A couple of months ago my tasting room staff mistakenly opened a bottle of our 2012 Eleanor's 114 Pinot Noir instead of the current vintage we are pouring which is 2013. "Wow this is sure different than the 2013," they said. "I know," I added, "I think I am starting to like the 2013 better."
They didn't have to tell me what they thought about that statement, I could see it on their faces. I was a mad man, extolling the virtues of a wine with less ripeness than the 2014 vintage. But after 15 years of growing Pinot Noir in the Northern Willamette Valley my palate is changing; I am starting to like the off vintages more than the ripe ones as I learn something about the evolution of Pinot Noir in this part of the world.
Apparently The Wine Spectator is starting to learn as well. The editor, Harvey Steiman, paid me an unexpected visit right before harvest in 2013. He wanted to taste through the 2012 vintage which we had just bottled. I was happy to finally meet him but as he left the tasting room a heavy rain shower came down as it had through much of harvest that year. A week later we got nearly five inches of rain in a 48 hour period, marking the worst harvest rainfall total ever in Oregon. Then the sun came out and we had several weeks of dry weather in October.
"Elegance in 2013," is the lead caption describing Oregon Pinot in the February issue. They go onto provide a ten page spread on Willamette Valley Pinot Noir. When Harvey walked out of the tasting room I thought we were in for a report more akin to the 2007 vintage. That vintage was universally panned by the critics with many backpedalling after the wines evolved with some bottle age. The 2007 vintage was remarkably similar to the 2013 vintage in terms of weather, the way the wines tasted upon release and the rapid evolution of the wines. The 2007 wines were lean upon release and ended up being beautiful wines that still have longevity and the 2013 wines, while slightly more dense, seem to be headed down the same track.
I love the 2013 wines more for what they will become than for what they are. What my staff didn’t recognize is that the 2013 wines will take on weight, even some color and in the end will be wines that are rich and textured but still light on their feet. They won’t have the artificial mouth feel that alcohol gives wine. Instead they will gain the richness and weight that bottle aging imparts and be perfectly delicious, balanced wines in the end.
We know that because we lived through it with the 2007 vintage and it’s nice to see that The Wine Spectator knows it now too.
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