Thursday, December 16, 2010

Oregon, The Other Northwest: 2009 Ken Wright Releases

Sorry for the awful iPhone photo.

I had the chance today to try a lineup of eight different 09 Ken Wright Pinot Noirs. I have to say... Not as good as the 2008s. I remember those as being not only delicious, but also unique; each of the wines displayed a different character, ranging from rustic red fruits and spice to bombastic blueberries and cream. The 2009s might just not be drinking as well at this point in their life, but they were monolithic in character. Almost all of them (Abbot Claim, Carter, Savoya) showed some nice bright red fruits and were generally an enjoyable Pinot experience, but didn't have the uniqueness and sense of place that I've come to expect from top-notch Willamette Valley wine.

The exception was the just remarkable Canary Hill Vineyard. This wine showed an obvious herbal element. My first reaction was 'My God, that smells like weed!' And it did. Some might call it 'forest floor,' some might call it 'hops,' but for me it was a blatant marijuana element. And it smelled delicious. Beyond that there was some very nice, darker raspberry fruit character. The tannins weren't particularly evident (though I didn't open the wines, and don't know how long they had been open. I suspect several hours), but the acid was nice and the length was pleasant and lingering.

All in all, the 2009 Ken Wrights were good, solid wines. I'd hate to make judgments based on one tasting from just these few bottles on this one day, but hey, that's what we do, isn't it? I think they need more time in the bottle and a lot of patience in the glass from the consumer for them to show the elegance and intriguing secondary aromas that Oregon Pinot buyers hope for. If you're into that, go for it. I'm still looking for the best 2009s though.

An interesting shout-out should go to the new 2009 labels from Ken Wright. I'm always interested in wine packaging choices, and I think that these labels were probably a miss for the winery. While I thought the artwork itself was pretty cool, I don't see how it's going to sell even one bottle of wine. The Shea Vineyard release portrayed men in trucker caps working in the vineyards - not really what the average high-end wine consumer wants to see on their label. I liked them as renditions of what wine production really looks like, though; many a millionaire might be disturbed to see the amount of blue-collar sweat that goes into their wine.

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