands 12 Clones 2006 ($30) is sourced from two vineyards and comprised of 12 different vine clones. Smoky raspberry and cherry flavors predominate, with tart cranberry and licorice more noticeable at the end. The interestingly named Morgan Pinot Noir Tondre Grapefield 2006 ($45) is actually a single vineyard offering, but the land owner prefers to call it otherwise. It has black cherry, leather and mushroom flavors along with some mild spiciness.
Judging by his wine and the overall tone of his Web site, Brian Loring would be a great dinner guest. Working in a Hollywood wine store led to an “obsession with Pinot Noir,” culminating in making his own wine. The Loring Pinot Noir Rosella’s Vineyard 2006 ($50) is wonderfully structured with smoky black cherry and red berry notes along with a pleasant earthiness and mild oak. Darker with a more Burgundian profile of intense blackberry, candy-apple and earthy cherry flavors, the silky Loring Pinot Noir Gary’s Vineyard 2006 ($50) is also delightful.
From the same AVA is the well-made Siduri Pinot Noir Santa Lucia Highlands 2006 ($32), with blueberry and black fruit notes on firm background of spicy oak and anise. The value-priced Castle Rock Pinot Noir Monterey County 2006 ($12) has candied plum and black fruit flavors and mild toasty oak at the end.
Some well-made wines from Santa Barbara County are the berry and plum flavored Alma Rosa La Encantada Vineyard 2006 ($48) and the Alma Rosa Sta. Rita Hills 2006 ($35) that has beautiful dark fruit, sage and licorice notes. The gorgeously fragrant Babcock Sta. Rita Hills Grand Cuvee 2006 ($40) is complex and elegant, with flavors of black cherry, earth and red berry.
Oregon Pinot Noirs continue to impress especially those from the Willamette Valley such as the Elk Grove Pinot Noir Willamette Valley 2006 ($29), with bright blackberry, red currant and meaty cherry flavors, and the Siduri Pinot Noir Willamette Valley 2006 ($19), with crisp cherry and raspberry notes along with a touch of pepper. A perennial favorite is the Willamette Valley Pinot Noir Whole Cluster Fermented 2006 ($18) that is lighter in style, but still loaded with red and blackberry, plum and cola flavors. The floral Chehalem Pinot Noir Willamette Valley 3 Vineyard 2006 ($32) is a real treat with blueberry and strawberry flavors on an earthy but elegant frame. The winemaker at Torii Mor hails from Burgundy so it is no surprise that the smooth Torii Mor Willamette Valley Deux Verres Reserve 2006 ($45) is rich and full bodied, with dark cherry, black plum and chocolate flavors followed by a long soft finish.