The second half of this decade can give Oregon Pinot Noir drinkers whiplash, the vintages are so different. Late heat made the 2006s ripe, sometimes overly so. A cool summer and warm, rain-free autumn made 2008 near-perfect, but the wines are yet to reach us. The vintage you are most likely to see is 2007, and the picture is not pretty.
Untimely rain made 2007 difficult. It produced mostly light wines. The good reds are delicate, refined and charming. Too many, however, are weak, insipid, lacking in character and short on the finish.
Tasting through several dozen 2007s this past week brought my total number of Pinots rated from that vintage now to 115. The vintage is a minefield. Some producers made delicious wines with more finesse than usual, if less depth. But I am dismayed by how many booted this one, even those who in some vintages rank among the leaders.
Most producers say they are happy with 2007. They tell me they like the delicacy, the finesse, the relatively low alcohol levels (generally 12.5 percent to 13.5 percent, as opposed to 14 to 15 percent, or more, in 2006).
Typical is this e-mail from Bernie Lacroute, owner of WillaKenzie Estate: “2007 was a cool year. The rains came in early, in fact very much toward the beginning of harvest, and over 5 inches of rain accumulated during the harvest period. Sounds like Burgundy!” Sounds like a disaster to be averted to me.
He goes on to say that his 2007 wines are “Burgundian” in style with higher levels of acidity, lower levels of alcohol and finer tannins. He finds the wines complex, delicate, with lots of fruit and floral tones.
And then comes the key: “The challenge in 2007, unlike 2006, was to ripen the fruit!”
Those who met the challenge bottled some fine stuff. Among 2007s I reviewed earlier (and have been published), Beaux Frères Ribbon Ridge The Beaux Frères Vineyard (91, $80) is typical of the good ones: “Light and fragrant, with a silky core of raspberry and strawberry fruit, shaded with loamy earth and green olive notes.” So is Brick House Les Dijonnais (91, $39): “Light in color and texture, feeling silky and tasting of pomegranate, currant and plum, with hints of loamy earth and rose petal on the polished finish.”
Across the board, fruit flavors tend toward strawberry and raspberry, even in areas that usually get more blackberry, currant and cherry character. Most wines show high acidity and low tannins. They’re charming and pleasing to drink, but are they worth $40, $50 or $80? For those who relish that delicacy, the answer will be yes. For those looking for more, maybe not.
On the other hand, if you want delicacy and charm, some of the relatively low-priced, high-volume 2007s offer similar character for much less. For example, Siduri’s entry-level Pinot Noir Willamette Valley (90, $19) is “light and juicy, with a nice interplay of delicate red fruits and underlying ripe plum and currant, lingering well on the harmonious finish. Impressive for its delicacy without veering into simplicity.” Erath Pinot Noir Willamette Valley 2007 (88, $19): “Light and crisp, with currant and floral aromas and flavors that pick up a bit more steam as they develop in the mouth, lingering nicely.”
I might be underestimating some of those lighter styles. They might develop in the bottle into something really spectacular. My money, though, is waiting for those 2008s.
Michael Bonanno — CT — September 8, 2009 6:46pm ET
Matthew Slywka — Seymour, CT — September 8, 2009 9:17pm ET
Michael Haley — Eugene, OR — September 9, 2009 1:08am ET
Harvey Steiman — San Francisco, CA — September 9, 2009 1:35am ET
Harvey Steiman — San Francisco, CA — September 9, 2009 1:36am ET
Matthew Slywka — Seymour, CT — September 9, 2009 12:51pm ET
Rob Lentini — Alexandria, Virginia — September 9, 2009 4:18pm ET
Matthew Slywka — Seymour, CT — September 9, 2009 9:32pm ET
Michael Haley — Eugene, OR — September 9, 2009 11:05pm ET
Sandy Fitzgerald — Centennial, CO — September 10, 2009 2:39pm ET
Harvey Steiman — San Francisco, CA — September 10, 2009 3:18pm ET
Tom Thornton — Austin, TX — October 31, 2009 1:40pm ET
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