Several years ago, before I became immersed in the wine industry, wines from Oregon were regular guests at our evening meals. But then I began working in Napa and all of a sudden Oregon wine was nowhere to be found. Pinot gris? Willamette Valley? What are you talking about?
Every once in a while I would dip my toes back into the Oregon pool, but too often I ran into wines, pinot noirs in particular, that were too earthy, too thin, and, on occasion, too bretty to enjoy at all. I became more than a bit gun-shy. Industry tastings were another story, and while I enjoyed some impressive and striking wines at those events, I was already pretty deep into Sonoma pinot noirs, among other things, to even think about pulling Oregon back into my inventory. (I know, I know.)
So when Ivy Hover from Left Coast Cellars sent me a couple of bottles to review I was hopeful, but admittedly leery. Nobody likes to be disappointed, and I have to confess that’s what I expected to happen.
Happily, my fears were unfounded. Both the 2014 Left Bank Pinot Blanc and the 2013 Cali’s Cuvee Pinot Noir erased any concerns I had. More importantly, tasting these two wines made me want to look at other wineries in Oregon for similar quality, similar values. Talk about QPR! Many friends tell me there are countless producers that fit the bill. Time to head back to Oregon.
2014 Left Bank Pinot Blanc
Willamette Valley, Oregon
Fermented in 70% stainless steel and 30% French oak puncheons, and fermented sur lies in similar fashion, this wine immediately shares aromas of lemons and tangerine zest, along with green apple and hints of petrichor.
From the get-go a smoky minerality frames the entire palate. Citrus pith and apple notes are secondary to earthy, stony flavors, with delightful acid lending structure to this crisp and intriguing wine. Good complexity, not one-dimensional like too many whites in this price range. Three days in the fridge after being opened (I wouldn’t try to hold in a minute longer) the wine had only become more itself – brighter, richer, deeper.
The winery’s promotional material suggests pairing the Left Bank with “spring dishes or delicate seafood.” I’d have to agree.
100% pinot blanc; clones 6 and 159; 14.3% abv
327 cases produced
$20 SRP Stelvin (screw cap) closure
**sample from winery
2013 Cali’s Cuvee Pinot Noir
Willamette Valley, Oregon
Named in honor of the winery owners’ daughter, this supple pinot noir was fermented in open-top stainless steel tanks, and aged for eight months in 10% new French oak, and the rest in two-, three-, and four-year-old French oak. Pommard, Wadenswil, and various Dijon clones were used.
You don’t have to wait more than a few moments after opening before the air fills with aromas of black cherry, raspberry filling, and damp forest floor. Light floral notes add a gentle perfume.
On the palate, the wine starts out with a gentle spiciness followed by deep, concentrated fruit that is silky, leaning just a bit towards lush. Elegant but not too serious. Sip after sip is filled with a juicy zestiness that you can’t help but enjoy on its way to a gentle and lingering finish.
A couple of days later, the nose was less reticent, with bits of baking spice and fruit immediately noticeable. The palate was still a compelling mixture of fruit, spice, and earthy elements. Cali’s Cuvee is a juicy, mouth-watering combination of fruit and acid, a versatile wine that will pair nicely with lighter fare, while still having the structure for heartier dishes.
100% pinot noir; Pommard, Wadenswil and Dijon clones; 13.5% abv
10,000 cases produced
$24 SRP Stelvin closure
**sample from winery
— featured image courtesy of Left Coast Cellars
6 thoughts on “Heading Back To Oregon”
I love this post! Really nice write up. We live in Napa so I’ve been mostly drinking our wines. Fortunately, my son got admitted to U of O in 2015 and we’ve had many excuses to get up to Willamette many times. Love it. Check out our post on one of my new favorites – I think you’d like it. https://topochinesvino.com/2016/10/09/a-lot-of-sass-in-willamette-valley/
Thanks for the kind words. I’ll definitely check on your Oregon recommendations. Hope your son is having a fine time at Oregon. Two of my nephews, and several of our daughter’s friends, went there and loved it.
He loves being a Duck and I love visiting. I’m a Cal grad so the constant beatings we take at the hands of Oregon sting a bit (football and, last night, basketball).
I’ll bet. Our daughters ended up going to my wife’s and my alma maters, Holy Cross and Fordham, and apparently only the parents pay attention to the sports teams.
You are now officially qualified, entitled, and invited to visit the great state of Oregon. See ya in the Willamette Valley, where the clover grows chest high to Paul Bunyan.
Will I need to ride atop Babe the Blue Ox or just bring an axe to chop said clover?