Category Archives: USA – Oregon

Naumes Family Vineyards, Rouge Valley (Oregon) Viognier 2018

($30):  The Viognier grape is tough to translate properly into a wine.  Ripeness is necessary to release its inherent floral character, but over-ripeness results in a heavy wine.  Naumes strikes the balance. Lovely floral apricot aromas predict the stone fruit flavors that follow.  In a less well-crafted version, those stone fruit flavors would be heavy.  In this one, they’re bright, despite the 14.5% stated alcohol.
92 Michael Apstein Oct 13, 2020

Naumes Family Vineyards, Rouge Valley (Oregon) “Triolet” 2017

($40):  The blend, Barbera (60%) and Malbec, is unique.  I know of no other winery producing it.  The name, Triolet, which is a type of poem, according to the dictionary, is equally unique.  Corey Shultz, the winery director, says the name is to honor the Naumes Family’s triplets and that in subsequent vintages there will be third grape in the blend.  Initially this intriguing blend was flat, but within 30 minutes in the glass, the wine blossomed.  The more assertive Malbec adds muscle to Barbera’s charm, resulting in more power and less finesse.  But, very much in the Naumes style, the wine is balanced and not overblown.  It’s a trade-off.  Those who prefer heft in their wines will prefer the Triolet.  Consumers looking for a more nimble and spritely wine will embrace their straight Barbera.
92 Michael Apstein Oct 13, 2020

Naumes Family Vineyards, Rouge Valley (Oregon) Pinot Noir 2017

($40):  Captivating herbal notes are immediately apparent in the nose and later on the palate. A blend of several clones of Pinot Noir, this is a delicate and airy example of the varietal, displaying a wondrous mixture of savory and fruity flavors. Its focus is on elegance, not power or concentration. A perfect choice for grilled salmon.
92 Michael Apstein Oct 13, 2020

Naumes Family Vineyards, Rouge Valley (Oregon) Syrah 2017

($35):  This big, bold Syrah has beautiful balance and bright acidity that keeps it fresh and lively.  It conveys a splendid combination of savory, almost bacon fat-like nuances, spicy black pepper notes, and dark fruitiness. Though youthful and forceful, it is not overdone or boisterous.  Instead, there’s an appealing elegance to accompany all that muscle.
93 Michael Apstein Oct 13, 2020

Naumes Family Vineyards, Rouge Valley (Oregon) Tempranillo 2017

($30):  As much as I liked Naumes 2016 Tempranillo, their 2017 struck me as even better.  Its firmness and minerality presents a great contrast to the fleshy and fruitier Malbec.  It is structured without being aggressive or hard.  Its stature is apparent in the long and attractive hint of bitterness in the finish.  With air, its focus on minerality rather than fruitiness becomes more apparent. You could sip the Malbec by itself.   This serious Tempranillo needs a grilled steak.
94 Michael Apstein Oct 13, 2020

A Rogue in Oregon

One definition of rogue is “something out of the ordinary.”  It is fitting, then, that the Naumes Family Winery is located in Oregon’s Rogue Valley, because they certainly do something out of the ordinary.  Ordinary, in terms of Oregon wine, is pretty clear: superb Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, and notable Pinot Gris.  While Naumes produces Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Gris, they also produce out of the ordinary wines, both in varietal composition—Barbera, Grenache, Syrah, Malbec, Mourvèdre, Viognier, Tempranillo—and most importantly, in quality.

The Rogue Valley, located in southern Oregon, bordering California, is named for the river that runs through it.  (French fur traders supposedly named it La Rivière aux Coquin [rogue] because they regarded the native tribes located there as coquins.)  Although the Willamette Valley is currently Oregon’s best-known wine producing region, the Rogue Valley was home to Oregon’s first official winery, Valley View Winery, established in 1873 by Peter Britt, according to the Oregon Wine Board.

The east-west orientation of the river and the surrounding valleys could explain the diversity of plantings because cooling Pacific breezes in the western-most part of the appellation allow varieties that prefer cooler climates, such as Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, to thrive.  The warmer and drier environment in the eastern areas are well-suited for varieties that need warmer conditions to achieve full ripeness.  But that broad generalization doesn’t explain the plethora of varieties of grapes Naumes Family Winery grows and wines it produces.   The varying elevations of the valleys’ hillsides also give growers flexibility for adopting plantings to local climatic conditions.

Corey Schultz, Naumes’ Winery Director, explains that it not as simple as the east-west orientation suggests.  They’ve been able to plant new varieties, Malbec, Barbera, Mourvèdre, Syrah, Viognier, Tempranillo, in addition to their existing ones, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Grenache and Pinot Gris, all within a 15-mile radius because of the variation of elevations, temperatures, and wind flow patterns, according to Schultz.  As an example, he told me that one day in August the temperature on the valley floor hit 106ºF while at the same time it was 64ºF in the vineyards on the slopes.

