The Willamette Valley is a wine region full of treasures. It’s often spoken of primarily in relation to Pinot Noir, but also helped establish Pinot Gris in North America, and grows a mean-lovely Chardonnay, among other grape varieties. There are also pockets of Syrah, and some exciting developments with Viognier and Tempranillo. I could go on.
Cristom Pinot Noir 2006 Sommer’s Reserve
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Cristom is known for offering consistently good wine. They populate the Eola-Amity Appellation with not only Pinot Noir, but also highly regarded Syrah, Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, and Viognier.
As they describe themselves, Cristom practices minimal handling of the fruit, with a focus on land-driven wine, and native yeast. Wine maker Steve Doerner carries an international reputation for his silky, nuanced, and rich flavored Pinot Noir.
The 2006 Sommer’s Reserve drank beautifully with a perfect balance of subtlety and richness. The body here is pleasingly on the lighter side of medium with a silken texture. The scents and flavors currently focus on dried red and rich fruits, alongside dried herbs, touches of forest floor, damp earth, and oiled leather. I loved this wine.
The flavors in the bottle here had deepened enough to show the umami richness of caribou soup. It’s a quality I’m always pleased to find in an older-enough Pinot Noir–a reference I don’t generally mention for its hard to find popularity. But, caribou soup is my favorite meal–a light weight broth showing the richness of reduced meat alongside the slightly sweetened balance of cooked down carrots and an earthy-herbalness of cooked down cabbage. Good caribou soup has rich, nuanced flavors in an accessible, lighter weight broth. No longer living in Alaska I rarely have caribou soup now, so to find it dancing in a glass of wine thrills me.
Soter 2006 Brut Rose’
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One of the finest examples of methode traditionelle sparkling wines made in the United States, Soter Brut Rose carries the combination of crispness and rich flavor wanted from a sparkling Pinot Noir-Chardonnay based Rose’. The wine has persistent, tight beads in a copper-salmon pink drink. The flavors here show a pleasing mix of dried red fruit with just enough orange zest and jasmine hints to both ground and lighten the palate. The acidity here keeps a bright long-finishing tang in the mouth. This wine would suit alongside seafood, but I appreciate drinking it on its own.
Soter Vineyards practices sustainable farming carrying both LIVE sustainability and organic farming certifications. Located in the Yamhill-Carlton district of Willamette Valley their site celebrates the combination of marine sediments and good drainage the valley shows at its best. Winemaker James Cahill alongside Tony and Michelle Soter bring together extensive knowledge of the Willamette region with a focus on synthesizing the established history of wine making from the region and the desire to continue to learn the potentials of the area.
If you’re looking for a treat from the Willamette, I recommend both of these wines.
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