I like to tell people that when it comes to reviewing wines, my tasting notes are the least important part of the wine review. As you know, I like to focus on story: the people, places, and history behind a wine.
But sometimes, I get the opportunity to taste a lot of really damn good wine, and I can't simply do individual reviews of all the wines because I haven't got the time. So on rare occasions, I write a little report like this one.
If you recall from last week and the prior weekend, I spent a couple of days at the International Pinot Noir Celebration in Oregon's Willamette Valley. This idyllic little festival is hard to beat when it comes to a weekend wine experience. In addition to the structured seminars, winery tours, and al fresco tastings, attendees get treated to some really fantastic sit down meals, most of which take place out on lawns and in the shadows of some majestic oak trees.
And at these meals, the wines flow freely. Carried from their secret stashes deep in the backs of refrigerated trucks by snappily dressed sommeliers, bottles of Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, Champagne, and of course, Burgundy. Occasionally, these wines are also older vintages.
But the older vintages really come out at the penultimate and most popular event of the weekend, the Salmon Bake dinner, where in addition to the normal flow of wine, winemakers and collectors break out some amazing bottles from their cellars to share with friends, family, and random strangers (like me). It's enough to make a wine geek weak in the knees.
So, apologies for the litany of tasting notes, yes they're boring, but some of my readers have been begging for these.
NV Schloss Gobelsburg Brut Reserve Sparkling Wine, Austria
Bright gold in the glass with medium-fine bubbles, this wine smells of tart apples and raw quince. In the mouth it is crisp and tart with bright apple and cooked quince flavors with a hint of crushed stones. Score: between 8.5 and 9.
NV Rene Mure Cremant D'Alsace Sparkling Wine, Alsace, France
Pale gold in the glass with fine bubbles, this wine has a stony, mineral nose with bits of lemon peeking through. In the mouth it is crisp and zesty with lemon juice and warm sourdough bread flavors that linger through the finish. Score: around 8.5.
2001 Soter Vineyards Brut Rosée Sparkling Wine, Willamette Valley, Oregon
Pale salmon colored in the glass with medium-fine bubbles, this wine smells beautifully of hibiscus, rosehips, and a crystalline minerality that is quite arresting. In the mouth it is tart with rosehips and that same mineral quality, that gives it a glassy, smooth quality. Very tasty. Poured out of magnum. Score: around 9
2003 Soter Vineyards Brut Rosé Sparkling Wine, Willamette Valley, Oregon
Pale salmon in color with fine bubbles, this wine has a crisp nose of orange peel, strawberries, and hibiscus aromas. In the mouth it is bright and juicy with cranberry, orange peel, hibiscus, pink grapefruit juicyness, and a nice refreshing kumquat note on the long finish. Score: around 9
2005 Soter Vineyards Brut Rosé Sparkling Wine, Willamette Valley, Oregon
Pale, baby pink in the glass with a hint of orange to its medium fine bubbles, this wine has an almost savory nose, with a creamy concoction of meaty floral aromas that is difficult to describe. In the mouth the wine is juicy with bright strawberry and raspberry fruit, with strong hibiscus and rose qualities to the wine as it finishes crispy and beautiful. A lovely example of the form. Score: between 9 and 9.5.
1997 Soter Vineyards Blanc de Blancs Sparkling Wine, Willamette Valley, Oregon
Pale gold in the glass with medium bubbles, this wine has a nose of toasted soudough bread with hints of set stone and lemon curd. In the mouth it is smooth with crisp apple and pear flavors with hints of yeastiness. This wine was the very first wine Tony Soter made in Oregon. It was held on the lees for 10 years and disgorged two years ago on the 10th anniversary of his marriage. Score: between 8.5 and 9.
2001 Cedric Bouchard Champagne Blanc de Noirs Brut "Inflorescence," Champagne, France
Palest gold in the glass with incredibly fine bubbles, this wine smells of warm brioche and golden apple skin. In the mouth it is wonderfully yeasty with silky smooth mousse, gorgeous lemon and raw quince fruit, and a long satisfying finish. Bouchard says "I hate bubbles, so I put in as few as possible and make them really small." These are indeed fine bubbles. 1200 cases made. Score: between 9 and 9.5.
2006 Elk Cove "La Boheme" Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, Oregon
Light garnet in the glass, this wine has a beautifully floral nose of cranberry and raspberry fruit aromas. In the mouth it is wonderfully balanced with great acidity and a core of cranberry and black cherry fruit that has a nice purity to it, plus a little earthy soul. Goes down quite easy and begs for more. Score: between 9 and 9.5.
2008 Charles Audoin Marsannay Rosé, Burgundy, France
Pale rose pink in color, this wine has a crisp nose of rosehips and wet slate aromas. In the mouth it is tart and lean with flavors of orange peel and wet granite. Nicely balanced and quite taut. Score: around 9.