Naumes Family Winery Syrah 2017 ($35):  This big, bold Syrah has beautiful balance and bright acidity that keeps it fresh and lively.  It conveys a splendid combination of savory, almost bacon fat-like nuances, spicy black pepper notes, and dark fruitiness. Though youthful and forceful, it is not overdone or boisterous.  Instead, there’s an appealing elegance to accompany all that muscle.  93

Naumes Family Winery Malbec 2017 ($35):  Full disclosure: Malbec is not my favorite wine because too often it is just a big monotonic red wine.  So, I was shocked when I tasted this one.  There’s lots going on—fruit, to be sure, but smoke-y and earth-y nuances peek out as well.  Uplifting acidity keeps you coming back for more. Glossy tannins are especially appealing and allow you to enjoy it now.  93

Naumes Family Winery Tempranillo 2017 ($30):  As much as I liked their 2016 Tempranillo, their 2017 struck me as even better.  Its firmness and minerality presents a great contrast to the fleshy and fruitier Malbec.  It’s structured without being aggressive or hard.  Its stature is apparent in the long and attractive hint of bitterness in the finish.  With air, its focus on minerality rather than fruitiness becomes more apparent. You could sip the Malbec by itself.   This serious Tempranillo needs a grilled steak.  94

Naumes Family Winery, “Tanto Manta” 2017 ($40):  This fifty-fifty blend of Tempranillo and Grenache marries the two beautifully.  The Tempranillo provides structure and minerals while the Grenache contributes a floral fruitiness.  More approachable than the straight Tempranillo at this stage, it would be a good choice with a hearty pasta dish tonight.  92

Naumes Family Winery, Pinot Noir, 2017 ($40):  Captivating herbal notes are immediately apparent in the nose and later on the palate. A blend of several clones of Pinot Noir, this is a delicate and airy example of the varietal, displaying a wondrous mixture of savory and fruity flavors. Its focus is on elegance, not power or concentration. A perfect choice for grilled salmon.  92

Naumes Family Winery Pinot Noir “Clone 667” 2017 ($40):  I won’t get into the scientific definition of a clone as it relates to grape varieties.  Suffice it to say that in this case it’s a Pinot Noir with unique qualities.  The wine certainly is very different from their blended Pinot Noir, showing more fruit, more concentration and fewer earthy flavors.  In short, those who prefer more muscular Pinot Noir will embrace it.  90

Naumes Family Winery Pinot Noir “Pommard Clone” 2017 ($40):  If the Pinot Noir Clone 667 was the weight-lifter, this one is the ballerina.  Light in color and on the palate, it dances on the palate. It’s a captivating lighter style of Pinot Noir.  If you prefer the Clone 667, you won’t be enthralled by this one and vice-versa.  I’m enthralled by both because it shows that clones matter.  90

Naumes Family Winery Viognier 2018 ($30):  The Viognier grape is tough to translate properly into a wine.  Ripeness is necessary to release its inherent floral character, but over-ripeness results in a heavy wine.  Naumes strikes the balance. Lovely floral apricot aromas predict the stone fruit flavors that follow.  In a less well-crafter version, those stone fruit flavors would be heavy.  In this one, they’re bright, despite the 14.5% stated alcohol.  92
Posted by Michael Apstein at 6:25 PM

October 7, 2020

Naumes Family Vineyards, Rogue Valley (Oregon) Pinot Gris 2018

($25):  Although Pinot Gris and Pinot Grigio are the French and Italian words for the same grape, the name chosen by New World producers usually defines the style of the wine.  Naumes’ rendition, with its subtle hint of pear-like flavors, delivers the fleshy Pinot Gris version.  This is definitely not the innocuous style of Pinot Grigio.  Bright and racy acidity balances its weight.   Some barrel fermentation adds texture without being intrusive or obnoxious.  It’s a great choice for hearty seafood.
92 Michael Apstein May 19, 2020

Naumes Family Vineyards, Rogue Valley (Oregon) “GSM” 2017

($40):  GSM stands for the classic Mediterranean blend:  Grenache (50%); Syrah (33%) and Mourvèdre.  Naumes has fashioned an exquisitely balanced mid-weight wine from these grapes, each of which adds something.  Grenache makes its presence known with lively spice, while Syrah adds power and Mourvèdre savory nuances.  It’s a ripe wine, yet graceful and harmonious.  A subtle hint of bitterness in the finish adds to its appeal.  It’s a great choice to accompany meat on the grill this summer.
94 Michael Apstein May 12, 2020

Naumes Family Vineyards, Rogue Valley (Oregon) Barbera 2017

($35):  Plantings of Barbera in Oregon, let alone in the Rogue Valley, must be miniscule.  The 2018 Oregon Vineyard and Winery Report doesn’t even mention the grape in their detailed statistics.  Judging from this wine, more wineries will be planting it.  Immediately appealing, this wine combines alluring spice with bright red fruit flavors.  Fresh, juicy acidity keeps this mid-weight wine lively while a supple texture makes it easy to enjoy now.  It’s a charming wine delivering the liveliness of Barbera without a trace of astringency.  Bring on the pasta with a hearty, tomato-based sauce.
94 Michael Apstein May 12, 2020

