2011 Amity Vineyards Pinot Noir

IMG_20140225_190451I haven’t had the chance to visit Amity Vineyards yet in Amity, OR, but it’s on my list after trying their 2011 Pinot Noir.  On the nose, it has nice ripe cherry and earth with a bit of smoke. On the palate is where it surprised me the most; it’s fruit-forward for a Oregon Pinot Noir with lots of bright cherry and strawberry and a small touch of Oregon earth on the finish. This Pinot has a beautiful mouth-feel that’s soft and smooth. Overall, it reminds me more of the type of Pinot Noir you find out of the Russian River Valley in California. This wine could easily be overwhelmed by food so keep it light or just enjoy it on its own. I happen to love finding a wine that doesn’t NEED food to bring out the best notes it has to offer.

I can’t remember exactly where I purchased this bottle, but I do know it was just under $20. Finding a Pinot Noir under $20 gets me pretty damn excited. If you’d like to find this wine near you, check out http://www.wine-searcher.com/. This website makes finding wines near you effortless.

For more information on Amity Vineyards, you can find them on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/amityvineyards.

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2010 Sokol Blosser Pinot Noir Estate Cuvée Dundee Hills

What do you do when snowed in for four straight days? At our house, we drink lots of good Pinot Noir! One Pinot we enjoyed was the 2010 Sokol Blosser Pinot Noir Estate Cuvée Dundee Hills. It kept us warm and entertained during the unusual and endless snow Portland received, and I’m happy to say it was just what we needed. 20140209_105353

Sokol Blosser’s tasting room is fun and modern and usually quite busy on a summer day, but don’t let that scare you away. They offer some nice outdoor seating that provides a perfect opportunity to slow down and enjoy the vineyard.

On the nose, this wine has a lot of funk and smells of pure Oregon wine country. The palate also has that same burst of funk and earth with hints of dark fruit and a bit of cola. I probably should have let these breathe over night to open up more of the fruit. If you love earthy Pinots, this is the one for you.

For more information on Sokol Blosser, visit http://www.sokolblosser.com/

Domaine Serene 2010 Yamhill Cuvée Pinot Noir

The tasting room for Domaine Serene is located on breathtaking grounds in Dayton, OR. It reminds me of being in Tuscany with the architectural style as well as the roses everywhere. On a nice day, head outside to enjoy the views from the patio, and on a not so nice day, remain inside and enjoy your tasting flight by the fireplace. Both sound pretty great if you ask me. The tasting fee is $20 per person and changes seasonally, which makes it fun to visit several different times a year. 

20131224_174526On Christmas day, we treated ourselves to the Domaine Serene 2010 Yamhill Cuvée Pinot Noir. Aromas of vanilla, cherry, and mushroom give way to wonderfully balanced acidity on the palate making this wine silky smooth. Flavors of bright red fruit hit you up front followed by classic Oregon earth on the finish.  I rate this one 4 stars out of 5. Available on Domaine Serene’s website for $45, and I’ve also seen this around the Portland area at a few different places like New Seasons and Bale’s.

If you’re thinking Domaine Serene sounds familiar to you, but you’re not sure why, it may be because Wine Spectator recently placed the Domaine Serene Pinot Noir Willamette Valley Evenstad Reserve 2010 in the number three spot on their “Top 100 of 2013” list. This one retails for $65 a bottle. In general, Domaine Serene has been thought of as a top Pinot Noir producer in Oregon for some time now.

For more on Domaine Serene, visit http://www.domaineserene.com/index.cfm

Bergström Wines – Newberg, OR

It’s been way too long since I’ve done a post, and all I can say is that in the span of a few weeks, it was Thanksgiving, my son’s 3rd birthday, and the end of him taking naps. I’m still in mourning over the loss of nap time. Luckily, we managed to sneak away one Saturday and do some tasting at Bergström Wines in Newberg, OR.

Bergström Wines consists of five estate vineyards totaling 84 acres that span across four Willamette Valley appellations. I love that they farm all of this without the use of harsh chemicals, systemic or fertilizers. Bergström produces approximately 9,000 cases each year, including two Chardonnays and nine different Pinot Noirs.

I always enjoy a visit to Bergström, but this was a particularly exciting tasting experience because many of the new 2012s had just been added to the tasting flight. In case you haven’t heard, 2012 is THE year for Oregon wine. The weather provided an ideal growing season producing some of the best wines the area has seen to date. While the 2010s and 2011s needed a little more time in the bottle before they were ready, the 2012s are enjoyable straight away.

