2011 Elk Cove Pinot Gris

Year: 2011
Appellation: Willamette Valley
Country: USA - Oregon
Wine Spectator: 88
Wine Advocate: 86
White Wine
Alcohol by Volume: 12.5%
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"Fresh and vibrant, with lively melon and pear flavors, finishing on a citrusy note. Drink now. 17,000 cases made." (WS)

"Also recommended, but no tasting note given.

Based in Gaston near the northern edge of the Willamette Valley, Elk Cove was founded by Pat and Joe Campbell, whose son Adam (though he looks too young today to have done so) took over in 1995. There are 250 acres of vines, including six sites subjected to dedicated bottlings. Nearly half of the vines, surprisingly, are white. Pinot is not always entirely de-stemmed; typically but not always ferments spontaneously; and is bottled (with the exception of the entry-level cuvee) at around 16 months. While the percentage of new wood employed is analytically modest, there was an extraneously caramelized sense to a couple of the Pinots I tasted. I did not have time to taste nearly the entire range of current wines – on whose labels, incidentally, no names of sub-A.V.A.s appear; rather only “Willamette Valley.”" (WA)

Winery Notes:
The Willamette Valley has a suitable climate for this delicate grape variety – enough sunlight and warmth for ripening and cooler night temperatures to retain varietal character. To preserve the freshness, it is whole-cluster pressed, and then fermented at very cool temperatures in small stainless steel tanks, which accentuates aromatics and enhances the richness and viscosity. The fruit is hand-harvested from select hillside vineyards in the northern Willamette Valley. Our estate Pinot Gris is planted in a high- density format, which undergoes shoot and crop thinning for low yields.

At the close of harvest 2011, many winegrowers breathed a sigh of relief. Feelings of déjà vu from 2010 were evident as the picking pushed even later into the season, making it one of Oregon’s latest harvests on record. Yet, differences will mark them unique. Yields in 2011 were opposite of 2010, when production was down significantly due to poor fruit set and damage at harvest from migrating birds. This year, sunny weather brought good fruit-set and large compact clusters. The large crop had many growers thinning to one cluster per shoot. And the birds did not ‘help’ reduce yields as they did in 2010. Thus allowing normal yields compared to the dramatically reduced vintage in 2010. While the heat index shows a warmer vintage in 2011 than 2010, both were unusually cool compared to the long-term average. Most notable was when the heat came. This vintage brought the ‘nice weather’ late in the season allowing us to let the fruit hang 15 days longer for fantastic flavors and better pH and acid balance. Winemaker, Adam Campbell, comments on the lateness of the vintage, “a lot of whites came in the first part of November and due to the cold season I expected more herbal notes but surprisingly they came out of fermentation showing the classic stone fruit and tropical notes we expect.” Reminding Oregon vintners, once again, those who held on patiently will be richly rewarded in the wines.

The 2011 Elk Cove Vineyards Pinot Gris has sweet and unctuous aromatics while showing crispness on the palate with vibrant citrus and grapefruit. True to Elk Cove Vineyards’ style, a rich mouthfeel leads to a full and satisfying balanced finish. Drink this lovely white wine as an aperitif or with a variety of food pairings from salmon and main-course salads to Asian and Thai influenced dishes.