2009 Bergström Pinot Noir Old Stones

While my vacation may be over I am still in a drinking local state of mine. This was another I picked up at Whole Foods in Bend where I asked for a recommendation. After being asked if I preferred bigger fruit or something more elegant; when I said later I was the told this was the best thing going for $25. Per the winery this one is made for early drinking, while the precious (Lord of the Rings anyone?) single vineyard offerings get a bit of age, from barrel selections of non-estate fruit and received 91 points from the Wine Spectator but how would it fare here?

Price: $24.99 @ Whole Foods

What They Said:

2009 Bergström Old Stones Pinot NoirPer Bergström Winery “We have renamed our “Willamette Valley” Pinot Noir “Old Stones” to give it a personality & an identity that is worth seeking out. A great wine born of the West Coast’s most ancient soils that shows breed & nobility of varietal, but is accessibly priced for everyday drinking. We admit that our single vineyards are definitely wines that need to be cellared to reach maximum potential. In fact, that is how we think great Pinot Noir should be! But we also need great wine that we can drink while we wait for those precious bottles to come around. And so was born our “Old Stones” wines Pinot Noir & Chardonnay. These are wines that are barrel selections from our best non-estate sites that show more accessible texture & lower level of tannin & acidity which benefit from early consumption. The 2009 Old Stones Pinot Noir is a lavish mouthful of red fruits reminiscent of a berry pie with cinnamon & vanilla spices, a sweet pie crust type of flavor that is folded in amongst the waves of ripe & beautifully textured red cherry & raspberry fruit flavors. This is a joyride of a wine & will deliver immediate pleasure & drink well for the next 1-3 years.”

What I Think:

(14.1%) Nose promising as more balanced than most. Medium bodied with a fresh mineral acidity before the fruit arrives on the scene with racy, tart black cherry, raspberry and sandalwood leading to a spicy, tingling tannic finish that dries out and lingers on. Lots of tannins and acidity make me think despite the wineries take otherwise that this will improve with a bit more age.

Wine Geek Notes: 902 cases made, aged in large oak cases versus barrels. No new oak

Rating: Very Nice (At $25 this didn’t disappoint a bit; didn’t necessarily over deliver either making it a fair QPR)

2010 Anne Amie Müller-Thurgau Cuvée A

Yes I’m still drinking local but couldn’t help (guessing you’re not surprised) jumping off the beaten path. Have you had Müller-Thurgau (mew-ler ter-gow) before? Do you know what the most planted variety in Germany is? Why Riesling of course! But did you know that Müller-Thurgau was the 2nd? It was created in the late 19th century with the hopes of combining intensity and complexity of the Riesling grape with the ability to ripen earlier in the season that the Silvaner grape possesses. It never quite got there but for a brief period in the late 1970’s it was the most widely planted in Germany before a cold snap in the winter of 1979 destroyed the majority of the plantings. Which gets us to this Anne Amie which happened to be planted in 1979. Müller-Thurgau in Oregon you say? I first heard about it from my friend Beau over at Beau’s Barrel Room who covered the Kramer’s Vineyard sparkling offering. Needless to say I decided to give this one a try so why don’t we answer the question “why what do we have here?”

2010 Anne Amie Müller-Thurgau Cuvée APrice: $11.99 @ Whole Foods

What They Said:

Per Anne Amie “Our estate-grown Müller-Thurgau comes from vines first planted in 1979. Crisp, fresh, and dry, it is a charming example of the variety at its best. From chicken to shellfish, this wine is a versatile match for mildly spicy foods like Thai, Creole, or Mexican.”

What I Think:

(12.4%) 100% Müller-Thurgau – Rich and floral on the nose. More weight than expected on the palate with subdued peach and melon flavors along with a clean acidity that keeps this one (closer to off) dry and crisp. The finish shows apple, white fruit flavors and mineral notes while lingering on richly. Enjoyed this one and it gets extra points for being a grape variety off the beaten path. Strikes me as most closely resembling a dry Gewurztraminer (of which I happen to be quite a big fan of) so pair with spicy food and thank me later!

Wine Geek Notes: 1,500 cases produced, under screwtop (which I prefer)

Rating: Interesting (not sure I’d buy it again but glad I bought it once!)

2009 Elk Cove Pinot Gris

And my Oregon summer vacation drinking local series rolls on. Next up a few I picked up at the Whole Foods in Bend. Again I went for the one-two Pinot punch of Gris and Noir. First up this Gris from Elk Cove which has been making wine in the Willamette Valley since 1974…

Price: $15.99 @ Whole Foods

What They Said:

2009 Elk Cove Pinot GrisPer Elk Cove Vineyards “The 2009 Elk Cove Vineyards Pinot Gris starts out with sweet and unctuous aromatics while showing crispness on the palate with citrus and grapefruit. True to Elk Cove Vineyards’ style, a rich mouthfeel leads to a full and satisfying balanced finish. Drink this lovely white wine as an aperitif or with a variety of food pairings from salmon and main-course salads to Asian and Thai influenced dishes.”

