Category Archives: Pinot Noir

Maison Roy Petite Incline Pinot Noir

Beaux Freres Impulse

Maison Roy 2014 “Petite Incline” Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, OR

Fellow wine lovers, you may have picked up on the fact that I’ve found myself extremely bored with Oregon Pinot Noir for the past several years. There are still some great ones out there, but for the most part, I’m finding much of them to be boring and overpriced. One Willamette Valley Pinot Noir which has kept my interest throughout time is Beaux Freres. While their flagship wine may run for $95 per bottle, I do think it’s worth the dollar. As luck would have it, the families which founded and still own and run Beaux Freres have launched a completely new project, Mason Roy. It’s one of the better Oregon Pinot Noirs I’ve had recently, and it’s very affordable.

Back in 1991 Mike Etzel and Robert Roy came together to found the now famous Beaux Freres. Fast forward to 2012 and their Sons Jared Etzel and Marc Roy have started their owner winery, Maison Roy, after spending years working under their fathers and learning their craft. I’m a born skeptic, and I’ve seen other second generation wineries pop up with less than impressive wines, so I was pleasantly surprised with how much I’m enjoying the Maison Roy.

Maison Roy 2014 Petite Incline Pinot Noir

Maison Roy 2014 Petite Incline Pinot Noir

Maison Roy 2014 “Petite Incline” Pinot Noir $34.99

I’ve consistently found Beaux Freres to be among the biggest, most dense, and most complex Pinot Noir out there, and the Maison Roy follows in those same footsteps. It stands on it’s own, without trying to be a clone of Beaux Freres, but you can definitely see that Jared Etzel and Marc Roy are their fathers’ sons in terms of their wine philosophies. It’s not quite as complex as a $95 bottle of Beaux Freres, but it’s beautiful and among the most complex Oregon Pinot Noir in the $35 range.

It’s not as “Petite” as the name might suggest, though they do offer a higher end bottle simply named “Incline”. The Petite Incline is unfined and unfiltered, which gives a bit of extra texture and slightly cloudy appearance. It’s 100% Pinot Noir grapes, sourced from a handful of great  vineyards around the Willamette Valley. The nose is packed with lush fruits, spicy herbs, and hints of forest floor, while the palate is medium-full bodied, for a Pinot Noir. There are flavors of preserved black cherries, dehydrated strawberries, hints of pepper and tobacco. It’s shows a mineral essences with notes of plums and raspberries. Overall, a very pleasant and lovely Pinot Noir.

We were able to get our hands on just 15 bottles to feature on Impulse, and they’re first come first serve

Vineyards: Gran Moraine, Terry, Merriman, La Collina, Stoller, Kelly
Grape(s): 100% Pinot Noir
Drinkability: Now through 2021
Body: Medium-Full for Pinot Noir
Alcohol: 14.5% by volume
Drink This if you Like: Beaux Freres, Cameron
Food Pairing: Salmon, Pork Tenderloin, Lamb
Availability: 15 bottles

Cheers

Yashar

Red Car Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

Flash Impulse: 30% Off Pinot Noir Today Only

Red Car 2013 Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

Fellow wine lovers, I have a bit of lead time on today’s flash sale, allowing me to do a more thorough write-up. Coming in at just over 30% off, it’s an excellent Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir which sells on the winery’s own site for $45, but we have it for $29.99 just for the day. All orders must be in by midnight tonight, Friday December 16th, or until it sells out, whichever comes first

Red Car Winery is a newer one, launched around 2000. They take their name from the Red Car Trolleys which once traversed the streets of Los Angeles. They hold the belief that wine should embody the place from which it originates, and this sentiment is summed up nicely in their own words, “Wine is important because it connects us to nature. But to offer meaning beyond itself, a wine has to come from a certain place, not just any place. And the winemaker must stand aside and allow that place to transmit its story without manipulation. This is our never-ending pursuit at Red Car.”

