WHAT: Pinot noir lovers are a fanatical lot. They can talk for hours about the virtues of this finicky grape.
Some like a particular style, others like many styles, and there are a range of styles to choose from. Pinot is grown all over the world, from Burgundy to California to New Zealand and many points in between.
One thing most pinot noir lovers agree on is that Oregon makes some of the finest pinot on the planet. The Raptor Ridge Estate Pinot Noir is a great example of that state’s expertise.
It is full of lush, rich fruit flavors without being a jammy fruit bomb. It’s a very in-your-face wine without being obnoxious. There is nothing shy or quiet about it.
The wine starts with a deep cherry red color in the glass, with enticing aromas of cherry, pomegranate and plum mixed with floral and spice notes.
On the palate, the juicy fruit notes jump out at you first, followed by more subtle notes of lavender, nutmeg and pepper.
Crisp acidity and polished tannins make this a great food wine.
After harvest, the grapes were completely destemmed and cold soaked for eight days. Fermentors then were warmed to 75 degrees and inoculated with both commercial and native yeasts. Fermentation lasted 18 days.
After gently pressing the wine off its skins, winemakers settled it in tanks for 24 hours and placed it into 29 percent new French oak barrels, where it remained for nine months.
Although production is still relatively small compared to the great wine regions of the world, Oregon pinot noirs – especially those from the Willamette Valley south of Portland – rank consistently among the top wines in the world.
Although wine has been made in Oregon since the 1850s, wine production didn’t become a significant industry there until the 1960s.
By 1970, there were five commercial wineries with 35 total acres. Now there are more than 600 wineries with more than 27,000 acres. Pinot noir accounts for more than half the vines planted.
As the quality of Oregon wines continues to rise, so does the popularity of the wines.
Pinot gris and chardonnay are growing in popularity in Oregon, but pinot noir is still king. If you are not familiar with Oregon wines, you should give them a try.
WINERY: Raptor Ridge was founded in 1995 by a couple of people who love wine, Scott and Anne Shull.
It is named for the location of the property on a ridge in the Chehalem Mountains AVA because it is a haven for native raptors.
Starting as a “garage” winery when the Shulls hosted tastings in their home, the winery has grown. A new vineyard was cleared in 2000 and a shiny new tasting room opened in 2010.
The winery, located just 20 miles from Portland, now offers many special experiences for visitors, including vine-side tastings, chef-inspired tastings and yoga retreats with a view to four mountaintops.
They specialize in hand-grown single vineyard pinot noir sourced from several select Willamette Valley sites as well as their own estate, known as Tuscowallame. The name is an indigenous word meaning “where the owls dwell.”
Besides the single vineyard wines, the winemakers create intriguing blends from the hundreds of separate lots of wine they make. They end up with many vineyard-specific barrels of wine, adding diversity and nuance to the cellar-crafted cuvées.
The wines start off in price with the barrel select ($30) ranging up through the Estate and include single vineyard wines such as Shea ($55) and Meredith Mitchell ($45).
Other wines include Pinot Gris ($20) and limited production wines such as Grüner Veltliner ($20), Rosé of Pinot Noir ($20), Tempranillo from Folin Vineyards ($35) and a Sparkling Brut Rosé ($63). Each label depicts a distinct feather from one of the native raptors that provide natural protection for the estate vineyard.
Scott describes his approach to winemaking as “methodical intuition,” blending meticulous preparation and attention to detail with the intuition that comes with the expertise developed over many vintages.
He is a self-taught winemaker, having learned by voracious reading and many courses on viticulture and enology through University of California at Davis and Chemeketa Community College.
Annie oversees national sales and marketing, and travels extensively to personally represent Raptor Ridge. She is also personally involved in creating the revitalizing guest experience for which the winery is known.
GOES WITH: We had the Raptor Ridge Estate Pinot Noir with a pork tenderloin that I cooked on top of the stove, and it was a great pairing. I usually cook tenderloins on the grill, but I wanted to try something different. So I looked in the Cooks Illustrated cookbook my stepdaughter bought me for Christmas years ago, and they had a stovetop recipe that promised to keep the meat moist as it cooked.
It turned out to be a great recipe that was easy to fix.
Because tenderloin has so little fat, you have to do something to keep it from drying out while cooking. This recipe called for browning the meat on all sides in butter and olive oil, then simmering it in
the frying pan with the lid on.
I also seasoned it with salt, pepper, garlic powder and Morton’s Natures Seasons. It cooked for about 30 minutes, until the internal temperature of the tenderloin reached 150 degrees.
Then I sliced and served the pork with dumplings and sauerkraut. It was similar to a meal my mother would serve when she would cook a whole pork loin in the oven for hours.
This pinot was a perfect flavor match for the pork. Its fresh fruit flavors played off the savory pork.
My wife, Teri, loved the raspberry flavors in the wine and thought they were especially good with the pork.
The wine also would pair well with wild mushroom risotto, grilled duck, salmon, veal or roast chicken.