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St. Innocent Anden Vineyard Pinot Noir 2002
The first Pinot noir I made at St. Innocent was produced from vines at this vineyard. That was the 1988 Pinot noir, Willamette Valley. The 1988, 1989, and 1990 vintages set very little Pinot noir fruit. In 1988 and 1989, the fruit from Anden (then called Seven Springs) was blended with Pinot noir from other sites to produce the 1988 and 1989 Reserve Pinot noirs. There was just not enough grapes to make a single vineyard wine. 1990 was the first vintage of vineyard designated Seven Springs (from what is now the Anden block).
A new planting at Seven Springs, commisioned by St. Innocent, came into production in 1991. Those young vines were blended with the original block to produce the 1991 Pinot noir, Seven Springs. These two blocks were blended together for each St. Innocent vineyard designated wine through the 2000 vintage. St. Innocent was the ONLY winery with Pinot noir made from a blend of both blocks.
The owners of Seven Springs divided the vineyard in 2001. The older, original block, sited lower on the hill, became Anden Vineyard. The upper block, which came into production in 1991, continued to be called Seven Springs.
The older vines bring greater structure to the 2002 Pinot noir, Anden Vineyard. Wild, black fruit, spice, and pepper aromas are reflected onto the palate. The tannins are substantial and are in harmony with the powerful fruit.
The 2002 Pinot noir, Anden Vineyard was not released with the other fall wines. I felt that its richer structure would benefit from several more months of bottle age. When I was visited by Pierre Rovani of THE WINE ADVOCATE, I did not show the wine, thus it was not included in the review.
I believe that the '01 and '02 Pinot noir, Seven Springs closely resemble the previous Seven Springs vineyard wines. The 2002 Pinot noir, Anden reflects a different terroir - one with more intensity and wildness. The Anden vineyard wines will certainly benefit from extended aging and will improve for at least 12 years.
St. Innocent produces small lot, handmade wines: seven single vineyard Pinot noirs and a blended Pinot noir called the Villages Cuvée, two Chardonnay from Dijon clone plantings, two Pinot gris, and a Pinot blanc.
The philosophy behind the winemaking at St Innocent is that the function of wine is to complement and extend the pleasure of a meal. The characteristics of a wine should enhance different food and flavor combinations - this interaction amplifies the pleasure of a meal. To this end, St. Innocent wines tend toward higher acid levels, and more diverse and balanced flavors.
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.