Siduri Wines, Willamette Valley (Oregon) Pinot Noir 2018

($35):  Siduri, named for the Babylonian goddess of wine, specializes in Pinot Noir, especially single vineyard bottlings.  According to their website they make only single vineyard wines from a total of 20 vineyards throughout California and Oregon.  Fortunately, they have expanded their production and now produce blended wines from three appellations: Willamette Valley in Oregon, plus two from California, specifically, Santa Barbara County, and the Russian River Valley.  These additions to their portfolio are a boon for consumers because each of the wines is easy to recommend and reasonably priced — at least for Pinot Noir.  Plus, if you taste the three side-by-side, it allows you to taste and discern the differences among the AVAs.  Everything except where the grapes are grown is the same: same vintage, same grape, same winemaking team.  So, the only difference is the origin of the grapes.  The verdict, as you will see, is that terroir is alive and well in the USA.  Siduri’s Willamette Valley bottling comes from grapes grown in three AVAs within the valley:  Yamhill-Carlton, Chehalem Mountains, and Eola-Amity.   Racy and juicy, it delivers far more that bright fruitiness.  Indeed, savory notes are clear and balance the red raspberry-like quality.   A welcome hint of bitterness in the finish adds to its appeal.  Less ripe than Siduri’s Russian River Valley or Santa Barbara bottlings, this one shows the understated charm that Oregon’s Willamette Valley delivers.
93 Michael Apstein May 5, 2020

Naumes Family Vineyards, Rogue Valley (Oregon) Grenache 2016

($35):  The Rogue Valley Winegrowers Association’s website tells us that the Rogue Valley, Oregon’s southernmost winegrowing area, has 4,000 acres of vines.  The most important red wines in the warm area are made from Merlot, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Franc, Tempranillo, and Malbec.  You’ll note that Grenache is absent from that list.  Judging from this wine, it should be near the head of the list.  Lively and fruity, but not sweet, this mid-weight wine delivers notes of bright wild strawberries.  The flavors dance on the palate.  There’s real refinement here.  Drink it now with a spicy tomato-based sauce on pasta.
92 Michael Apstein Apr 21, 2020

Naumes Family Vineyards, Rogue Valley (Oregon) Pinot Noir 2016

($40):  The history of the Naumes Family Vineyards seems to confirm the mantra that good wine starts in the vineyard. They’ve been making wine only for a handful of years, but have been farming fruit for 100 years, according to their website.  They must know how to grow grapes.  At the same time, I don’t want to take anything away from their winemaker because to make a Pinot Noir like this from a vineyard that was planted only in 2013 takes real talent.  Far too many New World Pinot Noir examples are solely fruity, lacking complexity.  Not this one.  They’ve managed to combine a delicate cherry-like fruitiness with a subtle, but clear, savory element that gives the wine the all-too-elusive “flavor without weight” character that I prize in Pinot Noir-based wines.  Its character is all the more impressive because the Rogue Valley is the warmest part of Oregon and Pinot Noir usually thrives in cooler climates.  Fine tannins and freshness make it perfect for current consumption.
92 Michael Apstein Apr 21, 2020

Penner-Ash, McMinnville (Oregon) Old Vine Riesling Hyland Vineyard 2017

($35):  Many consumers shy away from Riesling because it comes in a range of sweetness, which is not always apparent from the label.  Penner-Ash uses the scale developed by the International Riesling Foundation on the back label that indicates this wine is “medium dry” on the scale that goes from “dry” (the least sweet) to “sweet” with “medium dry” and “medium sweet” in between.  Basically, a 1 to 4 scale going from dry to sweet.  What’s really important though is the wonderful balance of this Riesling.  There’s terrific ying-yang of a hint of sweetness offset perfectly by a lime-like zing.  There’s a hint of sweetness in the finish, but the overall impression is one of zesty minerals.  It would be a perfect choice as a refreshing aperitif, with full-flavored Asian cuisine or with cheese at the end of a meal.
91 Michael Apstein Mar 31, 2020

Naumes Family Vineyards, Rogue Valley (Oregon) Tempranillo 2016

($30):  Tempranillo in Oregon?  Who knew?  Not I.  But now I do and I will look for more after tasting this one from Naumes Family Vineyards.  Tempranillo, Spain’s signature variety grown in Rioja, Ribera del Duero and Toro, is an early ripening one that does well in southern Oregon, according to producers there.  Naumes’ 2016 is balanced and bright with spice and fruit without too much of anything.  Suave tannins lend support without being intrusive, which means it’s lovely to drink now.  This wine also reminds us that there’s more to Oregon wine than just the Willamette Valley.
92 Michael Apstein Feb 4, 2020