What I Think:

(13.5%) Big honeyed, pollinated floral nose. This one is rich, juicy and fruit forward on the palate loaded with peaches and some pear/cantaloupe notes on the edges before a mineral acidity emerges on the backbone leading to a crisp, lingering mineral rock finish with touches of citrus. Best Pinot Gris I’ve had to date but I’d still recommend pairing this one with food. The Thai recommended by the winery seems like a good place to start.

Wine Geek Notes: 18,430 cases produced, under screwtop (which I prefer)

Rating: Good but… (while I consider this the best Pinot Gris I’ve had I’m finding this varietal from Oregon, versus the Alsace, doesn’t deliver the acidity I prefer in my whites)

2009 Lange Pinot Noir

More from my Oregon summer vacation drinking local series. Next up are a few wines I picked up at the local market here in Sunriver (which I keep reading as survivor every time I see it…). First up is this Pinot from Lange Winery which marked their first vintage in Willamette Valley in 1987.

2009 Lange Pinot NoirPrice: $19.99

What They Said:

Per Lange Winery “Our Willamette Valley Pinot Noir is an assemblage of all our North Willamette vineyard sites, delivering a true reflection of the finest viticultural practices and dedicated winemaking. In our true “classique” style, this wine is approachable and fruit-forward upon release.

Tantalizing aromas of candied cherry, crushed raspberry, and cola play over a current of black licorice and refined tannins.”

What I Think:

(13.6%) Warm, earthy, cranberry with a touch of orange rind on the nose. Vibrant & juicy on the palate with bright red fruit (a raspberry, cherry, cranberry mélange) and a nice acidity on a mineral backbone. This leads to a soft, warm, barrel spiced (and creamy) finish with light, lingering tannins. Smooth, fresh and delicious but another layer away from being great in my mind. That said extremely well made, enjoyable and under screwtop to boot! At $20 a favorable QPR for sure but there are others I personally prefer at this price point.

Wine Geek Notes: A little sediment on the finish; 6,000 cases made; 10 months in French oak. 25% new (and very well done IMHO)

Rating: Good but… (as enjoyable as it was I personally prefer others at this price point)

2009 Montinore Estate Pinot Noir

And the drinking local Oregon summer vacation continues. As mentioned when we hit Trader Joe’s in Bend they had a nice selection of local wines with about 10 of each Pinots (Noir and Gris). Far more variety than we see in California so I decided to grab one of each. I already covered the Pinot Gris so next up is the Pinot Noir…

Price: $12.99 @ Trader Joe’s

What They Said:

2009 Montinore Estate Pinot NoirPer Montinore Estate “Our 2009 Pinot Noir is rich in bright red fruits and accents with notes of spice and mocha. True to it’s past character, this wine is a medium bodied Pinot which pairs beautifully with salmon, duck breast and all things mushroom.”

What I Think:

Again Montinore Estate is a legit winery as I’ve seen some of their offerings in wine shops when looking about. Farming on about 230 acres in the Forest Grove region of the Willamette Valley they also produce Pinot Gris, Riesling, Muller-Thurgau and Gewurztraminer. But we’re here to talk about the Pinot (which is available via the winery for $20) so let’s get to it…

(13.9%) Light, rusted red in the glass with light red fruit and spice on the nose. Medium bodied and forward on the palate with tart cranberry flavors and a bright acidity. The finish is short, creamy and pleasant showing just a bit of clove spice. While new world in style this one is bright and tangy rather than “big”. I find it simple and one dimensional but enjoyable as well. For $13 a fair QPR but the value hunter in me wants to believe we can find better (vs. stocking up here…)

Rating: Good but… (Yes a new rating; meaning enjoyable but not enough so to buy again)

If you’re interested in learning more about this one check the tech sheet (pdf) from the winery. Otherwise I’d love to hear what your favorite Pinot for under $15 is nowadays…

2009 Eola Hills Pinot Gris

2009 Eola Hills Pinot Gris

As mentioned I’m in Oregon on summer vacation making lemonade out of lemons (was supposed to be in the Dolomites) and am drinking local. That means digging into Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir. Given my inclination for value I had to have a peek when we hit the Trader Joe’s in Bend for groceries. They had a nice selection of local wines with about 10 of each Pinots. Far more than we see in California so I decided to grab one of each. First up was the Pinot Gris…

Price: $8.99 @ Trader Joe’s

What They Said:

Per Eola Hills “Apples, Apples, and more apples – this is what comes to mind on the first sip. A little spritz on the finish. This Pinot Gris was made exclusively from grapes grown in the Willamette Valley. Aged only in stainless steel to allow the fruit flavors to come forward. Similar in style to the Pinot Grigio’s from Italy.”

What I Think:

First off unlike much of the Oregon wine we see at Trader Joe’s in California Eola Hills is a real winery, not just a label, located about ten miles outside of Salem. Started in 1987 the winery makes a wide variety of offering from Cabernet Sauvignon to Viognier to Zinfandel. Not many that Oregon is renowned for. That said Pinot Gris (and Noir) is one in their portfolio for which they are well known so let’s get to it.

