News & Reviews

In Oregon’s Willamette Valley, Elegant Pinot Noir for Less than $40

Posted on September 10, 2020 in Press

October 2020 Issue | Wine Enthusiast | Page 16
Click here to shop our Willamette Valley Pinot Noir


Thin-skinned, petulant Pinot Noir is difficult to ripen and demands a gentle hand in the winery. Worse still, too many of its simple expressions fail to deliver on the promise of a grape whose impact has been described as the iron fist in a velvet glove.

When grown in the right place, under the right circumstances, however, the variety really delivers on its reputation for elegance, complexity and subtlety. The best examples are aromatic with notes of roses, berries and cherries, and offer balanced flavors of fruit, earth, herb and barrel, with ample natural acidity.

Oregon’s Willamette Valley American Viticultural Area (AVA) is widely acknowledged as the next best place after Burgundy, where Pinot has thrived for centuries, to explore its vast potential. First planted there by Eyrie Vineyards founder David Lett in the mid-1960s, the area is now the foundation for the state’s growing reputation.

After decades of experimentation, the valley today includes seven sub-AVAs. Each produces a distinct style of Pinot, based on differences in soil, elevation, aspect, farming and winemaker choices.

Good Burgundy is notoriously expensive, and in comparison, Willamette Valley Pinot Noir may be considered a bargain. That said, wines priced under $20, as well as those labeled plainly as Oregon Pinot Noir, rarely provide a thrill. Selections from specific appellations or subappellations priced under $40 would be a good starting point for exploration.

Six to Sip

Drouhin Oregon Roserock Pinot Noir Eola-Amity Hills; $35, 92 points. Anchored in a fast-rising AVA known to put an earthy subtext to ripe purple and black fruits, this has plenty of polish and power. Editor’s choice.

Ken Wright Pinot Noir Willamette Valley; $22, 91 points. This complex, layered wine is a fantastic bargain, aromatic and beautifully structured with raspberry and spicy plum fruit. Editor’s choice.

Lenné Estate LeNez Pinot Noir Yamhill-Carlton; $35, 90 points. Estate-grown fruit was gently aged in 10% new French oak, yielding near-term drinkability and medium ageability. Editor’s choice.

Pike Road Xander Taryn Vineyard Pinot Noir Chehalem Mountains; $35, 89 points. Fresh blackberry fruit meets wet rock minerality in this single-vineyard offering.

Stoller Pinot Noir Dundee Hills; $35, 89 points. From the heart of Pinot country, this wraps red and black berries with peppery herbs in a light, earthy finish.

Willamette Valley Vineyards Whole Cluster Pinot Noir Willamette Valley; $24, 91 points. Young, bright and delicious, this fruit-driven wine mixes fresh plum and cherry with just a hint of milk chocolate. Editor’s choice.

View Full Post

New 2017 Vintage Reviews by Vinous

Posted on September 4, 2020 in Reviews

We are thrilled to share some new reviews from Vinous, founded by wine critic, Antonio Galloni, in 2013. Antonio has crafted a site that brings together professional wine reviewers, thematic stories, videos, photos and reader opinion in a dynamic, interactive setting. Vinous’ ultimate goal is to create a wine lovers community. We hope you enjoy Vinous editor, Josh Raynolds, tasting notes and scores on several of our single vineyard Pinot noirs from the 2017 vintage!

What was the 2017 vintage like in the Willamette Valley? Click here to read Ken’s vintage notes or click here to read his 2017 harvest letter.

From Josh’s recent article— Oregon Pinot Noir: The Winning Streak Continues, Josh describes the 2017 vintage as follows:

“2017 – Classic Style, Solid Frame

Two thousand-seventeen has shaped up to be a truly remarkable vintage for the sheer number of bright, more classically styled Pinot Noirs it produced. And that’s in spite of an August that was the hottest ever recorded here. The outstanding wines – and there are a staggering number of them –showcase lively but well-concentrated red fruit, floral and spice character, along with freshness and well-integrated tannins that make them, in most cases, highly enjoyable to drink already. The wines’ balance will allow them to age gracefully for some time. I suspect that many of my drinking windows could look overly conservative down the road. Even better news is that harvest was abundant and there’s plenty of wine to go around.

