2008 Ken Wright Cellars, Nysa Vineyard Pinot Noir
In January we featured the 2007 Ken Wright Guadalupe Vineyard Pinot Noir. As we noted then, Ken Wright focuses almost exclusively on single-vineyard Pinot Noirs, seeking to convey the unique influence of each specific site in his wines. While the Guadalupe Vineyard is in the Yamhill-Carlton AVA, with Willakenzie soil, Nysa Vineyard, planted in 1990, is in the Dundee Hills AVA. This region is over 80% “Jory” soil type — mostly volcanic, with a basalt base. Pinot Noirs planted in Jory soil are typically very focused, with bright red fruit, exotic spice, and great minerality, and this one is no exception. It is made from two-thirds Pommard and one-third Wadensvil clones and boasts graceful tannins and acidity, and elegant texture. Ken Wright knows his wines tend to be drunk on the early side, but says he would like to see them given at least three years of age after release, to “get past the fruity state.” You could enjoy the fullness of the fruit now, or take his advice and let it mellow for another year or two. It’s $55 and is sold out at the winery. Try it with poached halibut, seared ahi, or braised salmon. By the way, the artwork on the label depicts the important winemaking step of sorting fruit.
2007 Chehalem, Ridgecrest Vineyards Pinot Noir
Chehalem Winery was founded in 1990 by Harry Peterson-Nedry, along with Bill and Cathy Stoller, who later founded Stoller Vinyeards. Ridgecrest Vineyard is Chehalem’s oldest estate vineyard. It is 55 acres in size and is located on Ribbon Ridge, the small ridge on the western end of the Chehalem Mountains. Peterson-Nedry was the first to plant grapes here, back in 1980, followed by Beaux Frères, Brick House, Patricia Green, and others. The soil here is Willakenzie, a transitional soil type with characteristics of both volcanic and sedimentary soil. Pinot Noirs from Willakenzie soils are typified by their briary dark fruit, excellent acidity, silky texture, and long finish. This Pinot is a similar clonal blend to the Nysa above, being 58% Pommard and 42% Wadenswil. The big difference is in the soil type and the vintage, with 2007 as we know, being a cool growing season, followed by late rains. But like most of the more experienced Oregon winemakers, Peterson-Nedry used this to his advantage, producing a wine with lower alcohol and higher acidity. And like many of the 2007 Oregon Pinots, what this $29.75 wine lacks in concentration, it more than makes up for in balance and nuance. It is lovely now, or could age another year or two. Then enjoy this versatile wine with white meat dishes, fish, or perhaps Peking Duck.