Nicolas-Jay, Willamette Valley (Oregon) Pinot Noir 2017

($65):  Nicolas-Jay, a French-American collaboration that started in 2012, is producing superb Pinot Noir in Oregon.  On the American side is music entrepreneur, Jay Boberg. Bringing the Burgundian perspective to the venture is super star Jean-Nicolas Méo, who currently heads the famed Méo-Camuzet estate in Vosne Romanée.  Their Willamette Valley bottling comes from a variety of vineyards scattered throughout the valley from which they buy grapes.  There’s a winsome Burgundian sensibility to their 2017, which combines lacey red fruit notes with savory ones.  It has the hallmark of what I call “flavor without weight,” which makes Pinot Noir, especially this one, such an alluring wine.  The tannins are very fine, lending support without harshness.  A hint of sweetness in the finish reveals its New World origins.  It would be a perfect choice for the Thanksgiving table.
93 Michael Apstein Nov 26, 2019

Naumes Family Vineyards, Rogue Valley (Oregon) Chardonnay 2016

($30):  The Rogue Valley in southwestern Oregon does not have the cachet — yet — for wine that the Willamette Valley has.  Wines from the Naumes family suggests that will change.  The Naumes family has been growing fruit trees in Oregon for over a hundred years and added grapes and wine only in 2013, according to their website, making them a somewhat new player in the Oregon wine industry.  This Chardonnay and their Viognier show they either have extraordinary beginner’s luck or plenty of talent.  One success might be luck, but two suggests talent.  This is a graceful Chardonnay, delivering fresh apple-like notes enhanced with just the right hint of ripeness.   Bright acidity in the finish makes it a delight to drink now.
92 Michael Apstein Oct 15, 2019

Naumes Family Vineyards, Rogue Valley (Oregon) Viognier 2017

($30):  Viognier is a tough grape to transform into wine.  It needs to ripen adequately to provide its floral dimension, but a little over ripeness brings with it high alcohol and an unbalanced wine.  Despite the stated 14.5-percent alcohol, this one still harnesses delicate floral and peach-like notes both on the nose and the palate.  Enlivening acidity in the finish keeps it fresh and balanced.  Its delicacy is what keeps you coming back for more.
93 Michael Apstein Oct 15, 2019

Naumes Family Vineyards, Rogue Valley (Oregon) Chardonnay 2016

($30):  The Rogue Valley in southwestern Oregon does not have the cachet — yet — for wine that the Willamette Valley has.  Wines from the Naumes family suggests that will change.  The Naumes family has been growing fruit trees in Oregon for over a hundred years and added grapes and wine only in 2013, according to their website, making them a somewhat new player in the Oregon wine industry.  This Chardonnay and their Viognier show they either have extraordinary beginner’s luck or plenty of talent.  One success might be luck, but two suggests talent.  This is a graceful Chardonnay, delivering fresh apple-like notes enhanced with just the right hint of ripeness.   Bright acidity in the finish makes it a delight to drink now.
92 Michael Apstein Oct 8, 2019

Naumes Family Vineyards, Rogue Valley (Oregon) Viognier 2017

($30):  Viognier is a tough grape to transform into wine.  It needs to ripen adequately to provide its floral dimension, but a little over ripeness brings with it high alcohol and an unbalanced wine.  Despite the stated 14.5-percent alcohol, this one still harnesses delicate floral and peach-like notes both on the nose and the palate.  Enlivening acidity in the finish keeps it fresh and balanced.  Its delicacy is what keeps you coming back for more.
93 Michael Apstein Oct 8, 2019

Lingua Franca, Willamette Valley (Oregon) Pinot Noir “Avni” 2016

($39):  Lingua Franca is one of ever-increasing numbers of Oregon wineries that have a French connection.  In this case, Larry Stone, Master Sommelier and wine consultant, purchased a vineyard in 2012 in the Eola-Amity Hills section of the Willamette Valley, originally planning to sell the grapes.  According to their website, Dominque Lafon, a Burgundy superstar, suggested they make wine instead and along with David Honig, Lingua Franca was born. They made the 2016 Avni from a combination of their own fruit and some purchased from neighbors in their not-entirely completed winery.  They clearly overcame whatever the challenges those circumstances posed because the wine is, in a word, delicious.  (And given the prices of domestic Pinot Noir, a bargain.)  Not surprisingly, it has a Burgundian flair to it.  Long and graceful, it is restrained yet mouth-filling with a seamless combination of fruit nuances and herbal savory notes.  I can’t wait to taste future releases from this producer.
93 Michael Apstein Aug 6, 2019

Domaine Drouhin Oregon, Dundee Hills, Willamette Valley (Oregon) Pinot Noir 2015

($45):  The Drouhin family, one of Burgundy’s star producers, made history when they bought land in Oregon’s Willamette Valley and started Domaine Drouhin Oregon there in 1987.  Over three decades later, they remain one of Oregon’s — and America’s — leading producers of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.  As with their Burgundies, delicacy and finesse are the hallmarks of their Oregon wines.  With this one, their non-reserve bottling, they manage an elegant expression of both the fruity and savory sides of Pinot Noir.  The flavors dance on the palate without a trace of heaviness.  Try it with grilled salmon.
92 Michael Apstein Aug 6, 2019

