Sticking with my monthly theme of Oregon and Washington wines, I wanted to use this feature to emphasize the quality of the 2008 vintage of Willamette Valley Pinot Noir. For years I’ve believed that this region of the United States is far superior in terms of Pinot Noir production to any other appellation. To me, Russian River Valley comes the closest, but can still veer towards the jammy side at times. Carneros Pinot Noir is almost always too ripe and jammy with little backbone, and the stuff they are making now in Southern California in regions such as Santa Rita Hills, Santa Lucia Highlands and Santa Barbara County (of “Sideways” fame) taste great, but are often deeper and darker than this varietal should be and lack a certain elegance as a result. And don’t even get me started on the hot, overripe Pinots from Napa. Meanwhile, Willamette Valley consistently expresses its terroir, maintains a floral component to its fruit, and balances that fruit with earthy spice and chocolate notes that render jamminess impossible. The best news? The 2008 vintage is arguably the strongest of the decade, and while single vineyard wines will be well worth the extra money and cellar time, I was blown away by the quality of the affordable entry level wines from the top producers in the region. Argyle has long been a staple in Pinot Noir and Chardonnay production in Willamette Valley, so it should come as no surprise that their 2008 Pinot Noir knocks the ball out of the park…and for $25 (!!!) to boot.

Argyle Pinot Noir Willamette Valley 2008, 92 Points, $25, 20,000 Cases Made– Nose is intensely perfumed, with floral rose and violet above wild berry fruit. Delicate, violety body of raspberry, 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.

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