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WINE REVIEWS: More (St.) Innocents


by Andrew Chalk


Recently, I was impressed by St. Innocent Chardonnay. This week, I got the chance to taste through the core variety of Oregon’s Willamette Valley, pinot noir. In fact, four of St. Innocent’s expressions of the grape, all from the signature 2019 vintage. 


To answer the question that Oregon pinot noir fans will be asking: Winemaker Mark Vlossak has taken advantage of the cooler temperatures of the year to produce classic Oregon pinot noir. Each expression maintains its individuality but all exhibit bright Oregon fruit, solid acid levels, and weightiness in the mouth that makes them versatile with food. For example, pork, salmon, veal, pasta dishes (especially those with white sauce), or a plateful of medium-strength cheeses (something Oregon also excels in). 


The four wines are each single vineyard expressions. All are sourced from Willamette Valley fruit (the source of most top-rated Oregon wine). Three are denoted by their sub-appellations. I wish Oregon enforced conjunctive labeling as rigorously as Sonoma (so that the smallest AVA name is immediately, and always, followed on the label by the Willamette Valley AVA). That would make things more comprehensible to consumers. 


One vineyard deserves a special mention: Shea Vineyard is a ‘galactico’, a ‘made man’, an ‘eminence grise’ of the Oregon winemaking world. Eighty percent of the fruit is sold, the other 20% being used in-house by owner Shea Wine Cellars. The result is that the Shea Vineyard name adorns probably more awards for Oregon wine than any other single vineyard. Some of the best winemakers in the state have excelled with its fruit. I don’t know if St. Innocent’s 2019 Shea Vineyard has won any awards, but it certainly deserves to. 


My notes follow. One freeform, the other three using the WSET structure. All four wines are recommended.


St. Innocent 2019 Pinot Noir Freedom Hill Vineyard, Willamette Valley, Oregon. $55.

This is both the most straightforward and the most easily enjoyable of the four wines. Unmistakable pinot noir fruit sits on a herbaceous underpinning. Best quaffed so as to not suppress the delicious raspberry fruit. A very good wine.


NAME:

St. Innocent 2019 Pinot Noir Momtazi Vineyard, McMinnville AVA, OR $55.

APPEARANCE

COMMENTS

Clarity

clear

Intensity

Medium

Color

Ruby

Other observations




NOSE


Condition

clean

Intensity

Medium

Aroma characteristics

Savory, tomato leaf, dried herbs, white pepper, toasted bread, mushroom



PALATE


Sweetness

dry

Acidity

m+

Tannin

m/rough.

Alcohol

m

Body

m+

Flavor intensity

m+

Flavor characteristics

Savory, tomato leaf dried herbs (thyme, oregano), toasted bread, leather, forest floor.

Other observations


Finish

medium



CONCLUSION


Quality assessment

Very good. Savoury taste components , chewy texture, and earthy flavors make this an enjoyable wine to drink now. Some aging will hopefully soften the somewhat obtrusive tannins.

Bottle aging

Suitable


NAME:

St. Innocent 2019 Pinot Noir, Temperance Hill Vineyard, Eola-Amity Hills AVA, OR. $55

APPEARANCE

COMMENTS

Clarity

clear

Intensity

Medium

Color

Ruby

Other observations




NOSE


Condition

clean

Intensity

Medium

Aroma characteristics

Strawberry, tomato leaf, ripe apples, graphite , forest floor



PALATE


Sweetness

dry

Acidity

High

Tannin

m+/green

Alcohol

m+/green

Body

m+

Flavor intensity

pronounced

Flavor characteristics

Strawberry, tomato leaf, ripe apples, graphite , thyme, lavender

Other observations

Primary fruit predominates

Finish

m+



CONCLUSION


Quality assessment

Very good. Predominantly a fruit-driven wine but with enough other notes, including secondary ones to make it complex and interesting.

Bottle aging

Suitable


NAME:

St. Innocent 2019 Pinot Noir Shea Vineyard, Yamhill-Carlton District AVA, OR $75.

APPEARANCE

COMMENTS

Clarity

clear

Intensity

Medium

Color

Ruby

Other observations




NOSE


Condition

clean

Intensity

M+

Aroma characteristics

Raspberry, cranberry, thyme, rose flowers, black pepper,



PALATE


Sweetness

dry

Acidity

m+

Tannin

m/chewy

Alcohol

m

Body

m+

Flavor intensity

m+

Flavor characteristics

Raspberry, cranberry, thyme, rose flowers, black pepper, cinnamon, bread crust, cedar

Other observations


Finish

m+



CONCLUSION


Quality assessment

Very good. Tannins and fruit already quite harmonious, hints of oak enhance the delivery. A wine that can be aged but is very enjoyable now.

Bottle aging

Suitable


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