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R Stuart & Co 2008 Autograph Pinot Noir Willamette Valley (375ml-half bottle)

I’m still a bit surprised more wine critics and consumers aren’t all over the 2008 Pinot Noir’s out of Oregon.  That’s the vintage that really should have put everyone into a tizzy, like 1994 or 2005 in Napa Valley, South Africa’s 2003 (that led to their first world wide distribution networks) or even the 2012 Pinot’s from California’s Anderson Valley that literally put the region on the map.

Maybe it’s because, well it’s Oregon, so things may move a bit more slowly and while Portland is a cosmopolitan city and certainly one of the great food and wine capitals of the world, it just doesn’t capture the attention of small town and big city America in the same way that does, say San Francisco or New York.

Ok, so I’ve expressed my general displeasure with vintage hype especially given the size of the wineries that we work with consistently (is one suppose to just forget every Napa Valley 2011 because the critics weren’t happy with the vintage, or can we taste and judge for ourselves?) but this is one vintage, the 2008 Willamette Valley Pinot’s where I think the hype is justified and perhaps even undersold.

Critics and consumers alike enjoy debating how long wine can last. I’ve had two greatly memorable wine experiences, the first occurred at the Wine Bloggers Conference in 2014 where a 45+ year old Burgundy Pinot Noir was opened.  It was reportedly from a great vintage, but the bottle would have cost, according to the winery owner who had it, about $4 today. Secondly was a Qupe Marsanne (that’s a white wine grape, mainly used for blending if you aren’t familiar) at a Rhone Rangers seminar this year, from the 80’s.  Both helped to cement my thought process that perhaps, as a nation we’re simply drinking wines too soon. Perhaps it’s worth it to miss the optimum drinking window in some cases, only to see massive regards from others.

I bring all that up because I’ve seen it written of late that the 2008 Oregon Pinot’s need to be consumed now, that they’re starting to go flat.  Frankly, I flat out disagree and so will you after opening this bottle.  This is a fine time to open one of these, but I’ll take advantage of some of the prevailing wisdom here (and the smaller format bottle) to get my wine club members, something that would go into the mid $40 range based on quality.

My first experience with R Stuart & Co was last summer when I spent a week in the Willamette Valley of Oregon.  I stayed in the small picturesque town of McMinnville and low and behold, a few feet outside of my front door was R Stuart’s wine bar.  They originally weren’t on my list of wineries to visit, but with some small bites and a local wine scene that largely closes down at 5pm, I was excited to sneak in an extra stop since they’re open until 8pm. Winemaker and owner Rob Stuart probably should have been on my short list to visit with though based on his resume alone-biochem degree and then a full career in Napa led to winemaker gigs in Washington and then finally at the much acclaimed Erath in Oregon. Eventually, he started his own label.  As I’ve been told by quite a few different winemakers, better to learn your trade on someone else’s dime and then start your own once you’re overqualified.  Stuart is definitely overqualified to produce these small batch wines, but it’s the type of juice that gets people excited.  His background does come through in my opinion in the wine that’s in your glass, these are more dense and darker than many other Willamette Valley Pinot’s I’ve had-still balanced of course, but you lose a bit of the earthyness and add in my cherry cola flavors. I was literally shocked to read that there’s 95% new French oak on these, you don’t notice it, like at all, but that helps to explain some of the depth here.  Wine, no matter what anyone tells you, still likes oak barrels best.  It has for millenia and that isn’t changing any time soon.

Another interesting aspect to R Stuart and the winery’s story is that Maria Stuart (Rob’s wife, but to be clear, she’s had her own career in wine before meeting him and taking on the thankless tasks that come with a winemaker husband…marketing, PR and compliance aren’t as interesting as winemaking I’m afraid) writes simply put, one of the most interesting and insightful blogs of any winery owner that I’ve come across.  Far from only about wine and definitely not one of those overly salesy corporate blogs that we all hate,  Pinotmom.com is filled with recipe’s, stories about the family and generally will encourage you more than anything else that R Stuart does a company to support them.  Writing our newsletters and again for our company blog, PinotMom gives me a few ideas of things I could be doing different, & better.

I hope you enjoy another look into the Oregon 2008 vintage.  It was truly one for the record books and it’s one that we can all enjoy to this day.

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