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Oregon Pinot Noir, a fall classic

Friday - 10/7/2011, 5:06pm  ET

Scott Greenberg, special to wtop.com

Oregon’s Willamette Valley, roughly an hour’s drive south of Portland, is now known for producing world class pinot noir wines that have a style all their own.

In general, they are a touch bolder than their French cousins and a bit rounder than the pinot noir revolution going on Down Under.

They display flavors of wild strawberry, dark cherry, graphite, tea and bramble. Stony minerality is another hallmark feature of these wines.

Best of all, they’re just right for fall. Retail prices are approximate.

Benton Lane is a family owned winery located in the heart of the Willamette Valley. They have a unique approach to growing fruit and producing wine, taking the best practices of sustainable, organic and biodynamic farming techniques. Their 2008 Benton Lane Pinot Noir displays red fruit and dark cherry characters, both in the nose and on the palate. Wild cherry and juicy raspberry flavors intermingle with hints of spice and minerals. $21

Founded in 1974 by Pat and Joe Campbell, Elk Cove Vineyards is one of Oregon’s oldest wine producers. Today, their son, Adam, continues the family legacy of producing textured, stylish wines. The 2008 Elk Cove Willamette Valley Pinot Noir displays vibrant aromas of black cherries, spices and vanilla. Intriguing flavors of nutmeg combine with ripe flavors of strawberries and cherries and mineral overtones. The mouth feel is soft, round and warm with a juicy impression of ripe fruit. The finish is long, with hints of baking spices, vanilla and sweet tannins, all balanced by abundant acidity. $22

A friend of mine recently told me about a winemaker, Patricia Green, who was producing seductive pinot noir, so I decided to track down a bottle. I am glad that I did. The flavors and aromas in the 2009 Patricia Green Cellars Whistling Ridge Pinot Noir sweeten and deepen as the wine opens and finds its balance. A round entry gives way to a mouthful of juicy raspberry, black cherry and strawberry flavors balanced by fine-grain tannins that support a long, pretty finish. $36

Cristom Winery owners, Paul and Eileen Gerrie, moved to Oregon in 1992 with their two children, Christine and Tom, (Cristom in a contraction of the children’s names), with the dream of starting a winery dedicated to making world class Pinot Noir. With the help of longtime winemaker, Steve Doerner, I would say “mission accomplished.” The 2007 Cristom Jessie Vineyard Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley exhibits complex aromas of roses, cherries and strawberries. It has a softer feel in the mouth that allows the lighter fruit characteristics (red cherries, raspberries and strawberries) to linger on the palate and just enough sweet tannin to reward the palate with a spectacularly long, seductive finish. $49

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