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Sokol Blosser Watershed 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 Mediterranean 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 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. Silty, loess soils are found in the Chehalem Mountains.
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.