For the last few days I’ve been at the Southern Pinot Noir workshop at Hamner Springs. It’s an event that brings together winemakers from across New Zealand to taste and discuss each others’ wines. Everyone brings their wines, and then in groups of eight the wines are tasted blind. The discussion that follows is then shared with the rest of the room, and it’s almost always kind, but it’s also honest. People are bringing wines with issues, or trial wines, or special lots – and because of this, in order to create an open environment, no journalists are allowed. It is just winemakers. I got in as an accompanying partner, and I’ve been allowed to attend sessions where finished wines are being shown, and even then there are some things I’m not allowed to write about. But for most of the sessions, it takes place behind closed doors. It’s a really cool idea.
The first session was a really interesting tasting of Pinot Noirs from Oregon, including some of the established celebrity wineries and also some of the newcomers. These wines were all tasted blind, and I’ve kept my notes and scores exactly as they were written. For the first flight of five, we didn’t even know the wines were from Oregon: we were just told they were not New Zealand. After the first flight, we knew that the second flight was also Oregon wines.
I might change the scores a little bit if I’m tasting sighted: knowledge of the producer does change your ratings a bit, not necessarily because of bias, but because you can then understand the wine better. And some of the scores are a bit lower than if I was tasting the wines sighted. But’s that’s the nature of the exercise. So take the scores with a pinch of salt, and look at which wines fared best compared with their peers.
Eyrie Vineyards Pinot Noir 2015 Oregon
Supple, juicy and bright with sweet cherries and raspberries. Quite grippy with good acidity. Red fruits rather than black with nice freshness and focus. Grainy and savoury on the finish. It’s not an obvious wine but it is supple and has real drinkability. Understated and quite elegant. 90/100
Adelsheim Breaking Ground Pinot Noir 2015 Chehalem Mountain, Oregon
Sweetly fruited and generous with ripe, warm, sweet, ripe berry fruits. Quite warm with some spicy structure on the finish. Still Pinot but in quite a crowd-pleasing style, perhaps with slightly higher alcohol. 89/100
Domaine Drouhin Pinot Noir 2015 Oregon
Ripe, clean and very fruity with nice juiciness and sweet, alluring raspberry and cherry fruit. Ripe and full with nice structure. Very pleasant but unremarkable. 88/100
Rex Hill Jacob Hart Vineyard Pinot Noir 2015 Oregon
Plenty of colour and ripe fruit here. Black cherries, spice and some creamy texture and noticeable oak. Rich and ripe with a lush fruit character. Moving away from Pinot here more to an international red style, but well made nonetheless. 87/100
Bethel Heights Flat Block Pinot Noir 2015 Oregon
A hint of green on the nose here with supple, refreshing cherry and plum fruit. Nice grip and appealing fruit, but quite simple in style. 87/100
Division Wine Company ‘Deux’ Eola Springs Pinot Noir 2016 Oregon
Supple and very juicy with nice sweet berry and cherry fruit. There’s a freshness to this wine: there’s sweet fruit but also nice stony, savoury grippiness. Shows lovely purity and focus. 93/100
A to Z Wineworks Pinot Noir 2015 Oregon
200 000 case blend. Spicy cedar and vanilla on the nose. The palate is fresh with a bit of grip and some noticeable oak. Midweight and juicy with some savoury, spicy, cedary notes on the finish. 87/100
Goodfellow Whistling Ridge Vineyard Pinot Noir 2015 Oregon
Fresh, supple and spicy with a bit of grip. Sweetly fruited. Juicy and midweight with nice focus to the fruit. Cherries, raspberries and some herbs. Lighter style and very drinkable, but with a savoury woody note on the finish and a bit of volatility. 87/100
Francis Tannahill The Hermit Pinot Noir 2014 Oregon
Ripe, sweet and lush with a very soft texture and appealing sweet cherry and berry fruits. Quite silky but with some freshness, and a slight damson bitterness on the finish offsetting the sweet fruit. 89/100
Big Table Farm Yamhill-Carlton Pinot Noir 2015 Oregon
Warm, sweetly aromatic nose with pot pourri and sweet herbs, as well as sweet berry fruits. The palate has a green herbal/seaweed edge to it, but there’s some attractive, savoury-edged cherry and plum fruit. There’s some elegance here, and nice fine-grained structure. Intriguing. 91/100
Minimus Dijon-Free Pinot Noir 2016 Willamette Valley, Oregon
Focused and quite elegant with sweet red berry and cherry fruit. Juicy and a bit grippy with a nice grainy edge to the focused fruit. I like the freshness and focus here. Has good concentration. 92/100
Find these wines with wine-searcher.com2 Comments on Oregon Pinot Noir: tasting 11 top examples blind
2 thoughts on “Oregon Pinot Noir: tasting 11 top examples blind”
I drank the 2104 Eyrie Pinot Noir a couple of nights ago. Jason Lett’s wines never fail to please.
Actually, it was the 2014.