I'm happy to offer one of my favorite value Pinot Noirs from the Willamette Valley. Light on its feet, with notes of roses, bright red cherries, damp earth, and framed by a mineral spine derived from well-drained volcanic soils, this is where the conversation on serious value Pinot Noir officially ends.
Matt Kinne farms vineyards in the Chehalem Mountain range in the Willamette Valley. He's fastidious in the vineyard, allowing only one grape cluster per shoot, and relying on dry-farming to push roots deep into the rocky, volcanic-based soils below. There are no additives, no commercial yeasts, and new oak percentage is kept very low. The result is an ethereal Pinot Noir that speaks to the tiny slice of the world they are born.
Domaine Joseph Roty is one of the great houses of Gevrey Chambertin. Operated by the Roty family since 1710, with a tenure of this length, they have achieved greatness working with true old vines. All of Roty's wines come from 60-plus-year-old vines. Their most famous site, a section of Charmes Chambertin, was grafted in 1881. This ancient vineyard was among the first to be grafted after phylloxera wiped out half of France's vines. The cuvée is aptly labeled "Très Vieilles Vignes," or very old vines.
Stylistically, these wines hold nothing back, with concentration and intensity being the name of the game. 100% destemmed fruit undergoes a three-week fermentation at cool temperatures, followed by time in oak (50-100% new) before bottling without fining or filtration. Roty's masterful techniques and careful barrel selection yield red Burgundy with a tight coil of Gevrey's earthy minerality and a stylistic flair melding black fruits with black truffle.
At first glance, Turley may seem like an outlier in our Old World-focused collection. The reason I go deep on these prized wines from America's oldest vineyards extends far beyond their historical significance. While Turley wines have a hedonistic side, they are balanced, precisely detailed, and always supported by fresh acidity.
Turley defines American viticulture today. Working with over 50 vineyards, they apply organic principles and rely only on native yeasts for fermentation. Head winemaker, Tegan Passalacqua of Sandlands, is rightfully respected for his work in the cellar as much as for his encyclopedic knowledge of California's diversity of old vineyards.
While Zinfandel and Petite Syrah inherently push toward higher ripeness, their thoughtful approach with vines from Paso Robles to Napa Valley is to preserve acidity and manage tannins. Each cuvée is crafted free of reliance on excessive new oak, additives, or manipulation in the cellar. These are ultimate wines of terroir, epitomizing the best of California's viticulture heritage.
When serious BBQ is at hand, Turley is among the first wines I reach for. Their vibrant, fruit-forward, and deeply nuanced traits lend themselves to a wide range of grilled meats and marinades. Even more, a bottle of 2001 Hayne Vineyard Petite Syrah was a great reminder that the pure joy these wines give, even after a decade in the bottle, is evidence of their greatness.
Before Barolo and Barbaresco earned their stronghold, there was a time when Alto Piemonte, just two hours northeast, was the more sought-after region for Nebbiolo. We have a handful of Alto Piemonte wines in our collection, but the name to know among its current revivalists is Cristiano Garella.
Over the last decade, Garella has helped revive Alto Piemonte as a wine region, advising about 20 wineries. Colombera & Garella is his personal project in partnership with Giacomo and Carlo Colombera, who have grown grapes in Bramaterra since the early 90s. Together, they farm nine hectares using organic and low-intervention practices: Native fermentation in concrete tanks, minimal sulfur, and 24-month élevage in neutral barrels.
Compared to Barolo and Barbaresco, Alto Piemonte has a cooler, rainier climate. The soils are significantly more acidic, with Bramaterra having reddish-brown sand from an ancient volcano. This terroir results in a more mineral-driven expression of Nebbiolo with fine tannins and nerving acidity, which make for more approachable and readily drinkable wines than their slower aging counterparts in Piedmont.
Famille Levet is one of Côte Rôtie's most fervent traditionalists and smallest domaines with only 1,000 cases produced annually. While my love of Northern Rhône Syrah veers heavily toward the most old-school and authentic interpretations of terroir, Levet is almost in a category unto itself.
This domaine has been the standard-bearer for ultra-traditional Côte Rôtie since Neal Rosenthal has imported the wines, starting in the early 1980s. Rosenthal's words on Bernard and Nicole Levet have always stuck with me, declaring these as the best and most carefully tended to vines in his iconic portfolio (also filled with names such as Fourrier, Jacques Carillon, and Paolo Bea).
The magic derives from the raw material on these treacherously steep terraced granite slopes. Levet works with the oval-shaped Serine, a genetic variation of Syrah more common in Côte Rôtie, known for its vivid, explosive violet tones, bacon fat, smoke, and black pepper, with a pulverized granitic streak that carries through the long finish. The wines are fermented with 100% whole clusters with a three-year aging regimen in foudre, demi-muid, and smaller barrels.
At the northernmost, cooler-temperature stretches of valley, Côte Rôtie is where we find Syrah at its most hauntingly pure and precise. These characteristics have long turned the eyes of Burgundy collectors south with this kinship—this should be your first stop on the stylistic shift into the Northern Rhône.