2006 Domaine Drouhin Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, Oregon
Bright ruby in the glass, this wine smells of spicy, juicy cranberry. In the mouth it has a beautiful texture and good acidity, with primary flavors of cranberry and raspberry and hints of green herbs on the finish. Score: around 9.
2001 Lemelson "Jerome Reserve" Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, Oregon
Cloudy ruby in the glass with noticeable sediment, this wine smells of red apple skin and freshly cut cedar. In the mouth it is gorgeously textured with new velvet and ethereal flavors of red apple skin, raspberry, and dried redcurrants, all of which linger in a long finish. Beautiful, and I would say at its peak. Score: between 9 and 9.5.
2002 Panther Creek "Freedom Hill Vineyard" Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, Oregon
Medium ruby in color, this wine has a spicy nose of mixed red fruits -- cranberry, and raspberry predominantly -- with hints of mintiness. On the palate the wine is soft and smooth with flavors of cranberry and what the French call garrigue -- a heady mix of fresh aromatic herbs from Provence. Score: around 9.
2007 Anne Amie Prismé White Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, Oregon
Pale gold in color, this wine has a sexy nose of Ranier cherries and yellow plums. In the mouth it offers mind-bending flavors of cherry, pears, and guava, with a nice mineral undertone and great acidity. Yes, this is a white wine made from Pinot Noir, and I want to take it to bed. Score: between 9 and 9.5.
1997 Bethel Heights "Flat Block Reserve" Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, Oregon
Light ruby in color, this wine smells of red apple skin and redcurrants. In the mouth it is beautifully satin smooth with flavors of raspberries and red apple skin and a lovely forest floor quality that lingers in a long finish. Score: around 9.
1999 Domaine Drouhin Salud Auction Barrel Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, Oregon
Medium garnet in the glass with incredible depth and color for being 10 years old, this wine has a gorgeously pure nose of red apple skin and floral aromas. In the mouth it is fantastically pure, bright, and juicy with raspberry, cedar, and red apple skin flavors that are expansive and rich, and linger for a long time. Quite possibly the best Oregon Pinot Noir I have ever had. This is a special bottling, made from a special barrel that is sold every year at the Salud! Auction. Not easy to get ahold of, but if you ever see a bottle grab it and don't let go. Score: around 9.5.
1999 Domain Rene Engel Clos Vougeot Grand Cru, Côte de Nuits, Burgundy, France
Medium garnet with an orangey brick color at the rim, this wine has a smoky, meaty nose that reminds me of breakfast sausages. In the mouth it displays tannins that are still quite firm, melded with flavors of wet wood. The fruit, borne on a silky, almost powdery texture gives redcurrant, and red apple skin, and a nice bit of river mud on the finish. Score: between 9 and 9.5
1998 Domaine Drouhin "Salud Auction Barrel" Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, Oregon
Medium garnet in color with no sign of age, this wine has a savory, umami nose that is a mix of cranberry, black olive, and miso paste aromas. In the mouth it offers faint tannins and nice acid with flavors of raspberry and red apple skin that morph to tart redcurrant and pine duff in the finish. This is a special bottling, made from a special barrel that is sold every year at the Salud! Auction. Score: around 9.
1995 Domaine Joseph Drouhin Clos Vougeot Grand Cru, Côte de Nuits, Burgundy, France
Medium blood/brick red in the glass, this wine smells of smoked meats stuffed with fresh raspberries. In the mouth it is incredibly juicy with bright raspberry fruit tinged with wet wood and river mud. Redcurrants and apple skin flavors add high notes to a wonderfully complex, intricately textured experience that I wanted to prolong indefinitely. Impossible to spit out. Score: around 9.5.
1996 Domaine Joseph Drouhin Grands Echezeaux, Côte de Nuits, Burgundy, France
Medium blood/brick red in the glass, this wine smells of orange peels, smoked meats, and miso paste. In the mouth it has drying tannins, and a core of raspberry and cedar flavors that incorporate a black tea element as the wine finishes long. Somewhat austere and compressed. Poured out of magnum. Score: around 9.
1993 Eyrie Reserve Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, Oregon
Light brownish red in the glass, this wine smells of baked beans, cinnamon and other mulling spices. In the mouth it tastes of raspberry and redwood bark, with a nice smoky, meaty quality to the finish. Past its prime, at least this bottle, but still a treat, if only for the bit of early Oregon wine history that it is. Score: between 8.5 and 9.
1990 Eyrie Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, Oregon
Palest ruby in color with a brick red rim, this wine smells of tangerines and red apple skin. In the mouth it offers an arresting combination of incredible texture and a sort of weightless red apple skin flavor -- that is more an aroma than flavor, and which is suffused by a sort of aromatic sweetness. Over 19 years, this wine has transformed into something quite... otherworldly, and I really like it. Score: around 9.
