WEEKLY FLIGHT 2/25 through 2/27/2021 - Oregon's Willamette Valley

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  • By Mark Meissner
WEEKLY FLIGHT 2/25 through 2/27/2021 - Oregon's Willamette Valley

This week, join us for a special tribute to the SIX main wine appellations in Oregon's Willamette Valley. Six remarkably good wine estates with terroir-specific Pinot Noir from each of the appellations! It's a brilliant 6-pk on deal this week. Please read on...
Announcing our next winemaker zoom tasting:
* SENSES Winery: Join us with founder Christopher Strieter and this West Sonoma Coast icon made by THE Thomas Rivers Brown. 5 wines and a $59 tasting kit (bottle sets also available - inquire) FRIDAY March 5th at 6pm. Call for information and reservations!
Enjoy the sunshine and drink more Oregon Pinot Noir!
No grape variety is as reflective of site differences as Pinot Noir. Much of Pinot Noir’s magic rests in its ability to communicate a sense of the place where it was grown. While soil is not the only factor that gives Pinot Noir its sense of place, there is no doubt that the fascinating diversity of Pinot Noir wines grown in the Willamette Valley depends in part on the diverse origins of the soils in which our vineyards are planted.
When I was at Oregon Pinot camp, back in Spring of 2015, we actually studied the dirt from two large trenches, focusing on the two main soil types most commonly found in Willamette Valley vineyards. One of marine sedimentary origin and one of volcanic basalt origin. As you can see from the image above, there are many soil types, and it's what makes Oregon Pinot so amazing. To be honest, it's a LOT like the terroir of Burgundy.
From my Pinot Camp experience, and for those that enjoy a good read, here are the notes which tell the story. Credit: Oregon Pinot Camp! Sorry, it's a trade-only gig! :)
Until about 12 million years ago, western Oregon was on the floor of the Pacific Ocean. Before that, for 35 million years under the sea, it was slowly accumulating layers of marine sediment, the bedrock of the oldest soils in the Willamette Valley.
Starting about 15 million years ago, the pressure created along the coast by the collision of the earth’s Pacific and North American Plates gradually pushed Western Oregon up out of the sea, creating the Coast Range and the intensely volcanic Cascade Mountains further inland. The Willamette Valley thus began as an ocean floor trapped between two emerging mountain ranges. During this period of uprising, from about 15 million to 6 million years ago, rivers of lava erupting from volcanoes on the east side of the Cascades flowed down the Columbia Gorge toward the sea, covering the layers of marine sediment on the floor of the emerging Willamette Valley with layers of basalt.
The Willamette Valley continued to buckle and tilt under pressure from the ongoing coastal collisions, forming the interior hill chains that are typically tilted layers of volcanic basalt and sedimentary sandstone, such as the Dundee Hills and Eola Hills. The next geologic activity to add to our soils was the creation of a layer of windblown silt (called Loess) on the northeast-facing hills west of where Portland sits today. This started as long ago as a million years and may have continued until about 50 thousand years ago. These silts were blown in from the valley floor, but they originated from the severely weathered basalts and sediments.
Much, much later, about 18 thousand to 15 thousand years ago, at the end of the last ice age, the melting of a glacial dam near the location of Missoula, Montana, repeatedly flooded the Willamette Valley, creating a lake up to the 400-foot contour level, with only the tops of the twotone hills sticking out, and leaving behind deep silts. Thus we have in the Willamette Valley a complex series of soils with interesting and diverse origins:
Marine sediments that were laid down on the floor of the Pacific Ocean Examples: Willakenzie, Bellpine, Chuhulpim, Hazelair, Melbourne, Dupee
Basalts that originated as lava flows from eastern Oregon Examples: Jory, Nekia, Saum Windblown
Loess, silt blown up from the valley floor onto northeast-facing hillsides Example: Laurelwood
Missoula Flood deposits brought down the Columbia Gorge as the result of a repeatedly melting glacial dam Examples: Wapato, Woodburn, Willamette
Here is the general description of how soil type affects Pinot noir in Oregon:
Pinot Noir wines from Volcanic soils Usually exhibiting a style that accents the high-toned, floral and “perfumed” aromatics with brighter and expressive red and dark red fruits flavors layered with sweeter baking spices and softer, round and succulent tannins. Can retain good acidity even in warm years.
