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Sokol Blosser Old Vineyard Block Pinot Noir 1998
For 47 years – even before there was an Oregon wine industry – the Sokol Blosser family has been perfecting Pinot Noir. Since founders Susan Sokol Blosser and Bill Blosser planted their first vines in 1971, the family has pursued winemaking excellence through environmentally friendly techniques. Today, situated on a certified organic 85-acre property in the Dundee Hills appellation, and farming another 43 acres of vineyards in Dundee Hills and Eola-Amity Hills, B Corp-certified Sokol Blosser remains committed to a sustainable approach. This respect for nature has consistently captured the terroir of the region, showcasing its essence through the brilliance of its estate fruit.
Now with the second generation of Sokol Blossers at the helm, the winery is poised to enter a new millennium of winemaking and sustainability under the guidance of CEO and Co-President Alison Sokol Blosser, along with winemaker and Co-President Alex Sokol Blosser. As the new generation continues the legacy of Sokol Blosser’s founders, the focus remains on crafting exemplary wines through sustainable methods. It’s no mere coincidence that such practices have had the happy consequence of enhancing the excellence of Sokol Blosser’s Pinot Noir. In addition to the official recognition received for its environmental practices, Sokol Blosser has consistently won recognition for its quality wines. Being good to the earth – farming, buying and building through the lens of sustainability – is really about paying attention to and respecting the details. There is no other way to make great Pinot.
One of Pinot Noir’s most successful New World outposts, the Willamette Valley is the largest and most important AVA in Oregon. With a temperate climate moderated by a Pacific Ocean influence, it is perfect for cool-climate viticulture—warm and dry summers allow for steady, even ripening, and frost is rarely a risk during spring and even winter. Mountain ranges bordering three sides of the valley, particularly the Chehalem Mountains, provide the option for higher-elevation, cooler vineyard sites. The three prominent soil types here create significant differences in wine styles between vineyards and sub-AVAs. The iron-rich, basalt-based Jory volcanic soils found commonly in the Dundee Hills are rich in clay and hold water well; the chalky, sedimentary soils of Ribbon Ridge, Yamhill-Carlton, and McMinnville encourage complex root systems as vines struggle to search for water and minerals. The silty loess found in the Chehalem Mountains, somewhere in between the other two in texture, is fertile and well-draining but erodes easily, creating challenges for growers but necessitating careful vineyard management.
The celebrated Pinot Noir of the Willamette Valley typically offers supple red fruit, especially cranberry, without the powerful punch often packed by its California counterparts. Elegance is paramount here, and fruit flavors are balanced by forest floor, wild mushroom, and dried herbs—much more in line with Burgundian examples of the variety. Chardonnay too takes its inspiration from the French motherland, focusing on tart, crisp fruit and minerality, rarely relying upon heavy new oak. Pinot Gris here is fleshy and bright, and Riesling is dry, aromatic, and citrus-focused.
One of the most difficult yet rewarding grapes to grow, Pinot Noir is commonly referred to by winemakers as the “heartbreak grape.” However, the greatest red wines of Burgundy prove that it is unquestionably worth the effort. More reflective than most varieties of the land on which it is grown, Pinot Noir prefers a cool climate, requires low yields to achieve high quality, and demands care in the vineyard and lots of attention in the winery. It is an important component of Champagne and the only variety permitted in red Burgundy. Pinot Noir enjoys immense popularity internationally, most notably in Oregon, California, and New Zealand.
In the Glass
Pinot Noir Is all about red fruit—strawberry, raspberry, and cherry. It is relatively pale in color with soft tannins and lively acidity. It ranges in body from very light to the heavier side of medium, typically landing somewhere in the middle—giving it extensive possibilities for food pairing. With age (of which the best examples can handle an astounding amount), it can develop hauntingly beautiful characteristics of fresh earth, autumn leaves, and truffles.
Pinot’s healthy acidity cuts through the oiliness of pink-fleshed fish like salmon, ocean trout, and tuna. Its mild mannered tannins don’t fight with spicy food, and give it enough structure to pair with all sorts of poultry—chicken, quail, and especially duck. As the namesake wine of Boeuf Bourguignon, it can even match with heavier fare. Pinot Noir is also very vegetarian-friendly—most notably with any dish that features mushrooms.
Pinot Noir is dangerously drinkable, highly addictive, and has a bad habit of emptying the wallet. Look for affordable but still delicious examples from Germany (as Spätburgunder), Italy (as Pinot Nero), Chile, New Zealand, and France’s Loire Valley and Alsace regions.