Easily, the most important grape in Oregon viticulture is Pinot Noir. Largely grown in the cool Willamette Valley and surrounding areas, the wines made from Pinot Noir receive praise for being more similar to Burgundy than many of the versions grown in California.
Oregon has the second most wineries in the United States, but ranks third in total production.
Mike came away with the grand prize . . . remarkable, because it was his first time as a guest taster.
Tasters initially had some uncomplimentary notes about the winning bottle, but was a solid champion with three tasters giving it their highest mark.
These were perhaps slightly more difficult wines to evaluate, but were very difficult to give points to. None were unpleasant, and all wines got at least a few points.
First Place: Cristom Reserve Pinot Noir 2001 (Willamette Valley). Tasters found scents of asparagus, prune juice, nail polish remover, dresser drawer, dust, mushrooms, and tomatoes. David was reminded of "wet evergreen forest", while Andy thought it was "a little like ashtray". Earthy, dusty, with a fruit undertone and a dark coffee finish. Mike noticed a touch of bitterness, and Ali decided that it was really good with food. Received 25 points. Mike's bottle. About $ 32.
Second Place: Lemelson Vineyards Thea's Selection Pinot Noir 2004 (Willamette Valley). Aromas of cola, cinnamon, cherries, burnt sugar, and dust. Gilles was reminded of "dirty snow", and thought it "smells like winter". Mike and Gilles added "winter mint" and "plywood from Home Depot", respectively. David thought it was "more fruity on the taste than the nose". Cloves and black pepper on the finish. Received 18 points. David's bottle. About $30.
Third Place: Panther Creek Shea Vineyard Pinot Noir 2001 (Willamette Valley). Smelling of ammonia, sour milk, Ajax, and other cleansers, to which Andy joked, "I bet it has a clean finish". Gilles felt it was reminiscent of "winter boots at the end of the season", and Mike thought of "stainless steel stove". Ali thought of a "friendly janitor". Andy felt it was brighter on the palate than nose, while Gilles noted that it "would go well with chocolate". Ali thought the "finish hurts", and David added "finishes with a squeeze of lemon". Received 17 points. Ali's bottle. About $22.
Benton Lane Pinot Noir 2004 (Wilamette Valley). Offering scents of butterscotch, caramel, black tea, and blackberries. Looked unfiltered. Andy was reminded of "unsalted peanuts", with Gilles noting "floor polish". Ali thought the nose was like "fish". Thicker, with flavors of peppercorn and tobacco. Gilles commented that "you want this wine to go well with food", to which Ali added "yeah, with fish", and Mike threw in "a filet". Turns tannic on the finish. Gilled summed up with "like a Burgundy, but thicker". Received 8 points. Andy's bottle. About $25.
Argyle Pinot Noir 2005 (Wilamette Valley). Tasters noted beer, sour cherries, Sprite, green bell peppers on the nose. Andy thought it was reminiscent of "Deep Woods Off". Velvety. Flavors of black cherries and blue cheese, with a "brightness that keeps it alive", according to David. Mike felt it was silkier and not as sharp as some others. Finished with fresh flowers. This one changed a lot in the glass. Received 6 points. Kristin's bottle. About $25.
Sharecropper's Pinot Noir 2005 (Oregon). Aromas of "stainless steel" (Gilles), or "new license plate" (Andy), "with old sweat on it" (Ali). Metallic, and darker than most. On the palate, there were notes of dark chocolate, on a thicker texture. Andy felt it was "kind of hollow", while Gilles felt it was "more juice than wine". Ali was reminded of "my dad after the gym, but don't write that down". Received 3 points. Gilles' bottle. About $26.