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WTN /WineAdvisor: Pinot Inflation (Willamette Vly Vyds 05)

by Robin Garr » Fri Jul 13, 2007 12:47 pm

Pinot inflation

Wine enthusiasts can debate endlessly about whether the Pinot Noir buying frenzy that followed the 2004 movie <i>Sideways</i> is a lasting boom or a short-lived bubble, but at this point the Pinot trend shows no sign of abating.

What's wrong with this? Nothing, if you admire in the abstract a world that's coming to love the great red wine grape of Burgundy. Pinot Noir has long been beloved by those in the know for its potential for making complex, balanced, velvety wines that show off <i>terroir</i> - the "taste of the soil" that reflects a wine's origins - and that are exceptionally food-friendly.

But the wine business is also a volatile free market; and the ongoing Pinot craze is having some effects that shouldn't really have been that hard to anticipate: Increasing demand for quality Pinot Noir grapes is driving up prices at the vineyard, and that translates to higher prices at the retail store.

More and more, we're seeing the rule of thumb that has long been true of Burgundy coming to pass in all the world's Pinot-producing regions: The good wines aren't cheap, and the cheap wines aren't good.

This all came home to me the other day when I went shopping for an Oregon Pinot Noir for dinner: You can hardly find this stuff (or its cousins from California) these days for less than 20 bucks or more, and when you do spot a low-end model, you're frankly taking a risk that your "bargain buy" won't show much Pinot character.

I brought home <b>Willamette Valley Vineyards 2005 Oregon Pinot Noir</b>, a good Pinot from a respected producer, albeit one of the less expensive Pinots in their portfolio, and somewhat grumpily parted with $26 to put it in my shopping bag, realizing as I did so that this Oregon wine has achieved price parity with the 2005 Bourgogne Pinot Noirs and even a few villages Burgundies.

It's a good wine, and in the abstract, if a wine maker can command these prices and find buyers (like me!) in a free market, then Adam Smith was right and the price is fair.

But Oregon wine for Burgundy prices? It's going to take me a while to assimilate this concept, and I'd like to know what <i>you</i> think. If you have an opinion and would like to express it, please post a reply.

Meanwhile, here's my tasting report.

<table border="0" align="right" width="170"><tr><td><img src="http://www.wineloverspage.com/graphics1/will0711.jpg" border="1" align="right"></td></tr></table>Willamette Valley Vineyards 2005 Oregon Pinot Noir ($26)

This clear ruby-color wine offers ripe red berries and fresh herbs, bright fruit mingling with an appropriate herbaceous character, in the aroma and flavor. Well balanced on the palate, not overblown at a reasonable 13.5% alcohol. Mouth-watering acidity, sweet red-berry fruit and subtle spice linger in a long, clean finish. (July 11, 2007)

<B>FOOD MATCH:</b> A nicely balanced Pinot with good acidic structure, this is an exceptionally food-friendly wine that will marry well with just about any meat or poultry, salmon or cheese. It was a delight with the Pork chops Hongroise with smoked paprika featured in yesterday's <I>Wine Advisor FoodLetter</I>.

<B>VALUE:</B> As discussed above, it's surprising to find good Oregon and California Pinot Noir selling at prices competitive with Bourgogne Pinot Noir and even some Burgundy villages wines, but certainly this wine competes fairly on quality with the French models at this price point.

<B>WHEN TO DRINK:</B> Very enjoyable now, and might gain a bit more complexity with cellar time. The back label suggests drinking between 2007 and 2010, and I certainly wouldn't quibble with holding it under good cellar conditions for three years or even a little more.

