On the Trail

On to Oregon!

Jeff Garneau
Elk Cove Vineyards in Oregon

Elk Cove Vineyards in Oregon

No less a luminary than Eric Asimov, wine writer for the paper of record, the New York Times, issued this pronouncement in September of last year, identifying Oregon as “right now the single most exciting wine-making area in the United States.”

To what can we credit such a statement? Can it be the emergence over the past decade of so many exciting new wineries, like Olga and Barnaby Tuttle’s Teutonic Wine Company? Or Brian Marcy and Clare Carver’s Big Table Farm?

Can it be the new wave of investment by the French? In 2012, Jean-Nicolas Méo, owner and winemaker of Burgundy’s celebrated Domaine Méo-Camuzet partnered with longtime friend and music industry executive Jay Boberg to found Domaine Nicolas-Jay. In 2013, Maison Joseph Drouhin, already established in Oregon since 1987 as Domaine Drouhin Oregon, doubled the size of its Oregon holdings with the purchase of the 279 acre Roserock property in the Eola-Amity Hills AVA. And in 2013, Maison Louis Jadot purchased the Résonance Vineyard in the Yamhill-Carlton AVA, the first such project outside of Burgundy since their founding in 1859.

Might it be the remarkable dedication and resilience of the Willamette Valley’s founding families of wine? A generation of winemakers born and raised in the vineyards, like Jason Lett of Eyrie Vineyards, Adam Campbell of Elk Cove Vineyards, or Luisa Ponzi of Ponzi Vineyards just to name a few, continue the work begun by the parents, careful stewards of their vision of the Willamette Valley as the ideal place to make exceptional wines from Pinot Noir grapes.

Half a century after the planting of the first vineyards, Oregon is producing better wines than ever. 2015 was an exceptional vintage in the Willamette Valley. An early start to the season and favorable conditions throughout resulted in a large crop of excellent quality. The 2015 Oregon Pinot Noirs exhibit remarkable concentration with ripe, sweet fruit and fine, supple tannins. I recently held a tasting with staff from both of our Northern California stores and these were some of the best from the vintage:

2015 Brick House "Les Dijonnais" Ribbon Ridge Pinot Noir $54.99 - A barrel selection from the eight acre Dijon clone block (113, 114, 115) of the estate vineyard planted in 1995.

2015 Cameron Dundee Hills Pinot Noir $32.99 - From a hillside block of younger vines (1984) at Cameron’s Abbey Ridge vineyard (1976).

2015 Purple Hands "Stoller Vineyard" Dundee Hills Pinot Noir $47.99 - First vines planted in 1995 by Bill and Cathy Stoller. Dijon clones 115 & 777. In addition to the Stollers themselves, other producers include Argyle and Chehalem.

2015 Elk Cove "Mount Richmond" Yamhill-Carlton District Pinot Noir $45.99 - Single vineyard bottling. Planted in 1996 to Dijon clones 115 and 777, along with a selection of old vine Pommard cuttings (1976).

2015 Cristom "Marjorie Vineyard" Eola-Amity Hills Pinot Noir $59.99 - The oldest of Cristom’s 4 estate vineyards, and the only one that was originally own-rooted when it was planted in 1982.  The original plantings were Pommard, Wädenswil and Martini clones of Pinot Noir.  In 1999, the Martini clones were grafted over to Dijon clones 114, 115, and 777.

-Jeff Garneau