Shea Wine Cellars, Ken Wright, St. Innocent, Penner-Ash, Alexana, Panther Creek, Berström, Auteur, Sin Qua Non, Loring Wine Co., Raptor Ridge, J.K. Carrier, Elk Cove, Patricia Green, Stevenson Barrie, Westrey, Rex Hill, Broadly and Beaux Frères. All these wineries have, or have had, something in common, and that is: Shea Vineyard, one of America’s great vineyards. I was pretty shocked by the length of the vineyard designation list; only 3 or 4 came to mind before I did some research.
With distinctive terroir and a lock on what they grow, Pinot Noir, northern Oregon has perfected the art of regional distinction by branding individual vineyards, and blocks within vineyards, with unmatched success.
Shea’s 140 acres, with the exception of 5 acres of Chardonnay, is dedicated to Pinot Noir. 25% of her yields are kept for Shea’s estate wines—the rest is purchased by some of Oregon’s and California’s top wineries. Take Berström, for example. Their ’09 Shea Vineyard Pinot Noir (about $45), which I would kill to try, had a description on the Northwest-Wine.com website that was ingeniously relatable:
If you like Shea Vineyard Pinots, stop reading now and proceed directly to ordering. If you need further encouragement or are seeking amusement in your day, here goes: like Maverick in Top Gun, Bergstrom’s Shea 09 flies by the seat of its pants, screaming out of the glass and spilling your coffee as it buzzes the tower that is your normal wine world.
$45. Dijon 114 clone, aged in 50% new French oak for 10 months.
From my tasting notebook:
Exquisite nose. Cool and steady, like polished stone. Endless cherry—black, red, candied and chocolate. Herbal tea, almond, and the faintest butterscotch. A savory gouda-like, buttery, nuttiness lurks in the shadows. (Tip: pair fine, aged gouda with OR Pinot Noir)
Rusty plum in the glass. Tannins have melted away leaving the fruit and earth to sit gently in the mouth—like dew on the tongue, as Carey put it. This wine is going to hit or miss with some drinkers—it’s mineral rich, angular and slightly aggressive on the attack. The berry flavors are rich but atypically un-sweet—like natural fruit roll-up (the only kind I was allowed as a child, hated at the time, but have grown to appreciate). The finish transitions to the savory swagger I detected on the nose:
note: I purchased this wine on WineBid.com for $20 ($45 is too rich for my blood…) Click on the picture to see what Shea offerings are currently available at auction.