2011 Ken Wright Cellars, Savoya Vineyard, Pinot Noir
We’ve featured a number of Ken Wright Pinots over the years, from Guadalupe, Nysa, and Abbott Claim vineyards. But this is the first appearance of his Savoya Vineyard Pinot. As we’ve noted in past write-ups, Ken is passionate about highlighting the influence of location and terroir in each of his single-vineyard wines, and believes that Pinot Noir is one of the best grapes for conveying the characteristics of the soil in which it is grown. As you would expect, he is extremely selective about vineyard sites and management. Savoya is the first vineyard directly owned and developed by the winery, initially planted back in 1999 with about 4.5 acres. Located in the Yamhill-Carlton AVA, its well-draining sandy, sedimentary soil tends to produce wines that are lush and forward in their youth, with nice floral and spice flavors and lots of dark fruit. This Pinot is $60 and is quite approachable now, though it will certainly evolve over time, if given time to develop.
2010 J. Christopher, Nuages, Pinot Noir
Like many winemakers, Jay Christopher Somers started out with a different plan in mind, in his case, to be a rock star. But his first sip of Burgundy changed the course of his life and, since 1996, he has been making small lots of handcrafted Pinot Noirs at his eponymous winery in Chehalem, Oregon. Along the way, he worked at Adelsheim and Cameron wineries in Oregon, as well as in New Zealand, developing his Old World approach to vineyard management and winemaking. He learned that with minimal irrigation and careful hand labor (letting the vineyard speak for itself), it is indeed possible to make Burgundian-style Pinots in Oregon. Jay makes a number of single-vineyard Pinots, as well as wines blended from several vineyard sites. One of the latter is his “Nuages” Pinot, a blend of fruit from three vineyards in the Chehalem Mountains AVA. The soil here ranges from sedimentary sea bed, to volcanic, to glacial sediment, which is no doubt what gives this wine its marvelous complexity. Jay named it Nuages, French for clouds, after one of his favorite gypsy jazz tunes by Django Rheinhart, but says the name “also pays homage to the moderating influence of Oregon’s autumn cloud cover which slows ripening to allow for the long hang time that creates fully developed flavors.” When we tasted the wine, we also thought Nuages was an apt descriptor for the delicate, ephemeral flavors of this graceful, cloudlike wine. With its subtle nose of dark fruit, and delicate spice, it has a lovely structure and would nicely complement grilled fish, poultry, or rabbit. Jay made only 375 cases, and it is $36 a bottle.