J Christopher marks the end of what was way, way too long without an Oregon Pinot Noir. I won’t have that happen again any time soon. For wine club members looking forward to good Pinot Noir from the Northwest, or really just anyone wanting to experience one of the best vintages in a region, Oregon’s 2014 vintage offers a fun look at what’s possible.
Hi all. Mark Aselstine with Uncorked Ventures. I’ll hold this up so you can get a good look at it. So this is a special selection and a reserve selection. Both of our red wine clubs are getting one of these this month. And this is J. Christopher. So I’ve been a bit remiss, I haven’t done an Oregon Pinot in a while. Personally love Oregon Pinot. So while the wine club newsletter this month is going to go into some more in depth information about J. Christopher, the winery and the winemaker and all that kind of stuff, I thought I’d take a couple of minutes here and introduce the wine, and more importantly, maybe, the wine region.
So everybody knows Oregon, and they think of Oregon and the Willamette Valley as a Pinot Noir destination. That’s 100% true. The vast, vast majority of what they grow is Pinot. So this is the Willamette, a lot of people aren’t aware is there is six sub-AVAs within the Willamette Valley, and this is the Eola Amity Hills*. And so it’s kind of tricky to say, which means people are less likely to visit, and it’s also southwest of the city of Portland, and it’s the most southern AVA in the Willamette Valley. And so typically, when we hear “southern,” I think we as an American wine drinker, we think southern as warmer. And that’s definitely true, but this is southwest, and this is actually one of the cooler spots in the wider Willamette Valley.
And it’s also further away from Portland, and being further away from Portland means that you’re much more likely to find dirt roads, and winemaker actually pouring the wine, than you are at spots that are only half an hour outside the city, as you might expect. We have a long history in the wine industry of wine regions popping up about an hour or so outside of major cities. People like to kind of get out, for lack of a better term. Napa and Sonoma both fit that profile from San Francisco. Long Island in New York, we don’t think of Long Island as having wine. For a long time, they did produce wine, before population pressures have kind of moved vineyards out to other parts of the state. But that was about an our outside New York City. Obviously in Europe there’s a million examples. Champagne is an hour outside of Paris. You know, Mosel is only an hour or so outside a couple major cities in Germany, et cetera, et cetera.
So anyway, the Eola Amity Hills. So it’s the coolest of the sub-AVAs within the Willamette, so that means that you get these guys doing things a little bit differently. So you get the Melon de Bourgogne, which is kind of this weird varietal that nobody’s ever heard of. You get people growing Pinot, of course, and you get people growing these others, like Dornfelder and these other weird grapes that nobody’s ever heard of before, and that only grow in the coldest and coldest of American climates. So that’s what the Eola is famous for.
And I think the results for Oregon 2014s are exemplary. I think the “vintage of the century” in this case could almost be justified. There’s definitely been critic scores that seem to suggest that it is. I don’t think we should take vintages off, because I think that really hurts small wineries and helps large ones, but I do think that at times like this, it’s maybe smart to, if you see an Oregon 2014 as opposed to a ’15, that’s probably a good time to pick it up.
So in any case, I hope you enjoy an Oregon Pinot. It’s been a while since I’ve done one of these. We’ll be doing more as we move into the fall and into the spring this year. I rally do like telling the story of Oregon, what’s happening up there. You know, in a lot of ways it reminds me of Sonoma a few years back, where you have Pinot plantings reaching, perhaps, a crescendo and you’re starting to see smaller winemakers branch out from Pinot and make some other, maybe, more interesting stuff. So in any case, J. Christopher, coming out to you if you’re a wine club member, and if you’re not, this is a darn good bottle of wine if you happen across one. Thanks again.
Brooks Winery is based here, and they’ve brought the profile up significantly over the years. J. Christopher sources some grapes from here as well. So this is 2014 Oregon, and 2014 Oregon, the folks in Oregon call it vintage of the century. In the wine industry, “vintage of the century” happens every five years or so. But in 2014 in Oregon, basically what happened was that it was a little bit warmer. And the one thing they struggle with in a lot of regions is making sure they get the ripeness at a time of the winemaker’s choosing.
And so they ran about two weeks early in 2014, and that gave the winemakers really a chance to pick exactly when they wanted to. In Oregon, if they run late, and they start running into late September or even early October, it’s actually quite a problem for them, because they get heavy rains. And so running a couple weeks early brought them into the beginning of September for Pinot picking, and that really let them have this, “I don’t want to pick this on Thursday, I’d rather pick it Friday morning,” kind of thing, which they don’t always get a chance to do.