Monday, April 27, 2015

A Rex Hill Pinot to Remember

Well, now that the Canucks have been knocked out of this year's Stanley Cup playoffs, my evening TV viewing will certainly be freed up in the weeks to come. Looks like we'll probably move out of the BC Syrah for a bit seeing as how I made Syrah the theme wine for the Canuck/Flames series.

Now that I'm into the final 100 wines of this Wine Odyssey, I'm hoping to open a few bottles that we've been hiding away for awhile. Filling the glass with some Willamette Pinot seemed to be as good a place as any.

Our Vancouver market doesn't see a whole lot of Oregon wine available on general release at the government liquor stores. There might be a few wines in the specialty shops but I think you pretty much have to visit the private wine shops to find much in the way of selection and even those shops will likely have only a limited number of bottles to choose from. It's a shame given the proximity of Oregon to BC.

That being said, it's not too surprising that I don't have much of a grasp of Oregon wines. In light of that limited knowledge, it was an exciting time when I had a brief exposure to the region while attending the 2012 Wine Bloggers Conference that was held in Portland. One of my favourite memories of WBC12 was our visit to the Willamette Valley. Conference attendees were asked to jump onto a bus not knowing what their destination would be. Turns out that I made a great choice - our bus ended up at Rex Hill winery where they teamed up with an assortment of their neighbours for a vineyard tour, cellar tasting and wine dinner in the winery's garden.

It certainly didn't hurt that, during our dinner at Rex Hill, we were treated to a taste of the 1992 Pinot Noir - poured from a 9-litre Salmanazar bottle. That's a whole case of standard size bottles poured into one.

The afternoon and evening left enough of an impression that I made sure that Rex Hill was one of the half dozen or so wineries that Boo and I visited when we had a chance to spend a day in the Willamette on our California road trip a couple of years later.

I don't think I've ever seen a bottle of Rex Hill for sale in Vancouver; so I'm happy that I was able to pick a couple bottles during those two visits.

1906.  2008 Rex Hill Reserve Pinot Noir (Willamette Valley - Oregon)

The winery website says that 2008 was seen as "one of the finest vintages on record" at Rex Hill - "a vintage defined by the vineyard rather than the weather because each site developed fully to reveal their pedigree." The winery says that the '08 vintage should age gracefully for many years and we can attest to the fact that this bottle still had plenty of life to it. This was definitely a fruit-driven bottling but both Boo and I thought that the integration and complexity of the tannins and bright, dark cherry notes was both explosive and tasty. No doubt, the depth of flavours, in part, resulted from the fact that the Reserve Pinot is a blending of the winery's finest barrels from a variety of vineyards and blocks.

The estate vineyard, itself, is dry framed, using biodynamic farming practices. You can argue how big a part this decision may have played in the wine's profile but, in my mind at least, the dry farming should definitely result in reduced yields of more expressive grapes. Rex Hill was only established in 1982 and it saw a change in ownership in 2007 but the winery has concentrated on premium Pinot Noir since day one, with a small production of Chardonnay and Pinot Gris. During my WBC12 visit, we were told that they produce around 10,000 cases - as opposed to 100,000 - and they strive to make the best use of the land while revitalizing and enhancing that soil with products and by-products that come from the same lands.

For me, this is New World Pinot at its best - and the wine's a worthy addition to the Odyssey's last choices for The List.

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