Ageing Pinot: four top examples of Willamette Valley Pinot Noir from the 2014 vintage

These were wines I tasted as part of a virtual 2021 IPNC masterclass on ageing Pinot Noir. Present were wine makers Jason Lett (Eyrie), Claire Carver (Big Table Farm), Jim Prosser of JK Carriere and Gina Hennen (Adelsheim). The vintage of focus was 2014, and so it was great to be able to taste wines at almost 7 years’ age. This was a warm harvest with good yields, and the only problem was that everything ripened at a similar time so it became a logistical nightmare for many. The discussion was flowing and full of interest, but here I just wanted to focus on the wines, all of which were showing really well.

The Eyrie Vineyards South Block Original Vines Pinot Noir 2014 Dundee Hills, Willamette Valley, Oregon
12.5% alcohol. This is an important wine for Eyrie, the Pinot pioneer of the Willamette Valley. Jason’s dad David carried on making this, from just 10 rows of the original plantings here, even after he retired. Jason was going to retire the cuvée when his father passed, but has recently begun making it again: the block, planted on its own roots, is affected by phylloxera, and so this is perhaps one of the last vintages made. But this is a piece of Oregon Pinot history. Sweet and supple with nice fresh cherry and redcurrant fruit, as well as a wonderfully sweet and smooth mid-palate. So elegant and refined, this has a really rounded, warm mid-palate with expansive fruit, hemmed in at either end by the structure and freshness. Very fine and detailed, and ageing beautifully. This is drinking well now but has longer to go. A remarkable expression of place from old vines, now in their swansong. Fine and silky on the finish. 96/100

Big Table Farm Pinot Noir Wirtz Vineyard 2014 Willamette Valley, Oregon
13.5% alcohol. This is from a vineyard that they no longer have access to, alas: between 2010 and 2016 Big Table Farm made wine from this 1970s-planted site, which is ancient by Oregon standards. Whole bunch ferment. This is so fine, expressive and beautifully scented, with sappy red cherry and berry fruits, and nice precision. The palate is fresh and youthful with bright redcurrant and raspberry notes, and a hint of smoky bacon in the background. Juicy and supple, with a bit of tannic bite. Overall, though, this is so pretty and seamless and it’s a delight to drink. Ethereal, and hauntingly fragile. Drink this now because it has more to lose than gain. 95/100

J K Carriere Vespidae Pinot Noir 2014 Willamette Valley, Oregon
13.75% alcohol. This brings together four different vineyards: St. Dolores Estate (home vineyard, at the time 6 years old), Temperance Hill (35 years), Shea Vineyard (16 years), and Gemini Vineyard (23 years). It shows vibrant black cherry and plum fruit on the nose with some spice and tar. The palate has some grip with dense berry and black fruits, and a bit of tannic structure. There’s a freshness, some grunt, and a touch of wildness, but it works really well, and perhaps this wine has some distance to go. Delivers a lot of pleasure. 94/100 (currently a library release at US$65)

Adelsheim Bryan Creek Pinot Noir 2014 Chehalem Mountains, Willamette Valley, Oregon
13.5% alcohol. Adelsheim are now celebrating 50 years: they were established back in 1971, which is early in the Oregon story. Vineyard planted in 1989 on volcanic soils. This is so bright, linear and fresh with lovely black cherry fruit, and good acidity and a bit of structure. A direct Pinot Noir not showing its age, with a juicy quality to the cherry and berry fruits. It has a touch of liqueur-like fruit, and it’s really appealing. Such freshness here. This could go on for a long time. 94/100

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