Pacific Northwest Tasting Report

Last week, I spent some time in Portland and Seattle, so of course I made trips out to wine country, with specific focus on the highly acclaimed 2008 Willamette Valley Pinot Noir vintage, as the well as sensational Cabernets of Washington state from both 2007 and 2008. Here is a quick recap of some of my favorite wines that I tasted from this region.

PINOT NOIR:

1. Argyle Pinot Noir Spirithouse Willamette Valley 2006, 93 Points, $75- Rich with its dark raspberry and mineral on the nose. Floral, perfumey body with an amazing texture of blueberry, raspberry and chocolate with a perfectly balanced backbone of tobacco and mineral spice. This is long, rich but still delicate, with a decisive cinnamon note running throughout.

2. Domaine Serene Pinot Noir Evenstad Reserve Willamette Valley 2006, 93 Points, $60- Lifted aromas of medicinal eucalyptus shade dark red berry fruit notes. Silky and elegant texture with a perfumed violet and lavender floral quality above black cherry and leading into layers of vanilla, mocha and exotic spice. Very focused and elegant through the long finish.

3. Argyle Pinot Noir Nuthouse Willamette Valley 2006, 92 Points, $60- Perfumey, floral red fruit nose, with bing cherry and dark raspberry aromas. Incredibly delicate mouthfeel, with focused flavors of raspberry and red cherry above layers of white pepper and tobacco spice. There is a lovely floral, mineral component that intertwines throughout, with hints of white chocolate lingering through the long, spicy finish.

4. Domaine Serene Pinot Noir Winery Hill Vineyard 2006, 92 Points, $75- Perfumey and concentrated black cherry and chocolate on the nose. Creamy, smooth texture of mouth-coating black cherry, anise, milk chocolate and mocha. Maintains elegance through the perfumey finish, lingering long with an element of floral spice.

5. Argyle Pinot Noir Willamette Valley 2008, 92 Points, $25- Nose is intensely perfumed, with floral rose and violet above wild berry fruit. Delicate, violety body of blueberry and black cherry fruit above creamy white chocolate, toffee and a strong mushroom earth note. Wild and exotic berry fruit, with a soft, creamy texture, lingering long with a hint of cigar box. Intriguing combo of floral violet and earthy mushroom complexity.

6. Ponzi Pinot Noir Tavola Willamette Valley 2008, 91 Points, $25- Minerally red berry aromas, with undertones of floral rose and violet. Deep and richly textured, with black cherry, dark raspberry , blackberry fruit gliding above white chocolate, earthy cigar box, well-water mineral and peppery spice. Deep and complex through the long finish.

7. Domaine Serene Pinot Noir Mark Bradford Willamette Valley 2006, 91 Points, $90- Rich dark plum fruit, notes of cedar and mint on the nose. Very deep and ripe purple fruit flavors, with plum, licorice and violet coating the palate. A hint of dryness through the long, toasty finish.

8. Erath Pinot Noir Estate Willamette Valley 2008, 91 Points, $35- Vanilla bean and red cherry on the nose, with hints of cinnamon spice. Round palate of red cherry leads into layers of toffee, vanilla and tobacco spice. Silky, with a long finish of oak and exotic spice shading a distinct toffee and café vanilla note throughout. Full and supple, but still delicate.

9. Archery Summit Pinot Noir Premier Cuvee 2008, 91 Points, $50- Rich floral aromas of blueberry and tobacco spice aromas. Violet and lavender notes mingle above structured blueberry, black cherry and notes of dark chocolate. Mineral spice lingers with more exotic perfume notes. Long, delicate finish, rich and luscious.

10. Argyle Pinot Noir Cowhouse Willamette Valley 2006, 91 Points, $50- Sweet, sugary red fruit aromas with undertones of earth. Balanced, spicy body, with lots of cedar above cherry and raspberry fruit. Hints of toffee through the long finish, with a touch of tannic dryness still present here, but the fruit is explosive.

CABERNET SAUVIGNON

1. Januik Cabernet Sauvignon Champoux Vineyard Columbia Valley 2007, 92 Points, $50- Rich aromas of chocolate, mocha and black currant fruit. Silky, seamless mouthfeel with delicious black cherry and blackberry fruit leading into layers of coffee bean and cedar. Long, evolving finish with fine, soft tannins, all about texture.

2. Chateau Ste. Michelle Cabernet Sauvignon Ethos Columbia Valley 2006, 91 Points, $40- Intense nose of cedar and forest floor notes combine with cocoa powder and deep black currant fruits. Lush body is full of dense cedar and pine earth above bursting black cherry, blackberry and dark plum notes, finishing with a strong chocolate note and lingering long with cedary spice. Very delicate mouthfeel considering the depth of flavor.

3. Novelty Hill Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley 2007, 91 Points, $25- Full aromas of cedar, olive and cocoa powder. Delicate texture explodes into forest floor and chocolate notes above layered dark raspberry and black cherry fruit, finishing with notes of cinnamon apple spice. Really love the softness of the texture, and the spicy red currant fruit finish.

4. Januik Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley 2007, 91 Points, $30- Deep black currant and cedar aromas above a hint of black cherry cola and vanilla bean. Soft mouthfeel, with blackberry, cherry and blueberry fruit above notes of cedar, mocha, chocolate and mineral. Incredibly silky mouthfeel, evolving and lingering long with soft chalk notes and fine tannins. Polished.

