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St. Innocent is consistently one of our favorite producers in the United States, producing site-specific, terroir-driven wines in the Willamette valley, an area rich with different, exciting soil types. From red volcanic basalt-based soil to marine sediments, that remain from a time before Oregon had been thrust up through tectonic movement and was still a seabed. A winemaker attuned to the needs of making wines that express terroir would be perfectly suited to represent these various Oregonian expressions. Founder Mark Vlossak is just this type of winemaker. Every vintage he is on a quest to produce the best wine possible that year, whether or not that will ultimately be light and fresh or deep and powerful depends on the weather of each place each year. His attention to terroir is deep, as he believes it to be his primary source of inspiration. "The way a wine feels on your palate, where you taste it, how it lingers, its density or lightness are all an expression of a specific place," he writes. Today we have five excellent wines to offer you: three single-site expressions of Pinot Noir, one of Chardonnay, and his excellent Pinot Noir blended from five vineyards.
To start, his 2016 Villages Cuvée Pinot Noir is one of the best and most classic Pinots from Willamette Valley to be found for under $30. Inspired by the village cuvées from some of the cooler villages in Burgundy, like Fixin, Savigny-Les-Beaune, or Beaune, this is a lightweight, airy, immensely expressive wine that is designed to be as fresh as possible but also to pair with a wide range of dishes, from oily fish to poultry to pork. The refreshing acidity and clear fruit expression are accompanied by fine concentration and depth.
Next we have a selection of three single-vineyard cuvées that are all extraordinary examples of Pinot Noir used to express the varied terroir of the Willamette Valley. The 2015 Temperance Vineyard Pinot Noir is sourced from the highest altitude site. Certified organic and located in the Eola-Amity Hills AVA, at 860 feet above sea level, this is a light and tightly structured wine with an aromatic nose of violets and black pepper with a hint of smokiness. On the palate it is structured and earthy, with hints of cranberry and raspberry fruit ensconced in darker tea-like and herbal notes. This wine will develop magnificently for a half decade, and reward cellaring for up to twelve years. This wine arrives on May 18th. In contrast, the 2014 Momtazi Vineyard Pinot Noir, from the famed biodynamically farmed vineyard in McMinnville, is deeper and more perfumed. Sourced from the highest blocks in the vineyard, at nearly 800 feet, the grapes from this wine are grown on poor, thin soils, but receive tons of sunshine. Very structured, with incredible acid and more powerful tannin, the Momtazi is full of finesse and subtle character of darker blue and black berry fruit, coupled with savory, meaty, herbal notes and the ability to age for well more than a decade. Aged for 16 months in 18% new oak. Our last single-vineyard bottle is the monumental 2014 Shea Vineyard Pinot Noir. This is a deeply structured introspective wine that, while already extraordinary now, is really meant for the cellar. This wine, aged in 20% new oak for 16 months, is firm and tannic, brooding and full of black cherry and dark berry character, with aromas of violets and chocolate shavings. On the palate this wine is robust and undulating with different complex flavor characteristics. The fruit is extraordinarily refined, the tannins are superbly fine-grained. I can only imagine what secrets this wine will bring forth in 10-15 years.
Lastly we have the 2016 Freedom Hill Chardonnay, from a vineyard in the foothills of the Coast Range, southwest of Salem. Natural fermentation in neutral oak is followed by eleven months aging sur lie in old French barrels. This wine is a study in texture and finesse, with beautiful ripe peach character and rounded character from the lees built on a fine foundation of crystalline acidity. This is an excellent fuller-bodied Chardonnay for drinking in the summer sunshine.
We hope you enjoy these fantastic wines, and encourage patience in the cellaring as these wines are so tasty now, but will really develop beautifully for years to come! Andrew Farquhar
This fantastic Chardonnay is from the Freedom Hill vineyard located in the foothills of the coastal range 10 miles southwest of Salem. The soil here is well-drained silty clay loam. Whole cluster pressed and barrel fermented, this wine was aged sur lie for 11 months in neutral oak before bottling. Broad and magisterial, but with great energy, this is a beautiful Chardonnay, with peach aromas and a touch of more tropical character. The sur lie aging gives it a marvelous roundness on the palate that sublimates the brighter fruit character into something lush and restrained. The retention of such energy in this wine makes it a great Chardonnay for summer, and would pair well with cold summer soups, fish, or bruschetta. While it's drinking marvelously now, this wine will improve for up to half a decade if cellared. Andrew Farquhar
This is one of our favorite Pinots from the Willamette Valley. The grapes are sourced from five vineyards St. Innocent makes single site wines from: Vitae Springs, Zenith, Freedom Hill, Temperance Hill, and Momtazi. Natural fermentation was followed by twelve months in 19% new French oak. Sweet spices and smoke entwine around a dark morello cherry fruit core. Soft tannin, but with great energy and concentration, this wine is youthful and exuberant, with incredible finesse and complexity. Andrew Farquhar
This wine comes from the highest altitude site, located in the Eola-Amity Hills AVA, positioned at 860 feet above sea level, on what is believed to be an extinct volcano. Certified organic, this is a light and tightly structured wine with an aromatic nose of violets and black pepper with a hint of smokiness. On the palate it is structured and earthy, with hints of cranberry and raspberry fruit ensconced in darker tea-like and herbal notes. This wine will develop magnificently for a half decade, and reward cellaring for up to twelve years. Andrew Farquhar
The Momtazi vineyard is one of the best vineyards in McMinnville, and Oregon as a whole, and has been certified biodynamic by Demeter. Momtazi is situated to the east of the Van Duzer corridor, a break in the Oregon Coastal Ranges that allows cool air from the Pacific to flow between the mountains in the evening, moderating the temperature and allowing for acid retention. This beautiful example is a brooding and dark wine, with incredible minerality and herbal notes wound tightly around its blue and black fruit. Aged for sixteen months in 18% new oak, this is a meatier, more savory wine, with the ability to age for up to a decade in bottle. Andrew Farquhar just to the east of the Van Duzer corridor, a break in Oregon's coastal range that allows cool air from the Pacific to flow between the mountains in the evening, moderating the temperature and allowing for acid retention. Andrew Farquhar
This indomitable wine from one of Oregon's, and America's, greatest vineyards is a formidably complex and deeply structured introspective wine that, while already extraordinary now, is really meant for the cellar. The Shea vineyard is, interestingly, really two vineyard separated by a ravine. This wine comes from fruit from the east field, mostly from Pommard clones. The Shea vineyard experiences high diurnal range, which is its saving grace, because it does get quite hot during the day. This wine, aged in 20% new oak for 16 months before bottling, is firm and tannic, brooding and full of black cherry and dark berry character, with aromas of violets and chocolate shavings. On the palate this wine is robust and undulating with different complex flavor characteristics. The fruit is extraordinarily refined, the tannins superbly fine-grained. I can only imagine what secrets this wine will bring forth in 10-15 years. Andrew Farquhar