06 J. Christopher, Pinot Noir Dundee Hills "Sandra Adele"
I think this is what Stafford Hill meant to do with the great 2002 vintage. I'll never forget that wine because it floored me, completely floored me, with what it did with that glorious vintage. I remember thinking this must be a joke. This isn't 2002 Oregon pinot noir. It's a secret Moldovan pinot from the future. It would take such a pogrom-inflected palate to take something as sweet and balanced as 2002 Oregon pinot noir and turn it into a militia. Either that, or it's an errant Jay Somers bottle with "Pavillon" written in White-Out on the neck. I tried this wine blind today and those seven sentences were the first thing I thought. So maybe it's no surprise that Stafford Hill is the second label for Jay Somers' Holloran label, and that the Le Pavillon vineyard is right smack in the jory (red, sponge-looking and sponge-tasting, sea-inflected loam) soil of Dundee Hills. Either terroir exists or Jay sweats star anise and cumin from his fingertips on the triage. I've caught this wine early, but there's no doubt it's a classic Oregon pinot noir. Unlike his more floral and contained 05, 04, and 02 (for God's sake, will someone please sell me a 2003?), this 06 has all but given up on any idea of elegance. Sure, to a Cahors drinker, this would seem mild, but its Funkberry(TM) and marrow aroma yield to a thin, but strong and medicinal palate completely consumed by licorice. The fruit is there, but it's wild: some raspberries sweet, others touched with a tinge of fox piss. Truth is, I've opened it just a few months early (which is why I have two other bottles). Because with some aeration (take a sip, press your lips together, and suck the air in through your cheeks) this wine reminds me of a high-end Oregon pinot tasting run by some mad, fascist, and entirely inspirational Oregon pinot hound (not that I've ever worked with anyone who fits that description). This glass in a year is the tasting that sold 10 cases in an hour. It has the nuance of Eyrie, the arrow-straight fruit of J. Christopher, the whimsy of Runaway Red, the lust of Sineann and Owen Roe, the candy of Bergstrom, and the unadulterated pleasure of Charmes on a Thursday in November. It's not a great wine, yet. Without some serious thinking and aeration, it completely falls apart. On release, it's the most dull of all the Sandra Adeles I've had, and I'm not sure if the shift is a result of vintages or personality. To be honest, I'd pay to see something like the 2002 happen again. But in these times, the 06 Sandra has a dominant place. There's no doubt Jay has style, one he's stuck with over at least the past five vintages, that--outside of the Ken Wright wines--may most clearly express what it means to be Oregon pinot noir.