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Wine Review: Oregon emerges as chardonnay, pinot noir master

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Oregon’s Willamette Valley region is becoming the go-to place for chardonnay and pinot noir wines.

The grape-growing conditions there almost perfectly emulate the areas of France, where the same varieties produce some of the world’s most expensive wines. It will not be long until Oregonians produce a worthy rival to the greatest of the great.

One of the champions of Oregon wines is Left Coast Estate, which not only makes notable chardonnay and pinot noir wines but also some very interesting and novel twists on the “usual stuff.”

Left Coast Estate 2018 Willamette Valley Queen Bee Bubbly ($36)
If you saw this on the shelf, you probably would pass it by as some cheap unsophisticated joke. The bottle is a typical sparkling wine bottle that is unceremoniously sealed with a crown cap, similar to those used on beer bottles; unattractive yes, but there is more. A quick look will show there is “junk” lying in the punt of the bottle. This wine starts off as a well-made white pinot noir, which is then bottled and given a dosage of yeast, aka junk, to start secondary fermentation. It is carbonated with honey from bees living on the estate and then sealed. The resultant wine is outstanding. It is dry, displaying a host of flavors and aromas. Ginger, honey, pear and clove are the most obvious.

Left Coast Estate 2018 Willamette Valley White Pinot Noir ($24)
White or red, cool or cold, I love pinot noir wines, and this beverage expands that feeling. In this wine, the usual aromas of red pinot noirs are joined with the flavors and aromas of a fine white wine. Peach and nectarine aromas are easily identified but there is also a grass-like aroma lingering in the background. The flavor takes a different route, emphasizing ripe pear and honeydew melon abound, wrapped in an enticing mineral element. These are transported to the finish, which, like most decent pinot noirs, is long and delicious. This wine may be the start of a new direction for the pinot noir.

Left Coast Estate 2017 Willamette Valley Pinot Gris ($18)
Pinot gris, or as it is known in Italy, pinot grigio, is a white wine finding great popularity in the United States. This purely Oregonian wine displays a pale golden color and a rich aroma of citrus, honeysuckle, apple, pear and a hint of nectarine. The flavor abounds with the sensation of pear and melon that carry over to the finish, which is long, fruity and complex. A noticeable feature of this wine is its effective, although restrained acid level. All too often, an American pinot gris will drown all of its attributes in an overabundance of fruit acid. That’s not the case here. This wine can accompany most of summer foods and is a standout with seafood and shellfish.

Left Coast Estate 2018 Willamette Valley Rose ($24)
The Left Coast Estate 2018 Willamette Valley Rose is a dry wine that captures all of the flavor and aroma nuances of the pinot noir grape. It presents them in the free and open style of a rose wine. The aroma is filled with scents of wild flowers, cherries and citrus. The flavor mirrors the aroma, as does the long, clean finish. If you are a rose lover, this wine is for you. If you are not, you may become one.

Wine columnist Bennet Bodenstein can be reached at


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