A Tale of Two Pinots ~ Vintage 2011

Tale of Two Pinots

Tasting two 2011 Pinot noirs from different continents was a very revealing experiment. One Pinot was from Marlborough New Zealand and the other from Willamette Valley Oregon. New Zealand’s 2011 vintage was not highly rated but the wine we reviewed from there represented the region and variety well. While it was not the highest rated Kim Crawford Pinot we have ever tasted it was respectable and would be a welcomed guest at my dinner table anytime.

The Willamette Valley wine is made from fruit grown by Dick Shea and illustrates that despite growing conditions that were not heralded as pristine, some producers were still able to make excellent wines. In this bottling from Raptor Ridge, Scott Schull (owner and winemaker) showcases all the red/black fruit, subtle tannins and floral aroma characteristics that Shea fruit is famous for. Just smelling these two wines blind they are distinguishable immediately by their bouquet. Each is significantly terroir driven and recognizable if you have ever tasted classic Willamette Valley or Marlborough Pinot noir.

2011 Raptor Ridge Shea Vineyard Yamhill Carlton Oregon Pinot noir
Distinctive aromas of red and blue fruit, this wine subtlety expresses fresh turned earth and blooming tomato plants. The smooth vibrant fruit combines an earth and spice element as the flavors cascade across the palate offering a glimpse into the flavors that will follow if this wine is given time to develop in the bottle. Despite the relatively low alcohol, there is enough acidity for this wine to have a broad culinary appeal. This wine will pair well with complex as well as simpler fare.

Rating: Excellent (90) | $55 | 12.5% ABV

2011 Raptor Ridge Shea Vineyard Pinot noir

2011 Kim Crawford Marlborough New Zealand Pinot noir
Upon opening, this wine is hard to distinguish the origin due to the distinctively old world Pinot noir aromas. It definitely has shades of Burgundy in the earthy, masculine almost musky aromas that are balanced by the smell of sweet ripe cherries and fresh vanilla bean mingled with a hint of smoke. Although young, this wine is very approachable now. The flavors exhibit the same characteristics that the aromas present and the red fruit, spice and earth take center stage and linger through the long finish. Grilled fowl or Lamb will pair well and casual fare like burgers and pizza will work too. The quality-to-price ratio (QPR) is very advantageous with this wine offering big smooth flavors that can be enjoyed anytime.

Rating: Very Good (89) | $20 | 13.5% ABV

2011 Kim Crawford New Zealand Pinot noir


About the Author:

Marc has held almost every position in the food & wine industry and is committed to Celebrating Hospitality with Pride. In addition to being the co-founder and editor-at-large for Enobytes, Marc is a wine blogger contributor to OregonLive.com (Wine Bytes) and writes the Wine Knowledge column in the print magazine About Face. The Contra Costa County Times, San Jose Mercury News, Tacoma Times Tribune and Washington Post have either interviewed or quoted Marc on his viniferous and culinary opinions. Marc has also appeared on Portland's "Vine Time" on News Radio 750 KXL and on California's Central Coast "From the Growing of the Grape to the Glass" on KUHL-AM 1410. He is also the author of A History of Pacific Northwest Cuisine: Mastodons to Molecular Gastronomy. While continuing to tenaciously search for what he may finally proclaim as his favorite wine Marc is relentless in his quest for the ultimate food and wine experience.


  1. Shandi Unglesbee February 23, 2013 at 7:47 AM - Reply

    I’ve been absent for some time, but now I remember why I used to love this site. Thanks, I will try and check back more often. How frequently you update your web site?

  2. Nat Williams April 13, 2013 at 7:08 PM - Reply

    Perhaps a better representation of New Zealand Pinot Noir next time? Marlborough, although New Zealand’s largest wine region, produces Pinot of a average quality in comparison to the likes of Martinborough, Waipara, and Central Otago.
    Shame to see Kim Crawford representing NZ also as there are better producers like Hans Herzog, Seresin or Pyramid Valley for example that produce fantastic Marlborugh Pinot Noir.
    To compare an excellent quality Oregon with a substandard seems inadequate….Just some food for thought :-)

  3. Marc Hinton April 15, 2013 at 12:06 PM - Reply

    Hello Nat,

    We really appreciate the comment. The focus was the 2011 vintage, and for the Kim Crawford to score so closely to a wine that was more than double the price, speaks a lot about the vintage and the quality of Kim Crawford. We would love to have the opportunity to review Hans Herzog, Seresin or Pyramid Valley wines. Although I have not seen them on retailers shelves in Oregon. I was able to locate Seresin and Pyramid Valley in the K&L online catalog and will order a bottle of each. It would be grand if we were to receive more samples from New Zealand producers especially those who distribute in the United States. We just returned from Australia and found only a couple of Oregon labels on retailers shelves. Do you have access to Oregon wines where you live? Stay in touch. We should be in New Zealand next year. Perhaps we could share a glass or two. Again thanks for reading and for commenting.

  4. Nat Williams July 5, 2013 at 7:33 PM - Reply

    Hi Marc,

    I have seen a few Willamette numbers on winelists and cellars I’ve cared for; Cristom Estate and Erath to name a couple off the top of my head… oh and a micro-brewery I can’t quite recall the name of! It would be great to see some from other sub-regions like Walla Walla Valley over here- yet there is possibly too much competition! But from a educational point of view it would be great to see more of them paired up against our Pinots (give the kiwi’s a run for their money!)
    Great to hear you’ll be in NZ next year- 2013 was a stella vintage for many of our regions, especially Hawkes Bay and Gisborne.
    Be sure to get in contact when your in the Hawkes Bay so I can set up tours with our winemakers and barrel sampling!
    Regards, Nat.

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