TN: Eight 2021 small-producer Oregon pinots

Ten days ago, my monthly blind tasting group convened to try eight small-producer 2021 Oregon pinot noirs, a category I have rarely explored. Six came from a store in Portland. The Goodfellows came straight from the winery.

It was an unusual vintage, by all reports, with a heat dome in the summer, then near-perfect weather in the fall. The grapes tended to be small and had thick skins, and alcohols were very modest (most listed at 13% or less).

In an email, Marcus Goodfellow said he was very happy with the vintage, but said his wines were vin de gardes. He recommended substantial decants (these got at least 90+ minutes) and said they show even better a day or two later (true).

Overall, the quality was very high, and my scores were in a relatively narrow range for my six favorites, so I’ve simply put them in bands here. Preferences in the group ranged widely, with some people being put off by the tannins in a couple of wines that I liked precisely because of their structure. Many in this group mark down young wines with a lot of structure. I tend to judge serious wines by what I think their future will be.

I loathe that synthetic candy cherry cough drop fruit you get in so many New World pinots – the cloying kind. While a few of these had a bit of candy cherry, I didn’t find any cloying. Instead, many had damp leaf/sous bois/earthy notes on the nose. Yay!

I sampled the (refrigerated) leftovers on days 2 to 4.

I was very pleased with these, but many people in the group kind of shrugged.

My favorites:

Goodfellow Family Cellars - Temperance Hill Vineyard Heritage No. 18 (my #1, the group’s #8!): Less giving on the nose than most. But complex, concentrated and tannic. Earthy flavors with a bit of oak showing (there’s no new oak). Not for the faint of heart. Less approachable than the Whistling Ridge. Still pretty backward on days 3 and 4, but all seems to be in balance. I thought the two Goodfellows were very similar in quality, but the Temperance will need more time.

Goodfellow Family Cellars - Whistling Ridge Vineyard Heritage No. 19 (my #2, the group’s #3/4): Faintly herbaceous note on the nose on day 1, but something more earthy (dare I say “Burgundian”?) came up over the next several nights, which I liked a lot. In the mouth, this has tremendous concentration/depth, and lots of grip (read: tannin). The fruit is a bit in the background now, but I thought everything was in balance and this should evolve beautifully … with time. “Long, deep, balanced,” I wrote, and on day 3, “Great grip and fruit.”

Patricia Green - Hyland Vineyard Coury Clone (my #3, the group’s #3/4): More oak showing on the nose than most (it’s 50% new), but I didn’t find it excessive or dominating. At the tasting, this was another dense, concentrated, tannic wine, but I felt confident there is ample fruit for this to develop nicely. It opened up to show more cherries in the mouth on days 2 and 3; by day 4, there was a little (non-cloying) candy cherry.

Good middle band:

Arterberry Maresh - ‘Maresh’ (my #3/4, the group’s #1): On day 1, this was quite earthy on the nose, but had some red cherry fruit on the palate. The next night, lots of nice red cherry aromas showed up – a quite different profile than day 1. This was quite approachable during the tasting, notwithstanding a faint hint of hard tannins at the back. It seemed to close down on the following nights. Slightly rustic, and seems to be a bit less complex than the best.

McKinlay - Pinot Noir Estate (my #5, group’s #2): Some oak showing on the nose and in the mouth. Nice, classic pinot sour cherry in the mouth. Quite fruity and open on day 1, but with good structure. Day 2: Closes up a bit. Day 3: Pleasant but has less depth and fewer layers than the best.

Kelley Fox - Maresh Vineyard (my #6, the group’s #6): Lighter color than the others and nice, bright red cherry on the nose on day 1. Lighter, fruitier, more red-fruited in the mouth than most, and also less concentrated, but there’s decent structure there. Stayed broadly the same on days 2 and 3: lots of fruit, approachable, balanced, but less deep.

Outliers:

Martin Woods - Hyland Vineyard (my #8, the group’s #5): Bright red cherries on the nose. Sort of simple and a little candied red cherry in the mouth, with candy cherries on the finish. Sort of simple. Similar on day 2. On day 3, I wrote: “Fruit soda. Tutti-frutti.” At 13.4% marked ABV, this was the highest in alcohol.

Cameron - Pinot Reserve (my #7, group’s #7): Much darker color than the others. Oak/leather on the nose. A big, ripe, black cherry thing going on on the palate. Seemed a tad sweet and lowish on acid. On the finish, more sweet black cherry and some oak, maybe some stems, and a touch of candy. Well made in a bigger, riper, easy-to-drink style. I could be contented drinking this, but it’s not my preferred style.

