© 2007 by Randy Buckner
As the bell struck twice at Linfield College on July 29, an anxious throng of Pinot lovers awaited the opening of the gates (which was 10 minutes late). The International Pinot Noir Celebration Passport to Pinot was under way!
With the bucolic Linfield College campus providing a perfect backdrop, 60 producers from five countries (Australia, Chile, France, New Zealand, United States) poured some of their very best wines to eager consumers, including yours truly.
The excitement in the air was contagious as people plowed ahead to their favorite producer's booths to sample a pour of liquid heaven. No ice buckets were needed this year - the weather remained a cool 69F with overcast skies, which was ideal for tasting wines.
The wines from France and Oregon stole the show. Notes on 28 of these beauties follow.
Another 100 new and current releases are presented for your inspection. The dual rating system evaluates quality (the first number) and value (the second) on a 100-point scale. All wines are tasted from Riedel Vinum glasses. No wines scoring below 80 points are listed. All prices are the manufacturer's suggested retail price. Vendor prices are often less expensive. As always, enjoy a bottle with dinner tonight.
2005 Domaine Charles Audoin, Les Longeroies, Marsannay, France, $40. An interesting nose of mushrooms and mixed red and black fruits, however the wine is very lean in the mouth, showing modest fruit and bright acids; 86/86.
2005 Domaine d'Ardhuy, Clos des Langres Monopole, Côte de Nuits, France, $50. The nose is loaded with fruit and oak, but wood dominates the palate right now, making it hard to evaluate; 86+/85+.
2005 Fougeray de Beauclair, Bonnes Mares Grand Cru, France, $150. Black raspberries and forest floor notes on the nose, but is very tight on the palate. You can sense a lot of underpinning, and it will blossom with bottle time. The finish is lengthy but muted at this point; 91/89.
2004 Domaine Chateau de Chorey, Les Cras, Beaune 1er Cru, France, $56. This wine has way too much earthy, Brett-like funk for my palate. I cannot objectively rate this wine; Not Rated.
2005 Domaine Claude Dugat, Charmes Chambertin, France, $800. A complex nose of black fruits and a touch of earth is followed by limited palate revelations. It is tight and brooding, showing very little. I don't know how to rate this wine at the moment, but the QPR is non-existent; Not Rated.
2004 Domaine Michel Gay, Chorey-Lès-Beaune, France, $32. Ripe red and black cherry fruit intermingles on the nose and palate. Tannins are drying and there is not a lot of depth to the wine; 85/85.
2005 Domaine Aleth Girardin, Epenots, Pommard 1er Cru, France, $90. A very earthy style of wine, with mushrooms and underbrush right up front. You can sense are a lot of things going on here, but it is very tight right now. Age will blossom out this wine to a real beauty; 91/90.
2005 Maison Camille Giroud, Cent Vignes, Beaune 1er Cru, France, $NA. The nose has a nice mix of black fruit, barnyard and oak. Full and lush in the mouth, the wine has great length and depth. Well made and delicious; 93/NA.
2005 Domaine Phillippe & Vincent Lecheneaut, Les Pruliers, Nuits St.-Georges Premier Cru, France, $60. A well-structured wine, with bright acidity acidity and black cherry fruit. Tight and unrevealing presently; 88/87.
2005 Domaine Jacques Prieur, Beaune Grèves 1er Cru, France, $80. Youthful fruit with just a hint of barnyard qualities unfold on the nose. Very polished on the entry, with mid-range acidity and firm but not overbearing tannins. This should age well; 89/88.
2005 Domaine Marc Roy, Clos Prieur, Gevrey-Chambertin, France, $55. Earthy, berry aromas give way to black fruit in the mouth, with good acidity and structural tannins. It has a nice, long, expanding finish - it only needs bottle time; 90/90.
2005 Domaine Thierry Violot-Guillemard, Rugiens, Pommard 1er Cru, France, $85. Pretty classic barnyardy characteristics present upfront, with a mix of red and black fruit. This lush wine shows nice depth, with a long finish and firm, rounded tannins; 90/89.
