John Paul in the cellar at Cameron

Burgundian?

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I’m not sure I’ve ever met (or read about) a Pinot Noir producer outside of Burgundy who doesn’t say “We want to make Burgundian-style wine”.

What does this mean? For this aficionado, Burgundy means wine with a strong sense of place, reasonable alcohol levels, healthy levels of natural acidity, and a degree of finesse or elegance appropriate to the individual vineyard of origin. “Burgundian” is certainly a moving target, because Pinot Noir from Burgundy has changed quite a bit since we started drinking the wines (a horribly long time ago…). Back then it was rare to encounter a wine over 12.5% alcohol; in fact there were few wines that had not been chaptalized (fermented with added sugar) to raise the alcohol level. Nowadays warmer temperatures mean that a 12.5% Burgundy is hard to find. What were frequently quite lean and shrill wines are now generally much riper, and they’re more difficult to distinguish from other Pinot Noirs. Still, the great growers of Burgundy set the standard for the rest of the world. We’d argue that there is no substitute for the potential expression of Burgundy terroir, but there are a few Pinot producers outside Burgundy who do a truly fine job making wine that pays homage to the ideal.

Her Majesty and I made our first visit to Oregon this summer – we had a great time, and we now understand why young people go to Portland to retire. Since we were traveling together I had to severely restrict the number of visits to winemakers, so I consulted widely with the locals who all said: “if you’re only going to a couple of vineyards then you have to go to Cameron”.  I’d heard good things about Cameron, but I’d never tasted the wines, and I (we, in fact) was really knocked-out; if anyone is doing a good job working towards Burgundian wine, it’s Cameron. I confess that I know little about Oregon wine in general, and even less about Oregon’s vineyards, but the energy and style of the Cameron wines is compelling.

 

The Clos Electrique

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Cameron 2010 Willamette Valley Pinot Noir Abbey Ridge

Dundee Hills is a blend of fruit from Cameron’s three vineyards: Abbey Ridge, Clos Electrique, and Arley’s Leap (which is a section of the larger Abbey Ridge vineyard). All farming is organic, and so is the winemaking, with little sulfur used on the whole-cluster fermentations. Cellar aging is pretty classic (Burgundian!), with a small amount of new wood. The wine has a fascinating balance between concentration and energy, and it can certainly age for a good 5-10 years. Old-school wine, and a real treat.

 

 

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Cameron 2009 Willamette Valley Pinot Noir Arley's Leap

Planted in 1990, Arley’s Leap (named after a jumping dog, in case you were wondering) is a step more concentrated and complex than the fine Dundee Hills Pinot. Tasting in the cellar, I went back and forth trying to determine a preference. I was somewhat distracted by John Paul’s (owner) story telling — he’s a very interesting guy, and I didn’t do a good note-taking job. I did love the wine. Burgundian? Well, yes.

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