Oregon Pinot Noirs strong, but still not up to the best Burgundies

August 13, 2012

I’ve never been a Bob “John Edwards hair and demeanor” Costas fan. A glib, fast-talking student of the game, but never a participant, he often fawns over his interviewees. However, this latest brouhaha over his “racially toned” comment during a Gabby Douglas interview is just plain ridiculous. I am sick to death of all this navel observation over race, preference, expectations and reparations, etc.

Gabby had a remarkable performance.  She is as American as apple pie. We do nothing by pointing out the obvious fact of her color except to foster the racial hatred of small groups who continue in their narrow mind-set of prejudice. The election of Mr. Obama should have put that racial division dog to death. Most of us are well beyond the Sharpton-Jackson and Dukes-Lynch race-baiting, divisive palaver. Most don’t harbor those ideas. In fact, the high participation of citizen volunteers opposed to slavery during the Civil War indicates that has been the case for quite a while. Narrow-minded creeps have always been with us. How about we follow Dr. King’s request and look toward character. The media, the pols and “we the people” should quit the hyphenation game, a giant step in the right direction.

I’ve been a fan of Erath in Dundee, Ore., since it was Knudsen-Erath. Knudsen was a big-money lumber magnate. Dick Erath was an Oregon pioneer wine grower and maker. In 1988 he bought out Knudsen. In 2002, Gary Horner became winemaker, the first release where Dick was not the winemaker.  Erath’s 1995 Pinot Gris was the hook that caught me. Erath sold to Ste. Michelle in 2006. Subsequently, the Erath label has been awarded 90 points or better on all 10 of its single-vineyard labels in both 2006 and 2009. Buy the Fuqua 2008, Hyland 2009, Leland 2009 or Knight’s Gambit 2009. For a look at the label's best, search out Tuenge Vineyard 2009. It is a bit pricey at $50. For price-value, buy the wine labeled Erath Hyland Vineyard Pinot Noir 2009.

Hyland 2009 rivals the 2006. The 2006 are drinking beautifully now. The 2009 need some cellar time. With loads of red and black fruit, currant and earth supported by silky tannins, the 2009 opened nicely after time in the glass. A delightful spice- and berry-flavored finish is concentrated and shows great depth. The pick of the litter in 2009, though, was the Maysara McMinnville Estate Cuvee. Sadly I could not get a taste, so I am relying on other critics I respect.

Although I am no Francophile, it is fair to give the devil his due. Big props to Jean Jacques Girard. Although the Oregon PN are coming on strong, they really aren’t up to the best red Burgundies yet, IMO.  Girard’s Savigny Les Beaune Les Lavieres 2010 Premier Cru is a star. The designation is located between Corton and Beaune and is often overlooked by less sophisticated wine buyers than you, my well-informed friends. Les Lavieres 2010 are produced from 50-year-old vines, thereby providing concentrated juice.

Allen Meadows, Burghound, is notorious for his stingy ratings, which I admire. He gave the 2010 91 points; I say 92+. They need cellar time and are a bit austere in their finish.  I am sure when they come together in 2015 they will be stars of your cellar. Plenty of PN fruit and earth with hints of cherry liqueur, it is a medium-bodied wine with excellent balance. Silky tannins add to its complexity. Best of all, you can buy under $39 when buying a case. Big-buck buyers, I recently sampled a 1999 Domaine LeRoy Savigny, 95 points, $100. Enjoy a ripe fruit lip-smacker with the nose and flavors of dark-chocolate-covered cherries. The spice is disappearing, but the wine is still layered and powerful; it will last in a window to 2014 at the outside.

Enjoy the shank of the summer, my friends. It’s been a pip.