2016 St. Innocent, Pinot Noir, Freedom Hill Vineyard, Willamette Valley, Oregon.
One of Oregon’s classic wines, St. Innocent makes profound and age worthy Pinot Noirs that remain some of the greatest values in American wine, with this Freedom Hill bottling being one of my favorites with its Burgundy like structure, as this 2016 showcases. I am not surprised that this 2016 is so solid and still firmly gripped by taut and tight or walled in fruit, as I had a 2000 vintage of St.Innocent recently and it was still youthfully fresh and showed almost no signs of age. But, that said, with most of the Willamette Valley’s 2016 Pinots were ripe and very lush, you’d think this would be a little more open knit and fruit forward by now. This 2016 Freedom Hill Vineyard, sourced from selected blocks of mainly Pommard and Wadenswil (Old Swiss Clone) as well as a little 777, which gives this version a deep color, set on marine sedimentary soils of the western valley’s Coastal Range with this site being just about 10 miles southwest of Salem in the foothills up at around 550 feet, with warm days and cool nights it provides excellent conditions for serious Pinot Noir. This densely packed Pinot is slightly reduced still, but flows nicely once it gets some air with dancing layers of blackberry, currant, plum and cranberry fruits that revolve around a deep core of cherry along with black tea, delicate florals, a touch of charred cedar, shaved vanilla. The smoky wood notes fade nicely into the background as this wine unfolds and the textural quality becomes much more impactful on the medium bodied palate in this studied and well crafted Pinot Noir.
Mark Vlossak of St. Innocent, is one of the state’s best winemakers with many outstanding vintages under his belt, and is of one of the Willamette Valley’s legendary generations that includes the greats like Ken Wright, Doug Tunnell (Brick House) Mike Etzel (Beaux Freres) and John Paul of Cameron Winery to name a few, who all set the world a light with their early to mid nineties wines, especially with the 1994 and 1998 vintages, which were wines that cemented the region’s place as one of the world’s great Pinot Noir terroirs. Vlossak employs old school methods to craft his wines, using carefully sorted100% de-stemmed grapes and indigenous yeast fermentation, with this Freedom Hill being done in a combination of 4 and 8 ton stainless steel fermenters without any added SO2 at cool temps. The wine is then gently pressed and racked to French oak barrels where it is raised for 16 months with 30% of the barrels being new, after which the wine gravity bottled unfined to preserve all of the wine’s purity and nuances. This 2016 has a long life ahead of it, I’m convinced it will be a modern classic and see it getting much better in the bottle over the next decade, so if you have this wine, I would suggest holding on to it for another five years before pulling the cork and if you can’t wait I highly recommend decanting it and be sure to have plenty of time to enjoy it, and especially with matching cuisine, which should be on the more robust side. I will also note that this 2016 Freedom Hill really turned on the charm and got much more aromatic after a full 24 hours, and the after taste vastly lengthened, making for a stunning performance.
($40 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive