wa2.gif (4241 bytes)

abut9.gif (3095 bytes)

abut12.gif (3207 bytes)
abut10.gif (3636 bytes)

abut11.gif (4039 bytes)


Oregon wine country, part 8

Website: www.cristomwines.com

It was late afternoon by the time I arrived at Cristom, an appointment I’d been looking forward to. This was one of the few Oregon producers whose wines I’d tasted in the UK, and I’d really, really liked them—particularly for their elegance.

'I've been making Pinot Noir for 30 vintages now', shares Steve Doerner of Cristom (above). 'I want to maintain the best part of Pinot, which is its elegance'. He adds that, 'it's an uphill battle to convince people that finesse is good'.

'Pinot can combine power and finesse', says Steve. 'I try to emphasize the elegance, but I don't mind having the power; but if I have to sacrifice one, then it's the power.'

As with many Pinot Noir producers, Steve’s inspiration was red Burgundy. 'My favourite Burgundy is Dujac. I'm not trying to make Burgundy, but his wines emphasize that style. You get there by not doing much in the winery: using native yeasts, whole clusters, pressing to barrel with no settling. We do a couple of interventions: egg white fining, one racking, adding sulfur dioxide after racking, and adjusting acidity if necessary. But we don't use any prophylactic nutrient additions; we just look at what's going on in the barrel. I think using whole clusters reduces reduction. It changes the fermentation dynamics and you get a more gradual fermentation. I don't check for nitrogen: I have less interest in the lab as time goes on.'

A short film showing the vineyards and cellar

We tried some 2007 Pinots from barrel. Most years Steve does 50% whole cluster; in 2007, a trickier year, it was 30%. He thinks that stems can help bring longevity.

  • Pommard clone: really elegant

  • Coastal foothills: spicy, structured and robust

  • Eileen Vineyard: Very elegant style

  • Own rooted vineyard block: vibrant dark cherry fruit with amazing fruity focus

  • Louise: very fresh, bright and fruity with high acidity

Green harvest

Then it was time to try some wines. The tasting showed that Cristom is right at the top of the Oregon tree in terms of quality. As well as the stunning Pinots, the Syrah – a rarity in the Willamette Valley – is a beautiful cool climate expression of this variety.

Cristom Pinot Gris Estate 2006 Eola-Amity Hills, Oregon
Slightly nutty, smooth honeyed nose. The palate has lovely nutty richness. ntense and quite savoury with a distinctive nutty character. 90/100

Cristom Viognier Estate 2006 Eola-Amity Hills
Appley, grapey nose is quite sweet and aromatic with some richness. The palate is dense, viscous and yet balanced with some alcohol evident. A serious effort. 91/100

Cristom Pinot Noir Mount Jefferson Cuvee 2006 Willamette Valley, Oregon
This is an entry level barrel selection. It's smooth and elegant; beautifully proportioned with nice red fruits and bright cherries. Approachable but serious with a hint of spicy, earthy complexity. 91/100

Cristom Pinot Noir Sommers Reserve 2006 Willamette Valley, Oregon
Pure, elegant nose with a bit of dark cherry, some spice and nice berry fruits. The palate is quite lush and pure but also has some spicy structure. A superbly elegant wine with a lovely spiciness to the palate. 93/100

Cristom Pinot Noir Eileen Vineyard 2006 Eola-Amity Hills, Oregon
Lovely pure dark cherry and black fruit aromatics on the nose, which is lush and elegant. The palate is smooth and dense with fantastic elegance, great purity and a subtle spiciness sitting under the fruit. This is fantastic stuff with complex structure. 95/100

Cristom Jessie Vineyard Pinot Noir 2006 Eola-Amity Hills, Oregon
Lush, sweet, pure dark fruits on the nose with a nice spiciness. There are earthy, spicy notes here. Quite supple with some structure and a bit of meatiness. An elegant yet dense wine that will need some time to show its best. 93/100

Cristom Jessie Vineyard 20012006 Eola-Amity Hills, Oregon
This was a lighter vintage, with big berries, and bigger yields, along with cooler temperatures. Complex sweet cherry nose with some undergrowthy, earthy complexity. The palate is elegant, showing some evolution as well as an earthy edge and some spiciness. There are notes of leather and herbs, too. Drinking really well now, finishing quite spicy. 93/100

Cristom Syrah Estate 2005 Eola-Amity Hills, Oregon
Lovely bright, vivid, peppery cool climate Syrah nose with dark fruits. The palate is bright with a lovely savoury peppery focus to it. Sweet fruit is bolstered with grippy tannins and a hint of sappiness. A lovely wine. 92/100

See also:

Wines tasted 07/08  
Find these wines with

Back to top