2006 WillaKenzie Estate, Emory, Pinot Noir
All wines begin in the vineyard. In the soil, to be exact. Some of our favorite wines (usually French) incorporate all manner of rocks and dirt into their wine names, such as “Silex,” or “Expression of Gneiss.” The founders of this Willamette Valley winery so respected the influence of the soil on their wines that they named the winery itself after the indigenous soil type found in their vineyards. Willakenzie is the name of the well-drained, silty, sedimentary soil found at the confluence of the Willamette and McKenzie rivers. And WillaKenzie Estate Winery produces their wines exclusively from grapes grown in this soil. Their Emery Vineyard was planted in 1998 and has some of the oldest selections of Pinot Noir in Oregon. The winery is dedicated to sustainable farming, which is costly and labor intensive, but produces the highest quality wines. (Their philosophy of sustainability extends throughout their estate and to their workers, who are employed year-round so that they can concentrate on the vineyards). The graceful 2006 Emery Pinot is fresh, pure, and complex, with a wonderful texture and hints of earth and spice. It’s $45 and should develop even more complexity over next three to five years. The winery suggests pairing this one with slow-cooked beef or lamb with Marionberries, grilled duck breasts with apricot mustard, or marinated flank steak. Complete recipes on their website! This wine is very limited and there is very little left.
2006 Rex Hill, Jacob-Hart Vineyard, Pinot Noir
Rex Hill wines are, according to their website, “Oregonically Grown.” This is another winery that takes the concept of sustainability a step further. They are committed to organic practices and are working towards Demeter certification (the international organization that certifies biodynamic agriculture) and they too, like WillaKenzie, have broadened their definition of sustainable practices to include their entire company. These are definitely two wineries that you can feel very good about supporting. Rex Hill was founded in 1982 by Paul Hart and Jan Jacobsen. The Jacob-Hart Vineyard, named in their honor, features both volcanic and sedimentary, Willakenzie-type soils. In some places, the earth was so rocky the vines had to be planted with a pickaxe, instead of a shovel. Having both soil types in a single vineyard is unusual in the Willamette Valley, and it allows Rex Hill to blend fruit grown in both types together, for added complexity. And only the most prized vineyard blocks go into the Jacob-Hart Pinot Noir. This Pinot, also 2006 and also $45, has a full, round palate, with soft, balanced tannins, spice, and a plush finish. It is drinking well now, or could develop for up to five years, and would be delicious paired with spare ribs with black beans or, as the winery was at one time a turkey farm, roast turkey with cherry salsa.