Posted by: David Stewart | December 10, 2013

My Favorite 2010s

As the year 2013 runs to a close, the press feels compelled to send out their “Top 10 of the year” lists. In the vinous world, Wine Spectator released their Top 100 wines list for the year, and a Willamette Valley Pinot Noir landed at number 3. What should be surprising here is the year of that wine.

Those of us who lived through the “summer” of 2010 in the Portland, Oregon area remember that there was just not a lot of summer to be had.

Like any other kind of agricultural product, wine grapes mature and ripen more quickly in direct sunshine and heat. Sometimes too quickly – the sunny 2009 vintage featured fruity wines with lower acid. But the general assumption is that these wines should be consumed relatively young because their acid and tannin structures would not build in complexity with age.

When those 2010 wines were first released, they were honestly not very impressive. Mostly they seemed pretty acidic and not very fruity. One of my friends was even more critical. But the common wisdom says that these cooler years take a little longer to develop, but in the end they can be wonderfully fragrant with a couple of years of bottle age.

Now, three years from the harvest date, many of those 2010s are really drinking nicely now. If you can find them. The fragrances are enchanting and the acids have softened. The lesson here is that in cool years like 2010 and 2011, what you taste at first release may not yield a very good idea of how the wines will turn out.

Here are a few of my favorite 2010 Pinot Noir wines from the Willamette Valley. Most of these were in the $20 or so range depending on where you can find them.

  • Four Graces Willamette Valley Pinot Noir – Although this wine listed for around $30+ in the tasting room, I discovered that around this time of year last year you can grab it for under $20 at Safeway. This makes it an amazing go-to wine for mid-week dinner. (Note: Local Safeway stores just made the 2011 version of this wine available for under $20 when you buy at least 6.) The Black Family do a consistently excellent job with their entry Pinot. Here are the community reviews:

  • Boedecker Stewart Pinot Noir – Husband and Wife winemakers Stewart Boedecker and Athena Pappas make a series of highly regarded single vineyard Pinots, but they also create a his and hers blend from the year’s grapes. I had the privilege this autumn of touring through the couple’s urban Portland winery during fermentation – tasting through the various lots. At the end, we sipped Stewart’s wonderful cuvee and I was hooked. List price is a bit steeper here but it’s worth it. Community tasting notes:

  • Thistle Pinot Noir – I am a big fan of Jon Jennison’s highly praised Pinot Noir. Even though their Chardonnay, Pinot Blanc and Pinot Gris wines are great, the Pinot Noir is an excellent value. Jon and Laura are wonderful hosts in their tasting room and their 2010 Pinot Noir is tasting really quite good now. As with several producers on this list, the price is less if you join their wine club.

  • Atticus Vineyard Pinot Noir – I am a big fan of Ximena’s winemaking style and the 2010 represents yet another terrific accomplishment. I remember the first time I tasted Atticus at a Father’s Day event in Carlton, Oregon. I brought home a bottle from the tasting and pulled it out some months later and was blown away by how much the wine had improved with time. Another husband and wife winery partnership, Ximena and Guy produce amazing wines every year. This one is a little more expensive than the others but also worth it if you can find it.

  • Twelve Pinot Noir Reserve – John Lenyo makes the wine and Linda Lenyo greets you in the tasting room with their high-value Pinots. This year they introduced a series of single clone bottlings and a “Reserve” designate. Frankly the $25 Willamette Valley is terrific, but as a member of their wine club I was able to get a good price on the single clone and reserve bottling.



  1. interesting overview 🙂 thank you

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