Pinot, Pinot, Pinot!

Pinot is by far one of the noblest varieties, and the three Pinots we're featuring all have something a little different to say. One is pure elegance and finesse, the other big and bold, with the third being somewhere in between. 

These wines display just how different an expression you can get from one single grape. So grab the bottle that fits your favorite style, or what the heck, try all three! 

2017 Illahe Vineyards, Estate Pinot Noir — Willamette Valley, Oregon

Illahe vineyards is ran by Lowell Ford, who has been growing grapes in Oregon since 1983. He established Illahe in 2000 and got the name from a Chinook Jargon word meaning "earth, land or soil." Ford felt this was the perfect embodiment of what he wanted to express in his wines, a sense of terroir amidst his 80 acre estate.

To fully express the terroir as it truly is, Ford does as little manipulation to the grapes and the juice as possible, only doing work that aims for true balance and ripeness. To do this he uses cover crops and chooses not to self-irrigate the vineyard in order to create essential "stress" on the vines -- vines are like people, if they easily get too much of a good thing they end up lacking in depth and complexity. Additionally, he sprays sulfur sparingly, simply to get rid of pesky powdery mildew or botrytis (botrytis may be great for Riesling, but trust me you do not want it infecting your Pinot).


I'd be remiss if I didn't mention that Illahe even has their own horses (Doc and Bea) that they use to gently plow the soils and mow the cover crops -- now that's pretty darn cool!

The aromas of the 2017 Illahe Vineyards Estate Pinot Noir begin with strawberry, tamarind, and blackberry then broaden along the palate to include chalk, tobacco leaf, and earth. It's certainly light on its feet, and offers a "cool climate" style of Pinot that's pure and an absolute amazing value.


2015 Day Wines, Cancilla Vineyard Pinot Noir — Willamette Valley, Oregon

This wine comes from the inimitable Brianne Day, who's on the short list of Wine Spectator's "Emerging Producers to Watch." 
Brianne moved to the Willamette Valley when she was 16, and was immediately attracted to the vineyards and the burgeoning wine landscape. Right there and then, she knew she wanted to work in wine, so decided to travel to a multitude of wine regions to learn all she could. After studying at Chemeketa Community College and working in France, New Zealand and Argentina, she returned to Oregon and set out to work and learn every angle of the Oregon wine industry. 

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It wasn't until 2012 that she was able to purchase her own vineyard and make about 125 cases of a single vineyard Pinot Noir. Her first vintage was quite a success and since then she has grown to produce 5,000 cases (doing every bit by hand as she did in her first vintage). 

The Pinot for this wine all comes from the Cancilla Vineyard a former Christmas tree farm just north of the Yamhill-Carlton AVA in the north-western Willamette Valley. The vineyard sits close to the Coast Range, exactly halfway between Tillamook and Portland, which allows lots of access to coastal rain water. This accessibility to a fair amount of water adds to the richness, and ripeness of the fruit. Pair that with the hot vintage that was 2015 and you get a wine that is robust and full, yet also has plenty of acidity & tannic structure that ensures ageability.

This is a beautifully aromatic, richly-spiced gem. It has notes of black raspberry, cinnamon, sweet spices, and black pepper, with an underlying floral character that begins on the nose and persists on the palate. A wonderful snapshot of the 2015 vintage which is drinking brilliantly now. 

2016 Luli, Pinot Noir — Santa Lucia Highlands, California

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Luli is a collaboration between a Master Sommelier and a long running winemaking family. Master Sommelier, Sara Floyd, is the owner of Swirl Wine Brokers and has a long history in wine and restaurants. The Pisoni Family is known for its eponymous vineyard in the Santa Lucia Highlands and for Pisoni Estate and Lucia wines. They both came to realize that there was a shortage of handcrafted wines at reasonable prices, so they partnered together and set out to create a new line of wines that people would love, at prices they could afford. Their goal is to seek high quality fruit and craft exceptional wines.

The Luli wines are made from vineyards in or near the Santa Lucia Highlands which showcase the beauty of the region with wines of consistent quality. They source and purchase grapes from lifelong friends in the area, and are therefore able to maintain a close eye on the farming. The wine production, aging and bottling are done entirely at their own winery.

From the first pour to the last drop, the 2016 Luli Pinot Noir offers vibrant aromatics of fresh black cherry, ripe strawberry, and forest floor. Medium ruby in color, this wine beautifully displays the rugged, foggy slopes of the Santa Lucia Highlands with its lively acidity and rich flavors of crushed plum and baking spice. The 2016 vintage yielded wines with seamless layers of texture and structure surrounded by a blanket of soft, supple tannin. 

Evie Olson