Oregon Wine Club – February 2012

2009 Evesham Wood, Pinot Noir, Le Puits Sec
How we’ve managed to get this far along with our Oregon club and not include a wine from the long-established Evesham Wood is anyone’s guess. But this month we rectify that, ironically just after founders and owners Mary and Russ Raney made the tough decision to retire after 24 years and turn the winery over to Erin Nuccio (with their continued input, of course). Erin has been working with Russ for several vintages now, and the two share a nearly identical winemaking and vine-tending philosophy. So there should be little change in the style Russ has developed over the years, heavily influenced and mentored from the beginning by the legendary Burgundian winemakers, Henri Jayer and Michel Niellon. The centerpiece of the winery is their estate vineyard, Le Puits Sec, or the dry well, so named because the first well they drilled on the property yielded exactly nothing. The 25-year-old vines in the 13-acre vineyard in the Eola-Amity Hills are dry-farmed and certified organic, very important to the winemakers (both former and current) whose goal, above all, is to produce well-balanced, expressive wines that let the terroir speak, without any unnecessary intervention, including irrigation. The 2009 Le Puits Sec exhibits the classic flavors of the vineyard: a seamless balance of fruit, balanced acidity, and soft herbs and spice. Wines from this vintage tend to be complex and silky and ready to drink a bit younger. It is $36 and would be lovely with baked salmon or perhaps duck. Speaking of vintages, when Erin decided to move from California and make Pinot Noir in Oregon, he was met by skepticism, because the vintages would be very erratic from one year to the next, “as if that was a real negative,” Erin said, adding, “I believe that’s what keeps it real and exciting and we hope that excitement carries through in our wines.”

2010 Ken Wright, Abbott Claim Pinot Noir
Ken Wright is another Oregon winemaker who is passionate about place. He produces almost exclusively single-vineyard wines, and believes that Pinot Noir is the ultimate grape for conveying the unique characteristics of the soil in which it is grown. Last year we featured both his Guadalupe and his Nyssa Pinots in this club. This month we present his 2010 Abbot Claim Pinot, from the Yamhill Carlton AVA. This is Ken and Karen Wright’s own vineyard, located on a small ridge of sedimentary rock, and the wines from this site tend to be dark, dense, and lush. Paul Gregutt wrote about “the very talented and even visionary” Ken Wright in his Sunday Seattle Times column this week, noting that Ken’s wines can sometimes be a bit on the big side (Ken has said that he wished people would hold his wines longer so that they can develop fully and “get past the fruity state”). But Paul noted that Ken’s 2010 wines are remarkable for their finesse, elegance and depth of flavor, and, happily, lower alcohol levels (this one is a food-friendly 13%). Speaking of vintage variation, 2010 was another trial for Oregon producers, with a cool summer followed by, no kidding, an invasion of grape-marauding birds of Hitchcockian proportions, undeterred even by the cannons that some winemakers employed to scare them off! (Add that to the rain-battling helicopters of 2007.) Ken said that his harvest was down about 30 percent, but the resulting low yields and extra long hang time allowed for full development of aroma and flavor. “As we pressed off the lots we were frankly blown away at the dense color, deep black cherry-driven aromatic profiles and beautifully clean flavors and textures.” This wine, at $49.75, is still quite young and though sleek and elegant now (with decanting), it will develop for another four to six years.