Oregon has waited 40 years for the 2008 vintage, and editor at large Harvey Steiman made it clear that the wait was worth it. “They have finally made the wines they have always wanted to make,” he said, before letting the seminar audience in on a little secret: He is giving the vintage a perfect 100-point score.
While Willamette Valley has long been known for quality, it faces a range of challenges, from cool growing seasons that hinder ripening to occasional warm temperatures that rob the wines of finesse, crispness and minerality to the general headaches of early rains in the fall. But 2008 was nearly perfect, with a long, moderate growing season. “It shows what can happen in Oregon when everything comes out right,” Steiman said.
To demonstrate the remarkable quality, eight wineries poured 2008 Pinot Noirs that showed the full range of styles and character that make Willamette Valley and the vintage so distinctive. The tasting began with the more delicate wines, such as Adelsheim Bryan Creek Vineyard and Brick House Ribbon Ridge and finished with stylistically powerful wines like Bergström De Lancellotti Vineyard and Archery Summit Red Hills Estate.
Ultimately it was difficult to characterize the Willamette Valley wines overall as anything but Oregon Pinot Noir—not as ripe and forceful as California’s Pinots but not Burgundy either. As Doug Tunnell of Brick House told the audience, the 2008s “have both elegance and power” and “a touch of the Old World.”
This was the sort of unique Oregon vintage that ultimately turned some winemakers into poets. “It was one of those vintages,” Anna Matzinger of Archery Summit said as the seminar drew to a close, “where the universe conspired with the vines and made the winemaker superfluous.”
Adelsheim winemaker David Paige
Adelsheim Pinot Noir Chehalem Mountains Bryan Creek Vineyard 2008 (NYR)
Brick House owner and winemaker Doug Tunnell
Brick House Pinot Noir Ribbon Ridge Evelyn’s 2008 (NYR)
Penner-Ash co-founder and winemaker Lynn Penner-Ash
Penner-Ash Pinot Noir Willamette Valley Pas De Nom 2008 (95, $100)
Evening Land owner Mark Tarlov
Evening Land Pinot Noir Eola-Amity Hills Seven Springs Vineyard La Source 2008 (NYR)
Ken Wright Cellars owner and winemaker Ken Wright
Ken Wright Pinot Noir Yamhill-Carlton District Savoya Vineyard 2008 (NYR)
Domaine Serene co-owner Grace Evenstad
Domaine Serene Pinot Noir Dundee Hills Grace Vineyard 2008 (NYR)
Bergström Winery general manager and winemaker Josh Bergström
Bergström Pinot Noir Willamette Valley De Lancellotti Vineyard 2008 (94, $60)
Archery Summit winemaker Anna Matzinger
Archery Summit Pinot Noir Dundee Hills Red Hills Estate 2008 (NYR)
NYR: Not yet rated. Look for our upcoming tasting report on Oregon Pinot Noir for more reviews.
Top row, from left: David Paige, Doug Tunnell, Mark Tarlov, Josh Bergstrom. Bottom row, from left: Ken Wright, Lynn Penner-Ash, Harvey Steiman, Grace Evenstad, Anna Matzinger.
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