Pinot Noir wines from Marine Sedimentary soils Usually exhibiting a style showing the voluptuous and denser dark red berry and blue/black fruit with darker floral, earth tones and bigger, heavier and chewier tannins.
Pinot Noir wines from Windblown soils Usually exhibiting a style that shows mixed berry fruits, exotic spices, licorice, cedar and briary components. Can show a round, voluptuous tannin structure. Generally these fall midway between the Volcanic and Marine Sedimentary soil descriptors.
Surprisingly, there isn't a direct relationship between soil types and the six sub-appellations of the Willamette Valley. This can be clearly seen on geological maps. Some of the AVAs have one predominant soil type; others have two or three different types. Additionally, the depth of the soil over parent material and the specific type of parent material varies between the AVAs.
For most AVAs, the geographic and climatic factors are as important as soil type in defining the unique characteristics of the appellation.
• Dundee Hills AVA – mostly basaltic but marine sedimentary at the lower elevations on the western and northern slopes. Vines are often planted on very deep soils. This area is more insulated from daytime heat in the central Willamette Valley by the Willamette River just to the east. Further from the Van Duzer Corridor, it also cools more slowly. Generally a “gentler” place to grow Pinot Noir.
• Eola-Amity Hills AVA – mostly basaltic but marine sedimentary at the lower elevations on the western and northern slopes. Vines are usually planted on thinner soils strongly affected by late afternoon winds blowing through the Van Duzer Corridor. Also moderated by daytime temperatures by the Willamette River just to the east.
• Chehalem Mountains AVA – basaltic and marine sedimentary on the southern and western slopes; windblown on the northeastern slope. This is the AVA with the most diverse soils, exposures and environmental variability, making it impossible to generalize.
• Yamhill-Carlton AVA – marine sedimentary predominant. This “upsidedown u”-shaped group of hills has no exposure to central valley heat, being mostly surrounded by other hills.
• Ribbon Ridge AVA – entirely marine sedimentary and separated from the YamhillCarlton AVA by a narrow valley. Some areas can be very droughty in late summer, advancing grape maturity compared to the other AVAs.
• McMinnville AVA – primarily marine sedimentary with some basalt and alluvium. The AVA lies above a large hot valley just to the south that radiates heat into the hills during the day. It is the most strongly affected by late afternoon winds blowing through the Van Duzer Corridor, as it forms the northern mouth of the Van Duzer opening into the valley. One of the warmest areas in the day, it cools very quickly as the sun sets.
And now onto the wines... Join us and EXPLORE the Six Sub AVAs of The Willamette Valley:
Patricia Green Cellars "Estate Vineyard" Pinot Noir 2019 - $39
Ribbon Ridge, OR
Torii Mor "Dundee Hills Select" Pinot Noir 2016 - $40
Dundee Hills, OR
St. Innocent ‘Momtazi Vineyard’ Pinot Noir 2016 - $47
McMinnville, OR
Brooks "Toluca Lane Vineyard" Pinot Noir 2016 - $52
Eola-Amity Hills, OR
Elk Cove "Five Mountain" Pinot Noir 2018 - $57
Chehalem Mountains, OR
Shea Wine Cellars "Shea Vineyard" Pinot Noir 2016 - $52
Yamhill-Carlton, OR
6pack Sub AVAs Of Willamette Valley, Oregon - $287 retail
5% off - $272.65 THIS WEEK ONLY!
Oregon's Willamette Valley & the six main AVAs - This week's six pack:
Patricia Green Cellars "Estate Vineyard" Pinot Noir 2019 - $39
Ribbon Ridge, OR
Winemaking & Tasting Notes: 
This bottling has always been the powerful view of this vineyard site. The wine is dark in color, dense in earth-tinged dark fruits and relatively thick with tannins. However, as the vineyard has aged fewer blocks are still producing this style of wine that seems to be indicative of the young vines than the older one.
