Kicking off a Wine Experience tasting of four top Pinot Noirs from Willamette Valley’s classic-rated 2019 vintage, winemaker Josh Bergström had a very important question: When Tyrannosaurus rex roamed the Wyoming jungles, what do you think roamed Oregon? “It’s a bit of a trick question,” jested Bergström. “Oregon was at the bottom of the ocean.”
Oregon’s landscape is the product of an eon-long collision between two tectonic plates; that subduction is the genesis of Oregon’s bucolic rolling hills and its Cascade Mountain range. “Willamette Valley Pinot Noir is linked inextricably to its geography, geology and landscape,” said Bergström.
Joining Bergstöm on stage were Evening Land’s Sashi Moorman, Domaine Drouhin’s Véronique Boss-Drouhin, Zena Crown’s Shane Moore and Wine Spectator senior editor Tim Fish, who moderated the panel.
Bergström described his 2019 Bergström Vineyard Pinot Noir Dundee Hills (94 points, $110) as a blend of power and elegance, with a sanguine texture typical of wines from the red clay soils of the Dundee Hills AVA.
The Domaine Drouhin Pinot Noir Dundee Hills Laurène 2019 (93, $75) offered a look at how the Drouhin family’s Burgundy roots are reflected at their Oregon winery. Boss-Drouhin explained that they follow a process created by Burgundian monks that includes a strict selection of vineyard blocks for the final blend. “That’s how the monks defined the terroir, and so we are doing that, but a little faster, because they didn’t have the data and technology we have today.”
“We are a dynamic and adventurous community,” said Moorman of the Eola-Amity Hills AVA, “keeping our minds open to [expanding the] scope and breadth of our wine region.” The Evening Land Pinot Noir Eola-Amity Hills La Source Seven Springs Estate 2019 (95, $75) comes from the top of the vineyard, where soils are thin and cooling winds keep yields low. “The La Source cuvée marries strength with delicacy,” Moorman said, “a hallmark for me of Oregon Pinot Noir.”
After a few unusually warm vintages, Zena Crown winemaker Shane Moore and others wondered if Oregon’s more classic, cooler vintages were a thing of the past. Then 2019 arrived. “[The 2019s have] great structure. They’re beautiful and elegant,” said Moore. “They remind me a little bit of a ballerina.” The Zena Crown Pinot Noir Eola-Amity Hills Slope 2019 (93, $100), however, is a bit more brooding in style. “It’s dark and earthy. It’s what I want to drink when it’s been raining five straight months in Oregon, and I just want to melt into the couch.”