There is something silky about the finest Willamette Valley Pinot Noir. It is softer and rounder than its Burgundian counterpart, but it still manages that wonderful delicacy which makes the variety produce the most delicious wine. Tony Soter knows a thing or too about winemaking. Originally from Oregon, he made a name for himself down in the Napa founding Etude in the early 1980s and eventually working as a consultant at a variety of places in the valley including Araujo, Neibaum-Coppola and Shafer.
In 1997 he returned to his native state and established Soter Vineyards, originally purchasing Beacon Hill, a vineyard in the Yamhill-Carlton district of the Willamette Valley. Today the estate is based at Mineral Springs Ranch in the same district on a promising 240 acre site overlooking the area, with well-drained soils sedimentary soils facing due south. 30 acres of Pinot Noir were planted in 2002 and 2003 and the estate Pinots come exclusively from here. The North Valley label is made from bought in Pinot sourced from like-minded local growers as well as estate fruit from younger vines. Two acres of Chardonnay have since been added at Mineral Springs for sparkling wine production. The Pinots were extremely impressive, 2008 in particular, which looks to be a wonderful vintage across the Willamette.
Soter Vineyards, North Valley Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, Oregon 2009
Earthy red; cherry, some spice; round; substance on the palate; generous and round palate; cherry fruit again with spice. Nice mouthfeel. Appetizing and impressive. 10% oak, two and three year old barrels. One third new estate fruit in this blend alongside the growers fruit. Very good. 90+/100
Soter Vineyards, Mineral Springs Ranch, Willamette Valley, Oregon 2008
Bright; earthy purple at edge; clean, fresh cherry; good fruit and quite fragrant; some grip and substance too on the palate; spicy notes and red fruits; good balance; racy acid which keeps it lively. 13.8% 91+/100
Soter Vineyards, Mineral Springs, [Single block Pinot Noir], Willamette Valley, Oregon, 2008
Earthy red, some purple; round nose; cherry, spice, more structure and depth on the palate; quite grippy and fresh. Very good length here. Great freshness and acidity. Lovely bright, fresh Pinot Noir with excellent structure. Will round out and put on weight. 92+/100
Also at last weeks London Wine Fair were Anne Amie Vineyards who produce excellent Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris and not a bad Muller Thurgau, a variety I remember wrestling with in the vineyard back in my summer student days in England, though there was none of that herbaceous quality that used to characterise the wine back here then. I was very impressed their Classic Pinot Noir which was fresh and seductive and their L’iris Pinot Noir, a reserve wine from selected estate fruit, was fragrant and well balanced. Admittedly they have a rather eccentric approach to labelling and naming their wines, but on the basis of what’s in the glass, these wines are delicious and enjoyable. Interestingly they also make a white Pinot Noir from free-run juice which barrel fermented and treated like a white. The wine has good length and structure, though I did find it a little baffling.
Anne Amie Vineyards, Muller Thurgau, Cuvee ‘A’, Willamette Valley, Oregon 2010
Fresh; some candy and lees notes; similar flavours on a zesty palate. Surprisingly good. 12.4% 87+/100
Anne Amie Vineyards, Pinot Gris, ‘Classic Series’, Willamette Valley, Oregon 2010
Pale washed colour; nice candy notes; fresh and appetizing palate. Good 88+/100
Anne Amie Vineyards, Pinot Noir ‘Cuvee A’, Willamette Valley, Oregon 2009
Earthy red; translucent; bright cherry fruit; fresh and attractive; fresh and appealing on the palate. 87/100
Anne Amie Vineyards, Pinot Noir, ‘Classic Series’, Willamette Valley, Oregon 2008
Deep, earthy at edge; quite seductive, fresh Pinot; bright and fresh cherry fruit; almost Burgundian on the palate with structure and great appetizing acid. This is pretty nifty. 10 months in oak, 26% new, 20% one year, remainder neutral. 13.5% 88+/100
Anne Amie Vineyards, Pinot Noir, ‘L’Iris’ Willamette Valley, Oregon, 2008
Nice attractive colour: clean cherry fruit; quite fragrant and sexy; voluptuous palate; structured and Burgundian again; round and generous in the middle too, not at all austere. Harmonious with good balancing acid. Wonderful stuff. Estate selection, 18 months in French oak, 50% new. 13.5% 91+/100