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Oregon Calling

Willamette Valley wineries come south

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To celebrate 20 years of crazy, Siduri Wines is hosting an all-Oregon winetasting at its Santa Rosa winery on July 8. The crazy is making Oregon Pinot Noir in California, an affliction the folks at Siduri share with Lompoc's Fiddlehead Cellars and Kathyrn Hall's WALT Wines. Joining them will be some of Oregon's best, including Argyle, Soter, Eyrie and Ponzi. For serious Pinot Noir fans with a limited travel budget, this isn't just another "unique winetasting experience." This is Christmas in July.

But why Oregon, when we're lousy already with the Pinot down here? Siduri winemaker Adam Lee just stumbled into it when the general manager at Lambert Bridge (where Lee custom-crushed his first wines) offered some Pinot Noir he was growing in Oregon. Since then, Lee has logged countless miles making the 700-mile commute to the Willamette Valley—10 to 12 trips each vintage.

Lee says that making Oregon Pinot Noir has paid off in more than case sales. For example, the notoriously cool, rainy 2011 vintage in California was fairly Oregonian in its rough outlines. But lessons learned in the Willamette Valley helped Siduri ace the vintage. And as some California vintners move toward cooler growing areas to make lower alcohol, higher acid wines, our neighbors to the north have been doing this for more than 40 years.

"Maybe there's something of a preview, or a hint, of what some of our wines will be like in tasting Oregon Pinots," Lee says.

Siduri's 2013 Willamette Valley Pinot Noir ($22) shows up a little spicy, or volatile, on the nose—due to a valley-wide fruit-fly problem in 2013—but it's dry plum-cranberry paste, not jammy, all the way down the fine finish. Also a Jackson Family Wines property (Siduri was snapped up this year), Gran Moraine made a 2013 Yamhill-Carlton Pinot Noir ($45) that I pegged as Willamette blind against five California Pinots (two Anderson Valley, so hooray for me there) because of the wine's sinewy smokiness—bacon on a fire-pit grill.

Nothing necessarily Oregon about that, it's just that at an Oregon Pinot tasting in 2012, so much of the product shared a similar scent that I asked if they were using the same brand of barrel, or what was the story. An essence of grilled cranberry, the silky fruit grips lightly to the palate and fades slowly, like the ring of a bell—your Oregon "aha" moment.

Siduri Wines, 981 E. Airway Court, Santa Rosa. Oregon event: Wednesday, July 8, 2015, 5–7pm. Tickets $25 advance, $30 after July 5 and at the door. 707.578.3882.

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