January 03, 2009

1997 McKinlay Pinot Noir Special Selection

I finally got around to opening a bottle of 1997 McKinlay Pinot Noir Special Selection after having it for several months. Sometimes it's harder then you might think to sample a particular wine. It just sits there, almost looking at you, and you wonder if it's going to be any good.

1997 was the last truly difficult vintage here in the Willamette Valley of Oregon, until 2007. Both years saw significant rain during harvest, and in the case of 1997, the wines were simply tannic and tough.

I never tried any of the McKinlay bottlings from 1997 in their youth, but I'd heard they were some of the more successful wines of the vintage. My wife and I were married in 1997, so I like to find different things from that year to try. When I saw some of this, from a vineyard on Parrett Mountain near Newberg, I went for it.

So tonight it's open and, while it's far from great wine, I'm really enjoying it. The color is a bit ruddy ruby, showing some age without any orange or overt browning. The aroma is the highlight, really nice with lots of aged character, bottle sweet notes of strawberry, woodsy forest floor, black tea, nuts and spice. I could smell a wine like this all night.

Then the flavors and texture betray the vintage. There's a little dilution and a bit of rough tannin, mostly resolved but showing in this otherwise delicate wine. There isn't great length and the acid is a bit sharp. The wine is near the end of its life.

Yet it's so pure, clean but earthy without any make up. No barrel char. No overextraction. No pillowy or overly polished texture. Just lovely, honest, authentic Oregon red wine that does show more than a little resemblance in body and structure to decent, but also authentic, Burgundy. Very nice showing.

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