A recent pilgrimage to the annual Willamette Valley auction yielded several enticing expressions of the heartbreak grape. Charm, elegance, supple red cherry fruit and spice are among the signature characteristics that have made Oregon’s wines so alluring. The region boasts a unique combination of weather and soil, with sunny summer days tempered by ultra-cool windy nights and generally dry conditions late into the growing season, while volcanic basalt, marine sediments and wind-blown silty clays impart concentrated fruit flavors. Beauty and style don’t come cheap, but these artisan pinots are terrific values with three different aesthetics.
Stoller Family Estate Pinot Noir, Dundee Hills, 2015
Notes of strawberry blossom, garden herbs and a whiff of tea leaf offer a taste of springtime. Willamette Valley in 2015 was something special, producing very sensual pinot noir. This one is supple and fleshy on the palate, with a silkiness reminiscent of Volnay. It’s also an ideal red-wine-with-fish choice and may be enjoyed a bit on the cool side.
$30, Common Vines, Downtown
Rex Hill Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, 2014
Ripe and medium-bodied, this is a beautifully focused and savory pinot noir with wild cherry, cinnamon, red licorice and cocoa dust aromas. It’s spicy but smooth as velvet and laden with dark bold raspberry flavors. This bottle tastes irresistible with grilled duck breast.
$30, Bauer Wine, Back Bay
Ponzi Reserve Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, 2013
One of the pioneers of the Willamette Valley, Ponzi makes classic wines at all levels, but its old vine reserves are something special. Fragrant with floral and smoky nuances, the 2013 vintage features a mellow liqueur-like richness and intriguing notes of chocolate-covered cherries. This is a bottle to age further or linger over now with roasted meat dishes.
$50, Total Wine, Natick
Sandy Block is a master of wine and the vice president of beverage operations for Legal Sea Foods.