2005 Joseph Voillot, Les Champans, Volnay Premier Cru, France, $80. The nose shows black fruit with a touch of banana and floral qualities. Nice balance and acidity, with manageable tannins, but not showing a lot of depth at this point; 88/87.
2004 Big Yellow, Cabernet Sauvignon, California, $11, 7,000 cases. Sporting a purple/red color, the aromas speak of plums, berries and cedar. Smooth and fruity in the mouth, this simple quaffer will pair well with grilled burgers; 82/83.
2006 El Portillo, Cabernet Sauvignon, Valle de Uco, Mendoza, Argentina, $10. Straightforward, with plum and berry aromas and flavors. Coarse drying tannins detract; 81/81.
2003 Frank Family Vineyards, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, California, $40. Deeply hued, the wine is underscored by chocolate, cassis, mint leaf and cedar. The wine is lush and juicy in the mouth, with firm tannins that need cellar time; 88/88.
2005 Hahn Estates, Cabernet Sauvignon, Central Coast, California, $14, 21,000 cases. Aromas and flavors are highlighted by cassis, raspberries and toasty oak, with easy-to-drink tannins giving support. The fruit outweighs the oak in the mouth; 84/85.
2004 Kenwood, Cabernet Sauvignon, Jack London Vineyard, Sonoma, California, $35, 11,500 cases. Aromas of blackberries, currants, mint and cocoa radiate from this intensely-colored Cabernet. Very polished on the entry, the flavors mirror the nose; 88/88.
2004 Kenwood, Cabernet Sauvignon, Sonoma County, California, $18, 71,000 cases. Aromas and flavors speak of cedar, cassis and tobacco. Quite oaky on the entry, the coarse tannins detract; 82/82.
2004 Lockwood Vineyard, Cabernet Sauvignon, Partner's Reserve, Monterey County, California, $20. The wine is very aromatic, with black cherries, berries and cedary oak abounding. Generous fruit and oak flavors are backed by bright acids and friendly tannins; 86/87.
2005 Robert Mondavi, Vinetta, California, $11. This nicely-balanced Bordeaux blend is a real overachiever. Black cherry, vanilla and cedar aromas lead to cherry/berry flavors and silky tannins; 86/90.
2003 Salentein, Cabernet Sauvignon, Valle de Uco, Mendoza, Argentina, $18. Aromas speak of blackberries, bay leaves, cedar and vanilla. Full bodied, tannic and crisp, with modest fruit flavors; 83/83.
2004 Simi, Cabernet Sauvignon, Alexander Valley, California, $26, 105,000 cases. This deeply-hued wine is very aromatic, with plums, cassis and vanilla upfront. Elegant and fruity on the entry, the aromas do an encore in the mouth; 87/87.
2004 Snoqualmie Vineyards, Cabernet Sauvignon, Reserve, Columbia Valley, Washington, $23, 1,200 cases. You'll find generous fruit flavors, generous oak and well-managed tannins. Black fruits, sage, licorice and vanilla define the sensory profile; 85/85.
2004 Snoqualmie Vineyards, Whistle Stop Red, Columbia Valley, Washington, $10, 20,000 cases. Black cherries, smoke and dill spice run the length of the wine. It's fruity and well balanced, with easy-going tannins; 83/84.
2004 Starmont (Merryvale), Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, California, $27, 29,403 cases. Cassis, cherries and cedary oak carry from nose to mouth. Firm, rounded tannins add structure; 86/86.
2005 Chalone Vineyard, Estate Chardonnay, Chalone, California, $25, 22,000 cases. Stone fruit, butterscotch and toast unfold on the nose. The wine is creamy in the mouth, with flavors echoing the aromas; 85/85.
2005 Grgich Hills, Chardonnay, Napa Valley, California, $40, 31,861 cases. Sporting a brilliant gold color, the wine displays a complex nose - pears, honey, lemon creams and toast. It is full and lush in the mouth, with an acidic backbone that carries the wine with style. Complexity and balance is what it's all about here; 92/92.
2005 McWilliam's, Chardonnay, South Eastern Australia, $10. Medium gold with a green sheen, the wine is defined by butter, oak, peach and lemon curd notes. Balanced and fruity; 84/85.
