Oregon wine country revisited, part 9

Burgundy was Josh Bergström's first love. Coming out of university he got into wine, and it was Burgundy that won his heart. He describes it as his second home, and he met his wife there (she's from Beaune). But when he came back to Oregon, he was into big wines. 'In the early years I was more brash and I drank bigger wines,' he recalls. 'I made wines to reach out and grab people, to seize attention.' Over recent years Josh has slimmed down, and his wines have too. Both seem better for it.


This was the second time I'd visited Josh. The first time was back in 2008 when he was still pimping big Pinots, although he was already farming biodynamically by this stage.

In the cool wet vintage of 2007 he made a Pinot at 12.5% alcohol for the first time. 'I discovered aromatics and minerality,' he says. 'I realized that alcohol is obscuring aromatic freshness and minerality. I was starting to drink wines that are fresher and more vibrant. I have tried not to shock people: I haven't said that I hate all my old wines, but I don't drink all those wines now. I am moving to less: less oak, less alcohol, less extraction. I am trying to get as much Pinot Noir in the bottle but in a prettier package. Some people tried my older wines and have refused to try my wines again.’


He has gone from purchasing fruit from 30 different vineyards to estate vineyards, plus purchasing fruit from two others. Overall, he farms 85 acres in four different AVAs. He focuses just on Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.


With regard to Chardonnay, Josh says that every year he picks his Chardonnay earlier, and then a year later he tastes the wines and thinks he could have picked earlier. 'Chardonnay gains so much weight and texture,' he says. 'You have to have faith.' His Chardonnay winemaking has been greatly impacted by Pinot Noir. He uses whole cluster pressing and strict lees selection, and does 12 months in barrel followed by 6 months in stainless steel, inspired by the work of Jean Marc Roulot. '6 months in stainless steel after barrel blew my mind,' says Josh. 'It is like tightening of a rubber band. It gives a tensile nature to the wine.' He says that a lot of seashell, saline minerality comes to the wine, which comes from the lees. The wine is still 14% alcohol: 'If I could capture this at a slightly lower percentage, I would,' Josh says.

‘Oregon is an interesting spot with white wine,’ he says. ‘It is much more of a celebrate diversity state, as opposed to Pinot Noir.’


On recent vintages. 2012 was a generous vintage. We could have made OTT wines but it was about controlling the generosity. 2010 and 2011 were cool, late vintages. What Oregon does well is cool and wet. The hot vintages are where we struggle. It’s the opposite to Napa. 2003, 2006, 2009 and 2012 were hot vintages. We are getting better at this.



Bergström Sigrid Chardonnay 2012 Oregon, USA
This is a blend of five vineyards. Intense, vivid and lemony with lovely precision and a limey kick, as well as some grapefruit. Subtle toasty notes and some minerality add detail, with power as well as a citrussy core. Lovely. 94/100

Bergström Cumberland Reserve Pinot Noir 2012 Oregon, USA
From all five sites. Fresh, vivid and bright with lovely acidity. Fresh raspberry and cherry fruit with rounded berry fruit characters and some generosity. Lovely balance between the richness and freshness. 93/100

Bergström Temperance Hill Pinot Noir 2012 Eola Amity Hills, Oregon, USA
100 acre vineyard at 900 ft elevation. Josh is the biggest client with 10 acres. ‘It’s almost on the verge of disaster every year, but when it does work it makes a love/hate wine,’ says Josh. ‘I love wines like this: it makes people think a bit.’ Subtle herby, green note to the direct berry and black cherry fruit. Quite vivid with a bright, reductive note. Direct and pure with keen acidity, this is lean, bright and detailed. 94/100

Bergström Silice Pinot Noir 2012 Chehalem Mountains, Oregon, USA
This is Josh’s most opulent wine every year, with deep sandy soils that have a high quartz content. Warm, ripe and with subtle earth and spice notes. Generous with a bit of bitter plum, spice and ginger. Sweetly fruited and quite mineral. 92/100

Bergström Bergström Vineyard Pinot Noir 2012 Dundee Hills, Oregon, USA
Volcanic soils. Fresh, bright and vivid with ferrous/iron notes and black cherry and plum fruit. Fleshy but also has some spicy finesse. ‘The iron quality is always in this wine,’ says Josh. 94/100

Bergström Homage Pinot Noir 2011 Oregon, USA
Selection of the best barrels. Precise and bright with lovely raspberry and fine cherry fruit. Fresh cherry and plum fruit backed up by nice acidity. Really focused with good structure and quite primary fruit. This could develop in really interesting ways. 94/100

UK agent is Roberson Wine

Johan Vineyards
J Christopher
Big Table Farm
Walter Scott
Antica Terra

See also:

Visiting Oregon, July 2008 (series)

Wines tasted 07/14  
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