IF LOVE IS BLIND, falling for a great wine should happen sight unseen. For this biannual feature, our marathon wine tastings were conducted over four days, fully blind, with hundreds of brown-bagged bottles hiding their stories and secrets from our panelists’ discerning noses and palates. Spanning four years’ worth of vintages, 19 varietals, 15 appellations, and 103 producers, the wines were separated only by color, resulting in a free-for-all of passionate judgment. Armed only with a glass, a spit bucket, a few pieces of baguette, and a pen, our tasters tackled row after row of anonymous specimens marked with Post-its. If a judge liked what she sipped, the wine received a check mark and moved on to the next round. Wines that made it through to the finals were then carefully tasted for fruit characteristics, acidity, alcohol, balance, tannins, and overall quality, with every decision surrounded by plenty of healthy debate. The result? Our list of Oregon’s 50 most lovable wines available right now. —Allison Jones







The List

Why only Pinots?

Where are all the other reds? As you scan this list, you’ll probably notice a trend: every single one of our 35 top red wines is a pinot noir. While Oregon’s production of “the other reds”—merlot, cabernet sauvignon, syrah, zinfan del, and others—is quickly growing, much of our state’s winemaking energy is still devoted to the granddaddy of Oregon grapes. The first varietal to be widely grown in the Willamette Valley, where the climate is ideal, pinot noir has put our verdant vineyards solidly on the radar of oenophiles around the globe. that means thriving markets for Oregon winemakers, which lead to greater investment in pinot production. But trust us: there are plenty of other delicious wines out there just waiting to be sipped.

IF LOVE IS BLIND, falling for a great wine should happen sight unseen. For this biannual feature, our marathon wine tastings were conducted over four days, fully blind, with hundreds of brown-bagged bottles hiding their stories and secrets from our panelists’ discerning noses and palates. Spanning four years’ worth of vintages, 19 varietals, 15 appellations, and 103 producers, the wines were separated only by color, resulting in a free-for-all of passionate judgment. Armed only with a glass, a spit bucket, a few pieces of baguette, and a pen, our tasters tackled row after row of anonymous specimens marked with Post-its. If a judge liked what she sipped, the wine received a check mark and moved on to the next round. Wines that made it through to the finals were then carefully tasted for fruit characteristics, acidity, alcohol, balance, tannins, and overall quality, with every decision surrounded by plenty of healthy debate. The result? Our list of Oregon’s 50 most lovable wines available right now. —Allison Jones

The List

Why only Pinots?

Where are all the other reds? As you scan this list, you’ll probably notice a trend: every single one of our 35 top red wines is a pinot noir. While Oregon’s production of “the other reds”—merlot, cabernet sauvignon, syrah, zinfan del, and others—is quickly growing, much of our state’s winemaking energy is still devoted to the granddaddy of Oregon grapes. The first varietal to be widely grown in the Willamette Valley, where the climate is ideal, pinot noir has put our verdant vineyards solidly on the radar of oenophiles around the globe. that means thriving markets for Oregon winemakers, which lead to greater investment in pinot production. But trust us: there are plenty of other delicious wines out there just waiting to be sipped.

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Rating 96

No. 1

Soter Vineyards

2008 Pinot Noir Mineral Springs Yamhill-Carlton, $85

This reserve pinot noir from Soter's estate vineyard, Mineral Springs Ranch, reflects Tony Soter's lifelong pursuit of the "winemaker's signature." The full-bodied, balanced wine captures a true sense of place and time—the vineyard's well-draining siltstone soils stood up to the wet spring of 2008 and the hilltop's slope captured the warm fall that followed, resulting in even ripening and ideal acid balance. Thanks to a week of extended maceration—contact with grape skins and stems after fermentation—this wine's soft tannins and silky, full texture make a perfect vehicle for the lush flavors of ripe black cherries, rose petals, and a whole spice rack full of herbs, cloves, and peppers. Such a quality wine will improve for over a decade, but the Mineral Springs' bright acidity and intense fruit make it absolutely delicious right now.

Rating 95

No. 2

Utopia Vineyard

2008 Pinot Noir Utopia Vineyard Ribbon Ridge, $38

Utopia's Daniel Warnshuis took a gamble in 2008, waiting to harvest until the last possible moment to allow his grapes to ripen to their fullest flavor. That gamble paid off in this gorgeous wine, rich with flavors of sweet cherry, sarsaparilla, rose petals, and ripe blackberries. Dark and dense with silky tannins, oaky creaminess, and an extremely long and satisfying finish, this expertly made wine was built to last.

Rating 94

No. 3

1789 Wines

2008 Pinot Noir Single Vineyard Chehalem Mountains, $48

Grapes for this refined wine were hand-selected and gently processed to bring out maximum fruit aromatics and a deep red color. The rich, balanced wine is lush with flavors of red berries, leather, and black pepper that combine with silky tannins and a long, toffee-noted finish for a sensual sip.