<B>PRONUNCIATION:</B>
<B>Willamette</B> = "<I>Wil-LAM-it</I>"
<B>Pinot Noir</B> = "<I>Pee-no Nwahr</I>"

<B>WEB LINKS:</B>
Here's a link to the Willamette Valley Vineyards Website:
http://www.WillametteValleyVineyards.com
For a downloadable (Adobe PDF) fact sheet on the 2005 Willamette Valley Pinot Noir, click:
[url=http://www.willamettevalleyvineyards.com/pdf/wvv-pn-wv_2005_f.pdf]http://www.willamettevalleyvineyards.com/
pdf/wvv-pn-wv_2005_f.pdf[/url]

<B>FIND THIS WINE ONLINE:</B>
Unfortunately, because the name of Willamette Valley Vineyards incorporates the region, it's not feasible to focus a Wine-Searcher.com result on this single producer. To find a broad range of Oregon wines from Willamette Valley, try searching:
[url=http://www.wine-searcher.com/find/Willamette%2bValley%2bVineyards/-/-/USD/A?referring_site=WLP]http://www.wine-searcher.com/
find/Willamette%2bValley%2bVineyards/-/-/USD/A?referring_site=WLP[/url]
The winery Website also offers direct sales where the law allows, and provides this list of distributors in most U.S. states and some other countries:
http://www.willamettevalleyvineyards.com/?s=dist

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Re: WTN /WineAdvisor: Pinot Inflation (Willamette Vly Vyds 05)

by JC (NC) » Fri Jul 13, 2007 1:17 pm

I agree pretty much with what you are saying. Somewhat to my surprise this week I plunked down $43 for my new favorite New Zealand Pinot Noir (an '04 from Martinus) and have been paying $25 and up for most Pinots from California and Oregon. Some may find this Avalonwine.com website helpful--has changed from Oregon Pinot Noir under $20 to under $25 this year. I don't find many of these wines available in North Carolina but could place orders to the wineries. The O'Reilly (from David O'Reilly of Owen Roe fame) sounds good. I was disappointed in an Amity Pinot Noir Eco I recently tried (the 2005).

http://northwest-wine.com/Oregon-Pinot- ... er-20.html
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Re: WTN /WineAdvisor: Pinot Inflation (Willamette Vly Vyds 05)

by Doug Surplus » Fri Jul 13, 2007 2:06 pm

Yeah, the prices are climbing a bit too high for the quality. On July 4th I opened a 2005 Namaste Pinot Noir that was quite good, but I'm not sure how much I'll buy at $30.
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Re: WTN /WineAdvisor: Pinot Inflation (Willamette Vly Vyds 05)

by Dave Chouiniere » Fri Jul 13, 2007 3:35 pm

The rising price of Pinot Noir is one reason I don’t have much experience with the grape. I have been able to afford many different Zinfandels, Cabernet Sauvignons, Chardonnays, and especially wines from Spain and Portugal. I have started to get a feel for the characteristics of these grapes, which styles I like, what food I would enjoy them with most, etc. I can find a bottle of these wines that is enjoyable for under $20.

I cannot find a good bottle of Pinot for under $20 and I cannot afford to explore the grape as a result. The cost of the wine has limited my ability to explore it. What do folks who live in Burgundy drink every day with their meals? Do they drink poor quality juice or do they have a local alternative that doesn’t drain their wallet?
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Re: WTN /WineAdvisor: Pinot Inflation (Willamette Vly Vyds 05)

by Ray Juskiewicz » Fri Jul 13, 2007 4:47 pm

For those who truly want to experience Oregon pinot noir, you have to go to Oregon. The best wines are small production lots that never make it to retail distribution. The wine you sampled was a 16,000 case monster. For Oregon pinot that's a lot.

Every Memorial Day and Thanksgiving weekend they hold a tasting event that includes many high scoring wineries that are not open to the public at any other time. You can sample the Bergstrom and Beaux Freres that constantly top the ratings charts for reasonable tasting fees that often include nice stemware to keep. After a couple of visits my wife and I are truly hooked, and rely on the wineries direct shipments and Avalon to keep our thirsts quenched.

Two promising newcomers were found this year: Patton Valley, and Amalie Robert. Try them.

As for the price, it's supply and demand. The good pinot noir supply is growing slower than the demand, so our habit is getting more expensive.