It’s rated 91 points by Wine Enthusiast Magazine, with the following tasting note provided:  “This wine draws from a handful of tremendous vineyard sites, including the producer’s estate, Platt and Clary Ranch, all cool-climate and windswept. It’s a tight, light and minimally messed-with wine…”

At Red Car Winery, they’re believers in cooler climate viticulture, hence their sourcing from the Sonoma Coast. The grapes for this Pinot Noir come from cooler sites which are both at higher elevation and close to the coast, yet the wine is still ripe and luscious- not thin and ultra-light as we’ve seen with many Pinot Noirs lately. It’s fermented with 13% stem inclusion to add some meat and earth notes, then aged in 100% French oak barrels, 10% of which are new. Ripe dark cherry and strawberry jam, hints of rose petals, cedar, dried leaves, just a touch of vanilla, are what drive this wines tasty profile.

Red Car 2013 Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

Red Car 2013 Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

Just a few cases are available, and they are first come first serve.

Click here to order the Red Car 2013 Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

Region: Sonoma Coast AVA, California
Vineyard(s): Red Car Estate, Platt, Bohemian Station, Falstaff, Riddle Ranch, Hagan, Clary Ranch
Grape(s): Pinot Noir
Aging: 100% French Oak Barrels, 10% New, 90% Used
Drinkability: Now through 2019
Body: Medium
Alcohol: 13.3% by volume
Drink This if you Like: Failla, Flowers, La Crema, Littorai, Patz & Hall
Press: 91 Points Wine Enthusiast

Cheers

Yashar

Failla Pinot Noir

Sonoma Impulse

Failla 2013 Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

Fellow wine lovers, I rarely offer up California wines on Impulse, not because I don’t like them but because it can be difficult to find a good value which isn’t mass produced and readily available. Everyone once in awhile, however, something catches my eye and today that’s Failla.

Failla Winery is a mom and pop operation in St Helena, but husband and wife Ehren Jordan and Anne-Marie Failla are firmly focussed on Chardonnay and Pinot Noir from Sonoma. Ehren boasts an impressive resume which include making wine with the likes of Turley and Neyers – he was also named Winemaker of the Year by the San Francisco Gate a few years back. I don’t see much of their Failla wines represented outside of California, as they are of rather limited availability, you can’t even order them off the winery’s own website.

Failla 2013 Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir $34.99

This is classic well made Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir – elegant yet dense, ripe and supple yet delicate and balanced. It’s a blend of a handful of different vineyards, including one of my personal favorites, Hirsch Vineyard, alongside some of Failla’s own estate plantings. All vineyard lots are fermented individually, with native yeasts and some whole clusters included as well. The cooler nature of the Sonoma Coast climate means that this wine comes in at under 14% alcohol, and is served by just a kiss of oak. It’s aged in 10% new French oak barrels, 65% neutral French oak, and 25% stainless steel. It presents classic Pinot elements of soft strawberries, hints of cedar, red cherries, and a touch of rose petals and cardamom. Easy drinking, versatile with food, and a good value.

Failla 2013 Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

Failla 2013 Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

Click here to order the Failla Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

Region: Sonoma Coast AVA, California
Vineyard(s): Hirsch, Failla Estate, Occidental Ridge, etc…
Grape(s): 100% Pinot Noir
Aging: 10% New French Oak, 65% Neutral French Oak, 25% Stainless Steel
Drinkability: Now through 2020
Body: Medium
Alcohol: 13.9% by volume
Drink This if you Like: Pinot from Hirsch, Pillow Road, Flowers
Food Pairing: Pork, Wild Boar, Pasta with Tomato Sauce

Cheers

Yashar

Analemma Sparkling Blanc de Noir and Rosé

Columbia Gorge Impulse

Analemma 2010 Sparkling Blanc de Noir and 2013 Rosé of Pinot Noir

Fellow wine lovers, March is officially “Taste Washington Wine Month,” culminating with the biggest Washington Wine event of the year, Taste Washington, on the 28th and 29th. This year, I’m especially excited for the event, as I am joining the ranks of wine experts, from around the nation, as a panelist for one of the morning seminars. I’ll be on the panel, that Saturday morning, in the seminar spotlighting the Columbia Gorge AVA, along with Matt Stamp MS and three winemakers from the region. If you’re interested in attending and learning more about why the Columbia Gorge might just be the next big thing in Washington Wine, you can get your tickets from the Taste Washington website by clicking here.

