I’ve been meaning to share this offering since I tasted through the remarkable 2014 single vineyard pinots from Ken Pahlow and Erica Landon’s Walter Scott Wines about, geez, 6 weeks ago. Things seemed to get in the way of my best intentions…vacation, life, etc….the usual first world problems. But finally I’m able to take the time to share the news of some of the most singularly delicious Oregon pinot noir I’ve tasted in a very long time.
Long time VINOphiles are well aware of my fondness for the wines Ken is producing at WSW. I’ve known Ken for 10+ years, from his days assisting Mark Vlossak at his great St. Innocent winery to his working with Burgundy legend Dominique Lafon at Evening Land Vineyards. At each stop Ken soaked up so much knowledge from these gifted winemakers, not just the how, but more importantly the why behind the decisions in the vineyards and cellars these great winemakers make. What I also always appreciated about him was his passion for Oregon wine, and his unabashed love and deep knowledge of the vineyards of the Willamette Valley. He is a self-confessed vineyard dork, knowing that’s where it all has to start. His relationship and marriage with Erica (herself a passionate ex-somm and a woman with incredible scope of awareness of wines from around the world), and subsequent birth of cute-as-a-button daughter Lucy has brought on added depth to what he does, and it’s obvious when you talk with them that this is a family with a “we’re-in-this-together” mentality. The bottom line on Ken for me is that he is, for this wine lover, and I don’t say this lightly, one of the 5 best winemakers in the state!
So, the wines then. When I tasted through this particular batch of single vineyard releases I immediately knew that these were among the best young Oregon pinot noirs I’ve had in years. 2014 was a very warm year locally, and a huge crop. When you have those factors the decisions that are made in the vineyard weeks before the grapes are harvested are crucial. Crop loads, leaf thinning, pick dates, all those things come into play. These wines are all from vineyards that have been impeccably managed. They all have the vintage’s immediate ripeness and accessibility, but lurking underneath the gorgeous aromas and flavors is depth, complexity, tannins, and acid, all balanced to perfection, and all guaranteeing years of potential. These are very special wines, to me destined to be classics, and I can’t recommend them highly enough.
In the offering below I’ve included some personal observations as well as critical reviews where applicable. I know these aren’t inexpensive, but I promise they are every bit as good, and to me better, than any $50-$100 Oregon pinot out there. For any Oregon pinot fan, or fan of fabulous, world class wine, these should be must try stuff. I’ve included special discounts immediately following the wines to help make the decision more rational!
2014 WALTER SCOTT WINE PINOT NOIR
2014 Freedom Hill Vineyard…$44.95 bottle
An iconic Oregon vineyard that is known for making deep, powerful wines. The WSW version has plenty of that signature depth and intensity, but when I tasted it I told Ken it is also the most balanced, elegant FH Vineyard pinot I’ve had…ever! This is great juice. When Ken sent me a note this morning he said it all: “The sleeper is Freedom Hill.” I couldn’t agree more. This is tucked away in my own “cellar” (read: basement) for at least 6 years. Easily the best Freedom Hill pinot of my experience!
2014 Temperance Hill Vineyard…SOLD OUT
Another vineyard that is an Oregon icon with some of the most sought out fruit in the valley, owned and managed by the equally legendary Dai Crisp. Savory, intense, darkly textured fruit. Lovely impressions of spice, stone, and ripe, dusty blackberry.
“The 2014 Temperance Hill Pinot Noir, comes from a single acre planted in 1990 and apparently had so much fruit that they bought some fruit from the Pumphouse block. It has a sense of airiness on the nose, brambly red berry fruit, cold stone and brown spices. The palate is medium-bodied with fine tannin, a little chalkiness on the entry with fine acidity and a very precise finish that lingers long in the mouth. Just a very classy Pinot Noir destined to age with style and panache. 92 points.” -Wine Advocate
2014 Eola Springs Vineyard “Dumb Ox”…$44.95
From the WSW website: “In the heart of the Eola Springs Vineyard there is a single block of un-grafted Pommard. The block, nicknamed Dumb Ox, was named after Thomas Aquinas, a theologian philosopher known for being both “brilliant” and “enigmatic” just like the Pinot Noir from this block.” Add on silky, deep, a little wild raspberry and currant, with beautiful tannin/acid balance and you’re getting there. Sadly for wine lovers, due to phylloxera this is the last vintage of Dumb Ox.
