1998 Yamhill-Carlton Pinot Noir Fares Well Ten Years Later

1998 Yamhill-Carlton Pinot Noir

“Here’s what can be so frustrating about Oregon pinot noir: The wine rarely lives up to the hype. Ever since an Oregon pinot kicked booty on some fancy French wine in a blind tasting back in the late ’70s, we’ve been hearing that the state could be the next Burgundy”, says SpokesmanReview.com, August, 1998.

It’s hard to believe those were the words coming from Journalists back in the ’90’s. Since then, Oregon has come a log way to prove they can make great Pinot. Now it’s time for a new debate: the longevity of Oregon Pinot Noir.

Pinot’s fruit flavors typically fade with age, generally diminishing after 10 to 20 years for top-quality Burgundy Pinot. As for Oregon Pinot Noir, most believe the fruit bottoms out after 5 to 10 years. The characteristics of older Pinot Noirs will give way to flavors of rich earth and spice.

Now that Oregon has a number of great vintages under its belt, how is it holding up? Pretty darn nicely and my prediction is that Oregon Pinot will age beyond 10 years. At a local Yamhill-Carlton media event, Marc and I had an opportunity to taste six of the region’s finest 1998 Pinots.

1998 Oregon Pinot

’98 was a good year for Oregon, despite early weather conditions, which left the vines in dismal shape. The year ended with a dry harvest and lean yields. Overall, most vintage charts (including our own) rate ’98 Oregon Pinots favorable, with scores averaging in the 90’s.

Some of the wines we tasted showed some diminishing fruit with flavors leaning toward that earthiness and spiciness that older Pinot’s are known for; this is the sign that tells you its time to take it out of your cellar and drink it before the bottom drops out. The exciting news is that many of the ’98’s hold strong showing fruit-forward characteristics, which signal they have cellaring potential beyond the 10-year mark.

So with this newfound knowledge, it seems that there has never been a more exciting time to drink, savor and cellar Oregon Pinot Noir.

Ken Wright PinotDesignation: N/A
Vineyard: Shea Vineyards
Region: Oregon
Value: $35
Score: 92
The balance of fruit and acidity in this 1998 Ken Wright Pinot is simply magnificent. It’s a charming wine with flavors of black cherry and raspberry, which carry through from start to finish. Fun facts – Back in the early ’90’s Ken Wright sourced Pinot noir from the site where Firesteed is now located. Drink now or hold through 2011. 360 case production. Release price, $35 ~Pamela Heiligenthal

STAG HOLLOW Pinot Noir 1998
Stag HollowDesignation: Vendage Selection
Vineyard: N/A
Region: Oregon
Release price: $42
Score: 89
Unfined and unfiltered Pinot with cherry and black fruit aromas and flavors with a whisper of nutmeg; medium to full-bodied with a spicy, polished finish; Drink now through 2009. 185 case production. Release price, $42, library wine sold out; only available at auctions.
~Pamela Heiligenthal

BELLE PENTE Wahle Pinot Noir 1998
Belle PenteDesignation: Wahle
Vineyard: N/A
Region: Oregon
Release price: $35
Score: 92
The ’98 Belle Pente Wahle was one of my favorites out of the six 1998 Oregon Pinots tasted at the Yamhill-Carlton District AVA Trade Tasting event; a superb offering holds its own ten years later. Charming perfumed nose; velvety and distinctive flavors showing lots of lavender, basil and thyme, which linger effortlessly through the finish. It’s an absolutely lovely representation of the Yamhill-Carlton Oregon region. Drink now, but I will go out on a limb on this one and say it may hold through 2013. 200 case production. Release price, $35 ~Pamela Heiligenthal

ELK COVE Roosevelt Pinot Noir 1998
Elk CoveDesignation: Roosevelt
Vineyard: N/A
Region: Oregon
Release price: $48
Score: 91
Floral nose with black fruit and olive flavors; chunky with big tannins, yet well proportioned to fruit; straightforward, clean finish. Drink now or hold through 2010. 390 case production. Release price, $48 ~Pamela Heiligenthal

SOTER Beacon
Hill Pinot Noir 1998
Soter Pinot NoirDesignation: N/A
Vineyard: Beacon Hill
Region: Oregon
Release price: $48
Score: 90
The Beacon Hill Vineyard, named for a lighthouse-like structure at the top of the hill, is the source of Soter’s first single-vineyard Pinot Noir. In 1998, they released their first Pinot and ten years later, the wine is drinking reasonably well. The aroma has a slight raisin smell to it, but the flavors of black fruit and mushroom are still pronounced. Straightforward, slightly dry finish; Drink now or hold through 2010. 500 case production; Release price, $48 ~Pamela Heiligenthal

WILLAKENZIE Aliette Pinot Noir 1998
WillakenzieDesignation: Aliette
Vineyard: N/A
Region: Oregon
Release price: $35
Score: 88
The 1998 Willakenzie Pinot Noir Aliette made from the Pommard clone is a straightforward, feminine wine with sweet aromas and earthy flavors; medium-bodied with a smooth, lingering finish. Drink now. ~ Pamela Heiligenthal


~Article originally published in OregonLive.com



About the Author:

Editor and co-founder of Enobytes.com, Pamela is a sommelier and former restaurant manager and wine buyer with Wine & Spirit Education Trust (WSET), Court of Master Sommeliers & Center for Wine Origins certification. She has contributed to or been quoted by various publications, including the Los Angeles Times, Sommelier Journal, Vegetarian Times, VIV Magazine, UC-Berkeley Astrobiology News, The Washington Post, the Associated Press, NPR and USA Today. True to her roots, she seeks varietal and appellation integrity and is always passionate about finding the next great bottle of wine.

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