Oregon Pinot Noir–Boutique Style
By Alaya Wyndham-Price, Grapelive Guest Columnist
I am an Oregon Native. Yes, I know…we are truly a rare breed these days. It may seem only natural that I would find myself in the wine business, as I grew up along with our wine scene. I have always been drawn to the outdoors, and the way things work within natural systems. In parallel, I have been called a sensual person, with a lust for finding and honoring the joys that life offers. The evolution that is wine (grape growing to winemaking to savoring) holds complete intrigue to both my scientist and my sensualist. As Oregon is now well established, and world renowned for our production of high quality wines, especially great Pinot Noir, I find myself, now in an excellent business. We honor our fertile land, and all of its ecological magic; we have friendly, no-nonsense people, who still tell stories by the campfire and are leading the nation in sustainable agriculture; and we possess a smart approach to a cutting-edge food scene, based on the farm-to-table formula. We are still writing history.
So much of what makes Oregon wine, namely Pinot Noir, charming lies in its ability to express terroir. A place holds history, it will tell the story of its origins, if you listen. Oregon is full of stories, isn’t it? Think of our history; an iconic destination in the Pioneer days, Oregon has always been known by outsiders as rugged, with fecund landscapes, and the undeniable sense of possibility. Modernly, we are marked by figures that have shown academic, athletic, culinary, and environmental innovation. Now, more commonly, we see great innovation in the production of wine. It’s no secret that Oregon grows the Pinot Noir grape well. It’s also fairly celebrated in the wine world that Pinot Noir expresses its roots well. But what’s exciting is that each individual Pinot Noir vineyard site in Oregon offers its own very distinguishable character. Oregon is marked by a colorful geologic history, an array of weather systems, and a team of viticulturists who care to let their grapes grow as close to naturally within their land space as possible. We don’t just have the category “Oregon Pinot,” we have Momtazi, Shea, White Rose, Seven Springs, Meyer, Stermer, Anden, Deux Vert…You get the idea…Pinot. Each place has such an outstanding character, prized for different reasons, and quite a recognizable face within whatever bottling they are present.
Like some of the great single-vineyard Cabernets of California, Oregon is making waves with its single-vineyard Pinot Noirs. These wines are often the wine-maker’s personal ode to the land; to deliver unique, interesting if not geeky wines that are pure descendants of one little place and time; vineyard natives. Small in production, these wines have become anticipated worldwide. They carry a certain panache; brazen enough to show their rugged origins, to express themselves without much outside influence, to tell a true story that helps them to stand out–oh yes, those of us that wish we lived our lives as fully, just yearn to get our hands on them, and begin feeling wild, vicariously, through our glass. Available, often times, only for a few months out of the year, single-vineyard designate Oregon Pinot Noirs are worth the wait, the effort, and the price. If you are a serious buyer, travel Oregon, start with the Willamette Valley and sample its bounty. Find your coveted bottlings, visit vineyards and develop a sense of place as you try wines produced there. Then join the wine clubs of those producers you feel passionate about, and get on their futures list, this will ensure you an annual taste of their expression in a bottle.
I decided to open and decant my last bottle of Ayoub’s first bottling, his 2004 Pinot Noir, for my birthday. Like any pinot that Josh Bergstrom makes, this one is brawny, highly structured, and storm-proof. This wine is built-to-last, and I knew that air would serve it well, as it’s only 4 years into its progression.
Garnet in hue, showing just a touch of age, the wine looks like my birthstone; how appropriate. In the nose I get a lot of plum, some cassis, and a bit of wild huckleberry and licorice root. What’s really noticeable and fun, is the Mexican hot chocolate note. This draws you in, and soon after, you are greeted by game; bloody lamb, and earth; clay, iron, and morel. Flavors mirror the nose, lots of plum and licorice, with the added joy of strawberry-rhubarb pie-mix. Very earthy in taste, backing up the brawn of the structure, I taste ginger root, fossil-rich alluvial clay, and wet moss. Delicious now, would keep progressing over the next 6-8 years.
To think Mohammed “Mo” Ayoub released this as his first effort, humbly and enthusiastically 2 years ago. Quite a stunning first release, and one that definitely put him on the map as someone to watch. A one-man viticulturist and now winemaker, who lives and grows grapes near Dundee, travels the world for business, and manages to make phenomenal Willamette Valley Pinot right away, all while smiling and selling his efforts…now that’s someone I want to support!
This pinot didn’t need a food accompaniment to taste great, in fact I sipped it after returning home from a sushi dinner as my dessert. But were one to pair it, I would recommend a nice Lebanese spiced lamb and rice dish, with hummus and fresh, hot pita bread. One could also easily enjoy an oily piece of smoked salmon, with an array of ripe sheep and goats milk cheeses, and some marcona almonds. AW-P
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