Friday, February 20, 2015

Oregon Pinot Noir, Napa Winery, Burgundian Taste

Cornerstone Cellars made their name with Napa Valley wines before branching out into the production of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir in Oregon's Willamette Valley.  Of  Oregon, Cornerstone's Managing Partner Craig Camp hasn't enough good things to say.  He writes that the region's "limitless potential ... makes it one of the most exciting wine regions in the world."  He thinks that there, "the best vineyards have not even been planted yet. It's a brave new world with no where to go but up."  He also lays it on pretty thick for the Oregon wine team, led by Tony Rynders, named by Camp as "one of the most dynamic winemakers anywhere."

Camp loves to talk vintages, whether in Napa or Oregon.  Of the Willamette Valley 2011 season, Camp notes that "rain and cool weather made fruit sorting an art form if you wanted to make exceptional wines.  We rejected bin after bin and individually sorted and selected each bunch that made it into the fermenters."  He also likes to talk about the wine: "The end result speaks for itself in the beautifully lifted and structured 2011 Cornerstone Oregon Willamette Valley Pinot Noir, White Label.  The wines from this year are naturally tight and are only now starting to reveal their delicate layers of complexity.  As someone who cut their pinot noir teeth on Burgundy I particularly love this wine."  He thinks you will, too.

This wine was bottled after 14 months in barrels. 1500 cases were produced, and it retails for $50.  Alcohol sits at a level more familiar to Burgundy than Napa, 13.5% abv.  It was made from Willamette Valley Pinot Noir grapes taken from five different areas - 29% Yamhill-Carlton, 29% Eola-Amity, 25% Dundee Hills, 11% Chehalem Mountain and 6% Ribbon Ridge.

The Cornerstone 2011 Oregon Pinot Noir is a medium-dark shade of ruby red.  Its nose gives fresh cranberry aromas, along with a light dusting of spice and a lovely floral component.  The taste is gorgeous, too.  Cranberry is a good descriptor, although the flavor is not quite as tart as it might suggest.  There is a ripeness to it which is unusual, given the cool climate/cool vintage double whammy.  All that coolness does come to bear in a refreshing acidity, with nice, firm tannins to go with it.  There is a splash of spice, a tad of tea and about an atom of anise in the mix on the palate as well.