Since I’ll be focused on the Columbia Gorge for this seminar, I thought it would be appropriate to offer a wine from the region- something that really demonstrates the breathtaking qualities of Columbia Gorge wines. I can hardly think of anything more appropriate than the wines of Analemma, made by Steven Thompson, who will also be on the panel, as we’ll be tasting and discussing one of his wines then.

Since we’re practically seeing Spring weather on a near regularly basis now, I’ve picked Analemma’s Sparkling wine and their Rosé, both of which are made fully using Pinot Noir grapes from Atavus Vineyard in the Columbia Gorge at the foothills of Mount Adams; which was planted in the 1960’s, making it one of the oldest in the state. This vineyard has always been dry farmed, meaning no irrigation is used, and today it’s also farmed organically.

Analemma 2010 Blanc de Noir Sparkling Wine $49.99 (Regularly $56)

Analemma’s bubbly has garnered a lot of attention, with some calling it the best Washington sparkling wine to date, and one of the best on the west coast. This sparkling wine is made in the traditional French Champagne style, and it’s what the French call a Blanc de Noir, which translates to “White from Black”. This means it’s a white wine made from black/red grapes, traditionally Pinot Noir. The wine spends an astounding 42 months on the lees, well beyond anything else I’m aware of in Washington State. This extended aging regimen has helped to jam pack the bubbly full of complexity and nuance. Visually, the wine does show just a slight hint of coppery pink color, extracted from the Pinot Noir Grapes. The nose has just a hint of strawberries, cherry blossoms, and citrus peel. The palate immediately fills your mouth with bubbles and has a smooth creamy texture. There are hints of almond flavors, along with toasty warm notes freshly baked biscuits. The wine has a rich and supple finish, with lots of exuberant acidity, as is the hallmark of many Columbia Gorge Wines.

The Analemma Sparkling Blanc de Noir was chosen by Jon Bonné of the San Francisco Gate as most standout Sparkling wine in his list of Top 100 Wines. Additionally, it was reviewed for Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate, where it was said to have completely ”floored” the reviewer with its “profoundly complex” nature.

Just 250 cases were made of the Analemma 2010 Atavus Sparkling Blanc de Noir, and today we just 2 cases to offer on Impulse, first come first serve.

Click here to order the Analemma Sparkling Blanc de Noir

Region: Columbia Gorge AVA, Washington State
Vineyard: Atavus Vineyard
Grape: 100% Pinot Noir
Aging: 6 months in Neutral French Oak, 42 Months en tirage, disgorged October 2014
Drinkability: Now through 2020
Body: Medium
Alcohol: 12.7% by volume
Drink This if you Like: Champagne, high acid wines
Press: Top Sparkling Wine in SF Gate’s Top 100 Wines
Food Pairings: A good sparkling wine goes with almost any food
Production: 250 cases
Availability: 2 cases

Analemma 2013 Rosé of Pinot Noir $22.99 (Regularly $25)

It’s never too early in the year for Rosé, and with the series of sunny days we’ve been having, I think it’s high time we share one. The Analemma Rosé of Pinot Noir is made using the same Pinot Noir grapes as the sparkling wine above. Once harvested, the fruit undergoes a long and very gentle whole cluster pressing, which extract just a enough color to make it a Rosé. It has a beautiful yet understated pink hue, and a lovely nose of crushed rose petals and tangerine zest. The palate is rich, creamy, and a little nutty, with lots of crisp acidity and bright citrus flavors. It’s aged for just 6 months in all neutral French oak, to give it extra roundness of texture and hints of brioche flavors from being aged on the lees.

