Sep 30, 2013

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In The Glass: Two Outstanding Elk Cove 2011 Pinot Noirs

Ducks v Bears Rain

Pouring rain at the Sept. 28 Ducks v Bears game at Autzen | photo: Gary Breedlove, Eugene Daily News

My family loves Saturdays in the fall here in Eugene, Oregon.  It’s all about excellent wine, food and University of Oregon Ducks football.  Each game day, my husband and I prepare a feast of southern pulled-pork sandwiches topped with coleslaw and a side of kettle chips with dip – my kids’ favorite.  The house fills with mouthwatering southern spice aromas while the pork slow cooks until kick-off, when we pull out a bottle of Oregon wine to enjoy during the game.  Yesterday, while we watched the Oregon Ducks cream the California Golden Bears in hours of non-stop Oregon rain, we enjoyed two excellent Pinot Noirs from Oregon’s Elk Cove Vineyards: 2011 Willamette Valley Pinot Noir and 2011 Mount Richmond Pinot Noir.

Choosing the 2011 vintage was certainly an appropriate pick on a rainier than average Oregon September day; 2011 felt like spring lasted forever, stealing us of summer until late July, when the sun finally showed its face and gave us some heat. For grape growers, this wasn’t such a bad thing.  According to Elk Cove, many winegrowers breathed a sigh of relief at the close of the 2011 harvest:

Elk cove WVFeelings of déjà vu from 2010 were evident as the picking pushed even later into the season, making it one of Oregon’s latest harvests on record.   Yet, differences will make them unique.  Yields in 2011 were opposite of 2010, when production was down significantly due to poor fruit set and damage at harvest from migrating birds.  This year sunny weather brought good fruit-set and large compact clusters.  the large crop had many growers thinning to one cluster per shoot.  And the birds did not ‘help’ reduce yields as they did in 2010.  Thus allowing normal yields compared to the dramatically reduced yields in 2010.  While the heat index shows a warmer vintage in 2011 than 2010, most notable was when the heat came.  This vintage brought the ‘nice weather’ late in the season allowing us to let the fruit hang 15 days longer for fantastic flavors and better pH and acid balance.  

Winemaker Adam Campbell comments, “the late and cool vintage really highlights why we grow grapes on the viticultural edge.  Extremely long hang time gave us wines with concentrated ripe fruit flavors, beautiful freshness and lower alcohol.  These wines are why we love Oregon!”

I, too, love Oregon’s wines because of vintages like 2011; in fact, the vintage variety in Oregon is one of my favorite things about Oregon wine.  No two vintages in Oregon will ever be exactly the same, keeping me on the edge of my seat – excited to see what winemakers will create each year.

Elk cove Mount richmondRecently, the 2011 vintage has caught my full attention; each Willamette Valley Pinot Noir I’ve tasted displays exceptional acidity rounded out by concentrated, fresh fruit.  I’ve been absolutely loving them, and the Elk Cove Vineyards 2011 Willamette Valley Pinot Noir and 2011 Mount Richmond Pinot Noir are certainly outstanding examples of what is coming from the Willamette Valley’s 2011 vintage Pinot Noirs.

Elk Cove Vineyards Willamette Valley Pinot Noir 2011:  Aromas of candied apple, chocolate covered cherries and fall spices flow onto the palate like silk with added earthy notes.  Smooth tannins and spicy acidity balance the fruit to perfection. Fresh, pure, wow.

Elk Cove Vineyards Mount Richmond Pinot Noir Willamette Valley 2011: Fresh cherries, white pepper, violets, earth and cardamom all come together with fine grained tannins, zippy acidity and a silky fresh mouthfeel.  Absolutely delicious.