Dusky Goose, Dundee Hills, Willamette Valley (Oregon) Pinot Noir 2016

($65):  John and Linda Carter, both successful in their respective careers — he in business and she in music — had the good sense to hired Lynn Penner-Ash to make their wine.  She was the one who put the Rex Hill Vineyards’ Pinot Noir on the map in the late 1980s and 1990s before establishing Penner-Ash Wine Cellars.  Her talents are clear with Dusky Goose Pinot Noir.  She has fashioned a moderately intense style of Pinot Noir, while still capturing its herbal and savory nuances.  So often robust Pinot Noir wines fall into what I call the “Pinot Syrah” category of jam-y power.  Not this one.  It retains balance and grace.
93 Michael Apstein Aug 6, 2019

Drouhin Oregon, Eola-Amity Hills, Willamette Valley (Oregon) Chardonnay Roserock 2016

($31):  The Drouhin family, the famed Burgundy producer, is doing what comes naturally to Burgundy producers, focusing on the uniqueness of vineyards.  They’ve purchased an additional vineyard in another part of the Willamette Valley and are making distinctive wines there that are different from the ones they produce in the Dundee Hills, showing that terroir is alive and well in Oregon.  Their 2016 Roserock Chardonnay has an immediately appealing plumpness without being fat or heavy.  Expansive in the mouth, it has the Drouhin sense of refinement.  Given the prices of domestic Chardonnay, this one’s a bargain.
92 Michael Apstein Jul 30, 2019

Lingua Franca, Willamette Valley (Oregon) Pinot Noir “Avni” 2016

($39):  Lingua Franca is one of ever-increasing numbers of Oregon wineries that have a French connection.  In this case, Larry Stone, Master Sommelier and wine consultant, purchased a vineyard in 2012 in the Eola-Amity Hills section of the Willamette Valley, originally planning to sell the grapes.  According to their website, Dominque Lafon, a Burgundy superstar, suggested they make wine instead and along with David Honig, Lingua Franca was born. They made the 2016 Avni from a combination of their own fruit and some purchased from neighbors in their not-entirely completed winery.  They clearly overcame whatever the challenges those circumstances posed because the wine is, in a word, delicious.  (And given the prices of domestic Pinot Noir, a bargain.)  Not surprisingly, it has a Burgundian flair to it.  Long and graceful, it is restrained yet mouth-filling with a seamless combination of fruit nuances and herbal savory notes.  I can’t wait to taste future releases from this producer.
93 Michael Apstein Jul 30, 2019

Maysara, McMinnville, Willamette Valley (Oregon) Pinot Noir “Jamsheed” 2012 

($33):  The Momtazi family is not in a rush.  In 1997, they purchased close to 500 acres — an abandoned wheat farm that had been free from chemical fertilizer since the beginning of that decade — and finally starting planting them in earnest two years later.  It took them that long to prepare the earth by plowing and turning the soil repeatedly.  Though not certified biodynamic or organic, by all measures they are both, eschewing the use of chemicals and pesticides.  They use herbal teas to keep insects and disease at bay.  Oh, and they hold back their wines until they think they’re ready.  This 2012 Jamsheed, their current release, is.  Savory and mineral-y, it’s sensational.  A glossy texture and freshness just add to its appeal, which is immediately apparent.
93 Michael Apstein Jul 30, 2019

Maysara, McMinnville, Willamette Valley (Oregon) Pinot Noir “Asha” 2012

($50):  Maysara’s Asha Pinot Noir comes from the same vineyard as the Jamsheed, but since the vineyard is large with multiple soils and numerous clones of Pinot Noir, they have the ability to create different blends.  As enthralled as I was with the Jamsheed, this one is more spell-binding.  The focus is also on the mineral-infused savory aspect of Pinot Noir, rather than its fruitiness.  And the suave texture is similar.  But somehow, the Asha just has an extra dimension.  It’s a brilliant expression of Willamette — really McMinnville — Pinot Noir, and despite the price tag, it’s still a bargain.
95 Michael Apstein Jul 30, 2019

Brittan Vineyards, McMinnville, Willamette Valley (Oregon) Pinot Noir Gestalt Block 2015

($60):  Founded barely 15 years ago, in 2004, by Robert and Ellen Brittan, Brittan Vineyards is a name to remember.  Robert, who was the winemaker and estate manager at Stags’ Leap Winery for 16 years, must be a fast learner because that winery didn’t make Pinot Noir, or if they did, it was not a focus of their production.  Now he makes a bevy of them and my recommendation is to buy whichever of them you can find.  Take this one, for example.  The Gestalt Block faces west, sits on basalt rich land, and is buffeted by winds.  The result, according to Robert, is that the vines suffer and produce less fruit — less than one ton per acre typically.  The 2015 Gestalt Pinot Noir is more mineral-y than fruity with bright, uplifting acidity.  A vigorous wine, it is not heavy, but rather long and graceful.  They’ve captured what I consider the essence of Pinot Noir — flavor without weight.  Given the low yield, there’s only 450 cases, but it is worth the search.
95 Michael Apstein Jul 30, 2019

