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Pinot Noir Recommendations

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Wednesday, August 12, 2009

The 2006 and 2007 vintages in Oregon pinot noir are strikingly different. The dry, hot growing season and harvest in 2006 allowed winemakers to push the limits of ripeness. The wines are bigger than typical in Oregon -- sometimes too big and unbalanced. Rain at harvest in 2007 posed different problems and forced winemakers to pick early, when grapes were not quite ripe, or brave the rains and hope for sunshine. As a result, the vintage is uneven; wines labeled simply "Oregon" tend to be light and less interesting, but regional wines such as Willamette Valley and single-vineyard wines often show impressive finesse and style.

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Such wines are pricey, however. Oregon has positioned itself in the $35-to-$55 range for high-quality wines. Winemakers I spoke with said they are beginning to feel the crunch of the economic downturn, as prices fall on luxury wines from competing markets. Any wines that best express their terroir are a splurge.

-- Dave McIntyre

Chehalem "3 Vineyard" Pinot Noir 2007
** 1/2
Willamette Valley, Ore., $35

Lively, elegant, light in body and silky in texture with a nice herbal note, this wine reflects a blend of sedimentary and volcanic soils. One of the three vineyards is organic, the other two in transition to organic certification.

Bacchus: available in the District at MacArthur Beverage, Whole Foods Market Glover Park, Rodman's, Morris Miller Wine & Liquor; on the list at Blue Duck Tavern, Brasserie Beck, Cafe Milano, DC Coast, Hook, Proof. Available in Maryland at Corridor Wine & Spirits in Laurel, Calvert Discount Liquors in Cockeysville.

Shea Wine Cellars, "Shea Vineyard" Pinot Noir 2007
** 1/2
Willamette Valley, Ore., $58

This wine features dark cherry and blackberry fruit spiced with an intriguing woodsy note -- could it be Douglas fir? -- and exotic spices such as fenugreek and curry. The 2007 clocks in at 13.2 percent alcohol, a full point lower than the 2006, which I also liked. This one is better. The vineyard is farmed sustainably.

Roanoke Valley Wine Co.: available in the District at Pearson's; on the list at BLT Steak, Charlie Palmer Steak, Proof, Rasika, Vidalia. Available in Virginia at Wine Cabinet in Reston; on the list at Restaurant Eve in Alexandria.

Sineann "Resonance Vineyard" Pinot Noir 2007
** 1/2
Willamette Valley, Ore., $50

Impeccable balance and structure, combining a Burgundy feel with American flavors to produce a lively, elegant wine. Made with biodynamic grapes.

Roanoke Valley Wine Co.: on the list in the District at Plume in the Jefferson Hotel. Available in Virginia at Arrowine in Arlington, Wine Cabinet in Reston; on the list at 2941 in Falls Church, Restaurant Eve in Alexandria.


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