Sineann Resonance Reserve Pinot Noir 2009

Pinot Noir drives people to extremes. I’m currently doing vintage in Central Otago, New Zealand, and the region’s renown draws Pinot lovers from much further afield than Brisbane; in Peter Rosback’s case, all the way from Oregon. Vigneron at Sineann, Peter travels here each year to make Pinot at Terra Sancta, the winery where I’m working. I was fortunate enough to taste a couple of Peter’s Oregon Pinots last night, both of which were characterful and delicious.

The most striking aspect of this wine’s aroma is its bright fruit, all candied citrus peel and savoury red berries, textured and expressive. Around this core swirls a range of other notes including a good deal of well-matched oak. It’s a very integrated aroma, youthful still, and has a dark, slightly rustic element that roughs up its edges and drags this firmly into artisanal territory.

The palate structure is what really grabs me about this wine, acid and tannin creating wonderful texture and flow. It’s not one of those silky smooth wines; rather, its irregularities are what make it worthwhile, bright fruit coasting atop this undulating landscape. Flavours are sweet-savoury, with no hint of simplicity to the fruit’s character. Again, oak is a feature.

A lovely wine and a worthwhile expression of Pinot.

Price: $N/A
Closure: Vino-Lok
Source: Gift

J.K. Carriere Provocateur 2008

Because I’m a lazy man, I’m tempted to simply say this: This is the most Burgundian pinot noir I’ve ever drunk from Oregon.

To elaborate:

One, you’ll want to chill this wine down to 60 degrees or so. It’s not good at room temperature.

Two, you’ll want to give this a lot of air before even thinking about drinking some. Straight out of the bottle, it’s clumsy, chunky, and disappointing.

Three, the tannins are gentle, assertive, slight, dominant, stalky, ripe: in short, all over the map. They’re in wonderful balance with the fruit and oak.

Four, the wine smells wonderful. Soft cedar shavings, forest floor, wild strawberries, allspice, plums, and barbecue: they’re all here. This would be amazing with cedar plank salmon.

Five, the mouthfeel is similarly all over the map. Rich and mouthfilling? Sure, the vibrancy of the fruit suggests that, but it’s secretly leaner, trimmer, acidic, racy, daring. This is not a wine for the timid, not a wine for the lazy, not a wine you can drink without thinking about it. Every mouthful is wondrously complex; a thousand experiences unfurl before you. Drinking this is like opening an atlas: suddenly, you’re faced with – and overjoyed by – all of the possibilities open to you. The chalk cliffs of Dover, the quiet of the California redwood forest, the stark beauty of the Namib desert? It’s all there if you want to go; it’s all here if you want to taste.

J.K. Carriere
Price: $24
Closure: Cork
Source: Retail

JK Carriere Anderson Family Pinot Noir 2006

After a drink of this and a long, slow exhale I turned to my partner and said “yeah, this has it all.” A distinctly groovy blackish red, straight out of a 1960s steakhouse, the color itself is appealing enough to make me want to overfill my glass. Beautiful, really, and enough to telegraph the intentions of this pinot: rich enough and ripe enough to be New World, yet distinctly holding back before going off the Californian deep end, it suggests you’re in for a best-of-both-worlds kind of experience – and you are.Wonderfully complex on the nose, I’m having trouble keeping track of it all. Rich, ripe red fruit is seamlessly counterbalanced by politely serious French oak, but only just enough to support the fruit; this is not one of those oaked-to-death, overripe pinots that are all too easy to find here. The wine also smells incredibly youthful: at this point, I don’t see any secondary aged characteristics, but I get the sense there’s enough stuffing here to last at least a decade.At first sip, the wine is shy, hesitant, refusing to offer much of anything up save for a brief, surprising wallop of acidity. That’s quickly replaced by a wonderfully lush, silken, voluptuously textured ribbon of sensible red fruit with hints of roasted coffee, caramel, and violets. Not as dirty as Burgundy, the overarching effect is of a very smooth customer: however, what really sets this wine apart is the balance and elegance of an incredibly well crafted, peculiarly Oregonian experience. The finish does go on for quite some time, again subtly meandering between refreshing acidity, soft earth, and that wonderful, spicy red fruit peculiar to Oregon.Look, I’ll be honest here: if you wanted to try the best the USA has to offer, this is probably as good a pinot as you’re going to find, full stop. Less tannic and earthy than Burgundy, fuller and richer than Otago, and perhaps most resembling Bass Philip pinot noir, this is for my money one of the best wines made in North America. Best of all, it’s the kind of wine that doesn’t take a lot of explanation to enjoy: pace Parker, this really is a hedonistic experience in the best sense of the word. My only complaint is that I only had the one bottle and that I won’t get to try it again ten years from now. J.K. Carriere
Price: $65
Closure: Cork
Source: Retail

Chehalem Reserve Dry Riesling 2004

On the nose, there’s something approaching canned pineapple or peaches mixing it up with the distinct smells of an aged riesling – but only a little. Although there is a whack of kerosene stank, it’s quickly subdued by something of a cosmetic, talcum powder note that reminds me of Victorian drawing rooms and dust.

Rich and mouthfilling, the wine jumps to a finish of spiced pears, but not before touching on all kinds of stone fruit notes, largely in the direction of Asian pears and fresh peaches. The trick here is the finish, which is distinctly savory and powdery soft. Still, there’s also a core of sweet, ripe fruit here that’s quite appealing; this may be “dry” but it’s not quite dry in the way that Clare rieslings are dry. It’s also not lieblich in the way that yesterday’s Finger Lakes riesling was – it’s as if there’s at least a suggestion of some sugar to balance out the acidity here. It’s very well judged and seems to have a distinct sense of place that the New York riesling was lacking just a bit. Then again, it’s a different price range, so it’s also theoretically possible that it’s simply a matter of getting what you pay for. Who knows?

Price: $20
Closure: Stelvin

JK Carriere Willamette Valley Pinot Noir 2005

The nose is classic Burgundy by way of Oregon: little red fruits, dark earth, forest floor under California redwoods, smoke, camphor, and soft sweet peat. Young still, the color is a beautiful deep ruby, darker than ‘proper’ Burgundy and yet lighter than most New World pinot. Smelling it alone is enough to get you salivating; it smells inviting, like an old family friend you don’t see but once a year.

In the mouth, it exhibits a rich, inky sweetness of summer fruits, followed by an unexpected sourness, which resolves again into a smooth, rich, deep flavor that trails off into a range of unexpectedly delightful flavors, with just enough alcohol to support it all without becoming intrusive. There’s a bit of firm, supporting tannin there as well, which suggests wonderful things just a few years down the road; it might be a good idea to lay this one down until the next presidency at the very least.

With a bit more air, the wine began to develop ever more interesting flavors, with a touch of barnyard or wet earth at times, and occasionally fresh straw, hay, or even something approaching newly laid asphalt.

JK Carriere
Price: US $42
Closure: Cork
Date tasted: November 2007

This is easily one of the finest Oregon pinots I’ve had, easily the match of anything from the New World, and in the league of, say, Bass Phillip or Domaine Drouhin. Most importantly, it’s clear that they’ve opted to let the wine speak for itself; unlike many other Oregon pinots, it seems honest, pure, clean. Bravo.