BTW, Robin, we saw your Hot Brown judging on TV this week. A Yankee didn't really have a chance, did he?
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Re: WTN /WineAdvisor: Pinot Inflation (Willamette Vly Vyds 05)

by rmpomerantz » Fri Jul 13, 2007 5:11 pm

You don't like the higher prices of Pinots? If you think they're bad, check out Napa Cabernets We sell quite a few Pinots from both Oregon and California and I must say you're right - prices keep escalating. I think what's really escalated the Oregon Pinot Noirs in particular, is that people are still just discovering how good they can be. Finding a good one under $20 takes some tasting, but there are a few that I've had, but like most of the wineries in Oregon, they are from small producers and aren't distributed throughout the country. There may be extra pressure on those prices this year, since the 2005 Burgundy's are hitting the market and from the one's we've tried so far, even the lesser known names should give you great pleasure at a reasonable price.
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Re: WTN /WineAdvisor: Pinot Inflation (Willamette Vly Vyds 05)

by Robin Garr » Fri Jul 13, 2007 6:03 pm

rmpomerantz wrote:You don't like the higher prices of Pinots? If you think they're bad, check out Napa Cabernets


R.P., thanks for the note, and welcome to the forum! Glad you found your way here. I can't deny your point about Napa Cabernets - or quite a few other "hot" wine niches. I'd argue, though, that Pinot's sudden burst from <i>relative</i> wine-geek obscurity to well drink at the wine bar and its relationship with the movie makes for an unusually interesting story.

It also seems to me that good Oregon Pinot at the more basic level (like today's good wine) has taken a particular jump, although certainly the bigger names and a lot of the single-vineyard wines were already there.
Last edited by Robin Garr on Fri Jul 13, 2007 6:06 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: WTN /WineAdvisor: Pinot Inflation (Willamette Vly Vyds 05)

by Robin Garr » Fri Jul 13, 2007 6:05 pm

Ray Juskiewicz wrote:As for the price, it's supply and demand. The good pinot noir supply is growing slower than the demand, so our habit is getting more expensive.


Ray, thanks for the observations, and welcome to the forum! Now that you've broken the ice, I hope you'll hang around. As for that supply-and-demand thing, that's the point I was hinting at, but you've stated it clearly.

BTW, Robin, we saw your Hot Brown judging on TV this week. A Yankee didn't really have a chance, did he?


Aw, we were just playin' with Bobby. We weren't going to hurt him any ... ;)
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Re: WTN /WineAdvisor: Pinot Inflation (Willamette Vly Vyds 05)

by Robin Garr » Fri Jul 13, 2007 6:10 pm

Dave Chouiniere wrote:What do folks who live in Burgundy drink every day with their meals? Do they drink poor quality juice or do they have a local alternative that doesn’t drain their wallet?


Dave, that's a real good question. In my travels in Burgundy (just missed one last month, doggone it), it seems to me that it's tough to find anything but Burgundy on bistro wine lists, but it's not all the high-end stuff. There are some mighty nice villages Burgundies, Bourgogne Pinot Noir and Burgundies from some of the less sought-after regions around that don't really break the bank (really, today's article was inspired by the realization that I'm buying decent 05 Burgundies, albeit bottom-feeding) for a bit less than this Oregon wine.

If you bear in mind that the Euro is still strong compared with the dollar, and that they don't have to pay to ship it anywhere, I'm pretty sure that our colleagues in Beaune and environs can get a nice Burg with dinner for 10€ to 15€, although certainly not grand crus.
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Re: WTN /WineAdvisor: Pinot Inflation (Willamette Vly Vyds 05)

by Randy Buckner » Fri Jul 13, 2007 6:20 pm

I can think of three Oregon Pinots off the top of my head for under $20 that are decent, 2004 Spindrift, 2004 A to Z and 2005 Stone Wolf.
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Re: WTN /WineAdvisor: Pinot Inflation (Willamette Vly Vyds 05)

by rmpomerantz » Fri Jul 13, 2007 6:22 pm

Movie? What movie? We just had 2 Burgandy' in the last few days - one was under $20 and it was a nice, easy drinker that's made well. The other was about $25 and I rushed back to the store to get the last 2 bottles.
If it's any indicator of the vintage, there really should be some terrific wines that won't break the bank. I know pricing is very competitive here in the Chicago, but there's no reason why you shouldn't be able to get some good Pinot' at a "reasonable" price.
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Re: WTN /WineAdvisor: Pinot Inflation (Willamette Vly Vyds 05)

