OREGON BURGUNDIAN KNOWHOW
More Oregon wineries than ever are producing fine Pinot Noirs, but most of the production is in miniscule to small lots. This makes it difficult to find outstanding wines outside of the region, let alone in export markets. Just to give you an example –Domaine Drouhin makes approximately 9000 cases, Beau Freres 2500, Ponzi 2250, and many average 1000. The majority produce anywhere between 200 – 400 and practically all sell them in the winery store or to their regular customers by mail order.
King Estate, the state’s largest winery, offers a good selection of basic Pinot Noir and reserve styles. Small production runs push up costs, which must be passed on to consumers. A fine Oregon Pinot Noir can never be inexpensive, as is the case with those from Burgundy, or even Australia.
In addition to small productions, many wineries offer a range of single vineyard Pinot Noirs following the Burgundian model –terroir.
In Oregon around Dundee where the best Pinot Noir are said to grow, the soil is basaltic, resulting from volcanic eruptions in Washington State to the north.
Domaine Drouhin’s 80 acre vineyard bottles a regular estate Pinot Noir, then a second label (Louise) and premium reserve called Laurene Reserve.
Beaux Freres has several single vineyards Pinto Noir bottlings.
Most Oregon Pinot Noir is a blend of Willamette and Umpqua fruit to balance the weaker colour and alcohol of Willamette grapes.
Recently, a few wine writers had an opportunity to blind taste a number of Oregon Pinot Noirs along with a few bottles thrown in for comparison in two flights (15 wines).
The results were revealing to say the least.
All wines were tasted under ideal conditions (temperature, correct glass, breathing of wines)
The best six were:
Signature Pinot Noir, 2000, King Estate $ 29.95
Pinot Noir “Schouten”, 2000, Amity Vineyards $ 47.50
Carneros District Pinot Noir, 2000, R Mondavi $ 57.95
Freedom Hill Pinto Noir, 2000, St Innocent, $ 56.-
Vision Pinot Noir, Conosur, Chile $ 17.95
Savigny Les Beaune La Deminode, 2000, $ 48.30, Domaine L. Jadot
In the running, there were two California,one Chilean, one Ontarian, and two Burgundies.
Practically all eight of us were in agreement with the above ranking.
As you can see, Oregon Pinot Noir outranked their more expensive Burgundian counterparts.
All prices are in Canadian dollars and wines were purchased from the LCBO (Liquor Control Board of Ontario)
There is no doubt that Oregon Pinot Noir represents good value pending on vintage.
For a wine lover, there is no better gift than a good bottle of Pinot Noir!
Article contributed by Hrayr Berberoglu, a Professor Emeritus of Hospitality and Tourism Management specializing in Food and Beverage. Books by H. Berberoglu