2015 Stoller Dundee Hills Willamette Valley Pinot Noir
Willamette Valley, Oregon, is emblematic of a marginal climate…one where there is not quite enough sun, just a bit too much rain, the soil is poor and low in nutrients, and there isn’t much heat. In other words, it’s a real pain in the Wazoo to grow Pinot Noir.
To make Pinot in these conditions is tricky, and location – here, more than almost anywhere – matters. A southeast-facing slope catches heat, ripens the grapes, and sheds rain, making Pinot a viable grape in Oregon. The comparison is inevitable – these are the exact same conditions in Burgundy and if you go to either place, what you’ll find is southeast-facing hillside vineyards.
Willamette Valley pioneers planted in the Dundee Hills for just this reason. Just behind these hills and before the onset of the Ribbon Ridge is a tall, singular hill situated all alone. Jokingly, in wine-making circles, this hill became known as Corton, a reference to the Grand Cru Burgundy vineyard that is also situated alone, away from all the other great vineyards of Burgundy, and making stellar Grand Cru wine.
And Oregon’s Corton, gently sloped to the southeast, catching maximum early sunlight on its broad fan, shedding Oregon’s high rainfall, is the exclusive source for Stoller’s Pinot Noir. And it shows:
Montmorency cherry aromas explode from the glass, mingling with layers of pomegranate, orange zest, black currant, green tea and Pinot Noir’s baking spice aromas. Corton’s hillside has worked to concentrate these flavors, bringing them to the absolute forefront of the wine. This is not to say that the wine is out of balance or too fruity. Rather, the classic Oregonian elegance is on full display: Power and drive across the palate finishes with tension and energy on the back. This wine is young now, but the fruit, tannin and acid balance is impeccable.
Oregonians will make the comparison (as I have done here) that their wine is “Burgundian.” In this case I believe it’s a bit of a disservice. This is dramatic Oregon Pinot Noir at its best – absolutely irresistible.