5. Chateau Ste. Michelle Cabernet Sauvignon Indian Wells 2008, 90 Points, $18- Deep, dark black currant aromas with shades of cocoa powder and black olive. Full-bodied with a rich, creamy texture of chocolate, cedar and black currant fruit notes above undertones of mineral. Blackberry notes linger with cocoa powder and tar notes, with a medium tannic grip and some chewiness catching up with it down the stretch.

SYRAH

1. Rockblock Syrah Reserve Walla Walla Valley 2006, 92 Points, $40- Deep and dark body, with aromas of blackberry, café vanilla and spice. Luscious and smooth palate with velvety and perfumey flavors of blackberry and red plum fruit leading into creamy layers of chocolate, vanilla bean and a burst of peppery spice, lingering long with a mocha hint. Very delicate and balanced considering its overall depth.

2. Januik Syrah Lewis Vineyard Columbia Valley 2007, 91 Points, $30- Rich, purple aromas of perfumey plum and black cherry, with vanilla and smoke notes. Velvety texture with lots of black currant and plum fruit running through above hints of white pepper spice, subtle chocolate and smoke notes. Elegant through the long finish, with spice lingering.

3. Chateau Ste. Michelle Boreal Columbia Valley 2006, 89 Points, $25- Aromas of toast, oak, cinnamon spice and mocha. Not a lot of fruit here initially as deep, bitter coffee notes and chocolate form on the palate above hints of plum and floral orange peel spice. Long finish with exotic, floral spices lingering. Unique, silky and smooth.

4. RiverAerie Syrah Columbia Valley 2006, 88 Points, $20- Sugary aromas of dark plum and wild berry fruit. Velvety body with rich purple fruit flavors of raisin, plum, licorice and fig above notes of mocha and cinnamon spice. Medium length.

5. Dusted Valley Syrah Boomtown Columbia Valley 2007, 88 Points, $25- Perfumey notes of black plum, fig and violet on the nose. Smooth mouthfeel of purple and black currant fruits above subtle chocolate and spice notes, very soft and creamy in the texture.

WHITES

1. Argyle Chardonnay Spirithouse Dundee Hills 2006, 91 Points, $50- Floral, citrusy aromas of tropical fruit. Canteloupe, honey dew melon and peach flavors are layered above very subtle oak notes. This evolves into a creamier texture through the finish, with white pepper spice adding complexity. Very expressive fruit here through the long finish.

2. Argyle Chardonnay Nuthouse Willamette Valley 2007, 90 Points, $35- Strong aromas of oak, pear citrus and hints of nutmeg. Very light golden body with pear and green apple above layers of vanilla and cinnamon/ nutmeg spice. Creamy but delicate through the long finish.

3. Chateau Ste. Michelle Dr. Loosen Riesling Eroica Columbia Valley 2008, 89 Points, $24- Cloudy body with vibrant citrus aromas of pear and tropical fruit. Concentrated flavors of floral rose water, pear and sugary pineapple above very subtle petrol hints. Medium length with a just a hint of dryness.

4. Chateau Ste. Michelle Chardonnay Ethos Columbia Valley 2006, 89 Points, $32- Very buttery and toasty on the nose, with green apple fruit aromas. Full and creamy, with lots of American oak, toffee and burnt toast notes evolving into green apple and pear citrus. Balanced and layered through the long finish.

5. Archery Summit Ab Ovo Pinot Gris Willamette Valley 2009, 89 Points, $42- Aromas of subtle oak, pear and mango fruit. Crisp and creamy on the palate, with vivid citrus flavors of orange, lemon, lime, pear and mango, vibrant acidity pumping. Hints of vanilla bean and coconut creep in late with ginger hints. Incredibly spicy finish.

6. Chateau Ste. Michelle Chardonnay Columbia Valley 2008, 88 Points, $13- Floral, citrusy aromas with a strong presence of vanilla and oak. Crisp and acidic on the palate, with green apple and pear notes above subtle hazelnut and vanilla bean notes. Clean finish, hint of spice lingers.

7. Erath Pinot Gris Knight’s Gambit Reserve Willamette Valley 2008, 88 Points, $22- Crisp aromas of pear and grapefruit citrus. Full-bodied and creamy, with spiced and poached pear citrus notes above delicious cinnamon golden apple notes. A hint of oak adds balance through the long, spicy finish.

8. Argyle Brut Willamette Valley 2006, 88 Points, $28- Lots of pear and almond on the nose. Clean and citrusy, with vibrant flavors of juicy pear and creamy almond above hints of lime through the long finish.

9. Domaine Serene Chardonnay Cot Sud Willamette Valley 2007, 88 Points, $45- Medium-bodied with oak, pear, golden apple and butterscotch aromas. Lots of citrus on the palate, with balanced layers of oak and tofee leading into a refined but somewhat tangy finish.

10. Waterbrook Sauvignon Blanc Columbia Valley 2007, 86 Points, $15- Lots of melon and honey dew and tropical fruit here, with undertones of vanilla and mineral spice. Vibrant acidity holds the flavors together with the slighest note of grass.

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