Here’s a look at the tasting flight we had that is $15 (refundable with $100 purchase):

First Pour: 2011 Old Stones Chardonnay
Price: $35*
Notes: Bright, neutral French oak, aromas of lemon and lime, like a lemon Jolly Rancher on the palate. Juicy. This goes well with food but is also enjoyable on its own.
My Rating: 4 stars out of 5

Second Pour: 2012 Gregory Ranch Pinot Noir
Price: $57*
Notes: Blackberry, vanilla, and cinnamon on the nose. The vanilla hits me right away on the palate followed by dark cherry. Lovely in its complexity and layers. The 2012s are big Pinots and this is no exception. Doesn’t just the description of this alone make you want to try it right away?
My Rating: 5 stars out of 5

Third Pour: 2011 Shea Vineyard Pinot Noir
Price: $50*
Notes: The nose and palate offer lots of berries and earth. Only 18 cases left. Age this one.
My Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5

Fourth Pour: 2011 Le Pré Du Col Pinot Noir
Price: $60*
Notes: Mushroom and herbs on the nose with a hint of sweet fruit like strawberry and smoke on the palate. Only 15 cases left.
My Rating: 4 stars out of 5

Fifth Pour: 2012 Temperance Hill (not on the tasting flight)
Price: $60*, sold out
Notes: I’ll just start by saying if you want to try the 2012 Pinots from Oregon, act fast. This one is already sold out and that’ll be the trend this year. Side tip, joining a wine club is a great way to get your hands on more of the 2012s that are sure to sell out. The San Francisco Chronicle and Wine & Spirits magazine have previously named this the top Pinot Noir in America. It’s very earthy on the nose with notes of mushroom and moss. Blackberry and cherry on the palate. Full-bodied and complex. You could age this for many years, but I’m not sure who has the patience. My favorite that I tried one this particular day.
My Rating: 5 stars out of 5

Sixth Pour: 2011 Bergström Vineyard Pinot Noir (not on the tasting flight)
Price: $80*
Notes: Bergström’s flagship Pinot Noir. This wine is smooth and balanced with lots of that great earthiness I happen to love. This will age well for years to come with proper storage.
My Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

For more on Bergström Wines, visit http://bergstromwines.com/.

* Prices reflect those listed on the tasting flight menu at the winery. Pricing and availability may vary outside of the tasting room.

Alexana Pinot Noir 2010 Dundee Hills, Willamette Valley, Revana Vineyard

I was so excited when Wine Spectator recently announced their “Top 100 of 2013” list and the Alexana Pinot Noir 2010 Dundee Hills Revana Vineyard was listed as number 17. My first visit to Alexana was in September of 2012, and since then, it’s been one of my favorites in the Willamette Valley. In addition to the specific Pinot Noir I review in this post, Alexana also makes a Riesling that isn’t as sweet as Rieslings typically tend to be, Chardonnay, and a few other Pinot Noirs. The tasting room in Newberg, OR is only a couple of years old with warm wood throughout, a bar layered with the regions various soil types for display (so cool!), and sweeping views of the Willamette Valley; it’s as gorgeous and inviting as it sounds.

Alexana was created by a cardiologist with a love for wine, Dr. Madaiah Revana, and named after his daughter, Alexandra. In 2005, Dr. Revana sought out the ideal region and an experienced winemaker to make his Pinot Noir. He found what he was looking for in Oregon, where he met Lynn Penner-Ash. Lynn helped Dr. Revana find the property which is now the Revana Vineyard in the Dundee Hills of Oregon, and the first production came in 2006. Penner-Ash wines are ranked among the finest in Oregon by the wine press year after year. You may recognize the name from Rex Hill and also from Penner-Ash Wine Cellars. I have to say that I personally agree with all the buzz and think it’s well-deserved.

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Now that you know a bit about Alexana, let’s get down to the
tasting notes of the Alexana Pinot Noir 2010 Dundee Hills Revana Vineyard. On the nose you’ll get notes of dark berries, cherry, and vanilla. On the palate, I immediately get the dark fruit followed by the vanilla with a black pepper finish. It doesn’t have the rich earth nose and taste that’s more typical of a Oregon Pinot Noir, which I usually prefer, but with this Pinot, I don’t find myself missing that characteristic. Complex, well-layered, and nicely balanced, I rate this wine 5 stars out of 5.  At just $42, this wine is an incredible value. If you see this while wine shopping, snatch it up before they’re all gone and enjoy. Once a wine is published on a list like this, it’s sure to sell out fast if it hasn’t already. If you can’t find it, don’t hesitate to try the 2011 vintage.

For more information on Alexana Winery, visit http://www.alexanawinery.com/.

To see the full list of the “Top 100 of 2013” by Wine Spectator, visit  http://2013.top100.winespectator.com/.

