Context may be everything as Matt Kramer writes in a recent article. I tend to agree and Matt Kramer goes on to say, “Obviously this is not always the case—and certainly not for truly great wines, never mind from where. They somehow protect themselves by enveloping you in the embrace of their complex world. Lesser wines, however, have no such powers.”
Sometime a wine becomes great in a moment, regardless of the context. It doesn’t happen very much to me anymore and have lost my wide-eyed, idealized notion of wine. It was easier to be enthralled with the few distinct, well made wines that rose above a sea of nondescript and often flawed wines that were the norm in my youth. Thankfully wines today are well made, fruit driven and offer basic pleasure if not many profound revelations. Science has fixed the flaws that plagued wines thirty years ago and we have a sea of drinkable if not homogenized wines.
But some wines open my eyes again and this year it was the Lenné Estate 2007 Pinot Noir. You remember 2007, that shower laden vintage which was immediately panned by all the critics. Yes, they got it all wrong. In our brief history, at this moment in time, this is the best wine we have produced. Will the 2008 or 2010 wines be better and will the 2011 Lenné Estate turn out as good? I don’t know with respect to the 08 or 10 wines but I have a sense the 2011 will go down the same track.
Accuse me of having a house palate, I don’t care. It was a sublime wine and cements the unarguable fact that there is no substitute for a little bottle age with Oregon Pinot Noir. This wine started the same way the 2011’s are now, lean and mean with very little mid palate texture. What happened in the bottle was amazing. The wines took on color and the mid palate just blossomed like a flower. Aromatically they did what all vintages do, even the ones that are approachable early on; they got more complex.
Wines always start off full of primary fruit and as the oak, alcohol, tannin’s and fruit work magic the wines develop secondary aroma’s, aromas other than fruit. In the case of Lenné Pinot Noir those aromas reveal themselves as sandalwood, leather, truffles and orange peel. This combination of fruit and secondary aromatics can only be born from bottle aging. You don’t have to age your Oregon Pinot Noir’s forever, but 3 to 4 years after we release them make a world of difference.
The 2007 Lenné Estate Pinot Noir caught my attention like no other older vintage we opened over the holidays. It reminded me of an old adage about Pinot Noir, “the iron fist in the velvet glove.” It’s deep black fruit, fine leather, spice and sandalwood aromas, the velvet mouthfeel and the long drawn out finish made me remember what I had forgotten about wine.