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.
The pinnacle of the range from Erica Landon and Ken Pahlow of Walter Scott rests with their X Novo and Seven Springs Vineyard Chardonnays, though the Pinot Noirs are also among the best in America today. These are Grand Cru-level expressions of Eola-Amity Hills!
Most of the 1983-planted Seven Springs Vineyard was devastated by phylloxera, until 2007, when Raj Parr and Sashi Moorman of Evening Land leased and revitalized the vineyard. Walter Scott is one of the few wineries with access to this site, sourcing less than two acres of Chardonnay from the south ridge.
Pahlow's annual harvest visits to work alongside Dominique Lafon must have left a mark, as his Chardonnays elicit Burgundy's precise form of noble reduction and filigree. Notes of crushed oyster shell, lemon zest, and mouth-watering salinity are at the forefront, but like Comtes Lafon's brilliant whites, these are all about fine-grained texture and balance.
If Walter Scott's Chardonnays are a master class in tension and balance, then the Pinot Noirs stand out for their silken tannin structure and full-bodied, concentrated style. The suave frame and harmony of fruit and earth meld perfectly with the slight whole cluster addition (15%) and modest application of new oak (35%).
Over the years, very few offers have received glowing reviews quite like Evening Land’s Seven Springs Gamay, but what happens when Sashi Moorman and Rajat Parr tackle the Passetoutgrain Gamay/Pinot Noir blend?
While I'm not shy about my obsession with Cru Beaujolais benchmarks, Passetoutgrain is a much slimmer category (Gamay comprises less than 2.5% of Burgundy plantings). If there were a hierarchy within Burgundian Passetoutgrain, you'd find some familiar names at the top: D'Angerville, Lafarge, and Chevillon, to name a few. Sashi and Raj's regular visits and familiarity with these producers left a significant impression.
The Seven Springs Vineyard in Eola-Amity Hills is often called Oregon's prime slope, and visiting confirmed the historical significance of the wines produced here. 2019 Seven Springs Passetoutgrain has fine-grained, just perceptible tannins, followed by an array of red and blue fruit that's simply unrelenting. Following the same fermentation method used by the aforementioned traditionalists, compounded with organic and biodynamic farming, the breathtaking result shouldn't come as a surprise!