2009 Cristom Pinot Noir Mount Jefferson Cuvee 375 ml

Year: 2009
Appellation: Willamette Valley
Country: USA - Oregon
Wine Spectator: 90
Wine Advocate: 89
Vinous Media: 90
Burghound: 89
Wine Enthusiast: 87
Red Wine
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"Bright and jazzy, with a lovely apricot edge to the red berry and spice flavors, dancing a lively jig as the finish persists. Has deftness and charm, too. Drink now through 2018. 5,936 cases made. " (WS)

"Comprising a blend of estate and contract fruit; typically vinified with a smaller share of whole clusters and stems than their other Pinots; and bottled after around 13 months, Cristom’s 2009 Pinot Noir Mount Jefferson Cuvee is brightly saturated with fresh red berries and is mouthwateringly savory in its salinity and animal fat undertones. Piquant hints of fruit pit add to the invigoration of a sappily-persistent finish. This ought to make for delightful and versatile company at table over the next half dozen or so years.

Twenty years ago, engineer and Burgundy-lover Paul Gerrie and his wife Eileen purchased the Pellier Winery (then recently abandoned by Mirassou). “It just felt right,” he says, even though Mike Etzel of Beaux Freres – from whom Gerrie had sought advice – expressed doubts based on the quality of wines that had issued from this site. “You saw a diamond in the rough – because it was rough,” remarks Steve Doerner, the biochemist whom Gerrie hired almost immediately as winemaker – a protegee of Domaine Dujac’s Jacques Seysses who had been with Josh Jensen almost since Calera’s inception, and been Jensen’s right-hand man for a dozen years. Simultaneously, Gerrie hired Mark Feltz as vineyard manager; and four years later tapped local coffee shop manager Andy Zorzi to assist Doerner and Feltz. The fact that this same quartet is still pursuing the same mission in itself suggests that either complacency has long since rendered their wines passe, or else they have perfected Pinot in a distinctive style; and few if any who read these lines will have needed me to tell them that the latter scenario has (indeed, long since) been realized. Doerner has influenced and inspired many other Oregon winemakers, even if it seems that only very recently has his well-known favoritism toward whole clusters with stems – which have among other things a tendency to elevate pH – been at all widely shared. “To be honest,” admits Doerner, “even though I don’t like to have to say that I add acid, I sometimes feel that I don’t add enough, given our pHs.” That comment is typical of the self-effacing, self-confident, but non-doctrinaire picture that comes through in conversation with Doerner. He normally lets fermentation for Pinot proceed spontaneously and prefers five ton fermentation tanks, though he also employs smaller plastic bins and larger tanks. Extraction is via punch-downs; there’s usually some post-fermentation cap contact; and the young wine is not settled but instead, conspicuously, goes to barrel “dirty.” (More than one Willamette winemaker who explained to me his or her practice of settling before going to barrel told me in essence ‘Doerner avoids reduction problems, but don’t ask me how.’) The Cristom property was early-on divided into sectors – each bearing Gerrie family names (except, in the case of Chardonnay – whose latest instantiation I failed to taste – that of a Doerner ancestor) – based on continuity of terroir and/or vine genetics, and with the exception of four occasions when a so-called “signature cuvee” has been rendered, the four top bottlings from Cristom – each typically representing around 500 cases – are site-specific. Credit the estate’s largely eastern exposures; prevailing breezes; Feltz’s or Doerner’s approaches (including that aforementioned acid-adjustment) or whatever combination of factors you will, the 2009s at this address are remarkably fresh, juicy, buoyant, vivacious – and, as such, among the Willamette’s very best – ambassadors for their vintage. The top wines of 2010 had (in typical pace) been recently bottled when I visited in June; but release here is normally delayed for the better part of a year and the estate prefers not to show them until they have had several months to rest. They let me taste the Eileen and I readily concurred that, while highly promising, it seemed to need time in bottle to loosen-up and reveal nuance." (WA)

"Bright ruby-red. Spice-accented red berries on the nose, with subtle smoke and floral notes adding complexity. Juicy and precise, with good depth to its strawberry and raspberry flavors. Finishes dry, stony and precise, with very good clarity and clinging florality." (IWC)

"Light ruby. This is also wonderfully elegant, fresh and pure with its very high-toned red pinot fruit aromas that emit soft spice hints. The round, supple and plush flavors do not lack for detail despite the opulent mouth feel, all wrapped in a dusty and moderately firm finish where the supporting tannins are beautifully refined. Like the Sommers, this is lovely and balanced but not as complex as one might wish. That said, I like the delivery quite a bit as there is a real sense of harmony." (BH)

"A whiff of tomato opens the wine, which moves into a light cherry core with a hint of brine. The middle quickly finds a conclusion, and the tannins are authoritative and chewy." (WE)

Winery Notes:
Medium ruby color. The 2009 Mt Jeff is as fulgent as the lighthouse at Yaquina Head on the Oregon Coast—radiant—bright and instantly appealing. This 16th edition of our Cristom flagship wine is already showing the sweet-raspberry and cinammon-spices that are its hallmark. We noted savory elements on the palate, like Matsutake mushroom, rare beef and forest floor. Don’t be afraid to give it a year or two in your cellar or try it tonight with some fire-grilled Kookoolan Farms lamb chops or quail grilled on a rosemary skewer.