07 Cloudline Cellars, Oregon Pinot Noir
I remember the first time I had Cloudline's pinot, I was staring out the window of a boutique wine shop at a dark sky coming in. No, I wasn't doing it for the metaphor. We'd just sold a lot of wine, the Euro was gradually getting stronger, and the sudden craze over American pinot noir left us with almost no bottles of pinot under $20. Actually, almost nothing at all but the most choice selection of single vineyard Oregon pinot you'll ever see in one afternoon. So I turned to my colleague and said, "Well, at least the Cloudline's beautiful," which he immediately took to be a surprisingly poignant, affected, and wholly metrosexual commentary on the state of our vitis vinifera union. But I was talking about my first taste of Cloudline, which, on a wave of strong Oregon vintages against my prurient palate, was lovely in its delicacy. This bottle reminds me of that elegance, that grace, that discomforting indolence. In the face of so many saturated, heady, clumsy pinots on the market today, this lighter style quickly finds its cult following. Racy and clean, it reminds us of that great myth of what pinot noir is supposed to be. And yes, there are a few, like The Eyrie Vineyards, who really, profoundly, mystically nail that style. Cloudline is not one of those wines. It's pinot for pinot's sake--full of bright red cherry and strawberry shortcake flavors, with a tangy finish of anisette, vegetal grappa (Nonino's chardonnay grappa always reminds me of eggplant), mushrooms, and chalky tannins. It's not bad after two days of decanting, but that's no sign of its potential. Instead, that light oxidation helps fill the holes in this wine where ripe fruit should be. I think there are some great grapes that go into this bottle, but also a lot of muck. And the bailout, perhaps, is that Vero Drouhin (winemaker daughter of Burgundy's great Joseph Drouhin) provides the "reference palate," according to the winery, whose throat here may have been thirstier for mineral water than Oregon pinot noir.