Two things struck me as I tasted through a recent batch of 2008 Oregon Pinot Noirs. One, it’s shaping up as one great vintage, as good I had hoped. Two, the style runs so counter to the prevailing preferences for New World Pinot Noir that I fear a significant number of wine drinkers will try them and say, “What’s the big deal?”
What distinguishes this vintage for me, based on what I tasted out of barrel last year and on the 60 or so 2008s that have passed through my tasting room for blind reviews, is how transparent, pure and clear these wines can be. They do that trick peculiar to Pinot Noir, balancing a wide array of flavors on a relatively fragile frame. I liken it to a dense cloud hovering over the palate rather than blanketing it.
For me, this makes for great wine because it can deliver complexity, harmony and depth without great weight. Most of the 2008s are labeled with alcohol levels in the low- to mid-13s. They feel light.
And that’s why I wonder whether these wines might turn off wine drinkers accustomed to higher alcohols, more density and plusher textures. Those are the crowd-pleasing attributes of hotter vintages.
At a tasting a couple of weeks ago organized by an Oregon group promoting environmentally responsible winegrowing, the wines on the table included five 2008 Pinots. I thought they showed exactly what’s so great about the vintage. A long, cool, dry, sunny October allowed the vines to produce ripe fruit without developing a lot of sugar. As a result, the wines had a transparency that allowed the character of the site to show through clearly.
The sommelier at the restaurant saw it differently. To him, the wines seemed “tight,” and “undeveloped,” probably because they were not as plush and generous as many of the better California examples. I wonder if that will be the wide perception as fans of Oregon Pinots pop corks and twist off caps. Will the wines divide wine drinkers into pro and anti 2008 camps?
I am in Oregon this week to taste through as many barrels of 2009 as I can. My visits to three wineries constitute too small a sample to be able to generalize, but the early indications are that the 2009s got significantly riper than the 2008s did. But will they have that magic transparency? That’s what I am here to find out.
Jordan Horoschak — Houston, TX — April 20, 2010 3:54pm ET
Willamette Valley Vineyards — Turner, OR — April 20, 2010 6:33pm ET
Athena Pappas — Porland, OR — April 20, 2010 7:23pm ET
Jordan Horoschak — Houston, TX — April 20, 2010 8:43pm ET
Karl Mark — Geneva, IL. — April 21, 2010 9:01am ET
Eric P Perramond — Colorado Springs, CO — April 21, 2010 11:18am ET
Jon Burdick — U.S.A. — April 21, 2010 6:19pm ET
Charles J Stanton — Eugene, OR — April 21, 2010 7:45pm ET
Michael Bonanno — CT — April 22, 2010 4:20am ET
David A Zajac — Akron, OH — April 22, 2010 11:01am ET
Robert Allison — Denver, CO — June 16, 2010 4:03pm ET
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