Domaine Drouhin Oregon, Dundee Hills, Willamette Valley (Oregon) Pinot Noir 2015

($45):  The Drouhin family, one of Burgundy’s star producers, made history when they bought land in Oregon’s Willamette Valley and started Domaine Drouhin Oregon there in 1987.  Over three decades later, they remain one of Oregon’s — and America’s — leading producers of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.  As with their Burgundies, delicacy and finesse are the hallmarks of their Oregon wines.  With this one, their non-reserve bottling, they manage an elegant expression of both the fruity and savory sides of Pinot Noir.  The flavors dance on the palate without a trace of heaviness.  Try it with grilled salmon.
92 Michael Apstein Jul 30, 2019

Dusky Goose, Dundee Hills, Willamette Valley (Oregon) Pinot Noir 2016

($65):  John and Linda Carter, both successful in their respective careers — he in business and she in music — had the good sense to hired Lynn Penner-Ash to make their wine.  She was the one who put the Rex Hill Vineyards’ Pinot Noir on the map in the late 1980s and 1990s before establishing Penner-Ash Wine Cellars.  Her talents are clear with Dusky Goose Pinot Noir.  She has fashioned a moderately intense style of Pinot Noir, while still capturing its herbal and savory nuances.  So often robust Pinot Noir wines fall into what I call the “Pinot Syrah” category of jam-y power.  Not this one.  It retains balance and grace.
93 Michael Apstein Jul 30, 2019

Archery Summit, Willamette Valley (Oregon) Pinot Gris “Vireton” 2015

($22):  Archery Summit, a top Oregon Pinot Noir producer, also makes distinctive Pinot Gris, judging from this one.  It strikes the balance of subtle stone fruit flavors buttressed by vibrant acidity.  They have captured the essence of Pinot Gris without falling into the trap of over ripeness.  An excellent example of less is more approach in winemaking.  Although I’m a fan of Pinot Noir-based wines with salmon, here’s another option for those who insist on a white.
90 Michael Apstein Jan 23, 2018

Domaine Drouhin Oregon, Eola-Amity Hills (Willamette Valley, Oregon) Pinot Noir Roserock Vineyard “Zéphirine” 2014

($60):  Not surprisingly, Domaine Drouhin Oregon is following the Burgundy tradition of terroir: simply put, where the grapes grow influences the taste and character of the wine.  In addition to their “home” vineyard in the Dundee Hills of the Willamette Valley, DDO has acquired an additional vineyard, Roserock, in the Eola-Amity Hills subzone of the Willamette.  The Zéphirine bottling is their reserve Pinot Noir from this new vineyard, analogous to their Laurène bottling from the Dundee Hills.  It’s a slightly bolder wine with more black fruit-like flavors, compared to red fruit emanating from their Dundee Hills Pinot Noir.  At this stage, it’s more structured and muscular, while retaining the Drouhin signature elegance and refinement.  Grilled salmon, please. 92 Michael Apstein Oct 24, 2017

Domaine Drouhin Oregon, Dundee Hills (Willamette Valley, Oregon) Pinot Noir 2014

($42):  The Drouhin family, with their rich traditions and deep roots in Burgundy, made history in Oregon — and quite a stir back in Beaune — by creating Domaine Drouhin Oregon thirty years ago.  Since then, other Burgundy producers have followed, but Drouhin was the first of the French to recognize the extraordinary potential in Oregon for Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.  Drouhin’s Oregon wines have just gotten better and better as the vines have matured, winemaker Véronique Drouhin has gained experience with the wines, and her brother Philippe, the viticulturist, with the vineyards.  This is their “basic” bottling, but in truth, nothing Drouhin does, either in Oregon or in Burgundy is “basic.” It delivers pure fresh fruit flavors and earth tones without being “fruity.”  A pretty wine, the Drouhin signature — a silky texture and refined delicacy — is on display. 92 Michael Apstein Oct 24, 2017

Domaine Drouhin Oregon, Dundee Hills (Willamette Valley, Oregon) Pinot Noir “Laurène” 2013

($70):  The Laurène bottling is Domaine Drouhin Oregon’s (a.k.a. DDO) reserve wine.  As such, it is deeper and more concentrated, but without sacrificing refinement and elegance.  While their “regular” bottling highlights the fruitiness found in Oregon, the Laurène emphasizes the gorgeous earthy leafy aspect of Oregon Pinot Noir.  Finely polished tannins lend support and suggest that this wine will be its best in a few more years.  That said, it’s hard to resist now with grilled King Salmon. 93 Michael Apstein Oct 24, 2017

Patton Valley Vineyard, Willamette Valley (Oregon) Pinot Noir Estate 2013

($34): At a trade tasting, I was impressed by the dramatic differences in Patton Valley Vineyard’s Pinot Noirs expressed depending on the location of the vineyard.  Equally impressive is this one, blended from a variety of vineyard sites.  Restrained, with more of a fruit than herbal focus, it is nicely balanced.  It’s a graceful Pinot Noir.
91 Michael Apstein Jan 3, 2017