by Joe Sage » Sat Jul 14, 2007 2:19 pm

Oregon pinot noir is terribly expensive to grow. The best vineyards are hilly and don't lend themselves to mechanized farming -- and farm labor in Oregon is expensive. Farming costs can easily run to $7,000 per acre and yields are typically under 2 tons/acre at better sites. This means the grapes alone can cost more than $5 in a decent bottle. And that only covers farming costs -- it ignores capital outlays of $35K/acre for prime land and $25K/acre for planting costs. Add barrels, racking, bottling costs, time value of money, mark-ups on two levels of distribution and nobody is making much money at $30/bottle.
In Burgundy, the high-end bottles effectively subsidize the lower end which gets the lesser fruit. Oregon pinot is more democratic - few are willing to pay $150 for even an outstanding Oregon wine, while this price is not uncommon for a Grand Cru Burgundy.
Due to this price compression, many $50 bottles of Oregon pinot noir represent outstanding values. Many of the $25 bottles - well, not so much. Still, there are decent bottles to be had - A to Z makes a tolerable sub-$20 PN, and many of the smaller producers have serviceable bottles in the $25 range --- if you can find them. The truly good values easily sell out despite distribution that doesn't extend more than 40 miles beyond Portland.
One result of the recent love affair with pinot noir has been earlier and earlier release of Oregon vintages - a sign that price increases haven't kept pace with increases in demand.
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Re: WTN /WineAdvisor: Pinot Inflation (Willamette Vly Vyds 05)

by Robin Garr » Sat Jul 14, 2007 3:26 pm

rmpomerantz wrote:Movie? What movie?


<i>Sideways</i>, Alexander Payne's Oscar-winning 2004 comedy set in the wine country. It's getting a lot of credit for lighting a fire under the Pinot boom.

I know pricing is very competitive here in the Chicago, but there's no reason why you shouldn't be able to get some good Pinot' at a "reasonable" price.


I don't disagree, and as I said, one of the things that prompted me to comment on $25 Oregon Pinot was the fact that I've been drinking some very nice 2005 Burgundy and even a couple of villages wines and even a minor Premier Cru in the same price range. Of course, we both know why we're putting quote marks around "reasonable."
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Re: WTN /WineAdvisor: Pinot Inflation (Willamette Vly Vyds 05)

by Robin Garr » Sat Jul 14, 2007 3:27 pm

Joe Sage wrote:Oregon pinot noir is terribly expensive to grow. ... One result of the recent love affair with pinot noir has been earlier and earlier release of Oregon vintages - a sign that price increases haven't kept pace with increases in demand.


Joe, a warm welcome to our forum, and thanks very much for speaking up with the voice of experience. It's posts like this that really show the value of interactive forums.
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Re: WTN /WineAdvisor: Pinot Inflation (Willamette Vly Vyds 05)

by Robin Garr » Sat Jul 14, 2007 3:28 pm

Randy Buckner wrote:I can think of three Oregon Pinots off the top of my head for under $20 that are decent ...


Is "decent" somewhat faint praise, or are you indulging in understatement? ;)
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Re: WTN /WineAdvisor: Pinot Inflation (Willamette Vly Vyds 05)

by Keith M » Sat Jul 14, 2007 3:49 pm

Joe Sage wrote:One result of the recent love affair with pinot noir has been earlier and earlier release of Oregon vintages - a sign that price increases haven't kept pace with increases in demand.


Welcome, Joe. I was wondering, however, if you could clarify why earlier wine releases indicate that prices haven't kept up with demand. Certainly, I understand why producers would want to release their wines earlier (reducing the amount of time between their initial capital outlays and the recouping of their costs when they sell their final product in effect increases their income). But why do such earlier releases necessarily signal that demand has increased more than prices have? Wouldn't producers always have such incentives toward earlier release--whether or not prices have kept up with demand?
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Re: WTN /WineAdvisor: Pinot Inflation (Willamette Vly Vyds 05)

