To celebrate the launch of our new Collector Series Pinot Noir wines -- Lot 190 Sonoma Coast and Lot 193 Eola-Amity Hills -- Brett Vankoski, Wine Director of 90+ Cellars, shares his thoughts on what makes these New World Pinot Noir wines great. Read on to learn more about these very special wines and the regions they were made.
Pinot Noir is one of the world's oldest and finest grape varieties. Its origins are in Burgundy, France, where it may have been cultivated as far back as the rule of Charlemagne. Through the centuries, it has captivated us with its ability to make nuanced wines that express the soils and climates where the vines are planted. Its fame has inspired winemakers worldwide to craft wines that reach the heights of the best of Burgundy’s Grand and Premier Crus.
But this is no easy feat. Pinot Noir is a challenge. It will only flourish in certain sites that are neither too hot, nor too cold. Its yields must be kept low and therefore the vineyard sites and soils must be carefully selected and cultivated. Fermentation and maturation must be done carefully. But when all of these factors go well, you get something truly special.
We’ve recently added two Pinot Noir wines to our collection that are just that: truly special. One comes to us from California's Sonoma Coast, and the other from the Eola-Amity Hills of Oregon’s Willamette Valley.
The wine industry in Oregon is centered in the Willamette Valley, to the west and south of Portland, and to the east of the coastal range mountains. Its cool maritime-influenced climate is suitable for earlier ripening varieties like Pinot Noir. Pinot Noir has the greatest reputation and is the most planted variety here. Our Lot 193 Pinot Noir from the sub-region of Eola-Amity Hills is a wine that resembles its French counterpart, with bright acidity, moderate alcohol, and penetrating red cherry fruit flavors.
This is in contrast to California style Pinot Noir. The warmer and dryer climate in places like California’s Pacific coast often results in softer and riper styles with a little less acidity, and more alcohol and richness.
This proves true for our Lot 190 Pinot Noir from the Sonoma Coast. California’s Mediterranean climate would normally be too hot for crafting well made Pinot Noir, but the influence of moderating cool coastal breezes from the Pacific Ocean create favorable conditions for the grape. Both Oregon and California wines feature ripe red berry fruit aromas like red cherry, raspberry, and strawberry, but the Sonoma Coast Pinot is broader and more substantial on the palate. This also means it usually sustains a longer maturation in new oak barrels.
Both California and Oregon have diverse soil composition varying between volcanic, loam, and alluvial soils on hillsides and valleys sheltered from the cloudier and wetter weather along the coast. While it is wetter in Oregon, the growing season is largely dry. Like California, the water retention capacity of the soil is important. In both Oregon and California, the best sites are planted on hillsides that are somewhat sheltered from harsh weather in soils that combine good drainage to control vigor and adequate water retention to prevent vine stress.
There is so much that goes into creating tasty Pinot Noir, so pop open these new bottles and taste for yourself. The excellence coming from some of the best Pinot Noir producing regions America has to offer may even give the French something to admire.