Having been nearly seven years since the first time we tasted Oregon Pinot Noirs as a group, we decided to correct this deficency by gathering six bottles of more recent vintages for blind evaluation.
The results were very solid, with a clear winner showing a dark profile and impressive balance, and others with good varietal correctness and likeability. While two bottles received no points, there was also a tie for third place.
First Place: Evening Land Pinot Noir 2011 (Willamette Valley). Dark and brooding nose. Andy described "smoldering campfire" and "dusty roses", while David found it "intriguing". Other tasters noted scents of smoke and blood, to which Holly wondered, "could you drink this on safari?" David felt that it was "impressive" in the mouth, with well-balanced flavors of caramel and dark fruit. Great finish, showing ripe tannin and some acidity. The unanimous favorite with 36 total points. Andy's bottle. About $27.
Second Place: Foris Pinot Noir 2010 (Rogue Valley). Unfiltered and lighter in color, showing scents of cherry, cotton candy, some sort of dairy, candied apple, and dust. Dark in flavor profile, with notes of plum, butterscotch, leather, and tobacco. Ali felt that it was a little shy, saying that "I've named it 'quiet violet'". Good balance and consistency, tasters felt that it would be a versatile, safe choice. Best value of the night. Received 18 points. Holly's bottle. About $20.
Third Place (tie): Lange Pinot Noir 2008 (Willamette Valley). Unfiltered, with hints of brown/rust, this was the oldest bottle of the night. Scents of sour cherry, plum, wet earth, and cinnamon stick. Andy noted "rotted wood" and felt that it was "a little hot". Mild in the mouth, with bacon on the short-ish finish, with mostly cherry flavors. Ali initially described "more of an aftertaste than a finish", and David said that "I kind of want more out of the middle". David summed up with "solid, but not awesome", "but also most improved", and that "it really blossomed" with time in the glass. Showed more focus and power with air, with Andy saying that it "had some performance issues". Received 15 points. David's bottle. About $25.
Third Place (tie): Kings Ridge Pinot Noir 2011 (Willamette Valley). Unfiltered. Refreshing nose that Michael described as "Irish Spring", while Kristin found "boiled potatoes". Others noted grass and grape jelly scents. Flavors of cherry and red bell pepper that Ali felt were "pretty", and David felt were "soft and mild". Raspberry on the finish. Bright. Received 15 points. Kristin's bottle About $22.
Montinore Estate Pinot Noir Estate Reserve 2010 (Willamette Valley). More clear than many of the others, with a dusty nose that Kristin described as "wet old book" and Ali felt was like "grandma's cedar closet in an abandoned barn". Other tasters were reminded of mothballs, attic, menthol, iodine, and weeds. Fresher and green in the mouth, which Holly described as "old lettuce in the bottom of the container". David felt that "they picked this too early", while Andy decided that "it became palatable" with time. Astringent, unripe and bitter, with some spices on the finish. No points. Ali's bottle. About $27.
Ken Wright Cellars Pinot Noir 2011 (Willamette Valley). Smelled of roadkill/dead skunk and other off-putting aromas described by Andy as "burning fur" and "mulch that got thrown up on", with Holly being reminded of something that "smells like an infection". In the mouth Andy found "bong water", while Michael felt that it was "kind of bland". Holly noted that it "tastes likes something you should rub on wood". Summing up, Michael felt that we should "dump it down the drain", with Holly feeling that "an alcoholic would like it". No points. Michael's bottle. About $35.
Chateau Partarrieu Sauternes 2001. Honey, flowers, petroleum, mushrooms, clover, and over-ripe apricot notes. Better than the last time we tasted this, but not great. Andy described it as if "cider and honey and tin foil had a baby". About $20.