2015 Ayres Pinot Noir Perspective
$30 / bottle
Pinotguy 92 Points
Premium Wine Club

I’m often called upon to bring a pinot noir to some tasting event. Sometimes it’s a party, sometimes it’s a blind tasting of pinot noir hosted by wine aficionados. When I want a reasonably priced wine that’s going to outshine the other wines, and that will win a blind tasting against many more expensive wines, I grab a bottle from Ayres. Just last year, in fact, I included this wine in a blind tasting and it was the clear winner against a 94-point, $65 blockbuster (that I also brought). Ayres is an extgremely reliable source of excellent wine that is always a bit underpriced relative to equal quality wines in the market.

The 2015 Ayres Pinot Noir Perspective is a big, rambunctious mouthful of savory, pure, red and dark red fruit made with a blend of estate-grown fruit and other parcels, all from the tiny Ribbon Ridge AVA.. The 2015 Perspective packs a lot of fruit intensity into a open-knit, early-drinking with a very supple texture, perfectly pitched balancing acidity, and low tannins. All in all, it is a fruit-centric wine that is irresistible for current drinking.

From the winery literature: “Founded in 2000, our estate includes 18 acres planted to Pinot Noir Dijon clones 667, 115, 777, 113, and Pommard all situated on a gently eastern sloping hill; Willakenzie soils predominate the vineyard.  We are committed to sustainable growing practices; our health, the earth’s health, and the health of the plant are our top priorities. We limit each plant to less than two pounds of fruit and it shows…our clusters are beautiful.  Ayres Vineyard achieved LIVE and Salmon Safe certification status in early 2011.

“Winemaker Brad McLeroy honed his winemaking skills at the famed Domaine Drouhin Oregon under the direction of Veronique Drouhin. His full-time position at Ayres completes his circle of wine experience from retailer to distributor to producer. According to McLeroy, “My wines will always have a soul.” Open a bottle and it shows… We believe our wine gives voice to the soil. We believe that our wine guides us as much as we guide our wine. It’s about reciprocity. It’s a relationship that begins in the vineyard, from the first sign of bud break to the last cluster harvested. We have the luxury of growing the grapes, making the wine on-site, and living in the company of the vines. We love what we do here at Ayres.”

2015 Vinum FeRUS 
Pinot Noir Valour
$22 / bottle
Pinotguy 90 Points
Premium Wine Club

Here’s a decent new pinot noir from a cheeky, new-ish ultra-small producer, Vinum FeRUS. Proprietor / Winemaker Natalie Bowman Lee came to wine in a somewhat roundabout way, dabbling with med school and working in a wine shop before plunging into the wine game in a serious fashion. Now she’s one of a legion of new, small producers tromping around Portland, Oregon, trying to hand-sell their small-lot pinot noir in what must be the world’s toughest market for Oregon Pinot Noir. But unlike many of the newcomers, Lee did a couple things exactly right.

First, she made a pinot noir that tastes good!  This is no small achievement, and many fail to do so with their first attempts. Perhaps her time spent employed at Sanford Winery, known for their California pinot noir, gets partial credit for this.

The second good move was to call me up and offer to pour her wine. You’d be amazed how many winemakers don’t bother. Yes, I’ve been known to make some of them cry (I’m dedicated to vinous truth, and some folks don’t want to hear that.) But if the wine is decent, I can be a good customer. I was impressed that Ms. Lee was quite cognizant of exactly what she was selling: I know what I’ve got here, she told me, while expressing aspirations for making pinot in the future worthy of a more lofty price point.

In this case, the wine is tasty and worthy. And fairly priced, which is another key factor. You’d also be amazed at the number of poor pinot noirs I taste that are asking for $40 – $60 per bottle, or more . . .The 2015 Vinum FeRUS Pinot Noir Valour is a pretty, juicy, forward wine, medium bodied and red-fruited, with spot-on balance and a clean, long finish. It’s entirely worth the money being asked, and represents a great value in a very heated pinot noir marketplace. You should drink this sooner than later, but it will be fine for a couple of years in the cellar, if you can wait that long.

Vinum FeRUS also gets points for having a not-boring creation story! So, I’ve cribbed the entire thing from the winery literature and included it below:

“Natalie Bowman Lee suffered with the burden of oxymorons, from a heart torn between fashion or sports, to majoring in music or science, to the question of remaining wild and free or settling down…

“So what glorious serendipity that she took a job at a wine shop in tiny Watkinsville, GA, while studying genetics as a pre-med degree at the University of Georgia. After just one month in this shop, the largest epiphany of her life occurred, winemaking was the only thing in the world she could ever want to do. Medical school became at once null and void.