1988 Eyrie Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, Oregon
Pale brick red in color, this wine smells of dried apples and red apple skin with hints of raspberry fruit underneath. In the mouth it has a beautiful sweetness that is married to a baby-skin softness on the palate. Flavors of red apple skin and cedar predominate, even through the airy finish. This wine is in quite good shape, and the acids show it has a few years more on it. Score: around 9.
1989 Eyrie Reserve Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, Oregon
Pale brick red in the glass, this wine has a meaty, spicy nose with raspberry aromas. On the palate the wine is surprisingly dense and rich with raspberry, redcurrant, and a pomegranate note that lingers with a black pepper spiciness into the finish. Great acids mean this one is still going. Outstanding wine. Score: between 9 and 9.5.
1992 Eyrie Pinot Meunier, Willamette Valley, Oregon
Pale orange-red in color, this wine smells of raspberries and sweet, almost candied apples. In the mouth it is surprisingly tannic, with tart raspberry, orange pith, and redwood plank flavors that are somewhat taut and dry. A bit austere, but a treat to taste, because this was a rare wine when it was made, and is now almost extinct. Score: around 8.5.
1998 Domaine Comte Georges de Vogüé Chambolle-Musigny, Côte de Nuits, Burgundy, France
Medium garnet in color, this wine has a nose of salami and dried red fruits. In the mouth it offers aggressive, grippy tannins that wrap around raspberry fruit and a earthy, mineral aspect that speaks of great complexity to come. Or not. Despite being 11 years old this wine is wound tight, and either needs some serious air, or another 20 years in the bottle. It's possible to see hints of greatness here, though. Score: around 9.
2000 Dujac Fils et Père Gevrey-Chambertin, Côte de Nuits, Burgundy, France
Pale ruby in color, this wine has a sweet rasberry nose that has a remarkable element of sweet carrot aromas in it. In the mouth it is bright, almost crystalline, with wonderful acidity and bright, juicy flavors of raspberry fruit that linger into a nice finish that has bits of green herbs and mineral flavors. Score: between 9 and 9.5.
2007 Shea Vineyards "East Hill" Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, Oregon
Medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of cedar, wet dirt and fresh cranberries. In the mouth it is bright with cherry and cranberry fruit, hints of spices, and a nice long finish that echoes some of the wet dirt of the nose. Score: between 8.5 and 9.
2006 LIOCO "Klimt Vineyard" Pinot Noir, Anderson Valley, California
Light to medium ruby in color, this wine has a plummy, cranberry fruit set of aromas on the nose. On the palate the wine is quite floral in quality, with great acidity and a core of cherry fruit rimmed by hints of wet wood and sandalwood incense. Nice. Score: around 9.
2007 Heinrich Pinot Noir, Burgenland, Austria
Light ruby in color, this wine has a compelling nose of floral, redcurrant, and raspberry aromas. In the mouth it is a wash of redcurrant and raspberry fruit, buoyed up by excellent acidity on a silky texture, and a nice earthy/mineral undercurrent that never in a million years would have allowed me to guess this was anything other than Burgundy. Definitely the best Pinot Noir from Austria I've ever had. Score: around 9.
1973 Eyrie Chardonnay, Willamette Valley, Oregon
Cloudy gold in color, this wine has a nutty nose of pomelo zest and hazelnut aromas. In the mouth it is silky, with juicy bright flavors of lemon curd, minerals, and old parchment. Amazingly alive for its age (given that it is older than I) this wine left me seriously impressed at what David Lett was doing 30 years ago in Oregon. Score: between 9 and 9.5.
2006 Michele & Patrice Rion Nuits St. Georges 1er Cru Les Terres Blanches, Côte de Nuits, Burgundy
Palest yellow gold in the glass, this wine has a honeyed aroma of lemon zest and pastry cream. In the mouth it is gorgeously bright and juicy with flavors of lemon juice and pink grapefruit sprung electric tension with great acidity and a long lingering finish. Score: betwen 9 and 9.5.
2004 Domaine d'Ardhuy Savigny-lès-Beaune 1er Cru Les Peuillets, Côte de Beaune, Burgundy, France
Light to medium garnet in color, this wine smells of the deep dark earth -- wet dirt and redwood bark on a damp night. In the mouth it offers a fantastic rush of aromatic green herbs welded to a core of raspberry and rooibos fruit that lingers airily into a long finish. Lovely. Score: between 9 and 9.5.
2006 Domaine Philippe et Vincent Lécheneaut Morey St. Denis, Côte de Nuits, Burgundy, France
Bright, light garnet in color, this wine has an incredibly perfumed nose of cedar, cranberry fruit, and fresh violets. In the mouth it is a raspberry explosion of juicy fruit electrified by perfect acidity, a crystalline mineral undertone, and enough deep resonance of earth and herbs in the background to make me swoon. Fantastic. Score: around 9.5.
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