“The 2014 Dumb Ox Pinot Noir comes from vines planted in the early 1990s that are affected by phylloxera. It has a lovely bouquet with mulberry and wild hedgerow aromas that are beautifully integrated with the oak. The palate is medium-bodied with sappy red berry fruit on the entry, a little chalky in texture, nicely structured with a pinch of spice towards the tensile finish. This is a not so dumb Pinot Noir. 92 points.” -Wine Advocate
2014 Soujourner Vineyard…SOLD OUT
This is a stunning bottle of Oregon pinot. As good as it gets! Richness, purity, impeccable balance, and an intriguing minerality all combine in a drop dead gorgeous bottle of Oregon noir. I cannot wait to see how this develops with 5-10 years in the bottle. But, man, is it good right now!
“The sophomore 2014 Sojourner Vineyard Pinot Noir from Eola-Amity comes from very rocky soils – two blocks and 13 rows picked at the same time. Picked at 4.5-tons per acre, it has a very precise bouquet with dark berries, undergrowth and black tea aromas that are nicely detailed. The palate is medium-bodied with crisp acidity, the 10% whole cluster fruit lending freshness and delineation. This is very harmonious – red segueing into black fruit towards the finish that lingers long in the mouth. Utterly superb. 93 points.” -Wine Advocate
2014 Lewman Vineyard…SOLD OUT
Erica didn’t have this with her when she stopped by a few weeks ago so I haven’t tried it, but she was gushing over it. Based on previous experience I have no reason to question her enthusiasm! Here’s some bits from their website: “Nestled into Spring Valley, adjacent to the Bethel Heights Estate vineyards, sits a little known site called Lewman vineyard. First planted in 1992, Dennis Lewman and his wife Kaoru began farming the site in 2002, tending to the vines themselves. The vineyard has a wildness to it, and is full of great energy, one can only attribute to the Lewman Family. But you would never know it once you taste the wines. Sourced from an acre of original plantings on this vineyard, the wine shows the depth that only established vines can give. The Pinot Noir is layered with aromas of all spice, blackberry and a faint bit of sweet fresh fall mushroom. The palate falls right in line, with good tannin structure and strong mineral tension carrying long into the complex finish.”
THE DEAL: Okay, so I really want to do what I can to get you into these wines, so here’s the deal:
*Buy any single bottle (up to 4 bottles) and take 10% off our retail price of $44.95!
**Buy a 5 bottle sampler of one bottle each (or mix your own 5) and take 15% off the retail price of $44.95!!
***Buy a 10 bottle sampler of two bottles of each wine (or mix your own 10+ bottles) and take 20% off the $44.95 retail price!!!
Here’s a bit more background from Wine Advocate critic Neal Martin in his writeup on these beautiful wines that I think rounds out the picture even more: “Following on from my January tastings, Ken Pahlow and Erica Landon came to see me at McMinnville where I was undertaking many of my tête-à-têtes with growers. Their daughter Lucy remained outside. I should state for the record that as a wine critic, I do not mind small children joining any of my tastings. I mean, half my work is written with a nine and an 11-year old running around the house. As long as they are well behaved and agree to offer a third party opinion if I think the bottle might be suffering TCA or brettanomyces, then that’s fine with me. So anyway, while Lucy remained outside, I tasted the remainder of the Walter Scott portfolio. And bloody good they are as well. I just like how Ken and Erica roll – nothing fancy, no blockbuster or pretentiousness – just killer Pinot Noir with purity, intensity and personality. “In 2014 we looked back at the last 15 vintages,” Erica explained. “We are learning how to deal with hotter vintages and coax elegance. We did pumpovers with pipeage, and worked the ferments once a day, wanting to allow the vintage to speak for itself.” My hunch is that actually little Lucy is actually making the wines and her parents are taking all the glory. That leaves me to say if you have not tried these wines yet, do yourself a favor.”