Real Pinot for Pinot People


Todd Hamina is an opinionated winemaker. Like all opinionated winemakers he can be controversial. He also happens to be making some outstanding wines. This should not be surprising as the politically correct usually make politically correct wines, which is just as boring in the wine world as it is in the real world. Todd had a solid winemaking foundation moving through important Oregon cellars such as Patton Valley and Maysara before founding his own label, Biggio Hamina, with the 2007 vintage. The results of that education are evident in his new wines.

Those of us who cut our teeth on European wines many decades ago often accept today's supercharged wines with grudging respect and wistful memory of those more elegant, balanced wines of our past. I ran into Todd today and tasted some of his first releases and I can only say that I was blown away by his wines, which took me back to a day when wines lived by verve not power.

I was so impressed with Todd's wines that I bought two bottles almost out of disbelief. When I retasted them with my dinner I liked them even better than I did before. These are genuine wines made without regard to current fashion that were only guided by the vision of the winemaker and nature. Love them or hate them they're Todd's wines, a personal statement.  I loved them.

The 2007 Biggio Hamina Melon de Bourgogne, Deux Vert Vineyard just astounded me.  Firm and bright with zinging minerality and a long clean, truly dry finish, this is the first American Melon that I've tasted that will actually remind wine drinkers of the great wines of Muscadet, where the only really great examples of this variety have been produced. When I tasted this wine, from the excellent Deux Vert vineyard in the Yamhill Carlton AVA, I could only think what a shame it is that these fine grapes have been wasted in previous vintages by less thoughtful winemakers, but I'm thrilled that someone is now finally taking proper care of them. I would confidently show this wine to the most devoted Muscadet drinker.

The 2007 Biggio Hamina Willamette Valley Pinot Noir is nothing short of a profile in winemaking courage as few have the guts to make real pinot these days. This is real pinot noir for real pinot noir drinkers. Those that prefer pinot that tastes more like syrah won't like this wine and should leave it for the those that love pinot for its natural, refined personality. The color is  a delicate, inviting translucent garnet. It's rare to see pinot this color anywhere these days and I applaud Todd's courage to let real pinot characteristics show through in his wines. Pinot does not naturally have a lot of color and you can bet the dark wines you see these days are made by some sort of cheat. Enzymes or other varieties are all to often used to add an unnatural depth of color to pinot noir. If you can't read through a glass of pinot, something is amiss. The nose is lifting and fresh with earthy truffle and orange zest spice layered over lively bitter cherry fruit. The finish is long and clean. I could only think of excellent pinots from lesser Burgundy appellations like Marsannay and Fixin when I drank this beauty.

Both of these wines are an astounding 12.5% alcohol, which makes them almost freaks these days. Tasting wines like this makes you realize what a critical issue alcohol is as you can taste so much more in these wines simply because all the nuance is not overwhelmed by alcohol. For delicate varieties like pinot this issue has gone out of control as high-alcohol pinots are just boring and pointless to drink because they don't taste like pinot anymore. If you want a big wine get something from a big variety like syrah, not a delicate variety like pinot.

Another astounding fact about these wines is that they are also both $20 or less a bottle. I know, like you, I thought such wines did not exist in America. Actually for all practical purposes they don't, but now at least two do. Hopefully, soon there will be a lot more.

Todd will be releasing some single vineyard pinot noirs, syrah and pinot blanc from the 2007 vintage and I can't wait to taste them. If these wines are any indicator they should be something very special indeed.