2005 Pietra Santa, Chardonnay, Central Coast, California, $15, 2,500 cases. Melon, pear and butterscotch aromas underscore the nose. The wine is very crisp in the mouth, with pear and butter flavors upfront; 84/86.
2006 Ponzi, Chardonnay, Willamette Valley, Oregon, $20, 422 cases. An unusual but enticing nose - tangerines, grapefruit and white peaches abound. Similar flavors unfold in the mouth, backed by a viscous mouth feel; 86/86.
2006 Snoqualmie, Chardonnay, Columbia Valley, Washington, $10, 20,000 cases. Very floral (5 percent Viognier), with ripe pears, pineapple and vanilla scents. Straightforward, balanced and flavorful; 83/84.
2006 Snoqualmie, Naked Chardonnay, Columbia Valley, Washington, $12, 4,500 cases. Soft, simple, but well balanced, with pear and citrus nuances - the fruit is organically grown; 82/83.
2005 Starmont (Merryvale), Chardonnay, Napa Valley, California, $20, 45,000 cases. Straightforward, soft and creamy, the wine is defined by green apples, vanilla and French oak; 83/83.
2006 Valley of the Moon, Chardonnay, Sonoma County, California, $16, 10,000 cases. Medium to full in the mouth, with a creamy texture, the wine is underscored by citrus, butterscotch and vanilla highlights; 85/87.
2006 Adler Fels, Gewurztraminer, Russian River Valley, California, $15. The wine is light gold in color, with aromas of lychee and grapefruit. It is very expressive on the palate, with rose petals, lychee fruit and citrus rising to the forefront; 87/87.
2006 Snoqualmie, Nearly Naked Gewurztraminer, Columbia Valley, Washington, $10, 3,500 cases. Soft and simple, with little Gewurztraminer character - enjoy now for the spice and grapefruit zest qualities; 80/80.
2003 Castello di Gabbiano, Alleanza, I.G.T. Rosso di Toscana, Italy, $35. Full, rich and ripe in the mouth. Plums, berries, leather and French oak define the wine. Robust tannins demand cellar time; 88/88.
2005 Castello di Gabbiano, Chianti, DOCG, Italy, $10. Red cherries, plums and leather underscore the wine. Crisp, with modest tannins, this medium-bodied Chianti will pair nicely with pasta and meat sauce; 84/86.
2005 Castello di Gabbiano, Chianti Classico, DOCG, Italy, $13. The nose is highlighted by blackberry, cedar and floral notes. Elegant on the entry, the wine is medium bodied and crisp; 85/86.
2006 Ecco Domani, Pinot Grigio, delle Venezie, Italy, $12. This crisp, straightforward, easy-to-drink quaffer is highlighted by tropical fruit, citrus and cotton candy nuances; 84/84.
2006 Maso Canali, Pinot Grigio, Trentino, Italy, $23. Light gold, with aromas of peaches and lemons. The wine is intensely flavored, with tropical fruit flavors lingering on the finish; 86/86.
2005 Hahn Estates, Merlot, Monterey, California, $14, 25,000 cases. Oak and spice dominates the nose and palate, with some nice black cherry fruit underlying the wood; 82/82.
2004 Starmont (Merryvale), Merlot, Napa Valley, California, $24, 3,577 cases. Very juicy and fruity in the mouth, the cherry, raspberry and cedar nuances are enhanced by bright acids and structured tannins; 86/86.
2005 Hahn Estates, Cabernet Franc, Central Coast, California, $20, 3,417 cases. You'll find a cherry/berry/cedar mix on the nose and palate, with the oak winning out; 82/82.
2006 Martin Códax, Albariño, Rías Baixas, Spain, $15, 30,000 cases. Underscored by melons, lemon drops and pears, the wine would benefit with more acidity. Nevertheless it is a fruity, fun wine; 85/85.
2005 Martin Códax, Ergo Tempranillo DOCa, Rioja Alta, Spain, $15. Red cherry, raspberry and oak nuances underscore the wine. Tannins are obvious but not obtrusive; 85/86.
2005 Oops, Cabernet Franc Carmenère, Valle Central, Chile, $12. Sporting a youthful purple/red color, this wine is defined by blackberry, black cherry and coffee notes. Smooth, fruity and surprisingly complex for the tariff; 85/88.
