*Wine ratings out of 100*
Linfield College, McMinnville: The shaded campus was the site of our opening day lunch at this year’s International Pinot Noir Celebration in the heart of Oregon's Willamette Valley. We arrived late and were quickly directed across the lawns, but luckily there were still a couple of open spots left at the table.
After the introductions, we were amazed to find that Lucy's neighbour turned out to be none other than Elizabeth Grant-Douglas, who is not only daughter-in-law of our Niagara friend Ken Douglas, but winemaker of the wonderful pinots of La Crema in California.
La Crema has laid claim to all the prime Pinot sites in California (much like Jadot in Burgundy). Located in Sonoma County, they produce a range of outstanding Pinots and Chardonnays from vineyards in Los Carneros, the Russian River and Anderson Valleys as well as the Sonoma Coast.
Our splendid al fresco lunch was enhanced by Elizabeth's excellent 2010 La Crema Monterey and Arroyo Secco Pinots. The Monterey was a perfect pick: open ripe fruit, well balanced, and at $20, quite a steal. 88 The Arroyo Secco, sourced from a single vineyard, shwed darker fruit and more structure. It was a bit much for lunch, but a fine wine with earthy, mineral notes and a long finish. While excellent today, it will be even better in another year or two alongside a juicy roast chicken in a wild mushroom sauce. And for $40, another great value for such a fine bottle. 90
We were also joined by Sheila Nicholas, owner of Dundee Hills' Anam Cara Cellars and one of the tireless event organizers. Having abandoned Fife (Scotland) when she was young for the bright lights of London, she finally settled down in the Williamette Valley of Oregon.
Sheila's Pinot was elsewhere, but she gave us some background on the local Ransom 2009; a real mouthful, but still developing. Earthy cherry flavours along with wild mushrooms gave this wine real character, followed by a long finish. 91 We were also treated to a 10-year-old Pinot from Patricia Green Cellars. Perhaps not up to the elegant standard of a Grand Cru Burgundy, but still a pretty decent drink, if starting to fade. 87
Finally, not one to back away from American and Burgundian competition, an interloper in the form of Quartz Reef in New Zealand's Central Otago also found its way to our table. Concentrated with sweetish berry twinge, this wine showed promise of real class. 90