(12.6%) Pale, yellowish gold in the glass. Big, crisp and forward on entry with juicy green apples and ripe peach flavors which quickly give way to a mineral, talc backbone. From there the finish turns creamy showing a bit of spice as it lingers on. Again this one seems a bit flabby as I would prefer more acidity but it does seem fairly priced at $9.

Rating: 12th Bottle

2009 VINTJS Pinot Noir

2009 VINTJS Pinot NoirPrice: $8.99 @ Trader Joe’s

What They Said:

Per Wine by Joe (on the 2008 which goes for $19 on the winery site) “Listen to the fine and enticing “snap-crack” of the seal as you twist it off. Put the Band-Aids back in the medicine cabinet… this aint no cork sealed wine. This wine slips into your mouth with gorgeous rich blackberry aromas with a touch of leather, too. The flavors mirror the aromas with a soft and velvety mouthfeel which wraps around your tongue delivering the impression of sweetness from the soft ripe tannins. I know what you are thinking… How can Joe deliver such a good Oregon Pinot Noir for the money you are asking!!?? Yes, I know, you want to drink more…”

What I Think:

I found this Willamette offering from the same maker as the recently reviewed Pinot Gris and, as Gary Vee would say, I decided to give it a whirl. How did it go?

Faint in color at the core and almost brown on the edges this one is light from the get go. Bright on the nose this one starts nicely showing racy acidity which leads to tart cranberry and orange rind flavors before giving way to a slightly harsh finish. That’s the best that can be said. On the flip side I might look at this one as thin, sour and under ripe. Whereas the Pinot Gris was well made I don’t get that sense here as it seems disjointed at times. Not enough Jekyll & too much Hyde for me. I won’t be buying this one again. Anyone have a recent favorite Pinot favorite in this price range to share?

Rating: Skip It

2009 VINTJS Pinot Gris

2009 VINTJS Pinot GrisPrice: $5.99 @ Trader Joe’s

What They Said:

Per Trader Joe’s Fearless Flyer “VINTJS Willamette Valley Pinot Gris, from Oregon’s most renowned growing region, is a silky & vibrant wine, more full-bodied and lush than its cousin, Pinot Grigio. The Willamette Valley’s long, cool growing season challenges the grapes to ripen, which results in much more complexity of flavor and body than often found in wines from warmer regions. Bright flavors of pineapple, green apple & pear make this a good partner to a salad of Organic Baby Lettuce topped with our Goat Cheese Medallions. Our price of $5.99 makes this a great partner to your sense of frugality, too.”

What I Think:

Another in the series of VINTJS offerings I found this on page 8 of my most recent Trader Joe’s Fearless Flyer. I really wanted to like this one as it has been a while since I enjoyed a Pinot Gris. How did this one work out? Straw hued with a slight spritz on the pour (not the palate though) and a nose showing tart citrus, mineral and rock aromas. Green apples greet you on the palate before a mineral backbone kicks in leading to a crisp finish. Enough acid but I prefer a bit more snap (and truth be told a bit more fruit as well). This wine is well made but not a standout. You get what you pay for; a simple, solid sipper. I bought two bottles initially but don’t see this one making it into my cart again. That said guessing some might like this more than I do. If you are a Pinot Gris fan feel free to give this one a try.

Rating: 12th Bottle

2006 Castle Rock Willamette Valley Pinot Noir

Price: $10.99 @ Friend/Gift

What They Said:

Per quaffability “Is anybody doing bargain Pinot Noir better than Castle Rock Winery? Not that I know of. Trader Joe’s has been running their wines of late, and I have been impressed by every one I have tried. Too bad this one has crept up in price one dollar compared to the previous vintage.

It seems awfully early in the day to be bringing 2007 red wines to market, but that’s part of the philosophy behind these wines. They are light, fresh, and do not see a lot of oak aging.

The 2006 Willamette Valley is clone of the 2005. Not quite as light and transparent, the wine shows smoky, earthy, and sandalwood aromas, along with bright strawberry and raspberry fruit. The palate is simple, but it’s clean, without any green or other off flavors, leading to a nice but short finish. Like the 05, the texture as a bit of silk to it. To be clear, this isn’t great – it’s just a clean, nicely made wine. Regrettably, that’s the most you can hope for at this price point, and it’s more than many producers can provide.”

What I Think:

I had been eyeing this bottle at TJ’s for some time now so when our friends brought this one over on the 4th of July I was excited. We popped it open and drank it with some good old fashioned hamburgers. Given that we had guests my notes are extremely limited. The one thing I seem to remember most about this wine is strawberries. This wine is light and delicate, almost reminding me of a rose. Perhaps the burgers were a bit much for it. I certainly don’t feel that I spent enough time focusing on this wine to pass a verdict but given my initial impressions it has certainly lost some of the mystic that it once had. Next time I see it on the shelf at TJ’s it won’t hold my glance as long, but some day it may find its way to my house again. Typically I would rate this as a “12th Bottle” but at this price point I don’t find that relevant. Faced with labeling it as “Skip It” which seems unfair I decided to bend the rules and call this one “Pricey” though it doesn’t quite meet the arbitrary $12 price barrier.

Rating: Pricey