Six months ago we took a couple of weeks to visit Oregon with a few days of intense Pinot Noir tasting in the Willamette Valley. We decided it was time to revisit the grape, but expanding upon what we had experienced by having a Washington, Crayelle 2010 PN from Evergreen Vineyard, and a California, Rodney Strong 2012 Russian River Valley PN to compare with one of our Oregon PN favorites, Ken Wright’s 2011 Freedom Hills Vineyard. Granted, the price point of the Oregon Pinot isn’t in line with the two others, but we were pretty excited to discover this favorite in a wine shop in Kennewick, Washington about a month ago.
As you can see the wines didn’t look different in the glass, they are all classic Pinot Noir color.
We began with the Crayelle 2010 PN (13.5% ABV) from Evergreen Vineyard in the Ancient Lakes AVA within the Columbia Valley AVA. This is one of the coolest AVA’s on the east side of the Cascade Mountains. The Columbia River moderates the atmosphere minimally at this site as the basalt cliffs rise rapidly, holding the vineyard well above the river. We lived in this AVA prior to moving to Walla Walla, we drove passed the vineyard regularly and I am very familiar with the geology of the area so I feel compelled to set this scene since it is probably the least familiar of the three. Being on the east side of the mountains the rain shadow effect is the opposite of the marine we typically associate with Pinot Noir browning regions. (I am pondering why the Puget Sound hasn’t decided to join the ranks of Pinot Noir growers with no good answer at the moment.)
Ok, the wine: mild, the first descriptor to come to mind. I had to work to discern an aroma and the palate whispers cherry, minimal complexity and acid structure. I had to compare it to a box wine, easy drinking and pleasant enough. Comparable price point to Rodney Strong’s 2012. We didn’t think this bottle would last through the night to revisit tomorrow, so we finished it.
Going by age, the Ken Wright 2011 Freedom Hill Vineyard PN (13% ABV) was up next. This is the highest price point of the three by a considerable sum. Our original notes were ‘spice and fruit leather’ (I wrote about this wine originally here) but this time, with a newly opened bottle, we were impressed by the forest floor and bit of funk on the nose and the old saddle leather with a hint of fruit muddled into the palate with a lovely acidic finish. We decided this wine would be fine for a little bit, so we will revisit it in a few days.
As the youngest of our choices Rodney Strong 2012 Russian River Valley PN (14.5% ABV) rounded out our trio. I couldn’t locate a specific vineyard, but understand the marine element is strong in the Russian River Valley AVA. (We actually know about this wine, and have this particular bottle, thanks to my Uncle when we were visiting over Thanksgiving – great taste buds must run in the family, right?) Immediately I could smell violets, rose petals and a hint of lavender that was followed by a delightfully fruit-filled, primarily cherry, palate with more floral elements and a balance of acid to complement it all. When people have described Pinot Noir to me this is the classic description – wonderful to be introduced to it! I am ready to pack my bags and head to California to do some more tasting now. This bottle too was put aside, but we are excited to see how it does tomorrow night or the next.