Domaine Drouhin Oregon, Eola-Amity Hills (Willamette Valley, Oregon) Chardonnay Roserock Vineyard 2014

($35): Though Drouhin’s Roserock vineyard, their new one in the Eola-Amity Hills AVA, is focused on Pinot Noir, eleven of the 111 planted acres are devoted to Chardonnay.  Laurent Drouhin notes the vineyard is at a higher elevation compared to theirs in the Dundee Hills and describes the soil as pebbly.  The 2014 Roserock Chardonnay, their first commercial vintage, conveys a lacey creaminess that complements a delicate green apple type of fruitiness.  Nicely angular, it would be a good choice for broiled swordfish with a caper butter sauce.
92 Michael Apstein Oct 18, 2016

Domaine Drouhin Oregon, Eola-Amity Hills (Willamette Valley, Oregon) Pinot Noir Roserock Vineyard 2014

($35): Maison Drouhin, the superb Burgundy-based négociant, was the first French firm to invest in Oregon when they purchased vineyards in the Dundee AVA of the Willamette Valley 20+ years ago.  Over the subsequent two decades, they’ve produced a very impressive array of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay from their Dundee vineyards.  They’ve recently expanded by purchasing vineyard land in the Eola-Amity Hills AVA.  So now, in the Burgundy tradition of producing wines that focus on the origin of the grapes, they produce two distinct Pinot Noir, this one and one from Dundee.  In keeping with their Burgundian style, this Roserock Pinot Noir is an elegant combination of fruitiness and herbal flavors.  The lacey Drouhin style comes though in this restrained and nicely structured wine.  Not a concentrated, “big” wine, its charm lies in its “flavor without weight” character.  A big plus — you’d be hard pressed to find a Pinot Noir of this quality at this price, anywhere.
92 Michael Apstein Oct 18, 2016

Nicolas Jay, Willamette Valley (Oregon) Pinot Noir 2014

($65): Full disclosure:  I love the wines from Burgundy’s Domaine Méo-Camuzet, so I could be prejudiced towards any project involving Jean-Nicolas Méo.  That said, it’s hard to imagine not raving about this wine.  Music mogul Jay Boberg and Jean-Nicolas have teamed up to make Pinot Noir in Oregon.  Since Jean Nicolas continues to oversee the harvest at his Burgundy domaine, which occurs at roughly the same time as the harvest in Oregon, they’ve hired Tracy Kendall to help make the wines in Oregon. Jean-Nicolas comes over regularly to consult on viticulture, winemaking and advise on the blend.  This, their first vintage, is a fabulous success.  It has the Burgundian sensibility of what I call “flavor without weight.”  Fruit and herbal flavors intermingle with a hint of spice in this refined wine.  It has the seductive texture characteristic of Méo-Camuzet’s wines.  Whispering, instead of shouting, it conveys a gorgeous message.  Lovely to drink now, with grilled salmon, for example, I suspect it will evolve nicely because of its impeccable harmony.
95 Michael Apstein Aug 9, 2016

Maison L’Envoye, Willamette Valley (Oregon) Pinot Noir “Two Messengers” 2013

($30): Perhaps the “Two Messengers” tag  reflects the collaboration between Burgundy’s Louis-Michael Liger-Belair and the Willamette Valley.  Or perhaps it’s the combination of two complementary flavors — ripe fruit and savory nuances.  Whatever the origin of the name, the wine is easy to recommend because it does bring together the Janus-like essence of Pinot Noir, with bright red fruit notes harmonized with earthy complexity.  A touch of welcome bitterness in the finish prevents it from being just another ripe New World Pinot Noir.  It’s a great roast chicken kind of wine.
90 Michael Apstein Dec 22, 2015

Ponzi Vineyards, Willamette Valley (Oregon) Pinot Noir 2013

($40): Ponzi, one of the pioneers in the Oregon wine industry, continues to show that Pinot Noir is well-suited to Willamette’s climate and soil.  Whereas their Tavola bottling focuses more on bright fruit, the Willamette Valley label has the near magical combination of smoky savory nuances to complement the dark fruit notes.  Supple tannins add to its appealing texture and make it easy to recommend for current consumption, though based on my experience with Ponzi’s Pinot Noir, they develop very nicely with a few years of bottle aging.
93 Michael Apstein Dec 22, 2015

Ponzi Vineyards, Willamette Valley (Oregon) Pinot Noir Reserve 2011

($60): Dick Ponzi was one of the Oregon wine pioneers when he and his wife established their winery and vineyard in 1970.  At the time, scarcely anyone thought Oregon was a place to grow Pinot Noir.  Well, he was correct, as Ponzi’s Pinot Noirs have shown over the years.  The 2011 Reserve continues that fine tradition delivering all you’d want from Pinot Noir — persistence and complexity without weight.  There’s a terrific tension between the sweet aspect of the fruit and the savory nuances that Pinot Noir delivers when done properly.  Not overdone, the plethora of flavors flow gracefully across the palate.  Silky tannins and a refined texture allow you to enjoy it now.
95 Michael Apstein Aug 26, 2014

