Tasting Challenge: Oregon’s Delicate Diva – Pinot Noir

Ever fall in love with a diva? Then you might know a thing or two about Pinot Noir. It’s fickle, it’s difficult to work with, and it’s been known to throw in the towel at the first sign of trouble.

So why do so many winemakers put up with its crap? Because this diva can sing.

What is the Tasting Challenge? The challenge is a way to improve your wine palate each week with 34 wines from 12 countries — The Wine Tasting Challenge.

wine-tasting-challenge-oregon-pinot
Week 6 we taste a Brooks Willamette Valley Pinot Noir

Tasting Challenge: Oregon’s Delicate Diva, Pinot Noir

Pinot Noir is thin-skinned, temperamental, and basically really easy to screw up.

It’s also known for lush fruit and earth notes that drive many wine geeks absolutely crazy with oenophilia. Everything from the humidity to the morning fog makes these grapes what they are: for better or worse.

And that’s where the love of Pinot comes from. Because of its delicate nature, it is one of the best grapes out there for expressing the terroir of a region.

Capture Your Wine Story

Capture Your Wine Story

Don't guess which wine was your favorite - get a Wine Journal and taste like a pro.

Shop Now

Basically everything from the soil to the weather to the terrain takes the same grape and helps turn it into a completely different bottle of wine from one place to another.

A Pinot Noir from California is going to be very different from a Pinot made in Burgundy. And some of the most celebrated “performances” in recent years have been those coming out of Oregon.

In the never ending quest for finding high quality wine at a reasonable price, we went with a Pinot Noir from the Willamette Valley region of Oregon.

Not only does the Pinot from this area have its own acclaim and distinct style, but you’ll find lots of opportunities to drink the higher quality stuff without taking a second mortgage on your house.

wine-tasting-challenge-oregon-pinot

2017 Brooks Willamette Valley Pinot Noir

Look: Pale to medium ruby.

Aromas: Cherry candy, raspberry, cranberry, earthiness, mushroom, and a hint of baking spice.

On The Palate: Nice, subtle tannins. Notes of Bing cherry, red plums, and earthy mushrooms. A hint of black pepper on the finish. High acidity: downright tart! In fact, the acid and the red fruit almost give you a sense of red grapefruit, which we weren’t expecting. Great balance.

Food Pairing: This Pinot in particular would be great for food. It’s bold enough to make a statement, but subtle enough to play nice with others. I immediately thought of a nice, nutty gruyere or jarlsberg cheese. Roast duck or quail. And of course, coq au vin.

What We Learned About Oregon Pinot Noir

When you think of Pinot Noir, “light” is usually one of the first words that come to mind. Which is accurate.

But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have some power behind it. Oregon Pinot might not be the fruit bombs that you get from California, but that only leaves more room for those earthier notes that made this more than a one note performance.

That was the best thing about this bottle of Pinot Noir: there’s some complexity here, but it isn’t intimidating to a beginner.

You’ll love sitting and sniffing your glass. It feels like there’s something new coming out of it every time you stick your nose in. It starts simple, and builds and builds like a multi-layered symphony.

It’s sort of the perfect “come together” wine.


Last Impressions

Pinot Noir is a pretty legendary wine. And when you consider how sensitive it is to the place it’s grown, you can see why. And you can also appreciate why people tend to have hard opinions on where they get theirs.

For some people, Burgundy is really the only answer.

It’s synonymous with the region due to the fact that they’ve been making some of the most celebrated and storied (and expensive) Pinot Noir wines there for centuries.

Others still prefer Oregon or California. And as the years go by and Oregon’s reputation only grows, it’s coming shoulder to shoulder with the old-school regions of Pinot. And why?

That diva.

She might be vain, she might be thin-skinned, and she might be temperamental. But when she sings, it’s with many different voices, and you’re forced to pay attention.


What Pinot Noir did you go with? Do you prefer the earthier bottles, or are you in love with a big, fruity explosion? Tell us below!

Capture Your Wine Story

Capture Your Wine Story

Don't guess which wine was your favorite - get a Wine Journal and taste like a pro.

Shop Now

About Phil Keeling

I throw words at the walls of Wine Folly’s channels until something sticks, like a fistful of verbal spaghetti. I also write plays, jokes, and the occasional diatribe.