Experience pays off with 2011 Oregon Pinot

by Jon Bonne, Copyright 2013 – SFgate.com

(This article is abstracted. For the full story click here).

Chance favors the prepared mind, or so Louis Pasteur once said.

If so, then the best chance at salvation of Oregon’s 2011 vintage came from just that – and more often than not, from veteran winemakers who knew how to prepare for the latest, coldest and most drawn-out vintage in the state’s history.

It might sound familiar to those who know California vintages: 2011 as a harbinger of the long, cold and tough. But in Oregon the wait for ripeness was drawn to an extreme, with Pinot Noir often harvested into November – not to hit the bulky flavors that California hunts but simply for the grapes to mature enough to make a solid wine. The fact that it was a big crop only worsened prospects for ripeness.

Except that Oregon’s endgame in 2011 was sunny and cheery, an extended bout of picking that, despite the lateness, offered a great bounty. The rain that is so often Oregon’s bugaboo never made itself troublesome – very different from this year, when our thoroughly soaked friends up north are waiting for things to dry out.

Patience, and the prepared mind, scored a big win in 2011. So did those of us who enjoy these wines.

The 2011s in Oregon are a particularly charming lot. They have an energy and litheness that mark the best classic vintages in Oregon and Burgundy – or for that matter among more diligent winemakers in California that year….


2011 Primarius Oregon Pinot Noir ($15, 12%): New Zealand native Haydn Mouat devised a value-priced bottle that gives hope for affordable Oregon Pinot, a category that tumbled down a scree in recent years. Pretty, delicate, slightly stemmy red fruit, with black pepper, dried pine needle and straightforward cranberry. Terrific table wine.

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