Get in the Oregon groove!
From $26.95, £24.88
I thought, with our new Oregon specialist Samantha Cole-Johnson choosing a European wine for her first wine of the week last Friday, it would be fun for me to choose an Oregon wine – not least because after a recent tasting, partly inspired by this thread on our Members’ forum, I am fired up with the enthusiasm for the Pinots and Chardonnays from this Pacific Northwest state.
We’ll be publishing a collection of tasting notes – a few of mine and lots of Sam’s – later this month. This wine was the standout bargain of my tasting, brought into the UK exclusively by A&B Vintners, who seem to have cornered the market in fine Oregon wine on this side of the Atlantic.
It’s made by Grant Coulter, who made wine in Australia and California before being drawn to the organic and biodynamic vineyards of Oregon, where he started out at Hamacher. Then, from 2007 to 2015, he was the right-hand man of Michael Etzel at Beaux Frères in Willamette Valley, the winery set up by Etzel and his then brother-in-law, a wine writer you may have heard of called Robert Parker. Beaux Frères has since been acquired by the parent company of Bouchard Père et Fils and Etzel, who continues to make the wine at Beaux Frères, is also doing his own thing under the rather clever label Sequitur. (Another European acquisition was announced recently: the splendidly named Rollin Soles has just sold his Roco wine operation to Santa Margherita USA, the import company wholly owned by Pinot Grigio kings Santa Margherita of northern Italy.)
Coulter is now head winemaker at Flâneur Wines, on whose website he states, ‘One of my proudest accomplishments is making the 2014 Beaux Freres, Beaux Freres Vineyard, which was named Wine Spectator’s #3 wine of 2016.’ But he also makes wine on his own account, wine that has become so popular that his wife Renee zealously guards how it’s allocated.
Hundred Suns, named after the number of sunrises conventionally required between flowering and harvest, is his own label, for wines he makes from vineyards he likes.
And Old Eight Cut is, according to the back label, ‘a diamond cut dating back to the 1400s using simple tools and few cuts to enhance the natural brilliance of the stone without disguising its true nature’. Another clever name, then.
His single-vineyard wines sell on his website for $50 a bottle and carry the names of the well-known Shea Vineyard, Mike Etzel’s Sequitur and Bednarik, a site described by A&B as ‘closer to Portland but towards the coast range mountains; a cool site on sedimentary soils’. Old Eight Cut 2019 is already sold out on the Hundred Suns site and was priced at $30, so presumably is a blend (I’m told the fruit is substantially from Bednarik), but it is a very fine Oregon Pinot at a remarkably friendly price.
Perhaps one of the reasons I like it so much is that it comes from a relatively cool, wet vintage in the Willamette Valley. (Remember Sam’s report on dodging the downpours when she was interning there in 2019?) The wine has admirable restraint without being remotely thin.
As Coulter puts it on the back label, ‘The 2019 vintage was a return to a classic, cool Willamette Valley growing season. Dodging rain showers, we harvested our collection of vineyards starting in late September and into mid-October. Winemaking was kept to a bare minimum; fermented with native yeast and 25% whole cluster; aged on the lees for 11 months; gently racked to tank and bottled unfined and unfiltered.’
My tasting note: ‘Bright garnet. Fresh, direct, pure fruit. Juicy and a tad sweet but with a little zesty chewiness on the end. Long. 16.5 Drink 2022–2025’.
Coulter’s more eloquent, but presumably less dispassionate, tasting note is: ‘By design, this wine evolves and changes in glass through a broad spectrum of nuanced characteristics. Opening notes of ripe cranberry and cherry give way to complexities of black licorice, blackcurrant, dried sage and freshly-tilled earth. The succulent fruit wraps around a framework of delicate tannins and mouth-watering acidity.’
I’ll second that mouth-watering acidity, and the structure. This Pinot is no flash in the pan and may last longer than I’m suggesting. Really, this would be an admirable introduction to the value on offer in Oregon – especially now that burgundy prices have soared. Sam will explain further, I’m sure, but I encourage you to check this out. It’s available retail in New York, New Jersey and Berkeley, California – and is even listed by Wine.com according to Wine-Searcher.com. However did Renee Coulter allow that?
See our 115 articles tagged Oregon.