2009 Antica Terra, Willamette Valley Pinot Noir
We come across a lot of wines we like, and some that we truly love. But when we feel the same way about a winemaker it is a special treat. That’s what happened recently when winemaker Maggie Harrison was in town to introduce us to her amazingly good, and agonizingly limited wines. After a visit to the shop, and a knock-your-socks-off wine dinner at Sitka and Spruce, we grabbed her wine with both hands, and nearly brought Maggie with us. Given her impressive background, apprenticing for eight years at California’s exclusive Sine Qua Non, she had every right to be a wine diva, but she turned out to be one of the most charming, down-to-earth, and unassuming winemakers we’ve ever met. And now she is co-owner and winemaker at Oregon’s Antica Terra. The winery is located on a rocky hillside in the Eola-Amity Hills region of the Willamette Valley. The first vines on the 40-acre site were planted in 1989, on a dauntingly rocky site, overflowing with fossilized oyster shells. But Maggie does not focus on single vineyards for her wines, finding the blending process to be the most challenging and exciting part of winemaking. Her Pinots tend to be about 50% estate fruit, from her Antica Terra vineyard, which imparts a stony, earthy, mushroomy signature to the wines. To this, Maggie supplements with purchased fruit from the best vineyard sources possible. Her unique winemaking practices include aging her wines on the lees; adding up to 30% of pressed juice to every barrel; and stirring the wine while it is in barrel—all of which adds further complexity and aromatics to her wines. Her 2009 Willamette Valley Pinot Noir is ripe and richly textured with elegant, spicy aromas reminiscent of autumn woodlands, and a silky smooth finish. At $52.25, it is lovely now, but will certainly develop even more over the next few years. Enjoy it with something elegant, but not overpowering, to fully enjoy the nuances of this wine. Perhaps roast duck?
2007 Cristom Vineyards Estate Pinot Noir, Sommers Reserve, Willamette Valley
Cristom’s Sommers Reserve is mostly from the same region as Antica Terra, Eola-Amity Hills, but it is a much less earthy style of Pinot Noir, since it lacks the unique stoniness that Maggie gets from her Antica Terra vineyard. This wine contains fruit from fifteen different sites, including Cristom’s four estate vineyards, along with some purchased fruit from other regions. Altogether, it is 87% from Eola-Amity Hills (65% from Cristom’s estates), 7% from the Willamette Foothills, 5% from the Dundee Hills, and the last 1% from the Yamhill-Carlton District. As those who attend our Oregon class on June 3 will learn, this kind of blend takes advantage of the diverse soil types of Oregon’s different regions, to balance good acidity with the silky smoothness that is the hallmark of Cristom’s wines. Winemaker Steve Doerner uses native yeasts in preference to their laboratory cousins, which gives this wine its spicy aroma of red fruits. After a year in bottle, it’s ready to drink, although it has the structure to evolve over the next two to three years. Its red fruit flavors make it a classic match with roasted salmon. It’s also a great value, as it has been reduced in price to only $35 and is still in good supply.