Ardiri Winery & Vineyard – Cornelius, OR

A mere 30 miles west of Portland lies Ardiri Winery & Vineyard in Cornelius, OR. The atmosphere is hard to beat with a view of Mt. Hood on sunny days and fire pits, cozy seating and oversized blankets for the more typical cool and rainy days. The bar is located inside but the entire tasting room has roll-up windowed doors for an indoor/outdoor experience. Bring a picnic basket and enjoy the afternoon with some fabulous wines no matter the weather.

If that alone doesn’t convince you Ardiri is one to visit, then let’s talk about the wine. They produce Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris/Pinot Blanc blends with the grapes coming from 5 acres down in Carneros, Napa Valley, California as well as a 15 acre vineyard in the Chehalem Mountains, Willamette Valley, Oregon. So whether you prefer Oregon Pinot Noir or Napa Valley Pinot Noir, Ardiri has you covered!

The staff at Ardiri is well-informed and unpretentious, and I always enjoy talking with them while tasting. I find nice people in the tasting room always add to my experience. Speaking of tasting, here’s a look at their current tasting flight, which costs $10 and is refunded with a two bottle purchase:

First Pour: Picpoul de Pinet 2012, Coteaux du Languedoc, Le Chevalier de Novato
Price: $19 Retail (this is at the winery pricing and will be for all that are listed below too)
Notes: Ardiri ran out of their delicious Chalem Gold Pinot Gris/Pinot Blanc blend fairly early in the summer so they imported this wine from France to have a white. This wine is light and crisp with lots of citrus on the nose and mouth. This goes nicely with a salad.
My Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5

Second Pour: Pinot Noir 2010, Willamette Valley
Price: $29 Retail
Notes: The quintessential Oregon Pinot Noir with bright cherry, smoke, and rich earth on the nose. Very smooth in the mouth. This one is probably my favorite wine they are pouring right now, and it will pair nicely with a large variety of foods.
My Rating: 4 stars out of 5

Third Pour: Pinot Noir 2010, Los Carneros, Napa Valley
Price: $29 Retail
Notes: I love having the Oregon Pinot Noir first followed up by the Los Carneros Napa Pinot Noir to be able to compare the two side-by-side. This one is much more fruit forward as well as lighter and brighter.
My Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5

Fourth Pour: Pinot Noir 2009, Los Carneros, Napa Valley
Price: $29 Retail
Notes: I also enjoyed having the 2010 Carneros followed by this 2009. It’s amazing how wines can vary each year. This one is really nice on the nose with more spice than the others. Tart raspberry in the mouth.
My Rating: 3 stars out of 5. My husband would give this 4 stars out of 5. I mention this because we all have different palates and preferences. Be your own judge and drink what you like!

Fifth Pour: Pinot Noir 2009, Willamette Valley
Retail: $29
Notes: Bright yet bold, earthy with notes of cherry. This is a complex wine and it’s difficult to pick out exactly what you smell and taste, but it’s delicious. The Willamette Valley Pinot Noirs are my preference here at Ardiri.
My Rating: 4 stars out of 5

Not a part of the tasting flight is my new obsession called Due Stati (shown in one of the photos above). This is a 50/50 blend with half of the grapes coming from the Carneros region and the other half from the Willamette Valley; Oregon and California playing VERY nicely. Retails for $38 at the winery or $43 online. Be extra friendly in the tasting room and you’ll probably be able to score a pour of this one too.

For more information on Ardiri Winery & Vineyard, visit http://www.ardiriwine.com/.

BlackLIST Pinot Noir 2009 Willamette Valley

It only makes sense that my first post would be on a Oregon Pinot Noir being that they are some of my favorite wines. I’m probably a little biased as a local Oregonian, too.

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The BlackLIST Pinot Noir is a limited production from The Four Graces Winery located in Dundee, OR. We purchased this wine while tasting there in August. The staff was extremely friendly and very accommodating to our request to taste out on the back patio. The laid back, take your time vibe provides a relaxed tasting where you genuinely feel they want you to stay as long as you’d like and answer any questions. If you’re traveling through the area, I’d recommend a stop in as they’re also pouring a really nice Pinot Gris and Pinot Blanc (excellent with Thai food!) as well as a few other Pinot Noirs at reasonable price points.

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I give this wine 3 stars out of 5. It’s a solid Pinot at $38 with a high alcohol content at 14.8%. Medium-to-full bodied with dark fruit and a hint of vanilla and spice. Ready to drink now. We started with a glass at dinner, which was a tofu spinach lasagna, but the tomato sauce really brought out the high alcohol content in the wine making it lose a lot of the nice fruit and spice flavors. It was much nicer to drink just on its own.

For more information on The Four Graces Winery, you can visit their website http://thefourgraces.com/.

I’d love to hear your thoughts if you tried this one for yourself or if you’ve enjoyed a visit to The Four Graces Winery too!