2005 Oops, Carmenère, Valle Central, Chile, $12. This crimson-colored wine gives off aromas of blackberries, black cherries and new leather. Fruity and rustic, this is a wine to pair with grilled burgers; 82/82.
2005 Oops, Carmenère Merlot, Valle Central, Chile, $12. Here's another good value wine from Chile. Aromas and flavors reveal ripe blackberry, red cherry and mint leaf nuances. It is rich and smooth in the mouth. Pair this one with grilled meats; 85/88.
NV Pacific Rim, Chenin Blanc, American, $12. Well balanced and fruity, the wine reveals aromas and flavors of citrus and melons; 86/87.
2006 Pacific Rim, Vin de Glaciere, Washington, $10 (375 ml). Peaches, honeysuckle and honeycomb underscore the sensory profile of this light gold dessert wine. Intensely sweet but not at all cloying; 88/90.
NV René Barbier, Mediterranean Red, Catalunya, Spain, $6. This is a simple but quaffable burger wine. Enjoy now before the plum and berry fruit fades; 80/80.
2006 Stags' Leap, Viognier, Napa Valley, California, $25, 2,000 cases. Medium bodied and crisp, the wine gives off honeydew and floral aromas, while the palate speaks of Key limes with a dash of vanilla; 88/88.
2004 Tusk 'n Red, Red Wine, Mendocino County, California, $12, 3,050 cases. This simple quaffer is defined by black cherries, oak, white pepper and chewy tannins; 81/81.
2006 Ponzi, Pinot Blanc, Willamette Valley, Oregon, $17, 800 cases. A mélange of aromas greet the nose - honeydew melons, citrus peel and green apples. Lively acidity and threshold sweetness makes this an ideal picnic wine; 87/87.
2006 Valley of the Moon, Pinot Blanc, Sonoma County, California, $16, 8,400 cases. Pears, honeysuckle and green apple nuances present on the nose and palate, with a crisp, delicately sweet finish; 85/86.
2006 J, Pinot Gris, Russian River Valley, California, $20, 18,000 cases. The wine is soft and creamy on the palate, with aromas and flavors of pears, pineapples and green apples; 85/85.
2006 Pietra Santa, Pinot Grigio, Amore, Cienega Valley, California, $20, 649 cases. Green apple and citrus peel aromas open to a crisp, refreshing Pinot Gris which is showcased by green apple and peach flavors, all supported by nice acidity; 87/87.
2006 Ponzi, Pinot Gris, Willamette Valley, Oregon, $17, 6,845 cases. Straw in color. Pears, honeysuckle and muskmelons highlight the nose while juicy pears frame the palate. Smooth and creamy; 87/87.
2005 August West, Pinot Noir, Rosella's Vineyard, Santa Lucia Highlands, California, $45. The wine tastes sweet on the entry but the winemaker swears it is bone dry. Lush and soft, with lots of bright cherry fruit - it may not be a long ager but it is pretty to drink right now; 89/88.
2004 Belle Pente, Pinot Noir, Estate Reserve, Willamette Valley, Oregon, $38. This is already bricking in the color, so I don't think this is a long ager at all. That said the wine has a lovely nose of earthy black fruit, with nice palate feel and lovely balance; 88/88.
2005 Bergstrom Winery, Bergstrom Vineyard, Willamette Valley, Oregon, $65. Ripe, juicy black cherries fill the mouth with flavors, with generous oak notes carrying over to the finish. This will be a stunner if the oak tames down over the next 2-3 years; 90+/88+.
2005 Brick House Vineyards, Les Dijonnais, Willamette Valley, Oregon, $45. The nose has lovely earthy, smoky qualities, with lush black fruit, but the muted color is a little troubling. Modest fruit, easy tannins and balancing acidity round out the wine; 87/86.
2005 Broadley Vineyards, Pinot Noir, Shea Vineyard, Willamette Valley, Oregon, $48. Full and generous on the nose, with black cherries, raspberries and forest floor aromas abounding. Full, lush and well balanced on the palate, with a long, impressive finish; 90/89.
