Recently I’ve been tasting some of the upcoming pinot noir releases from Oregon’s 2013 vintage. As you might suspect from the vintage reports, the quality can vary a bit due to the significant rain storm that hit towards the end of harvest. Fortunately both the winemaking and vineyard skills in the Willamette Valley have advanced dramatically and most of the wines are very good and many are excellent.
The question is then, why are the ones that are excellent significantly better than other wines grown in the same vintage conditions? For me the answer is clear. It is the ability of the winemaker to think and work on the fly. Such skills are earned over years of work, not at enology school. The intuition of when to pull the trigger on a pick at the last possible second and the skills to look at the condition of the fruit as it comes in and know just what to do are talents learned on the battlefield, not the classroom. Some winemakers have the ability to adjust to conditions and to make great wines in vintages of widely differing conditions, while most others struggle if taken out of their comfort zone.
In my over thirty years in the wine business one of the very best winemakers I have had the pleasure to work with is Tony Rynders. Vintage after vintage he seems to ignore the whims of Mother Nature and make outstanding wines no matter what she throws at him. There is a lot of justifiable buzz in the wine press about the 2012, 2014 and 2015 Oregon vintages, but I often find the somewhat less heralded years (read less extracted) more to my taste.
In 2013 the best of both worlds came together when the skills of a winemaker like Tony Rynders took what nature gave in 2013 and made some of the most elegant, balanced pinot noir wines that you could want. The 2013 vintage of Rynders’ Tendril Wine Cellars wines are soon to be released and I urge you to get in line and on the mailing list for these ultra-limited production wines. Many of the wines are produced in quantities of fifty cases or less so they will not be around very long.
Wineries like Tendril Wine Cellars are making Oregon’s Willamette Valley one of the most exciting wine growing regions in the world.