I've been on the lookout for a Californian Pinot Noir for some time and there are some fine examples but they generally come at a high price. I was persuaded to look a little further north in the USA to find better value for money - to Oregon and the Willamette Valley American Viticultural Area* ("AVA") which produces around 88% of Oregon's Pinot Noir. It is a true cool climate area, cooler and wetter than California but with longer hours of sunlight and a big difference between day and night temperatures which leads to fresher wines with more pronounced fruit. The grapes in this wine are from three biodynamic vineyards on the Cooper Mountain estate; holistic and ecological viticulture is practised. We love Cooper Mountain's ethos to produce wine not "for the masses but for those seeking wines that have soul and are reflective of each passing vintage in the Willamette Valley".
Oregon Pinots tend to be reflective of the vintage in question. 2012 saw some fairly warm weather at harvest time leading to generally smaller production (3000 cases for this example) of fairly rich and fuller-bodied Pinots. This wine is no exception and despite its medium body and rich fruit, it retains real Burgundian style and finesse, not surprising since the winemaker is French.
This wine may need a little time to open up as it is not long off the boat. When it does, you are rewarded with a classic cool climate Pinot Noir nose - ripe cherry, raspberry, blueberry and some blackberry with classic mushroom/ "forest-floor" aromas. Flavours are just as complex and fruit continues to dominate; the finish is long and dry with redcurrants and blueberries. There is great balance - alcohol in Oregon Pinot Noirs can be high but here it is restrained at 13%; acidity is fairly high making it quite refreshing and tannins are fine and well integrated. Though fuller in body than some Burgundies, this Pinot is medium-bodied rather than heavy with a really velvety smooth texture which makes it a very elegant wine.
* N.B. AVAs indicate the origin of a wine; there are however no regulations that need to be followed to use the classification as is the case in France for example.
This is a very food-friendly wine - recommended to drink with roast chicken, turkey, guinea fowl, duck, goose, pheasant, pigeon, veal, calves liver, lamb, pork, mushroom based dishes
"Pinot noir growers will always discuss the perfect storm of growing conditions to achieve optimal quality in a vintage. The story of 2012 is about as close to this as we have come in a while in the Willamette Valley. A cool spring and cool early summer paired with a warm, dry late summer and fall led to concentrated, complete pinot noirs. Dark cherry and mushroom pronounced nose, blackberry, pomegranate, mineral and spice on the long and lush palate."
90 points Wine Spectator Feb 2014
" Supple, vibrant and expressive, with black olive and mineral nuances to the black cherry and spice flavors, persisting on the open texture."
90 points Vinous Oct 2015
"Deep red. Fresh raspberry and cherry on the nose, plus hints of candied flowers, spicecake and cola. Pliant and seamless on the palate, offering gently sweet red fruit flavors and a suggestion of blood orange. Hefty yet lively Pinot with very good finishing cut and length. Fine-grained tannins add grip to the juicy fruit flavors."
90 points The Tasting Panel Magazine Jul 2015
"Lush and smooth with ripe cherry and spice; juicy and bright with balance and tangy style; biodynamic"
16.5 points Jancis Robinson Aug 2015
"... Brooding ruby red. Some interesting undergrowth notes - not just cherry-sweet fruit. Interesting wine with real savour. It's quite forward, like most Oregon Pinots. Ready now. But the finish is impressive."