Much like the bubbly above, this Rosé was chosen by Jon Bonné for the San Francisco Gate’s Top 100 wines list- it was among only 4 other Rosés from the west coast which made the list. Additionally Jon Bonné chose it in his list of 10 Key Wines, in a separate article. He described it as being, “As soulful as Rose gets”, with a “feather touch”.

Only 220 cases were made of the Analemma Rosé , and we have just 2 cases to offer today on Impulse, first come serve serve.

Click here to order the Analemma Rosé of Pinot Noir

Region: Columbia Gorge AVA, Washington State
Vineyard: Atavus Vineyard
Grape: 100% Pinot Noir
Aging: 6 Months in 100% Neutral French Oak
Drinkability: Now through 2016
Body: Medium
Alcohol: 12.5% by volume
Drink This if you Like: Lighter Style Rosé
Press: SF Gate Top 100 Wines
Food Pairings: Salmon, and a Sunny Day
Production: 220 cases
Availability: 2 cases

Cheers

Yashar

Colene Clemens 2011 “Margo” Pinot Noir

Gold Medal Impulse

Colene Clemens 2011 “Margo” Pinot Noir

Fellow wine lovers, not too long ago I had the pleasure of being a judge at the Great Northwest Wine Invitational competition, where over 400 Northwest wines were tasted by 16 judges, over 2 days. When the blind tastings came to a close, one winery had won a gold medal for all four wines they had entered, and one of their wines even won best in class for Pinot Noir- leaving most every wine expert there wanting more information about this little known estate, Colene Clemens Vineyards.

Located in Newberg Oregon, Colene Clemens Vineyards is a newcomer who is surely getting a bit of attention from local lovers of Willamette Valley Pinot Noir. This family owned winery belongs to Vicki and Joe Stark, a former librarian and a small business owner, respectively. They found an old derelict orchard and abandoned farmstead, with excellent soil on a south facing slope, and planted their vineyards there

Colene Clemens 2011 “Margo” Pinot Noir $31.99

The 2011 vintage of Willamette Valley Pinot Noir is very light and delicate, perhaps even a bit shy at first, similar to what we saw with the 2007 vintage. The 2007’s took a few years to come around, and once they did, they really shined. I think we are seeing similar patterns with 2011, and that these wines are just now coming alive, and will continue to do so for another year or two, hence the gold medal at the Great Northwest Wine Invitational!

The Colene Clemens “Margo” Pinot Noir comes from their sustainably farmed estate vineyards in the Chehalem Mountains of the Willamette Valley. It’s a blend of all five Pinot Noir clones which they grow – three Dijon clones, Wadensvil, and Pommard – cropped to low yields of just 1.4 tons per acre. After fermentation, the wine see just the right amount of new oak, spending 11 Months in French Oak, 23% New and 77% used barrels. Then it’s bottled, unfined and unfiltered.

It’s a delicate Pinot Noir for those who like this more subtle style, with less fruit forward qualities. It shows hints of bing cherries, red plums, and tart Northwest berries. It’s not a big wine, about medium-light bodied on the palate, with medium-high acidity and a low alcohol of 13.2%, as is typical for the 2011 vintage in Oregon. There is a hint of rose petal and orange peel, just a touch of vanilla and baking spice, and a component of earth and dried leaves.

