Oregon & Californian pinot noir tasting at Pinot Palooza

I attended a master class on Oregon & Californian pinot noir on the weekend hosted by Chris Crawford, Ben Edwards & Michael McNamara and held at Pinot Palooza in Melbourne, Victoria.  The line up included: J Christopher, Erath, Cristom ‘Sommers Reserve’, Chehalem ‘3 Vineyard’ (Oregon), Byron ‘Santa Barbara’, Williams Selyem ‘Sonoma County’, Hartford Court ‘Russian River’, Beaux Freres ‘Willamette Valley’ (California). The “pinot professors” who lead the tasting provided some excellent background on the appellations and producers represented.

My overall impressions of the wines were that none of the Oregon and more powerful Californian wines on tasting were particularly outstanding and most seemed to lack engaging character and complexity.  Having said that several of the wines were pleasant and well made, meriting further blog space.  Also I would like to see some of these wines in a more relaxed environment served with matched food.  I suspect my notes on some of them might be quite different!

Interestingly I had already reviewed one of the wines in this blog previously namely the 2009 Erath.  This time the wine presented as somewhat oxidized colour, a browning rim to the wine in the glass and a dull, stewed fruit character. I suspect it hadn’t traveled well from the US or was a slightly ‘off’ bottle (not corked as it was under screwcap).

Apart from the Erath, most wines found supporters amongst those tasting (depending on the tasters preferred style).  My notes on the wines that I enjoyed most were –

J.Christopher 2010 “Unfiltered” Willamette Valley

Sweet oak aromas and flavours, a little spice on the palate also from the oak, fruit is restrained and in the strawberry to raspberry spectrum. Nice texture and finish.

Williams-Selyem 2010 Sonoma County

An interesting edgy wine. Pink tinges displayed in the rim of the glass, vibrant colour and nose, perhaps a touch volatile. Fresh acidity and slightly stemmy providing some structure and interest.  Nice light cherry – perhaps snow cherry flavours.

Hartford Court 2010 Russian River Valley

Deeply coloured, dark berry and cherry flavours. Very good texture, balance and length. A wine that I expect will develop more power and presence over time. Definitely shows warmer climate, full ripening terroir but well handed by the winemaking.

Chehalem 2009 “3 Vineyard” Willamette Valley

Light colour, pretty perfumed nose, supple, feminine wine but would be good with the right choice of fine food.

Beaux Freres 2010 Willamette Valley

Very good oak, still dominant, rich, sweet raspberry and light berry fruit, full of promise but lacked persistence on the finish.


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