A couple of years ago when I travelled to Willamette Valley in Oregon for the firs time there were several Wineries I had in mind to visit. Some were due to exceptional wines I’d had in the past and a few were based on reputation. As I made my way around for a week the recommendations started to pile up. One that was mentioned to me by several folks was The Four Graces. So towards the end of my week I made it over to visit them and was impressed with the quality of the wines. Thus they seemed like a natural to consider for The 12 Days of Pinot Noir. Steve and Paula Black founded The Four Graces; they selected the name to honor their four daughters. They own two distinct vineyard sites, one in the Yamhill-Carlton District and the other in the Red Hills of Dundee. From these they craft Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc and of course Pinot Noir. Today for The 12 Days of Pinot Noir I’ll look at two of their releases.
The Four Graces 2007 Willamette Valley Pinot Noir was produced mostly from fruit sourced at a combination of their Dundee Hills and Yamhill-Carlton vineyards. Aging was accomplished over 10 months in French oak barrels. 11,000 cases of this wine were produced and the suggested retail price is $29.
Wild blackberry, mushrooms and rhubarb are all part of the inviting, almost intoxicating nose of this Willamette Valley Pinot from The Four Graces. Blackberry is a continued standout through the rich palate where it takes on a savory edge. Forest floor, hints of pine and touches of graphite emerge and shine in the finish of this selection. This wine has lovely tannic structure and terrific acidity.
What stands out most to me about this Pinot is its overall combination of medium bodied, full flavored elegance. This is a fine example of Willamette Valley Pinot Noir which will pair well with a host of foods. I matched it up with Beef Stroganoff and thought it worked wonderfully.
The second selection I’m looking at from The Four Graces is the 2006 Dundee Hills Reserve Pinot Noir. This selection is produced from fruit sourced at their Black Family Estate in the Dundee Hills AVA. They craft the Reserve by selecting the best fruit from specific rows and blocks based on studying their vineyard from vintage to vintage. After 13 months in French oak of which 46% was new they put this wine together by selecting individual barrels. 7 months of additional bottle aging occurred prior to release. 2,755 6 bottle cases of this wine were produced and the suggested retail price is $42.
Lavender, blackberry and violets are prominent in the nose of this Reserve Pinot Noir. Taking the first sip it’s apparent this selection is a little tight out of the bottle. I decanted and let it breathe for about an hour which worked out perfectly. A combination of sweet and savory cherry, blackberry and plum are prominent throughout the intensely flavorful palate. A veritable potpourri of spice notes emerge at about mid-palate and continue forward through the finish; cinnamon, nutmeg and mocha are all part of the mix. Cherry cola and subtle ginger character emerges in the lengthy finish. Supple, velvety tannins and firm acidity are part of this wines excellent structure.
This Reserve Pinot is both powerful and elegant. That and the lengthy finish are the two most impressive hallmarks to me. This is an excellent value in Dundee Hills Pinot Noir. It’s delicious now but will certainly improve over the next 3-4 years and drink well for 4-5 after that.
Both of these Pinot Noirs are fine examples of the generally wonderful things being done with Pinot Noir in Willamette Valley. Look for more selections from this region as The 12 Days of Pinot Noir continues.