Click here to order the Colene Clemens “Margo” Pinot Noir

Colene Clemens 2011 Margo Pinot Noir

Colene Clemens 2011 Margo Pinot Noir

Region: Chehalem Mountain AVA, Willamette Valley, Oregon
Vineyard: Colene Clemens Estate Vineyards
Grape: 100% Pinot Noir
Aging: 11 Months in French Oak Barrels, 23% New and 77%, bottled unfined and unfiltered
Drinkability: Now through 2019
Body: Medium-Light
Alcohol: 13.2% by volume
Drink This if you Like: Oregon Pinot from 2007 and 2010 Vintages
Food Pairings: Truffles, Mushrooms, Pork, Salmon

Cheers

Yashar

Heart of Impulse

Coeur de Terre Vineyard Pinot Noir

Fellow wine lovers, if you follow along much with vintages and reviews, you might remember just a few years back the stark contrast between the Willamette Valley’s 2007 and 2008 vintages. 2007 was a cooler year and was panned by critics early on as being thin, boring, and incomplex. Then came 2008 which was a warmer and riper year by comparison, and it was praised by critics, like a breath of fresh air, come to rescue us from the drudgery of 2007. Then something unexpected happened – some wineries had a lot of trouble selling their 2007’s, so they cast them aside and hid them in the back of their warehouses, while the 2008’s sold out so quickly that wineries were left with nothing to offer, so they desperately went back to their stockpiles of 2007. Only then did we all realize, over a year later, the true nature of 2007, that it wasn’t boring, it just needed time. After an extra year or two of age, the 2007’s were waking up, and they were stunning! 

Fast forward to today, and history is repeating itself in the form of the 2011 and 2012 vintages, with the former being a lighter cooler vintage, and the latter being a bigger, bolder, warmer one. Only this time, we have the benefit of experience and know exactly what to expect. We are going to drink our 2012’s sooner, and hold the 2011’s for another year or two, when they have had a chance come into their own. 

As it happens, we have the perfect opportunity here with Coeur de Terre Vineyard, who is just releasing their 2012 Pinot, and still has just a bit of 2011 left for us. 

Coeur de Terre Vineyard 2011 Pinot Noir $19.99 (Regularly $22)

Coeur de Terre Vineyard is at the foothills of the Oregon Coast Range, with the mountainous terrain blocking the harsh ocean winds from battering their vines, while still offering the benefit of cooler temperatures from the seaboard. Scott and Lisa Neal came by this land by accident in 1998, when they got lost trying to locate a different prospective property during a scouting trip. Seeing potential in the landed they happened upon, Scott and Lisa spent weeks walking the earth and analyzing the soil before confirming that this would be the site of their future vineyards, which are now farmed sustainably and organically. They named their estate Coeur de Terre, meaning simply, “Heart of the Earth”. 

The 2011 vintage was a tricky one, starting out so cool that many wondered if it would ever get hot enough. Then an Indian Summer brought beautifully warm weather near the end, helping the fruit to catch up. Grapes were harvested later in the season than any other vintage on record, meaning they have benefitted from extra time on the vine. 2011 really came through in the clutch, and it is known valley wide simply as “the miracle vintage”. 

This Coeur de Terre 2011 Pinot Noir is the lighter, earthier, and spicier of the two we are offering today, with notes of bramble, dried herbs, cranberries, bing cherries, a hint of crimini mushroom, and dried rose petals. It’s aged 11 months in 20% new French oak, with the rest being used, and the alcohol level is a low 13.3%, as is typical for a cooler vintage. Drinking tight right now, and will benefit from another year and a half age in the bottle, before it really starts to shine. 

Click here to order the Coeur de Terre 2011 Pinot 

Region: Willamette Valley, Oregon 
Grape: 100% Pinot Noir 
Aging: 11 months in French Oak Barrels, 20% New, 80% used 
Drinkability: 2016-2020 
Body: Light Bodied 
Alcohol: 13.3% by volume 
Drink This if you LIke: 2007 Vintage of Willamette Pinot or Red Burgundy 
Food Pairings: Grilled Herbed Salmon 


Coeur de Terre Vineyard 2012 Pinot Noir $19.99 (Regularly $22)

The 2012 Willamette Valley Pinot Noir are just now coming into the market, and from what I’ve seen, it’s going to be a blockbuster vintage, much like 2008, with lots of high scores from the critics. It was hot and dry pretty much throughout the vintage, giving way to juicy ripe fruit with deep, dark character. 

