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Panther CreekAll four of us decided that we needed a good end of summer, friend and wine day! We also decided that we wanted to go somewhere that we hadn’t been before. So off we go, passing some of our usual haunts; Springhill Cellars, Emerson Vineyards, Van Duzer Vineyards, Firesteed Cellars…you get the point.  We drove through Monmouth, through Amity, through even McMinnville, to our eventual destination, Carlton.

We tasted two very nice places, the tasting room for Kramer Vineyards and Cana’s Feast Winery.  Those two will be the subject of a future post.

On our way there, and with the assistance of our handy wine guide book, we decided that we wanted to try Panther Creek, in McMinnville, on the way back home.  Oh, am I glad we made that choice!

They are located in a historic, beautiful brick building that once housed the McMinnville Power Plant.  It’s been the home of Panther Creek since 1989.

Matt, Kelli and Katie all decided on a glass pour and relaxed around one of the tables.  I decided that I’d like to do the tasting flight as I’d only ever tried one of their wines (plus there were SIX Pinot Noirs in the flight, LOVE!)

The tasting started out with a 2009 Chardonnay, unoaked, all done in stainless. Crisp, apple tones, clean.  It was lovely.  Next came their 2012 Pinot Gris, this low production (400 cases) beauty was everything an Oregon Pinot Gris should be. Bright, clean, good acidity, would be an amazing pairing with salmon or pasta (or both, mmmm).

Now we’re getting to what I really want to talk about, their Pinot Noir offerings. The thing that struck me most about the six wines were the fact that they were all of the 2008 and 2009 vintage.  So often when tasting these days, you’re drinking a 2010 or 2011 that is young, closed, really not ready to show off it’s ultimate potential, and therefore it’s sometimes hard to decide, do I want to buy this and put it down?  Do I just pass since I can’t have it with dinner tonight?  Am I reading the characteristics of this young wine right, will it develop in to what I think  it will?

2008 is widely considered the best vintage for Oregon Pinot Noir in memory. That being said, today, in 2013, I’m a firm believer that the 2007 and 2009 vintages are generally my favorite in the way they are drinking today.  I’m going to do the tasting notes a little different this time, I’m going to list the winemakers description first for each of the wines, followed by my take.

2009 Winemaker’s Cuvée – Dark cherry, plum, toast, smoky undertones, rose petal, hibiscus, anise, white pepper – It’s smoky, an amazing base-level Pinot.  I tasted this twice, one that had been open for a while and another just opened on the suggestion of Andrea, our host for the afternoon.  The difference was amazing, the just-opened wine had a heavy but not unpleasant sulfur characteristic.  It masked the floral notes of the wine a but but enhanced the smokiness.  The wine that had some time to breathe didn’t have the heavy sulfur tones and really let the floral notes shine.  if you have a finicky bunch that will be drinking it with you, you might consider decanting it 30 minutes or so before serving.  Overall, I think it’s an amazing wine at a $25.00 price point.

2009 Freedom Hill Vineyard Pinot Noir – Red cherries roasting over a camp fire, caramel, baking spices, an explosion of red fruit with a delicate kiss of earth, flows delicately across the palate supported by fine tannins and length – Great nose, more spice character than the previous wine. It’s a bit lighter than the cuvée, more delicate.

2009 Shea Vineyard Pinot Noir – Delicately terroir-driven, intermingling with hints of brown sugar and lightly smoked black cherry, great structure is complimented with juiciness, deep flavors and a lingering finish – More fruit forward but not overpowering, deep flavors that linger on the palate.

2008 Reserve Pinot Noir – Dark blue fruit, black cherry, cocoa, cola, leather and anisette, elegant but firm tannins, delicious now, and will continue to impress with cellar time.

2008 Momtazi Vineyard Pinot Noir – Vivid and inky magenta, pomegranate, marionberry, plum, vanilla, coffee, freshly tilled earth, black cherry, cola, intriguing minerality, complex and brooding – I can’t really add anything of value to the description listed here.  Simply an awesome wine!