2004 Cana's Feast Winery, Pinot Noir, Cuvée G, Willamette Valley, Oregon, $75. You'll find very ripe red and black fruits with a cedary underpinning. Balanced and full, with silky tannins; 88/86.
2005 Carrick, Pinot Noir, Central Otago, New Zealand, $35. You'll find mixed red and black fruits on the nose and palate, riding on a medium framework with slightly drying tannins; 85/85.
2005 Chalone Vineyard, Pinot Noir, Chalone, California, $35, 15,000 cases. Cherries, mushrooms and earthy notes underscore this medium-bodied Pinot. It is very approachable right now; 85/84.
2005 Panther Creek, Pinot Noir, Freedom Hill Vineyard, Willamette Valley, Oregon, $40. The best of their line this year. You'll pick up distinct matchstick aromas, but these blow off with time. Bright black cherry fruit prevails, with nice structure and depth and a long black cherry finish; 88/87.
2005 Patricia Green Cellars, Pinot Noir, Old Vine, Willamette Valley, Oregon, $38. Earthy black fruit greets the nose. The wine is very polished on the entry, with well-managed tannins giving structure to this medium to full-bodied wine. The flavors are complex, but the wine comes up a little short in the mid-palate; 88/88.
2005 Huia Vineyards, Pinot Noir, Marlborough, New Zealand, $24. This wine almost has a Burgundian nose. Rich and ripe in the mouth, the wine is backed by medium acidity and soft tannins, but it fades pretty fast on the finish. It is pretty to drink right now; 86/86.
2005 Lemelson Vineyards, Pinot Noir, Jerome Reserve, Willamette Valley, Oregon, $50. Black fruit with an earthy underpinning is augmented by deft use of oak. Very polished on the entry, this is a quintessential Oregon Pinot. It is lush, complex and very pleasing; 92/92.
2005 Muddy Water, Pinot Noir, Waipara, New Zealand, $34. Black fruit, earth and forest floor aromas are followed by lush black fruits and then fades away from the palate rather quickly. Drink early on; 86/86.
2005 St. Innocent, Pinot Noir, Shea Vineyard, Willamette Valley, Oregon, $39. Sporting a very lovely Burgundian nose, the earthy black fruit aromas continue on the palate. Impeccably balanced, with a long, delicious black fruit finish; 92/92.
2006 Valli Vineyards, Pinot Noir, Gibbston Vineyard, Otago, New Zealand, $40. This wine has a Burgundian nose, with a lush mouth feel but it is all up front - there is no persistence of flavors. It is pretty to drink right now; 87/86.
2005 Pierre Usseglio, Chateauneuf du Pape, France, $40. Sporting a youthful purple/red color, this an elegant, polished wine made in the classic style - no new oak to chew on here. The wine is ripe without going over the top. Aromas and flavors speak of black cherries, anise and brushy undergrowth, with an endless finish; 92/92.
2006 Beringer, Riesling, Founders' Estate, California, $11. Highlighted by peaches, apricots and floral notes, this wine is crisp, off-dry and refreshing - pack a picnic lunch; 84/86.
2006 Claar Cellars, Riesling, White Bluffs, Columbia Valley, Washington, $10, 800 cases. Soft, simple and delicately sweet, I'd drink this one early on before the citrus and apricot nuances fade; 81/81.
NV Pacific Rim, Dry Riesling, American, $10. Peach and melon notes carry from the nose to the palate. Racy acidity makes this a terrific food wine; 86/88.
NV Pacific Rim, Sweet Riesling, American, $10. While very sweet in the mouth, the wine has the acidity to back it up. Peach, green apple and petrol aromas give way to peachy flavors; 85/87.
2006 Snoqualmie, Naked Riesling, Columbia Valley, Washington, $10, 7,800 cases. Simple and sweet, with juicy pears and apples running the length of the wine; 83/84.
2006 Snoqualmie, Riesling, Winemaker's Select, Columbia Valley, Washington, $8, 34,000 cases. This is a sweet, simple, fruity little wine with apricots and spice throughout; 83/84.
2006 Kenwood, Pinot Noir Rosé, Russian River Valley, California, $13, 2,000 cases. Pink with an orange tinge, the generous aromas speak of strawberries and red cherries, which repeats in the mouth. Nicely balanced; 85/87.
