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Colene Clemens Victoria Pinot Noir 2014
Located in the western end of Dopp Road where the Chehalem Mountains converge with Ribbon Ridge, this 122-acre property was acquired in 2005 and first planted in 2006. Starting at 350ft of elevation and rising to 650ft, this rocky south facing hillside is a mix sedimentary and volcanic soils, predominantly Wellsdale and Witzel. Current plantings now total 40 acres divided up among 5 different clones of Pinot Noir, 3 Dijon as well as Pommard and Wadensvil.
Colene Clemens farming practices can best be described as sustainable, utilizing organic methods whenever possible. They put a heavy influence on soil work and incorporate a lot of “green” manure as well as the production and application of their own compost. Colene Clemens is a firm believer in low yields and as such have practiced extreme crop reduction through both conservative, short pruning and green harvesting. All fruit is hand harvested at optimal physiological ripeness and picked into quarter-ton macrobins for transport up to the winery.
The Chehalem Mountains is a northwest-southeast span of several distinct mountains, ridges and peaks in the northern part of the Willamette Valley. Of all of Willamette Valley's smaller AVAs, it is closest to the city of Portland. Its highest summit, Bald Peak at an elevation of 1,633 feet, serves to generate cooler air for the rest of the AVA and its hillside vineyards. The region covers 70,000 acres but only 1,600 acres are planted to vines; soils of the Chehalem Mountains are a mix of basalt, ocean sediment and loess.
One of the most finicky yet rewarding grapes to grow, Pinot Noir is a labor of love for many. However, the greatest red wines of Burgundy prove that it is unquestionably worth the effort. In fact, it is the only red variety permitted in Burgundy. Highly reflective of its terroir, Pinot Noir prefers calcareous soils and a cool climate, requires low yields to achieve high quality and demands a lot of attention in the vineyard and winery. It retains even more glory as an important component of Champagne as well as on its own in France’s Loire Valley and Alsace regions. This sensational grape enjoys immense international success, most notably growing in Oregon, California and New Zealand with smaller amounts in Chile, Germany (as Spätburgunder) and Italy (as Pinot Nero).
In the Glass
Pinot Noir is all about red fruit—strawberry, raspberry and cherry with some heftier styles delving into the red or purple plum and in the other direction, red or orange citrus. It is relatively pale in color with soft tannins and a lively acidity. With age (of which the best examples can handle an astounding amount) it can develop hauntingly alluring characteristics of fresh earth, savory spice, dried fruit and truffles.
Pinot’s healthy acidity cuts through the oiliness of pink-fleshed fish like salmon and tuna but its mild mannered tannins give it enough structure to pair with all sorts of poultry: chicken, quail and especially duck. As the namesake wine of Boeuf Bourguignon, Pinot noir has proven it isn’t afraid of beef. California examples work splendidly well with barbecue and Pinot Noir is also vegetarian-friendly—most notably with any dish that features mushrooms.
For administrative purposes, the region of Beaujolais is often included in Burgundy. But it is extremely different in terms of topography, soil and climate, and the important red grape here is ultimately Gamay, not Pinot noir. Truth be told, there is a tiny amount of Gamay sprinkled around the outlying parts of Burgundy (mainly in Maconnais) but it isn’t allowed with any great significance and certainly not in any Village or Cru level wines. So "red Burgundy" still necessarily refers to Pinot noir.