cristom’s jessie vineyard pinot noirs – seriously brilliant

Monday, February 13, 2012

A couple of my recent blog posts have mentioned the wines of Oregon’s Cristom, most notably winemaker Steve Doerner’s astonishing pinot noirs. The Cristom 2009 Jessie Vineyard Pinot Noir ($50) was one of my Top 10 wines for January, described as “stylish, precise, elegant and evocative. The Jessie may be the best of an excellent single vineyard lineup from Cristom in 2009. Light toast rims deep black fruit flavors, with excellent concentration. The lengthy finish brings in streaks of espresso and clean earth. This has the balance and detail to reward significant cellaring.”

In fact, all the new releases from Cristom – which will shortly be reviewed and scored by me in Wine Enthusiast magazine – merit your serious attention. Here’s a preview of some of the highlights of my recent tasting.

Cristom 2009 Pinot Gris ($17) – a tart and beautifully-defined mix of apple and pear fruit, with a steely spine and dappled baking spices.

Cristom 2010 Estate Viognier ($26) – lovely, lemony jasmine tea scents and flavors abound in this delicate yet penetrating Viognier; pure elegance.

Cristom 2010 Germaine Vineyard Chardonnay ($25) – barrel-fermented, estate grown, luscious and creamy. The concentration is impressive, as is the deft use of barrel flavors throughout the finish.

Cristom 2009 Marjorie Vineyard Pinot Noir ($50) – forward flavors of strawberry preserves and candied orange, suggestive of marmalade, along with a streak of root beer and pleasing spice.

Cristom 2009 Eileen Vineyard Pinot Noir ($50) – a tight wine with hints of rose petals around a core of blackberry hard candy. The balance is superb, and the wine is lively with nuanced, dark notes.

Cristom 2009 Louise Vineyard Pinot Noir ($50) – classic Oregon Pinot Noir, at its most svelte and stylish. Fresh and clean upon entry, it showcases its raspberry and cherry fruit in a delicate “wrap” of leaf and bark.

A few weeks ago, in the course of preparing to move my wine cellar from Seattle to Waitsburg, I came upon a stash of older Cristom pinots, and, as I wrote in this blog, I opened a 2002 Cristom Jessie Vineyard bottling. It was so fresh, vivid and flat out delicious that I wrote a note of appreciation to winemaker Steve Doerner.

As a thanks for my thanks, he sent three older wines from the winery library, as further evidence of their ageability. Now, I am fortunate to be able to frequently taste older vintages from both Oregon and Washington, and I am a firm believer in the ability of many of these wines to age gracefully into a resonant maturity.

But rarely – and I mean this sincerely – rarely do I experience a wine that has not only aged well, but has substantially improved with time. I mean gotten better – way better – rather than just different. Last night I popped one of the Cristom library bottles – a 1999 Jessie Vineyard Pinot Noir. It may have been the first vintage from this vineyard, certainly one of the first two or three. And it is truly one of the greatest Oregon pinots I have ever experienced. The friend who happened to be dining with us and shared the bottle compared it to a 1971 DRC Echezaux, and called it one of the greatest wines of any variety he’d ever tasted. I would wholeheartedly agree.


Chris Wallace said...

I could not agree with you more about Cristom producing excellent Pinot Noir, especially from the "Ladies". The most recent vintage I have tasted is the 2006 and I think it definitely has the stuff to improve for another decade. Based on your report on the 1999, I think I'll wait a while before I open any more. I have a few Mt Jefferson Cuvees and Summerland Reserves that should tide me over until it is time to open those Ladies.

Sunshine Mountain Vineyard said...

I've heard so many good things about this wine. Maybe it's about time that i give it a shot! Great blog sir! Cheers!

Anonymous said...

We recently became members of Cristom's wine club. We stopped by the winery while out with some friends and stumbled upon a "member's only" tasting. Not only did they warmly invited us in, though none of us were members, we were treated like royalty and had some of the most amazing full library pinot noirs we'd had in a long time (and we are long time Pinot Pigs). Joining their club was a no-brainer. These folks are what excellent pinot noir (and customer service) is all about.

Erik McLaughlin said...

Paul, so sad you missed the Celilo Vineyard Chardonnays tasting at my house this week. Included in that was a 1994 Cristom Chardonnay made from Celilo Vineyard. It was one of the standounts of the tasting. Remarkably preserved and one of the most dense, powerful wines of an impressive lineup.

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