Domaine Drouhin Oregon, Dundee Hills (Willamette Valley, Oregon) Chardonnay “Arthur” 2012

($32):  The Chardonnay — and the Pinot Noir for that matter — from Domaine Drouhin Oregon, the outpost of one of Burgundy’s leading producers, Maison Joseph Drouhin, both have the elegance and finesse of the mother ship.  The 2012 Arthur, named after winemaker Véronique Drouhin’s son, is paradoxically lush and restrained.  The delicate flavors of apple and citrus sneak up on you — they don’t hit you over the head — but they persist and fill your mouth.  Mouth-cleansing acidity keeps you coming back for more…and more. 92 Michael Apstein Mar 11, 2014

Lange Estate Winery, Dundee Hills (Willamette Valley, Oregon) Pinot Noir Dundee Hills Estate Reserve 2009

($0): Given the limited production of this single vineyard wine, it will be hard to find.  But it’s surely worth the search.  Lange Estate makes impressive wines from purchased fruit, but this one shows the great heights they achieve when they use their own.  This gorgeous Pinot Noir is paradoxically powerful and delicate — the epitome of power and elegance — combining lush fruitiness with appealing earthy savory notes.  For me, it delivers the quintessential “flavor without weight” that is the hallmark of stunning and memorable Pinot Noir.
96 Michael Apstein Oct 1, 2013

Lange Estate Winery, Willamette Valley (Oregon) Reserve 2011

($35): Judging by their Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris, Lange Estate is a name to remember.  This one shows the paradox of Pinot Noir — powerful yet delicate.  Its power is in its persistence and layered flavors of fruit and earthiness.  It delivers the all to elusive savory “not just fruit” element of Pinot Noir.  Serve it with grilled salmon.
92 Michael Apstein Sep 24, 2013

 

Lange Estate Winery, Willamette Valley (Oregon) Pinot Gris 2011

($20): I was not familiar with the wines from Lange Estate Winery until a recent tasting in Boston. That was a mistake I’m glad I’ve now corrected. This perky Pinot Gris has vivacity that harmonizes perfectly with its subtly spiced pear-like flavors. The texture of this mid-weight wine is as engaging as the plethora of flavors that emerge from the glass. A terrific choice for sushi.
91 Michael Apstein Sep 17, 2013

 

Erath, Oregon (United States) Pinot Noir 2011

($19): It’s hard to find drinkable Pinot Noir under $20 a bottle, which is why it was such a pleasant surprise to run across Erath’s.  Drawn from grapes grown all over Oregon, this mid-weight wine emphasizes delicate red fruit nuances.  Hints of spice add complexity and prevent it from seeming like a boring, one-trick-pony of a wine.  This Pinot Noir will work equally well for those who sip red wine as an aperitif as for those who are looking for a match for grilled salmon.
88 Michael Apstein Aug 6, 2013

The Four Graces, Willamette Valley (Oregon) Pinot Gris 2012

($20): The Black family purchased an existing vineyard in the Dundee Hills in 2003, immediately started to transform it and named the winery after their four daughters.  This graceful (no pun intended) Pinot Gris shows the beauty of that varietal and is a classic example of it.  Clean and fresh, it has wonderful depth and a mouth-coating texture.  This is not a light innocuous “Pinot Grigio” style.  Rather, it has substance, character and vivacity.  It took a Gold Medal at the 2013 Critics Challenge International Wine Competition.
92 Michael Apstein Jul 9, 2013

Abacela, Umpqua Valley (Oregon) Tempranillo 2009

($21):  Tempranillo, Spain’s leading premium red grape, is a recent addition to Oregon vineyards.  Judging from this example, growers will be planting more.  Juicy and fruity, Abacela’s has a pleasant tang that gives it structure and prevents it from coming across as jammy.  The tannins are appropriately present–it is after all Tempranillo–which means it better suited for rich meats rather than as a stand alone aperitif type red wine. 89 Michael Apstein Oct 2, 2012

WillaKenzie Estate, Willamette Valley (Oregon) Pinot Noir “Emery” 2008

($45):  WillaKenzie bottles several vineyard designated Pinot Noir each year.  For some wineries, vineyard designation is simply a marketing tool.  Not for WillaKenzie.  Their single vineyard wines are distinctive and unique.  Slightly more power and concentration sets WillaKenzie’s Emery Vineyard bottling apart from their Aliette bottling (previously reviewed).  Complementing the concentration are gamey nuances and an exotic wildness.  Lovely now, it will unfold nicely over the next several years. 93 Michael Apstein Jul 12, 2011

WillaKenzie Estate, Willamette Valley (Oregon) Pinot Noir “Aliette” 2008

($48):  WillaKenzie Estate, one of Oregon’s leading Pinot Noir producers, has several single vineyard bottlings, all of which are distinct in character.  The Aliette delivers far more complexity without additional weight compared to their very good multi-vineyard blend, labeled Pierre Léon.  As with most top-notch wines, the extra price gets you more elegance and layers rather than sheer power. 92 Michael Apstein Jul 5, 2011