As The 12 Days of Pinot Noir starts heading into the home stretch it’s back to Willamette Valley in Oregon. Cristom Vineyards is the subject today. This producer has 65 acres under vine; within that are 7 distinct vineyard sites. Founder Paul Gerrie is an engineer and he has a winemaker, Steve Doerner, who is a biochemist. Together they started with a scientific approach, their ultimate goal being to make terroir driven wines. Today I’ll look at three of their Pinot Noirs. First up is Cristom Vineyards 2007 Mt. Jefferson Cuvee Pinot Noir. This cuvee style offering is made from fruit sourced at 13 different Willamette Valley vineyards. Four of those are Cristom estate vineyards. They have produced this selection since the 1994 vintage. Barrel aging was accomplished over eleven months in French oak; 8% of the barrels were new. 5,161 cases of this vintage were produced and the suggested retail price is $30.
Raspberry cinnamon and vanilla form a lovely trio of scents that emerge from this 2007 Pinot Noir. Throughout the palate red fruit such as cherry, raspberry and cranberry are prominent and provide the core flavors with a wave of black cherry underlying things. Earth, chicory, flint and hints of graphite are all part of the finish which is medium in length. This has good overall structure and nice acidity.
For a suggested retail of $30 this wine is a good value. With over 5,000 cases it shouldn’t be difficult to find either. This cuvee is a good primer into Willamette Valley Pinot Noir. It’ll drink well for several years. If you choose to open it now I suggest a solid hour in the decanter to get the best out of it. Once it opens up this is a lovely wine.
The second selection is the Cristom Vineyards 2006 Sommers Reserve Pinot Noir. This selection is produced primarily from fruit sourced at four of their estate vineyards as well as some purchased fruit. In total 15 vineyard sites contributed fruit to this cuvee. Barrel aging was accomplished over seventeen months in French oak; 44% was new. 2,734 cases of this offering were produced and the suggested retail price is $41.
Strawberry, violets, and hints of sage emerge from the nose of this reserve style cuvee. Black currant, cherry, wild strawberry, star anise and touches of orange zest form the rich palate of this Pinot Noir. Hints of sour cherry emerge in the solid finish along with cinnamon, mocha, berry compote, and pie crust notes. This wine has yielding tannins and racy acidity. While this offering will pair well with a wide array of foods I think it would be particularly well matched with Turkish food; mixed grills and other meats will work fantastically.
As with the Mt. Jefferson cuvee the Sommers Reserve will show at its best now if you take the time to decant it. This is a really solid Pinot Noir, a notch up in complexity and length from the Mt. Jefferson and an equally good value in its price category.
The final wine from Cristom today is the 2006 Marjorie Vineyard Pinot Noir. As the name indicates this is a single vineyard selection. This vineyard was planted in 1982. Barrel aging occurred over 18 months in French oak; 64% of the barrels were new. 752 cases of this offering were produced and the suggested retail price is $60.
A horn ‘o’ plenty of dark berry aromas as well as hints of lavender, violets and cinnamon make up the expressive nose of this Pinot. The palate is incredibly layered with berry fruit, minerals and spice notes coming in wave after wave of flavor. Black tea and copious earth notes emerge on what is a notably lengthy finish. The overall structure and acidity this wine shows are impressive as well. While this Pinot will match well with food I liked it quite a bit on its own. A good choice to share with friends and drink while you contemplate the mysteries of life. Decanting this wine is also highly recommended
Each of these selections from Cristom Vineyards is well made and delicious. However the 2006 Marjorie Vineyard is the most remarkable of the three. This wine is loaded with striking flavors and layers of complexity that build to a tremendous finish. I expect this wine to improve over the next 2-3 years and drink well for 4-5 after that. This would be an excellent choice to sock away for a special occasion.