Fans of Oregon pinot noir started lining up to get a crack at the best 2012s early on, virtually before the grapes were off the vine. Word got out early that this picture-perfect vintage, which was marred only by a short crop, was going to be one of the all-time greats for the Willamette Valley’s wine industry. Attentive consumers and the trade were ready to jump quickly and rabidly on the top bottlings, especially following the uneven 2011 vintage. Most of the hot collectors’ wines are long gone by now but there are still plenty of truly outstanding, high-value ’12s floating around, although probably not for much longer.
Generally speaking, Oregon’s 2012 pinots are plush, fruit-driven wines that provide enormous upfront appeal, with lively, harmonious acidity and gentle tannins. Impatient wine lovers can jump into them now but most of the better wines, like those listed here, are well-balanced and fresh and possess excellent depth of fruit. So I wouldn’t hesitate to stash a good supply of them in the cellar. Personally, I think they’ll be even better—as in more complex—with another few years of bottle age. It’s your call, and there’s no wrong one.
All of these wines scored 90 points or higher in my coverage of Oregon pinot noir in the current issue of the International Wine Cellar.
Broadley Vineyards is known for making deeply flavored, fruit-driven pinots and their 2012 Pinot Noir Estate Willamette Valley ($25) is an excellent example of the house style. Ripe cherry and boysenberry aromas and flavors are lifted by a hint of peppery spices. Fleshy and seamless in texture, this wine shows very good clarity and finishes with repeating spiciness and soft, harmonious tannins.
In a somewhat more elegant style, the Zenith Vineyard 2012 Pinot Noir Estate Eola-Amity Hills ($25) offers black raspberry and cherry-cola scents that are lifted by nuances of allspice and fresh rose. Silky and sweet on the palate, it offers juicy red and dark berry flavors complicated by an exotic Asian spice quality. There’s a vivacity to this wine that’s uncommon for the vintage and that should appeal to Burgundy aficionados.
The elegant Patton Valley Vineyard 2012 Pinot Noir Willamette Valley ($24) exudes a pungent red and dark berry character, with nuances of spices and flowers adding complexity. At once rich and energetic, it finishes with strong tangy cut, a hint of white pepper, and silky tannins that come on late. I’ve found this producer’s balanced, lively pinots to be quite ageworthy, by the way.
Mark Vlossak is one of the Willamette Valley’s most experienced and respected winemakers and his St. Innocent Winery 2012 Pinot Noir Villages Cuvée Willamette Valley ($26) showcases the vintage’s best traits. Fresh cherry and dark berry scents are complemented by hints of dark chocolate, dried rose and peppery spices. Plush and broad but focused too, its black raspberry and bitter cherry flavors are given a tangy edge by juicy acidity. This is Vlossak’s entry-level bottling but it sure doesn’t taste like one.
Another long-time Oregon pinot specialist, Joe Dobbes, made the excellent Dobbes Family Estate 2012 Pinot Noir Grande Assemblage Willamette Valley ($28), an expressive, intensely fruity pinot whose dark fruit character is complemented by oak spice and smoke qualities and a hint of orange pith. Lively and seamless in texture, it closes on a juicy note, with very good clarity and fine-grained tannins adding grip.
In a somewhat richer, more broad-shouldered style, the Brooks Wines 2012 Pinot Noir Willamette Valley ($28) displays scents of plum, cherry compote and licorice, with hints of cracked pepper and fresh flowers providing lift. Smooth, fleshy and broad on the palate, its dark berry and bitter cherry flavors are given bite by a hint of orange pith. This pinot is surprisingly energetic for its power and finishes with strong back-end punch. Youthfully chewy tannins sneak in slowly.
Finally, Westrey Wine Company produces a range of excellent pinot values and their 2012 Pinot Noir Willamette Valley ($28) is a smoky, energetic cherry- and dark berry-dominated wine, with hints of licorice and dried flowers adding complexity. Sappy and focused on the palate, showing a suave blend of richness and finesse, it finishes with an echo of smokiness, gentle tannins and noteworthy lift.