Jan 04 2011

The Red Wine Voice of the Willamette Valley

Van Duzer Vineyards Willamette Valley, Oregon

by Maggie Bernat Smith

We love wine because it tells us a story. A tale of where it was grown, different varietal expressions, what the winemaker did to it when it was picked, and how the weather was that year. Wine is a delicious voice of all these things. It’s what makes us listen to it, analyze it, debate about it, and keep going back for more.

The red wine voice of Willamette Valley Oregon is Pinot Noir. It just happens to be one of the most expressive red wines in the world. Its delicate nature and thin skin has this grape wearing its heart on its sleeve and for those of us with a love for Pinot accept it and will love her no matter what. I am here in Willamette Valley Oregon right now working this 2010 harvest where the grapes are still hanging on the vines (typically they would have been picked 2-3 weeks ago). I sought the advice of Van Duzer Vineyards winemaker Jerry Murray to help me understand and what to predict this vintage.

Despite the tough start to the year, and the rocky mid-season, the end of the season is giving us the sunshine which mother nature does not normally provide this time of year. Traditionally in Oregon it’s a race to pick the grapes before the rainy season hits. Mother nature is being very kind to Willamette Valley right now so there’s hope to pull this vintage off yet. Jerry Murray, winemaker at Van Duzer Vineyards (one of my personal favorites) said “the problem with this season is that to get to the point of physiological maturity (100-110 days) we need to hang the grapes during a window that is typically not conducive to clean and concentrated fruit; rain and cold. We are incredibly lucky that the season has played out the way it has.” He picks exclusively on the flavor of the grapes, he says that if you relied on sugar ripeness alone, you may not get there this year but if the flavors and complexity are there then the wine will be good.

It’s extremely difficult to predict what the wines will ultimately taste like until they are maturing, most of the valley has not picked their fruit yet but I asked Jerry what we can expect as a comparison to the 2007 and 2008 vintages which are on the shelves now. He quotes “these wines will obviously be low alcohol making them similar to 2007 and 2008. Unlike 2007, the wines should show good concentration because, as of yet and knock on wood, the rain hasn’t caused any dilution. I suspect that acids will be higher than the 2008’s, this season has been much cooler and the grapes are holding on to their acids. Expect classic Pinot; elegance, focus, layers. Expect these wines be rest on smaller, tighter, more compact frames than most vintages. This vintage is going to be one for TRUE Pinot Lovers, not those who prefer their Pinot’s to resemble Sumo Wrestlers in a dress.”

Sounds great to classic Pinot Noir lover!

Check out the great Oregon Pinot Noirs on offer at Just Grapes.

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