Posted by: David Stewart | November 27, 2014

2013 a bad year for Oregon Pinot Noir?

“No industrial wine.”

This was the response from a friend at work who I discovered has a 3000 bottle wine cellar. With such large collection, he ought to have some helpful advice about Oregon wines. So I asked him which was his favorite.

He is a fan of artisanal, hand-crafted wines and only wines from certain vineyards. “No industrial wine. and dirt is important to me.” 

Wineries in Oregon are almost always quite small, with each winemaker / farmer / owner trying to scratch by with what they can make from year to year, often leaning on money from a day job or an endowment.

As such, most of these wineries need to sell wine to get it out of their warehouse and make room for the next vintage. It is a rare winery with the resources to hold on to wine until it’s ready to drink.

In the Willamette Valley of Oregon, there is a lot of year-to-year variation in weather. In recent history, there have been overly hot years (2006 and 2009), cold and rainy years (2010 and 2011) and nearly perfect years (2008 and 2012).

There is a local wine distributor who started tasting 2010 vintage Willamette Pinots when they were released and turned up his nose, made a face and declared them to be “thin and sharp.” His blog asked, “2010 not the year for Oregon Pinot?”

Of course today in 2014, 2010 Willamettes are prized, as are the 2011s. They are fragrant, mysterious wines with profound grandeur. But upon release, many of them resembled mouthwash – acidic and hard to like. In fact, some Willamette wineries are holding back their 2011s because they are convinced that nobody will buy them while there are sexy and unctuous 2012s still to buy.

How will 2013 be remembered? After a long, hot summer, there was a deluge of rain which pummeled the vineyards. The question for 2013 Willamette is: “Did you harvest before or after the rains?”

So far, my reaction to the 2013s is decidedly mixed. 

Some great producers are turning out their usual amazeballs wines with tension and complexity which should just get better over time. There are some great producers which are pouring unpleasant wines which really need more bottle age. Given the reputation of these winemakers, I’m certain that these 2013s will come around. Although I’m not buying anything I don’t like upon tasting, I’m ready to taste them later and perhaps like them then.


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