“For wine is the queen of oxymorons. Wine is the integration of seemingly disparate elements that compromise Natalie’s world. On one hand wine is hard grunt labor and the raw and sometimes brutal Mother Nature. On the other hand it is frivolity and luxury. The art of making wine itself is a combination of trying to control a wild and unpredictable reaction of nature.

“Once this epiphany occurred, it began a grand adventure that has led her from a Southern Belle in the Deep South to an enologist at Sanford Winery in the land of Sunshine of California, to a Certified Sommelier in the High Mountains of Colorado to her new home as a winemaker and International Woman of Mystery in the magical land of Oregon, where she lives the ultimate oxymoron of Refined Savagery.”


2015 Communique Pinot Noir Calamity Hill
$55 / bottle
Pinotguy 93 Points
World Class Club


Winemaker Ryan Sherman is a guy who has always been around food and wine. First, it was mostly about food as he became fascinated by restaurants, trained as a chef at the New England Culinary Institute, and starting at a fairly young age, moved through the New York City ranks with the help of colleagues like Tom Coliccio – in fact, Sherman served as the Assistant Sommelier at the Gramercy Tavern. At his chefly pinnacle, Sherman owned two New York-area restaurants and was well regarded, according to old press articles.

But over time, wine became his paramount passion. So with his paramour he made a pilgrimage to New Zealand, where he obtained a degree in viticulture (grape gowing) and oenology (winemaking) and spent a few harvests making wine.

Now it’s Oregon’s turn to be host to Sherman’s vinous ambitions, in the form of Communique Wines. The winery started bottling juice with the 2014 vintage, and the wine lineup includes a respectable rose, a very good Riesling, and of course some pinot noir. Total production is a meager 425 cases, which is larger than some Oregon wineries, but smaller than almost all of them.

The 2015 Communique Pinot Noir Calamity Hill is a somewhat strapping, intense wine with plenty of extract, and a rich, supple mouthfeel. Like many wines of the vintage, it shows off scads of fruit and is relatively forward, achieving balance through leavening acidity. The fruit is red to dark red on the flavor spectrum, and has a saturated fruit character that hints at notes of raspberry liquor or kirsch. Overall it is layered, lengthy and balanced. It’s quite pleasurable to drink now, but has the density to cellar for at least the mid-term. In a ripe vintage, the Communique sport just over 14% abv.  A scant 100 cases were bottled.


2015 Walter Scott Pinot Noir Dubay Vineyard
$50 / bottle
Pinotguy 93 Points
World Class Wine Club

Rhetorical question: If Ken Pahlow and Erica Landon did NOT have an adorable, 3-year old daughter names Lucy, who is featured in many, many cute photos on Facebooks, would their winery be as successful?  I suspect that beguiling little girl is an important key to their success.

Walter Scott Wines is without question the producteur de la momentin Oregon. A series of big-magazine write-ups, very strong critical scores, and an online marketing campaign that includes the super-cute 3 year old daughter of the winemaker wandering the vineyards have all combined to make this brand red hot.

But it’s not like it was an overnight success. Winemaker Ken Pahlow spent 20 years in the trenches, doing all the jobs one could possibly do for St. Innocent (14 years), and then with key stints at Patricia Green Cellars and Evening Land Vineyards during those heady, early days. Landon was Portland’s top somm for many of those same years. Now the couple is  five years into their own label, the “hot new winery” is actually the product of decades of effort and experience.

Here’s a recent blurb from The Wine Spectator:

“Ken Pahlow managed sales and marketing for Evening Land. His wife, Erica Landon, worked as a sommelier in the Portland area and taught courses for professionals. They made small quantities of their own wine before building a winery adjacent to Justice Vineyard in Eola-Amity Hills in time for the 2014 vintage. They buy grapes from favorite growers, producing both blends and single-vineyard bottlings, and they’ve now increased production enough to sell outside the state. The style aims for elegant fruit expression, with the best versions showing sleekness and presence.”

The winery recently released their 2015 pinots, and it is a stellar lineup. Alas, they are mostly sold out already. However, we are pleased to offer a the 2015 Dubay Vineyard bottling for our wine club members. Alas, we have enough only for the wine club, and none for open-stock sales.

The wine at this stage shows the kind of finesse-with-power that the best Oregon pinots present. A tad young and focused at the moment, the quality shows through in the exquisite balance and impressive length. The wine made from low-yielding vines from Dubay Vineyard, in the Eola-Amity Hills AVA (home to St. Innocent, Evening Land, Cristom, and other producers who have had influence over winemaker Pahlow). It’s worth sitting with over a 2-3 day period now, and will perform best 3-5 years from the vintage date. With time, this wine will pick up more color, and show a richer texture as the fruit unwinds and starts to show.  Decant for drinking now, and consider sampling it over 2-3 days, or wait six months to several years.

Older Post Newer Post