06 Belle Pente, Pinot Noir Dundee Hills Murto Vineyard
This is exactly what's wrong with today's glut of California pinot noir. Leave it to Oregon to tell us that too. Because while I wouldn't want to cover my body in, say, beef tallow, I wouldn't mind washing my lips every evening with a thin strip of Armandino Batali's lardo. Bear with me. What I'm trying to say is while this briary, sometimes sappy, full-flavored pinot noir doesn't have to hold anything back, it manages to find restraint. Like Miles on a Coltrane track. Some kind of purple. A bold pinot noir that finds the musicality in flavor. A melody to string along its power chords. And where some boisterous Cali pinots (don't get me wrong, there are many great ones in all styles from the gentle Au Bon Climat to the proudly powerful Sea Smoke Southing) seem to forget that pinot existed before them, that they don't need to reinvent the press with outlandish flavors and textures, Belle Pente's seductive Murto Vineyard wine adds to the grape's storied history--from its first century Burgundian, possibly Greek, origins to, well, Sideways. And where we land is, much like the winery's juicier, less spicy eponymous bottling, somewhere in the middle of Oregon, just north of Grand Cru Charmes-Chambertin. Unlike some of the more overworked, governating pinots of its neighbor, Belle Pente's supple texture, ripe buttered cherry, blueberry, and sweet rhubarb flavors, violet aroma, and spicy minerality feel inborn instead of inbred. Not added, really, by oak or winemaking wizardry, but husband to the grapes themselves. And, in that way, not at all unlike the rich north Burgundy wines--often forgotten when talking about the fallacious lightness and elegance of French pinot noir. It's a true testament to this side of Oregon wine. And proof positive, in my book at least, that not only does terroir exist, but that the terroir of Oregon is among the world's most important. That, had things started a little later than 2,000 years ago with pinot noir, we might have first discovered this wild rootstock not in France or Greece, but on a roadside off Oregon Route 47. And 2,000 years from now, nothing would be different.