No. 4

Daedalus Cellars

2008 Pinot Noir Maresh Vineyard Dundee Hills, $60

One of the oldest plantings in the Dundee Hills, Maresh Vineyard produces grapes with juicy, bright fruit and herb flavors and a clean structure that combine into a lively, balanced wine. Rich with strawberry, orange blossom, and black pepper notes, this small-production vintage—only 146 cases—is sure to go fast.

No. 5

Andrew Rich

2009 Pinot Noir Prelude Willamette Valley, $22

Our top wallet-friendly wine features a beautiful blend of floral notes and bright cherry flavors that linger on the palate. One of the premier wines from the Carlton Winemaker's Studio, Andrew Rich's Prelude is refreshing, light, and full with balanced acidity and soft tannins that will pair well with a wide variety of foods.

Rating 93

No. 6

Broadley Vineyards

2009 Pinot Noir Claudia's Choice Willamette Valley, $50

Made from a selection of fruit from Broadley's oldest vineyard, this wine is elegant, earthy, and mature. With up-front flavors of dark chocolate and black pepper, Claudia's Choice is softened by juicy notes of black cherry. Beautifully balanced with a long finish, this wine is robust and tannic.

No. 7

ROCO winery

2008 Pinot Noir Private Stash No. 6 Chehalem Mountains, $70

The late harvest of 2008 shines through with ripe fruit flavor, balanced acidity, and developed yet soft tannins. This wine is creamy and lush with sweet spices—think cinnamon, cloves, and allspice—and ripe berries, like a late-summer fruit cobbler in a glass.

No. 8

Thistle

2008 Pinot Noir Dundee Hills $28

Rich, red volcanic soils and organic vines shine through in the earthy flavors of this 2008 pinot's creamy, smooth finish. With plush flavors of sweet strawberry jam, dried cherries, and rich dark chocolate, this wine begs to be paired with duck or game.

Rating 92

No. 9

Rex Hill Vineyards

2009 Pinot Noir Willamette Valley, $33

Though Rex Hill uses "small" fermenters, there is nothing small about this wine. With aromatics bursting with roses, currants, and strawberries and flavors of fried plums, smoke, and spice, this is a big wine with strong tannins and a long, complex finish. While some pinots shine primarily through their scent, this wine is excellent on both nose and palate.

No.10

Bergström wines

2009 Pinot Noir de Lancellotti Chehalem Mountains, $60

The well-draining soils of the Chehalem Mountains lend pinot noir a graceful, slow development that shines in the bottle. This fruit-forward wine offers rich flavors of plum, ripe blackberries, sage, and spice. Powerful and dark, its balanced tannins and acidity combine for a smooth and enjoyable sip.

No. 11

Cameron

Vineyards 2009 Pinot Noir Dundee Hills, $25

Cameron wines are characterized by dry farming—using little to no irrigation—which allows them to highlight the unique characteristics of each vintage. Floral flavors and juicy red fruit on the tongue accent striking scents of dark cherries, hay, and leather. With strong tannins and mild acidity, this accessible bottle will be delightful for outdoor barbecues and nights on the porch.

No. 12

Matello

2009 Pinot Noir Souris Willamette Valley, $39

This delicious wine shows rich fruit depth with flavors of strawberry jam, berry cobbler, and brandied cherries. A long and strong finish allows those tasty flavors to linger. (See "Taster's Choice," p. 66.)

Rating 91

No.13

Eyrie Vineyards

2009 Pinot Noir Reserve Dundee Hills, $62

This complex wine spends nearly two years in barrel, showing developed sweet and savory qualities with flavors ranging from rare steak to ripe blueberries. Offering one of the longest finishes of the bunch, this light wine is clean, bright, and delicious.

No.14

Patton Valley Vineyards

2008 Pinot Noir Lorna-Marie Willamette Valley, $70

With heady fruit scents that jump out of the glass and complex flavors of allspice, vanilla, orange, and raspberry, this balanced, focused wine is soft and creamy. This bottle is also meant to age, and will deepen and soften over the next five years.

No.15

Broadley Vineyards

2009 Pinot Noir Reserve Willamette Valley, $38

A select blend of the best barrels of Broadley's 777 clones, this carefully oaked wine is earthy and spiced, with a strong flavor of ripe, dark blackberries. The long finish and smooth texture of this unfiltered wine hint at its craftsmanship.

No.16

Luminous Hills

2009 Pinot Noir Estate Grown Yamhill-Carlton, $28

Winemaker Byron Dooley (who also owns Seven of Hearts Winery) selected the best grapes from the Luminous Hills estate to bring out the herbal aromatics and juicy fruitiness of this perfumed wine. Native fermentation—using yeast naturally present on the grapes and in the air—lends an earthy, savory flavor that would pair well with grilled meats.

No.17

De Ponte cellars

2008 Pinot Noir Baldwin Family Reserve Dundee Hills, $70

This wine offers scents of coffee and caramel along with notes of blackberry and black currant, but is more earthy than fruit-forward. With balanced minerality and layers of flavor, this wine will pair well with hazelnuts, tomato-based Italian sauces, and chocolate.