It seems Oregon Pinot Noir from almost every AVA is having a predictable personality change in its mid-life lasting into the early quarter of a century about mid-way through the vines life expectancy. Although Oregon Pinot Noir has been around for more than thirty years, local producers are working with vines mostly in their teens and twenties.
Ask any Willamette Valley vintner, viticulturist, or competent wine writer/critic (present company probably excluded with that statement) and the one thing most all will agree on is the significant difference in the last five vintages released.
The 2005, 2006, 2007 and 2008 vintage wines seem to reflect typical personality changes one might associate with people of that of that age (15-20). Enter the 2009 vintage, great weather may have had a considerable contribution but from the wines I have experienced so far it seems our Willamette Valley AVA has a commonality among this vintage of fruit and that is they show a maturity of (for lack of a better description) “attitude”.
Yes, I said it, I think the vines develop attitude. In 2009, it looks like the majority of the fruit from Northern down to the most Southern reaches of the valley exhibit a maturity of vine tasted in the just released youthful wines.
It was not so much the weather that was handed to us. Weather helped but the vines got in line and did their job producing fantastic quality berries. Nowhere was this as apparent than at Broadley Vineyards where I have had the pleasure of reviewing three of the 2009’s they produced.
Broadley Vineyards was the first Willamette Valley Pinot Noir I tasted that made me realize I had tasted a wine that was capable of giving the ultra expensive and not always so consistent Burgundies a run for their money. I had tasted Ponzi previously and did not get that excited about it, but between 1988 and 1990, my culinary skills had grown leaps and bounds mostly thanks to two mentors Chef David Joyce and Chef Tim Conway. When I purchased my first bottle of 1987 Broadley Vineyards Willamette Valley Pinot Noir, I had just mastered the art of roasted lamb leg roulade stuffed with mint pesto goat cheese rolled in fresh herbs and roasted on a French gas rotisserie. The timing, the pairing and the discovery of Oregon Pinot Noir changed my mind about food, wine, technique and expertise.
In the late 70’s my lifestyle allowed me to dine out at will in South Florida and order whatever the snooty waiter was trying to push to up the check average. So I had consumed some good Cote de Beaune and Cote de Nuits and had become somewhat partial to Pommard. Once I went back to cooking for a living my financial status changed quite a bit. I ate well, but in the beginning, line cooks usually do not drink like the Executive Chef. The moment I opened the 1987 Broadley my love affair with Oregon Pinot Noir was solidified.
When we first moved to Oregon I no longer cooked for a living, but because I worked for a Willamette Valley winery I would not review wines from this area—you know, the whole conflict of interest thing.
But since I no longer work for a winery, I decided to take Toonces (the driving cat), Jeremiah (the drunk bullfrog) and myself on a little trip to Umpqua Valley. I wanted to get some specific wines from down there and a little information to put to rest that rumor Forest grove had been dispelling as the birthplace of Oregon Pinot Noir. Since I was headed down to Umpqua I called Craig Broadley to see if he would come down to the winery on my trip back north so I could get a bottle of each of his 2009 Pinot Noirs for review. Craig was kind enough to accommodate my request and added enough first hand information about my other quest that my story was pretty much completed after our short interview. Craig was as hospitable, and as usual, ahead of the curve. I started telling him about QR codes and he was quick to show me they had already replaced the barcode with QR codes on all his bottles.
With Jeremiah the frog already drunk and the Toonces the cat itching to get back on the road I could not stay long. Seems back in the day Craig Broadley owned City Lights, the famous hangout of the beat poets movement in the early 60’s books in San Francisco and therefore had a connection with David Lett of Eyrie Vineyards who sold books until he became a full-time winemaker. Turns out Craig came up to Oregon a long time before he finally found his site to start planting and talked to everyone he could who was growing Pinot Noir. Well at least those who would make themselves available. Craig said the problem back then was getting anyone to take the time to talk to you. Seems David Lett was really good about making himself available to folks even if they were to be competitors at sometime in the future, a characteristic that had a lot to do with Mr. Lett’s prominent placement as the man a.k.a. Papa Pinot when it came to Oregon Pinot Noir.
Well to my knowledge the city of Forest Grove has given up on the re-branding of the city as “The Birthplace of Oregon Pinot Noir” and my mission on that subject has been accomplished so let’s get on to reviewing these fantastic wines and pay homage to another Oregon Pinot Noir producing legend.
This is about as good as any entry level Oregon pinot I have ever tasted. First not too many winemakers will take a chance on producing their entry level wine without filtration because it is usually the one they make the most of and non-filtered wines are often only produced in small lots because they may contain traits that are appealing but not to everyone. You usually want the wine you make the most of to appeal to as many different types of pinot drinkers as possible and I taste a wine that has a universal appeal. Unless you have something against subtle alluring fruit smells smooth texture on the palate and a medium to long pleasant finish, grab a few bottles of this one for current consumption and you might want to lay a few bottles down to age for about three years.
Rating: 89 | $20 | 13.9% ABV
Here is a great example of the attitude I was alluding to earlier. This wine comes from a variety of different aged vines and in its flavor profile I think the fruit from the mature vines uniquely express their confidence in what they want to convey in the blend. It is a forward determined representation of place and pedigree while the fruit from the younger vines bring the fun fruity expression of the beauty only youth can bring.
The winemaking team has done a fantastic job to blend these characteristics into a classic Willamette valley Pinot Noir with just the right amount of distinction that beams Broadley in all manner of aromas, tastes and finish. This is a bottle to bring to dinner if you want to impress your host, or give as a gift to a serious collector.
Rating: 91 | $30 | 14.1% ABV
This wine brings it and brings it hard representing like a chef who has been on top of his game for twenty years and from the taste of the dishes he creates and the menus he continues to come up with he will be on top twenty more years. To make a comment like that about the 2009 Reserve Pinot Noir from Broadley Vineyards is about as good an accolade as anyone can do. I have never made any statement regarding Oregon Pinot Noir prior to this that reflects my unbridled passion for a product that I enjoyed as much.
The blend of Estate 777 clones with some of the Shea Vineyards fruit and a very precise oak regime create a wine of prestige and quality. The depth of the aromas were tantalizing as the cherry, raspberry and spice swirl together to create a creamy texture for a brief moment right before the seductive finish concludes the experience you realize Broadley Vineyards were ahead of their time in 1987 and still produce some of the finest pinot Noir made anywhere in the world.
Rating: 93 | $38 | 14.9% ABV
Craig Broadley, family and crew are hereby awarded the Enobytes QVV award and deservedly so. We will continue to support and report their continued success for years to come. Broadley sells futures and sometimes it is the only way you will get some of their wines. Check out their website to find out more.
Eat well, Drink Well, Live well! Enjoy!
Photo credit: winonation.com