The Coeur de Terre 2012 Pinot is bolder by comparison to the 2011, with more dense fruit. The nose has a hint of cocoa, smoke, fresh lavender, and toast. The palate is full of ripe morello cherries, a touch of blueberry, and hints of smoky tobacco leaf. It has much more fresh fruit character in general, with less earth and herb. Aged 11 months in 20% new French oak barrels, 40% once used, 30% twice used, and 10% neutral. It’s drinking well right now, though it can benefit from another year in the bottle. 

Click here to order the Coeur de Terre 2012 Pinot 

Region: Willamette Valley, Oregon 
Grape: 100% Pinot Noir 
Aging: 11 months in French Oak Barrel, 20% new, 40% once used, 30% twice used, 10% neutral 
Drinkability: 2015-2019 
Body: Medium Bodied 
Alcohol: 14.5% by volume 
Drink This if you Like: 2008 Vintage of Willamette Pinot 
Food Pairings: Grilled Marinated Pork 

Cheers 

Yashar 

Portlandia Impulse: Portlandia Oregon Pinot Noir

“She kneels down and from the quietness of copper reaches out. We take that stillness into ourselves and somewhere deep in the earth our breath becomes her city. If she could speak this is what she would say: Follow that breath. Home is the journey we make. This is how the world knows where we are.” 

Fellow wine lovers, Pinot Noir has been ever popular in our little group here, with many of you ordering (and reordering) our most recent offering of the Haden Fig from Oregon, with great feedback. So, I think it’s high time for another great value in Pinot, and I’ve found just the one. 

I first met owner Damian Davis two years ago, with his arsenal of sharp tailored suits and his smooth talking; his wines, as smooth as he himself. His aim is to make an approachable and affordable Oregon Pinot, and he’s right on target. An early employee of the winery happened to be the daughter of retired Portland Mayor Frank Ivancie, who installed the now fabled Portlandia statue in their downtown, affixed to it a plaque embossed with the poem you read above. 

Portlandia 2011 Oregon Pinot Noir $19.99 (Regularly $25) 

Now a popularized word, the title of the hit sketch comedy show on IFC, starring Carrie Brownstein and Fred Armisen, Portlandia is a perfect name for this wine. With a label fashioned from recycled paper, displaying a pair of thick framed glasses, Portlandia Pinot Noir appeals to hipsters and value minded wine lovers alike. 

Winemaker Judy Thoet studied at UC Davis before working alongside some top Northwest winemakers, and eventually taking over the reigns of Portlandia. She even wears a pair of black framed spectacles, not entirely unlike the ones on the wine’s label. 

The majority of the fruit comes from Joe Dobbes’ Lark Estate Vineyard in the Willamette Valley, well known for quality Pinot. Part of the secret in the value here is the mixture of wood, aged for 18 months in French, American, and also Hungarian Oak. Oak barrels from Hungary are quickly becoming a secret maneuver for winemakers looking to turn out complex yet affordable wines, especially Pinot Noir and Syrah. Hungarian Oak tends to have many of the subtleties and flavors of quality French Oak, only at a fraction of the price. The Portlandia Pinot opens up with a nose of black cherry cordial and hints of liquorice and plum preserve. Up front, the palate shows ripe strawberries, with an essence of cavendish tobacco and cocoa powder in the mid palate, through to the finish. 

It’s light enough to enjoy on a hot day, and complex enough to pair beautifully with duck confit and cassoulet. Drinking great now through 2016. 

Click here to order the Portlandia Pinot Noir

Region: Willamette Valley, Oregon 
Vineyard: Joe Dobbes’ Larkin Estate Vineyard 
Grape: Pinot Noir 
Aging: 18 months in French, American and Hungarian oak. 
Drinkability: Now through 2016 
Body: Medium-Light 
Food Pairings: duck confit, cassoulet 
Production: 1000 cases 

Cheers 

Yashar