We had a little dog that I loved dearly named Jackie. He was a little terrier-sheepdog mix and was as smart as they come. In his later years when he went deaf all I had to do is motion with my hands and he understood to come, to stop or to move away. He protected and loved us as any good sheepdog would do. We got Jackie at a terrier rescue shelter when he was about a year old. Who knows what his first year of life was like but he had a bark that was much bigger than his bite. He was a little sweetie underneath but fearful, especially of men, and the fear often came out as aggression.
Needless to say he was hard to understand for most people who had just meet him. He would snarl his teeth, growl and scare the hell out of anyone who wasn’t a dog person. We had to warn people as they came into the house, “don’t make eye contact with him.” That would be about all it would take to set him off and it was more than disconcerting to us who knew how smart, lovable and complex this little dog was. But our close friends, those who spent time with us, eventually all warmed up to Jackie and felt bad when we finally had to put him down last New Year’s Eve.
It took some time to appreciate Jackie but was worth it once you did and that reminds me of the 2011 Pinot Noir vintage in Oregon. It was a remarkable vintage, perhaps Oregon’s coldest ever, a vintage saved by a week of 90 degree weather in September and the fact that the rain stayed away until November. The wines have some sharp edges now and growl at you a bit and most consumers don’t understand them at the moment.
But we can look ahead. We know how cool vintages evolve and if you have forgotten get your hands on a Pinot from the 2007 vintage in the Willamette Valley. If you remember 2007 was warmer than the 2011 vintage but cooled down quickly when rain showers arrived just before harvest and persisted through most of October. The wines from 2007 started out lean just like the 2011 wines. In fact I don’t remember two vintages that were so alike upon release.
Each night I sit with a bottle of wine from the 2011 vintage I get more enamored. I suspect by late spring the wines will be good and delicious by this time next year. The 2011 wines are changing rapidly like the 2007 vintage because of their relatively low tannin levels. The high acidity and low ph’s should keep the fruit intact for years to come and produce complex, delicious wines. Just like Jackie, the wines are making their way into my heart and for any Pinot Noir lover, should make their way into your cellar.