Rating: 92 points
Drink Date: 2015 - 2025
Reviewed by: Neal Martin
Issue Date: 30th Mar 2015
Source: Special Interim March 2015, The Wine Advocate
The 2012 Dundee Hills Pinot Noir is fermented in open-top fermenters with 20% whole-fruit clusters and aged in one-third new oak. This has a much more floral bouquet with rose petals infusing the bright red cherry and wild strawberry fruit. There is a slight wet clay scent in the background. The palate is medium-bodied with pure red cherry and cranberry fruit, very well-judged acidity and lovely poise on the finish. This is an excellent Oregon Pinot Noir with elegance and style.
"We had such standout examples that we had a rare opportunity to make single sub-AVA bottlings," explained proprietor Tony Soter as we entered one of several tasting "lodges" like satellites around the main winery. Unfortunately, it was a particularly foggy January afternoon, so the purportedly splendid vista across the vineyards was postponed for another day. He was joined by his wingman, winemaker James Cahill. “You only have one chance to make an impression,” James remarked. “There was such a broad window of harvest - it was all on the table in front of us. 2012 is uncommonly concentrated to the point where they are almost not typical of Oregon. But in 2013 there will not be any because the conditions were not favorable and we only bottled 60% [of production]. We found distinctive stylistic elements that made it worth bottling. We have more confidence with older vines in using the stems as they tend to be fully lignified, but it can be anywhere between 0 and 50%. It adds another layer of complexity, but you have to pay attention to seed tannins and it can mar a lot of Pinot Noirs."
"The 2012 [vintage] was a successful year across the board for Oregon and most producers made some of their best wines in memory with relatively little stress or concern," continued James Cahill via e-mail. "My nature and ambition is to pursue perfection and only after exhaustive efforts settle for excellence other wise declassify. We didn’t declassify anything in 2012, a rare occurrence which speaks to the relative consistency. We did not have a big crop to begin with, which is again an advantage if your aims are so inclined and the weather stayed dry well into October… always good. But all was not perfect and I became quiet concerned as a persistent northeast wind blew up for several days. These winds always bring very low humidity, which is an asset if you need to dry things out but pose a risk as well. They produce a dehydrating pressure that if combined with high temperatures can quickly begin to shrivel grapes and cook the flavors. The unique quality of 2012s in my opinion is that they are uncommonly concentrated but rarely exhibit any cooked qualities because the harvest was so late in the year (second half of Oct) that the season could not muster the heat often associated with these winds. The result for us was a subtle and progressive concentrating effect just in the last week the fruit needed to hang and a fortuitous confluence of factors for which I am grateful. I can imagine from our experience (and my experience from years in California battling the effects of heat and dryness with tender Pinot Noir) that the effect can get away from prudent picking decisions resulting even in 2012 in excessive alcohols.This would be the only telltale liability vis-a-vis great balance."
James also remarked on the vinification: "There were very few adjustments from our model protocol as the musts were excellent in terms of numbers and maturity, so ameliorations were rare and [there was] no hesitation to use whole fruit/stems. With such concentration we could be enthusiastic about extraction and lavish a little more new oak on the wines than usual. In more challenging years we probably work harder to recalibrate and compensate, but not in 2012."
This was a good, occasionally very impressive range of wines. The Planet Oregon Pinot Noir serves as a great introduction to Oregon Pinot Noir, for just two ten dollar bills, by doing nothing more than being a delicious, straightforward, easy-drinking Pinot Noir. At the other end of the spectrum are the North Valley, Ribbon Ridge and Yamhill-Carlton District Pinot Noirs 2012 that represent some of the best examples I encountered during my time in Oregon, notwithstanding a price that is hard to beat. The Mineral Springs Ranch White Label 2012 was a brilliant example of the grape variety, the 30% whole-cluster fruit imparting freshness, the 50% new oak barely noticeable and remarkably well interwoven by James Cahill. At just under $100 per bottle, it ain’t cheap, but it is a stunning, world-class Pinot Noir that has the substance and balance to age well.