This comes from just three blocks: a 1998 southeast-facing planting of Pommard, a 2000 south-southeast facing planting of Pommard at lower elevation and a 1997 planting of Wadensvil that faces northeast and northwest. The wine is mostly Pommard with just a touch of the Wadensvil rounding it out.
Torii Mor "Dundee Hills Select"
Pinot Noir 2016 - $40
Dundee Hills, OR
Winemaking & Tasting Notes: 
Three of the top vineyard sites in the Dundee Hills are blended together to create this luscious wine. Winemaker, Jacques Tardy aged this wine for 18 months in 26% new French oak and bottled un-fined and un-filtered.
The iron-rich volcanic soils from these vineyards is evident in the intense flavors of dark cherry and blackberry with slight hints of rose petal and lilac. A lengthy finish of dark chocolate and complex notes of spice and earth round out this special wine.
Production: 250 cases
St. Innocent ‘Momtazi Vineyard’
Pinot Noir 2016 - $47
McMinnville, OR
Winemaking & Tasting Notes:
Momtazi Vineyard is located in the McMinnville AVA, 7 miles west of McMinnville, Oregon. The grapes for this wine come from four blocks at the top of the vineyard on steep, exposed and windblown hillsides at an elevation of 680-760'. The vineyard is certified biodynamic. The de-stemmed grapes were fermented in 4-8 ton stainless steel and Burgundy oak fermenters with no SO2 allowing the fermentation to proceed naturally. After gently pressing and settling the wine aged in French oak barrels, 23% which were new, for 16 months before bottling by gravity without fining.
Smelling the 2016 Momtazi, it is immediately obvious that this wine comes from a unique place. The extremes from exposure, day/night temperatures and thin steep soils are apparent from the first impression. Fresh peat, ground coffee, blueberry, blackberry and smoky spice aromas typify the normal spectrum for Momtazi. This wine always has substantial density and the 2016 vintage amps up the juicy, sweetness of its flavors. While always dense, this wine has a suppleness that is immediately appealing.
Brooks "Toluca Lane Vineyard"
Pinot Noir 2016 - $52
Eola-Amity Hills, OR
Winemaking & Tasting Notes:
Silky and elegant, this Pinot Noir has mouth-watering notes of cherry cola, raspberry preserves and hibiscus tea finishing with firm tannins that are just begging for food.
Comprised of pinot noir grapes of a selection massale from the Toluca Lane vineyard located in the Eola-Amity Hills. The vines were planted in 1998 in volcanic basalt-nekia soil.
There are 5 clones incorporated within this pinot noir including Pommard, 114, 115, 667, 777.
Only 175 cases produced.
Elk Cove "Five Mountain"
Pinot Noir 2018 - $57
Chehalem Mountains, OR
Winemaking & Tasting Notes:
This historic vineyard was planted in 1978 by the Ponzi family. The original 4.2 acres of old vines are comprised of Pommard clone and the entire vineyard is set on a steep southeast slope in the Chehalem Mountains AVA. The site has a view of five volcanoes in the Cascade Range most widely seen from the Willamette Valley.
Five Mountain is now sustainably farmed by Elk Cove Vineyards and comprises a total of 30 acres including the original old vine Pommard Pinot Noir and younger Dijon Pinot Noir. Fruit from Five Mountain is fermented in small, temperature controlled steel tanks, hand punched down twice daily, and barreled in French oak barrels. After 10 months of aging, only the barrels that are most representative of the Five Mountain profile are carefully blended to create a rich,earthy Oregon Pinot Noir.
Dense on the nose with huckleberry jam, cherry blossom, leather and vanilla, the palate is replete with blackberry and Italian plum with a savory, black tea finish.
Shea Wine Cellars "Shea Vineyard" Pinot Noir 2016 - $52
Yamhill-Carlton, OR
Winemaking & Tasting Notes:
The Estate Pinot Noir comes from all the Shea Vineyard blocks the winery uses for their own production.
It’s always a great representation of Shea Vineyard in any given vintage. For 2016 this means a wine that is big but balanced, and a joy to drink from start to finish.
Dark fruits such as black cherry, blackberry and plum on both the nose and palate accompany aromatics of blueberry pie, black tea and violet. The palate is concentrated with smooth tannins and a long finish. Aged in 50% new French oak.