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Pinot Noir is a varietal I find myself consuming with more regularity. I enjoy the wines characteristic leanness and structure and its signature flavor profile replete with cherry, herbs/spices, cola, eucalyptus and mushrooms. I am so in love with the stuff that I have signed up for numerous California producers’ Pinot Noir mailing lists, frequently inundated with offers to buy the premium wines each February and March. Although I do a better-than-average job exploring California’s Pinot Noir scene from the Central Coast to Anderson Valley, I have seemed to neglect another stellar location, Oregon.

I have always harbored fond feelings towards the Pacific Northwest but have not shown my monetary support—other than purchasing the occasional local artist’s album—I have only tried a handful of producers from Washington State and even less from Oregon. There are so many California producers that outcompete on the shelves of my favorite shops; it becomes a mission to try some of the more independent producers from Oregon or to locate an acclaimed Cabernet from Walla Walla Valley, Washington.

Back to Oregon, in the Willamette Valley the varietal (Pinot Noir, in case you forgot) expresses a leaner, earth-driven style comparable to its roots of Burgundy owing to its cool climate and the influences of unique soil composition. In ideal vintages, such as 2008, Eric Asimov among others have praised the area, stating that it has been graced with perfect weather from “uncharacteristically dry September and October, with warm days and cool nights, allowing the grapes to achieve ripeness without sacrificing the freshness provided by good acidity”, satisfying the finicky grape.

It was with the inspiration that I decided to try an entry level Pinot Noir from RouteStock Cellars (clever name, grafting on a rootstock!) with a couple of friends. I would try a Willamette Valley red from the 2009 vintage.

I unscrewed the bottle and parceled out the contents among the four of us to taste the wine and was immediately drawn to the hue of the juice. The Pinot showed a pale raspberry coloring, it was redolent of cranberry, cherry and lighter traces of Dr. Pepper from a glass bottle. From the coloring, I could draw that it was less extracted and on the palate the wine’s flavor profile was fruit forward with scant notes of earthiness.

The RouteStock Cellars was easy drinking, enjoyable and light on the palate with rounded notes of cherry, without having a syrupy texture or a nasty spike of alcohol. It complimented the price point (~$14) and did not overcomplicate things but showed a simple well-integrated entry level pinot noir that I am happy to call number 418.

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