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Oregon wine country, part 10
Elk Cove
Website: www.elkcove.com 

At Elk Cove, I met with Adam Campbell (above), whose parents Pat and Joe established the vineyard in 1974. Initially, they planted just 10 acres, half Pinot Noir and half Chardonnay. Joe had been a doctor, and Pat grew up on and apple and pear farm. At this stage, there wasn’t much in the way of vineyards in Oregon, and after they’d planted, they went to Burgundy to do a harvest.

The site was previously an old homestead that had failed as a prune orchard; then as a strawberry farm; then as a turkey farm. The land was inexpensive, and there were no guarantees that it would be good for vineyards. Indeed, it was the first vineyard in Oregon on Willakenzie soils (a sedimentary rock), and it was also quite high up. To this day, it remains the highest elevation quality vineyard in Oregon. 

Adam grew up here, and lived on the property until he was 18, for much of the time in a trailer, which was the family home. He returned to the vineyard in 1995, and when Adam took over from his folks 60 acres had been planted on this site, with all the vines planted on their own roots. Since then, Elk Cove has expanded, buying another 500 acres. 120 of these are now vineyards, which brings the total acreage to 180. Currently, new plantings are totalling 30 acres a year.

For Pinot Noir, Adam likes the Pommard clone a lot (this is one of the two traditional Oregon clones, along with Wädenswil). ‘115, 777 and Pommard are the one’s we are planting now’, he explained. ‘I would be planting more Pommard, but we already have 100 acres of it.’

Pinot Noir is the main focus, but a range of white grapes are also grown, including Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc, Riesling, Gewürztraminer, Muscat and Viognier.

Elk Cove Pinot Noir Rosé 2007 Willamette Valley
Made like a white wine, with some red wine blended back in to give the colour. Appealing sweet cherry and strawberry fruit nose. The palate has a lovely creamy texture with attractive strawberry flavour. Integrated and harmonious. 88/100

Elk Cove Pinot Gris 2007 Willamette Valley
This is their largest production white wine: they have about 70 acres of Pinot Gris. It has a tiny bit of Gewurz and Muscat in the blend. Nice, bright, fruity aromatics with a hint of herbinesss and good acidity. Attractive. 87/100

Elk Cove Riesling 2006 Willamette Valley
From old vines, at 2 tons/acre yield. Whole cluster pressed and then cold fermented. Sweet limey nose with some honeyed notes. The palate is dense with rich limey fruit and spice and honey overtones, with a savoury grip. Some sweetness here, even though it is dry overall. 90/100

Elk Cove Pinot Noir 2006 Willamette Valley
80% of the Pinot Noir here goes into this wine. It’s low yields (2 tons/acre), with non-extractive winemaking (cold soak but without enzymes or dry ice), natural yeasts (but will add yeasts if necessary), and pressed at dryness into French oak (25% new). Bright, sappy cherry fruit nose. The palate is spicy and quite fresh with ripe, sweet cherry and plum fruit and a bit of spicy grip. Vibrant and satisfying with ripeness and balance. 89/100

Elk Cove Five Mountain Pinot Noir 2006 Willamette Valley
Elk Cove have owned this 50 acre vineyard in the Chehalem Mountains for 3 years, and it’s one of the four single vineyard wines they make. Sweet, quite pure cherry fruit nose with some deeper berry notes. The palate shows nice concentration with supple ripe fruit and a bit of spicy richness. 90/100

Elk Cove Wind Hill Pinot Noir 2006 Willamette Valley
An old vine vineyard purchased in 1997, and converted to organics a year later. Old Pommard clone vines. Fresh, sweet dark fruits nose with a bit of spice and some earthy complexity. The palate is spicy with nice depth and some earthiness. It isn’t just about fruit. 91/100

Elk Cove Reserve Pinot Noir 2006 Willamette Valley
Fresh, aromatic and quite spice with hints of smoke and tar. The palate is sweet, dense and quite structured with nicely elegant fruit and a hint of oak. Great concentration and depth. 93/100

Elk Cove La Bohème Pinot Noir 1991 Willamette Valley
Evolved nose showing aromatic cherry and earth fruit with some undergrowthy notes.  Plenty of life here. The palate is juicy and spicy with some nice earthy, sappy notes. Really delicious in a savoury style.

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Wines tasted 07/08  
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