2006 Ponzi, Pinot Noir Rosé, Willamette Valley, Oregon, $17, 678 cases. The nose is an enticing mix of watermelons and tart peaches. Crisp and refreshing in the mouth, the strawberry flavors are upfront; 89/90.
2006 Valley of the Moon, Rosato di Sangiovese, Sonoma County, California, $14, 1,400 cases. Aromas of citrus, raspberries and red cherries give way to a delicately sweet, fruity and refreshing wine made for that summer picnic; 86/88.
2006 Adler Fels, Sauvignon Blanc, Russian River Valley, California, $15. If you're not a fan of the grassy style of Sauvignon Blanc, this one may be to your liking. Smooth and balanced, the wine speaks of melons and Fuji apples; 86/86.
2006 Claar Cellars, Sauvignon Blanc, White Bluffs, Columbia Valley, Washington, $13, 500 cases. Lemongrass and tropical fruit presents on the nose and palate of this straightforward quaffer; 81/81.
2006 Huntington Wine Cellars, Sauvignon Blanc, Sonoma County, California, $14, 7,300 cases. An aromatic nose of limes, tangerines and grassy notes follows through on the palate, backed by crisp acidity; 85/85.
2006 Nobilo, Sauvignon Blanc, Icon, Marlborough, New Zealand, $22. Tropical fruit and jalapenos highlight the nose. The wine is full, lush and crisp in the mouth, with flavors mirroring the aromas; 89/89.
2006 Nobilo, Sauvignon Blanc, Regional Collection, Marlborough, New Zealand, $12. This light-gold wine is a real value. Loaded with gooseberries, jalapenos and tropical fruit, the wine finishes crisp and clean; 87/90.
2006 Pedroncelli, Sauvignon Blanc, East Side Vineyards, Dry Creek Valley, California, $10. Citrus and floral notes highlight this simple, balanced, refreshing summer quaffer; 83/84.
2006 Starmont (by Merryvale), Sauvignon Blanc, Napa Valley, California, $18, 11,250 cases. This is a well-structured and refreshing wine, with grapefruit and lemon aromas and flavors upfront and a lingering lemon/lime aftertaste; 86/86.
2005 Archetype Vineyards, Shiraz, Barossa, Australia, $15, 15,000 cases. Purple/red in color, the nose is somewhat reticent, giving off mixed berries and oak. The palate delivers more than the nose promises. It's loaded with juicy dark berry fruit, backed by racy acidity. Good value; 87/90.
2006 El Portillo, Syrah, Valle de Uco, Mendoza, Argentina, $10. This purple/red Syrah is straightforward, with slightly bitter drying tannins. Vanilla, blueberries and black cherries underscore the flavor profile; 82/82.
2005 Hahn Estates, Syrah, Central Coast, California, $14, 10,000 cases. The nose reveals raspberries, black cherry jam and sweet vanilla. The wine is balanced and smooth, with juicy fruit and generous oak; 84/85.
2005 McWilliam's Hanwood Estate, Shiraz, South Eastern Australia, $12. Tangy acidity gives lift to the plum and brambleberry fruit. A hint of smoke adds character; 83/84.
2003 Salentein, Syrah, Valle de Uco, Mendoza, Argentina, $18. Berries, cherries, vanilla and smoke define the wine. Fruity in the mouth, but the tannins are firm and drying; 85/86.
2004 Snoqualmie, Syrah, Reserve, Columbia Valley, Washington, $23, 1,200 cases. Well balanced, with food friendly acidity, you'll find black fruits, smoke and vanilla coursing throughout the wine; 85/85.
2004 Pedroncelli, Zinfandel, Mother Clone, Dry Creek Valley, California, $14, 4,000 cases. Brambly berry fruit greets the nose and palate. Medium bodied, with lively acidity, this is definitely a food-friendly wine; 85/88.
2005 Simi, Zinfandel, Sonoma County, California, $23, 5,000 cases. Cherries, raspberries and milk chocolate combine to make a tasty wine. It is smooth and easy to drink, backed by food-friendly acidity; 86/86.