A rainy spring was followed by a normal budbreak. Moderate conditions prevailed through the end of June, helping to produce a large fruit set. The ongoing clement weather kept the fruit ripening at a favorable, even slightly slow pace, much to the delight of growers and winemakers. By the end of July, hopes were high that the grapes, which had seen no heat spikes, were set up to produce wines of distinct freshness, with good acidity and low alcohol levels. Stem and skin lignifications were very good and a number of producers were able to work with more whole clusters in their fermentations than usual. Then the weather turned hot – really hot – and stayed that way until the end of August, pushing sugar levels higher, although acidity levels stayed healthy. There was zero mildew pressure on the vines, which is always a concern when conditions are hot and damp. Cooler conditions extended through September, setting the stage for most producers to begin harvest at the very end of the month, bringing in plenty of ripe but fresh, clean and perfectly healthy fruit.” Click here to read the full article

2017 Ken Wright Cellars Reviews

2017 Abbott Claim Pinot Noir

Vinous Score: 93 points 

Tasting Notes: Limpid ruby-red. Highly perfumed aromas of red fruit liqueur, cherry cola, candied flowers and exotic spices, along with a smoky mineral overtone. Nicely concentrated yet energetic on the palate, offering appealingly sweet, spice-accented raspberry, cherry liqueur and rose pastille flavors that deepen slowly with air. Conveys a suave blend of power and vivacity and finishes with well-knit tannins and superb, floral-driven persistence. 23% new oak.— Josh Raynolds

2017 Bonnie Jean Pinot Noir

Vinous Score: 92 points

Tasting Notes: Glistening ruby-red. Highly perfumed red fruit preserve, cherry cola, floral and baking spice scents, along with a smoky mineral overtone. Nicely concentrated yet lively on the palate, offering sweet, spice-accented raspberry, cherry liqueur, rose pastille and spicecake flavors that spread out slowly through the midpalate. Smoothly blends power and finesse and finishes with sneaky tannins and strong, floral-driven persistence. 23% new oak. — Josh Raynolds

2017 Bryce Pinot Noir

Vinous Score: 93 points

Tasting Notes: Saturated magenta. Potent, spice-tinged red and blue fruit preserve and floral qualities on the nose, along with hints of vanilla and cola. Sappy and penetrating in the mouth, offering appealingly sweet black raspberry and mulberry flavors underscored by a vein of juicy acidity. Lush yet energetic as well, showing excellent clarity and spicy lift on the persistent finish, which is framed by supple, polished tannins. — Josh Raynolds

2017 Canary Hill Pinot Noir

Vinous Score: 94 points

Tasting Notes: Brilliant ruby. A highly expressive bouquet evokes fresh red berries, candied rose and baking spices, and a smoky element builds in the glass. Oak-spiced raspberry and cherry cola flavors are underscored and energized by a core of juicy acidity. In an energetic style, delivering firm closing bite and smooth tannins that lend shape and subtle grip to the strikingly long, penetrating finish. 23% new oak. — Josh Raynolds

2017 Guadalupe Pinot Noir

Vinous Score: 92 points

Tasting Notes: Vivid ruby-red. Powerful, spice-tinged cherry and floral pastille scents are complemented by suggestions of licorice and succulent flowers. Rich and chewy on the palate, offering mineral-accented black raspberry and cherry cola flavors that coat the palate. Finishes very long and subtly smoky, with well-knit tannins building steadily and adding gentle grip to lingering cherry and mocha notes. Raised in 23% new oak. — Josh Raynolds

2017 Latchkey Pinot Noir

Vinous Score: 93 points

Tasting Notes: Bright ruby. Ripe red and blue fruits, pungent flowers, licorice, mocha and a hint of smoky minerals on the deeply perfumed nose. Juicy and supple on the palate, offering intense boysenberry and cherry preserve flavors that are lifted and sharpened by an undercurrent of zesty acidity. The spice and floral notes repeat strongly on an impressively long, cherry-driven finish, where rounded tannins come in late. — Josh Raynolds

2017 Savoya Pinot Noir

Vinous Score: 93 points

Tasting Notes:  Deep magenta. Highly perfumed aromas of red fruit liqueur, cherry cola, musky flowers and exotic spices carry a smoky mineral overtone. Smooth and supple in texture, offering sweet, mineral-laced boysenberry, cherry, candied rose and spice cake flavors that spread out steadily with air. Delivers a suave blend of depth and energy and finishes very long and spicy, displaying harmonious tannins and fine clarity. 23% new oak. — Josh Raynolds

2017 Shea Pinot Noir

Vinous Score: 94 points

Tasting Notes: Deep, glistening ruby-red. Deeply perfumed scents of red berry liqueur, cherry cola and baking spices, and a floral overtone that emerges with air. Sweet and seamless on the palate, offering juicy black raspberry, cherry-vanilla and rose pastille flavors plus a smoky top note. The spice and floral notes repeat on a long, smooth finish framed by sneaky, harmonious tannins. 23% new oak. — Josh Raynolds

2017 Tanager Pinot Noir

Vinous Score: 93 points

Tasting Notes: Glistening ruby-red. Assertively perfumed, mineral-accented red berry and cherry aromas are complemented by suggestions of five-spice powder and potpourri. Silky and appealingly sweet, offering incisive raspberry, cherry and floral pastille flavors that are complemented by a smoky mineral quality. Shows fine clarity and spicy lift on the long, energetic finish, which is framed by gentle, even tannins. — Josh Raynolds

View Full Post

Bud Break 2020

Posted on June 18, 2020 in Videos

Join Ken in McCrone Vineyard as he discusses bud break 2020, the official launch to this year’s growing season.

View Full Post