WHAT: From the wines I have tasted, I would say the three best places in the world to grow pinot noir grapes are the Burgundy region of France, Marlborough in New Zealand and the Willamette Valley in Oregon.
Most of the wines you find from those regions are pretty pricey, and they are worth it.
Land is expensive and pinot noir is notoriously difficult to grow. There are too many things that can go wrong when you’re trying to produce pinot noir. But when everything comes together perfectly, the results are spectacular.
That’s why it was such a surprise to find an outstanding pinot noir like Pike Road at such a reasonable price.
The wine is ruby red in the glass with aromas of ripe cherries and cola. It has a warm mouthfeel with luscious flavors of black cherry, raspberry and cocoa. Smooth tannins and gentle acidity lead to a long, pleasant finish. This is a rich, concentrated, elegant wine.
This really shouldn’t be a surprise because Pike Road has a great pedigree. It is the second label for the Campbell family, who produce blockbuster wines at Elk Cove Vineyards. They specialize in pinot noir and pinot gris at both wineries. The 2014 vintage is the first harvest for Pike Road.
The Pike Road pinot noir is made from 100 percent Willamette Valley pinot noir grapes, mostly from six estate vineyard sites. The winemakers also bought small lots of grapes from other sites in the Willamette Valley. Using fruit from multiple sites adds to the complexity of the wine.
The grapes are hand-picked and hand-sorted before fermentation in small open-top stainless steel tanks. The wine then spends 10 months in 100 percent French oak barrels.
The wine comes in a convenient screw-cap bottle with a label featuring a beautiful painting of the vineyards planted on rolling hills.
Oregon winemakers called the 2014 season a dream that produced a large crop of concentrated fruit. Many people in the industry are calling it possibly the best vintage yet in Oregon. Sounds like a good time to be trying Oregon pinot noir.
WINERY: Pat and Joe Campbell were pioneers in the Oregon wine industry, planting their first vineyard in 1965. They founded Elk Cove Vineyards in 1974, and their son, Adam, joined as winemaker in 1995. The winery remains family owned.
The Campbells’ goal has been to produce hand-crafted, estate-grown cool-climate wines to match the best in the world. They have always made Elk Cove wines only with estate fruit from the 350 acres they own.
An Elk Cove wine dinner at Calvert’s two years ago impressed the large crowd that night, and I have been a fan ever since. Now the family has decided to branch out and try quality pinot noir and pinot gris for $20 or less, an ambitious goal.
The family has farmed in Oregon for five generations and has grown wine grapes in the Willamette Valley for four generations. They say they are committed to preserving small family farms in the valley, so they buy grapes for Pike Road only from small growers they have come to know over decades.
The wine is named after the winding road that runs next to their vineyards at the foothills of Oregon’s Coast Range Mountains. Protected by the rain shadow of the mountains, the vines flourish in mild conditions. The warm days and cool nights are perfect for pinot noir and pinot gris.
GOES WITH: I think roast duck is a perfect match for pinot noir, so we tried this wine with duck cooked on the grill. Normally, duck is difficult to cook because it has so much fat. I have tried in the oven and on the grill and always get plenty of smoke and sometimes flames.
Luckily, I have found frozen duck halves in our local grocery stores, and they are perfect. They are already cooked, so all you have to do is thaw them and warm them on the grill for about 15 minutes. The duck even comes with frozen orange sauce.
The Pike Road Pinot Noir was spectacular with the duck. The black cherry and raspberry flavors bring out the rich flavors of the duck. I only wish I had had a raspberry sauce to go with the duck.
Pinot noir is the classic food wine. You can sip it, but the flavors get so much better and more complex when you serve the wine with food. The Pike Road also would be a great wine with salmon, tuna, roast chicken, herb-roasted pork tenderloin and soft cheeses. This is a versatile wine with a soft acidity that would make it good with many kinds of food.