*Wine ratings out of 100*
Way back when the Willamette Valley in Oregon was in its vinous infancy, Bill Blosser and Susan Sokol began their farming life by acquiring an abandoned prune orchard and planting their first cuttings of Pinot Noir.
Lucy and I were fortunate enough on our second day of the International Pinot Noir Celebration to visit the Sokol Blosser winery and experience the stunning scenery that welcomed those neophyte farmers more than 40 years ago, followed by an outstanding lunch in the cool cellars.
Our aperitif was a personal tour of the vineyards and winery by their son Alex, who is now co-president of the operation, along with his sister Alison. Since Bill and Susan planted those first vines, other wineries have grown up all around and we found ourselves surrounded by vineyard vistas.
Over lunch we were introduced to a number of winemakers: Thibault Liger-Belair from Burgundy, Josh Bergstrom from his family's estate winery down the road, and Peter Rosbach from Sineann Winery in the Chahalem Mountains close by.
Even those of us with limited Pinot knowledge took a mini-course with these experts in the differing approaches to viticulture and winemaking. Of course there is the terroir, but the age of the vines, the concentration, the clones selected and the ripeness of the grapes when picked are just some of the other important aspects of viticulture. After crushing, the techniques and personality of the winemaker take over to guide the metamorphosis from fruit to final product.
Alex Blosser in his vineyard
Alex laughed at the oft-repeated representation of non-interventionist winemaking, noting that even in the most organic of wineries, over 3,000 decisions still must be made. He described some of the methods used at Sokol Blosser: the Pinot pressing is gentle and during fermentation the must is not cooled. When complete, the wines from separate blocks go into separate barrels and stored until final blending and bottling. Now, onto the wines...
The first Pinot served at lunch was naturally the 2008 Sokol Blosser -- a juicy, fruit-forward wine with good balance, but lacked concentration compared to the rest. It showed some age yet a very good drink. 89
Our other three winemakers then introduced their Pinots:
The 2010 Lancellotti is one of five single-vineyard wines made by Bergstrom. While the grapes were harvested late and Josh was worried about ripening, they got lucky -- wines harvested the first week of November produced low alcohol, juicy wines with high natural acidity. After a chance to taste, we had to agree. This was an excellent wine, juicy and intense, which we devoured with our excellent lunch. 92
Thibault's Première’s Cru Pommard was next. His operation includes 95 acres in five villages in the Cote de Beaune, planted mostly to Pinot. The grapes for this wine come from a Premiere Cru vineyard and were planted by his grandfather in 1955. They started picking in late September and the resulting wine is more austere and less alcoholic (12.8%), but is likely to develop more complexity with age. It needs a few years. 91
Last was Peter’s 2009 Resonance Vineyard Pinot. Although he goes as far as Malborough, New Zealand to make some Pinots, this one’s a home-grown, single-vineyard delight. One year older than each of the others and showing that age, this was a very different Pinot with spicy, earthy tones, ripe cherry fruit and fine tannins. A very big mouthful indeed. 90