13 Likes

Thanks for the notes! Ive been seeing a number of people give the Martin Woods wines love, but havent yet found one that grts above “pretty good”

1 Like

Nice notes! I have a few Goodfellow 2021s on deck to open after settling from recently being shipped, including that Whistling Ridge Heritage No. 19.

1 Like

Glad to see we still get included in the “small wineries” grouping! Reminds me of being in CA at a seminar that I was on a panel for (which, looking back, seems crazy because this was definitely early 2000s and I didn’t know anything, at least in relation to Clendenen and Josh Jensen who were also on it; and nowadays I am literally never asked to be on any panels for anything, which I don’t mind) and Jim C was talking beforehand about Au Bon Climat recently being mentioned as a “cult” winery in some publication. He just laughed and was like, “that person clearly didn’t look at any CA ag stats before they wrote that because I make way too much wine now to be any sort of cult winery.” I also have a story about saying we are a “small” winery (this is in 2008 when we were much smaller than today) and having no one less than Aubert de Villaine correct me on that.

Anyway, I actually had to look up the stats on the Hyland because I was surprised at the new wood percentage since we rarely break 20% on any of our wines. I remember now that we did use 9 new barrels on the whole lot (about 33 barrels in total) and settling on 16 barrels for the bottling with all 9 of the new barrels being included. We felt that the combination of the 50 year-old and 33-year old vines really stood up to the wood and that there was excellent integration even at 1 year. The wine has plenty of acidity and tannin (it’s also 50% whole cluster which, generally speaking in our cellar, yields the most tannic form of wine) and certainly has no lack of fruit. I would suspect the wine easily outlasts the barrel character which, as noted, isn’t even that strong at this point.

We just barreled the 2023 this week. I have high hopes for it although I do suspect that it will be our last vintage with the vineyard.

1 Like

Damn this was probably one of my favourite PGC bottlings, especially the Coury Clone…

We’ll see but there are several reasons, none of which have a thing to do with the quality of the site or the farming.

1 Like

@Jim_Anderson any thoughts of 2022 vs 2023 vintage Oregon? Both sound strong

Short answer is that 2022 seems to be delicious and round and red with a bit lower acidity and tannin levels. Not out of balance but more on the fun side of things. 2023, hard to say but a small sample barrel tasting yesterday (10/20) with an exiting harvest crew member showed wines of seriously enormous potential.

4 Likes

Thanks John.

It’s interesting to me that you mention the structure in many of the wines, as that is something I prefer in my Pinot as well. Probably why I am also a fan of the Goodfellow and PGC wines as well.

I’ve drunk a lot more serious Burgundy than New World pinot, so I’m content with wines that have a lot of structure and don’t say, “Let’s party!”

1 Like

Maybe “small producer” was the wrong term. The guy who bought six of the wines was aiming for what he thought were likely the best producers these days, and wines that he could get at retail on the West Coast so we didn’t have to pay crazy shipping costs for a bottle here and a bottle there. I got the Goodfellow’s directly from Marcus.

For my palate, this was a pretty facile wine. This is the only wine here which, if I’d ordered it by the glass, I might not have finished. For what it’s worth, I gave this 84/85 points. The rest I put at 88-91+. (For me, 90 is a good score.)

Thanks for the notes, especially the goodfellow as I’ve yet to have any. I drank through a lot of the 21s this spring/summer and found similar notes on many, e.g. lots of structure and acidity. Even in wines that don’t typically have it, it was there in spades, no way I would have picked Abbey Ridge as Dundee blind… Really a vintage I’m high on.

Isn’t Martin Woods the producer a certain “hipster” (sarcasm intended) importer keeps hyping as incredibly Burgundian?

Yup yup. While that is certainly hyperbole, Evan Woods is making some really good Chards and Pinots that I’m very confident will hit your palate well.

1 Like

Through ignorance and misuse, “Burgundian” has become as meaningless a term as “minerality.”

Easy to confuse the name as Evan Woods (I’ve done it), but just to clarify, Evan Martin is the proprietor and Martin Woods the Winery,. I’ve enjoyed the Gamay and Chards quite a bit, although both the Chards and Pinot need some bottle time. A recent 2018 Martin Woods Jesse James Vineyard Pinot was still painfully young to me. The 2017 Chard seemed to be in its drinking window. Cheers :wine_glass:

I’ve really enjoyed the Gamay as well. Lovely stuff, when I can get my hands on it.