Wine Review: North Hill 2011 Oregon Pinot Noir, Holloran Vineyard Wines

Image credit: Anthony Beal
Image credit: Anthony Beal

The largest concentration of vineyards and wineries in Oregon is found in the Willamette Valley AVA. Besides enjoying the state’s highest amount of daylight hours, Willamette Valley’s temperature is moderated by the cooling influences of its proximity to the Pacific Ocean. These attributes combine to provide ideal winegrowing conditions for cool climate varieties like Pinot Noir. A thin-skinned grape, Pinot Noir rarely produces deeply-colored wines, but can exhibit an extensive range of flavor and personality dependent upon its age. When young, it tends to lead with red fruit characteristics that evolve to more vegetal, animal expressions as it ages. Holloran Vineyard Wines’ North Hill 2011 Pinot Noir, despite being a fairly recent vintage, presents elements of the old as well as the new.

A pale ruby-colored wine, this Pinot weeps readily when swirled, forming narrow, colorless tears. It has a clean, complex nose filled with red and black fruit aromatics like cranberry, fresh-picked raspberry, blackberry, and black currant. These overlay distinct animal notes that are generally indicative of more age than a typical 2011 would display, like faint farmyard and fainter suggestions of new leather. This wine smells like a glass of late-June dusk, the scent of a berry farm harvest winding down for the day.

Dry, with medium acid and alcohol, the wine offers up a minimal tannin level that integrates well with its more expressive qualities in the glass and on the tongue. Much of its volatile aroma carries through onto the palate, with a savory, slightly meaty element joining the taste of red and black berries to complement a moderately intense flavor profile with no shortage of layering. That this Pinot Noir has spent some time in oak is evident in the taste as well.

This wine would add considerable dimension to a meal of roasted pork, seared salmon, paella, or burgers made from low-fat ground turkey or ground chicken. Lean roasted duck breast remains an ever-popular Pinot Noir pairing among those who enjoy Pinots, and it’s a personal favorite of mine as well. This wine upholds and validates that sentiment. Brought together in the same meal, this wine would give roasted duck breast its class ring. It would make roasted duck breast a mixtape that says every affectionate thing the wine can’t say. This wine would take roasted duck breast home to meet its parents before expressing its desire to begin a life together and start a family.

An elegant overall balance and medium finish make North Hill 2011 Oregon Pinot Noir a safe bet for Pinot Noir drinkers looking for a wine with a little something more than simple fruit to offer. Its animal and vegetal aromas and the animal palate characteristics belie its relatively youthful age in a way that is absent from older, fruitier Pinot Noir vintages I’ve tasted. Though its flavors when it is drunk alone aren’t quite the luxury that they are when food is present to accompany them, the drinking experience is nonetheless an enjoyable one, and the wine obviously of good to very good quality. This is not a wine that I would pour a glass of before turning on some tunes and heading into a relaxing bath. It isn’t one that I would nurse while enjoying some me-time down at my local bar. This is, however, one wine that I would pour without reservation at my next dinner party or holiday gathering, confident that my guests will enjoy hearing all that it has to tell them.

Holloran Vineyard Wines has a current planted acreage of 34. It farms and harvests grapes from its own vineyards, sometimes purchasing additional grapes from other high-quality sites in Oregon’s Willamette Valley. The winery’s three vineyards are Le Pavillon Vineyard in Dundee, Oregon (planted between 1972 and 1974), Le Chenaie in Rickreall, Oregon (planted beginning in 2001), and Meute de Chiens Estate Vineyard (planted between 1999 and 2003.)

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