I am a proud Californian. My favorite author is John Steinbeck, my favorite flower is the California poppy, and I love Mexican food. However, I can’t get behind everything Californian, especially when that thing is Pinot Noir.
There are great examples of California Pinot Noir–for instance, the illustrious Sea Smoke and the much more affordable Belle Glos “Meiomi”–but I have found that too many are high-alcohol, big-bodied wines that hurt my palate. I mean, of all wines Pinot freakin’ Noir is supposed to be easy to drink, right?
Enter, stage north, Oregonian Pinot Noir to steal the show and save the day.
As a general rule, Oregon winemakers subscribe to Old World virtues such as restraint and elegance. Their Pinot Gris is more Alsatian in character than Italian, and their Pinot Noir is positively Burgundian.
Part of this has to do with Oregon’s cooler, wetter climate, which lends itself to the more classical French style of winemaking. But much of this also has to do with the winemakers’ philosophies on what wine should be.
I had the chance to taste some of this philosophy in action at a tasting of Stangeland Vineyards & Winery, held at Planet Wine. Also at the tasting was Larry Miller, the president and winemaker at Stangeland.
Stangeland is a pioneer of Oregon wine, having planted a vineyard at the current Eola-Amity Hills AVA in 1978. Eola-Amity Hills, which is contained entirely within the larger Willamette Valley AVA, is a very new AVA, having been designated in 2006. Stangeland focuses on Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Pinot Gris. I tried a number of the winery’s Pinot Noirs, in addition to one of their Chards and a Pinot Gris.