by Howie Hart » Sat Jul 14, 2007 6:38 pm

Joe Sage wrote:Oregon pinot noir is terribly expensive to grow. ....
Hi Joe and welcome to the Wine Lovers Page. A friend of mine owns the largest Pinot Noir vineyard in NY State and I can confirm what you are saying first hand. His winery makes only PN. To make a world class Pinot Noir is different than making other wines. Low yields, hand picking, sorting bunches, protecting the vines in winter, plus all the vinification costs you mentioned. His wines retail for $46/bottle or $27 for futures and I believe they are a good value. Other local wineries sell Riesling, Chardonnay and Cab Franc for $12 - $20 and hybrids for less than $10, but a good Pinot Noir is very special.
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Re: WTN /WineAdvisor: Pinot Inflation (Willamette Vly Vyds 05)

by rmpomerantz » Sat Jul 14, 2007 6:38 pm

Robin - Sorry, but I was just joking about the movie. When people mention the movie at the store I say that and they look at me for a moment or two before realizing that I'm just joking. The movie did get a lot of people to try Pinots, but it's that great grape that keeps them coming back; plus, it's a great pairing with almost any food.

- RP
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Re: WTN /WineAdvisor: Pinot Inflation (Willamette Vly Vyds 05)

by Rahsaan » Sat Jul 14, 2007 8:03 pm

rmpomerantz wrote:plus, it's a great pairing with almost any food.


Let's not get carried away here..
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Re: WTN /WineAdvisor: Pinot Inflation (Willamette Vly Vyds 05)

by leenelsen » Sat Jul 14, 2007 8:10 pm

What used to a really good wine for about $15 is now $25 to $35 and just not worth it :twisted: There is too much good wine out there to even try to mess around with a Pinot anymore.
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Re: WTN /WineAdvisor: Pinot Inflation (Willamette Vly Vyds 05)

by Howie Hart » Sat Jul 14, 2007 8:22 pm

leenelsen wrote:What used to a really good wine for about $15 is now $25 to $35 and just not worth it :twisted: There is too much good wine out there to even try to mess around with a Pinot anymore.
Welcome leenelsen to the WLDG. Back in '75, when I was a wine newbie, my cousin, who was more knowledgeable than I was said "The difference between a $5 and a $10 bottle of wine is worth it." $35 + bottles of wine are usually worth it, but I tend to treasure them for special occasions.
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Re: WTN /WineAdvisor: Pinot Inflation (Willamette Vly Vyds 05)

by Bozzo » Sat Jul 14, 2007 10:05 pm

I started drinking Oregon Pinot Noir back in 2005. I bought a Cherry Hill Pinot Noir in Yachats on the coast. The owner recommended it and I remember thinking "$25 for a Pinot Noir, that seems a bit pricey." My wife and I drank it over looking the ocean as the sun was setting. Wow, that was a great wine. Unfortunately I didn't buy any more bottles, but I found the same vintage online last year and I bought several (I have one left). Unfortunately, since then, I haven't had any Oregon Pinots that were nearly as good. I just starting trying out some Barbera wine from Italy this summer (on recommendation from Eric Asimov's NYT column). Different than Pinot Noir (of course), but also a lighter, more 'summery' wine. I found an excellent one for around $25 (again) - a 1999 Bovio Regiaveja - , and some mediocre ones for around $15. I'll keep trying the Barbera this summer since they are generally cheaper and, funny enough, since there are fewer of them I don't have to comb through dozens and dozens of look-alike probably overpriced Pinots.
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Re: WTN /WineAdvisor: Pinot Inflation (Willamette Vly Vyds 05)

by Bob Henrick » Sat Jul 14, 2007 10:46 pm

Randy, I just took delivery on a 6-pack of the 2005 Stone Wolf myself, and will let it lie for a few weeks before I try one, but so far I have like the ones I have had. Have you had any of Linda's single vineyard "Matriarch Series" pinots?
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Re: WTN /WineAdvisor: Pinot Inflation (Willamette Vly Vyds 05)

by Randy Buckner » Sun Jul 15, 2007 1:04 am

Bob, here's a link on an article I wrote about Stone Wolf and their wines, which is the last time I tried them:

http://dwb.thenewstribune.com/soundlife/story/6078397p-5330264c.html
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