Best Washington Pinot Noir

Ava Flores
• Saturday, 09 January, 2021
• 7 min read

Everyone loves a glass of great PinotNoir, but the grape’s fickle nature and elusive character can make it difficult to find quality, well-priced bottles. After tasting more than 2,700 bottles in 2019, our global team of reviewers has sifted through the masses to discover the besting Noir of the year.

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Fresh acidity is seamlessly integrated between textured layers of black cherry, forest floor and cardamom. Roar 2017 Sierra Mar Vineyard PinotNoir (Santa Lucia Highlands); $58, 97 points.

Rich and ripe in aromas of red cherry, caramel and oak, this bottling is made elegant and complex from the crushed slate and stony qualities that thrive throughout. A concentrated Bing cherry flavor rings on the bone-dry palate, lifted by mint and more chiseled stone.

Escarpment 2017 KIA Single Vineyard PinotNoir (Martin borough); $60, 95 points. From 30-year-old vines in deep alluvial gravels, this is a spicy and pristine wine that’s approachable now but is also very cellar worthy.

A heady perfume of blueberries, pomegranates, tobacco leaves, scrubby Mediterranean herbs, florals and crushed stones kicks it all off. Then the palate takes it all to another level, bursting with crunchy, juicy fruit, crystalline-like generality and savory spices, all threaded together with structured ultrafine tannins.

There’s a herbal edge right upfront on the nose of this wine, with some earthy foliage, raw cocoa nib and fresh-tilled dirt aromas that are amply supported by a fruity core of red cherry flesh, plum, wild strawberry and raspberry. The bright palate offers beautiful generality, as pristine, pure red-fruit flavors are coupled with a saline burst on the midpalate and through the close.

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It’s well-balanced, focused and precise, a gorgeous wine that is hard to resist now and should evolve well through 2028. Hoyland has blended multiple clones for this Old Vine cover, and to good effect.

A lush, tightly woven fabric of mixed berries, spicy plum and stewed cherries brings accents of bramble and underbrush. There’s a seam of graphite, and the tannins carry a hint of dark chocolate.

Domain Jessie 2017 Les Cents Vines Premier CPU (Beau ne); $47, 93 points. One of the larger premier Cruz at the northern end of the Beau ne vineyard, Les Cents Vines is also one of the best known.

This wine’s ripe, juicy and generous fruit is a good reason why. Flavorful berry and plum fruit with well-massaged notes of vanilla, tobacco and Bourbon combine to make this a most enjoyable everyday wine.

This gorgeous wine shows an expressive wild-cherry aroma, a vibrant and pure black-cherry flavor and a firm, fine-grained texture for an enticing mouthfeel. Touches of mineral and iron in the aroma, and hints of rhubarb and forest floor in the flavor give it exciting breadth and complexity.

pinot noir americans oregon team
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Only later does the smokiness of oak envelope that lovely fruit, while fine tannins effect a gentle grip. This is a blend across various PinotNoir parcels of Cotton Grand CPU vineyards.

It is a powerful wine, but the intensity is tempered by the elegant texture and open red fruits. Plush aromas of strawberry and cherry meet with subtle accents of clove, gingerbread, cinnamon and flowers on the nose of this bottling from Jefferson Ranch.

A strawberry flavor dominates the palate, with touches of pepper and tobacco leaf, all framed by full tannins that hold firm into the finish. Salsa 2015 Oberrotweiler Heisenberg GG PinotNoir (Baden); $50, 93 points.

Prominent notes of smoke, char and bramble mingle into zesty, invigorating bites of crisp black plum and cherry. Full-bodied and velvety on the palate, it’s equal parts savory earth tones and pristine fruit, but needs a bit more time to meld.

It changes with every pour, from bright cranberry and raspberry fruit to licorice; from dried roses and violets to sandalwood and savory spice. The palate is medium bodied and silky textured, with tightly wound, leathery tannins and fruit that feels like you could take a bite out of it.

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On a visit there around 2002, Joan Overton (a former Seattle newspaper reporter) told tales of nearby Mount St. Helen's erupting in 1980. She also described the area she and husband Line turned to vineyards as basically being a northern extension of the Willamette Valley (without the river, of course).

It couldn’t get traction with Oregon PinotNoir followers, nor could it attract Washington wine lovers who gravitated toward the warm Columbia Valley. On an annual basis, winemaker Rick Square makes the equivalent of 27,000 cases of WashingtonPinotNoir into beautiful bubbly.

Some solid WashingtonPinotNoir is being grown in Flanagan County just south of the Canadian border (in fact, Château Ste. A small amount of WashingtonPinotNoir is grown at Evergreen Vineyard in the new Ancient Lakes of Columbia Valley AVA near the town of Quincy.

Many years ago, Rick Small at Woodward Canyon made PinotNoir from these grapes. Ginkgo Forest Winery on Washington’s Warlike Slope makes a small amount of WashingtonPinotNoir.

Where we don’t expect to find WashingtonPinotNoir are the warm areas: Red Mountain, Horse Heaven Hills and Warlike Slope. Ginkgo Forest Winery 2008 Estate PinotNoir, Warlike Slope, $24 Recommended: Because of its natural ripeness, this example shows off rich purple aromas that are Sylphlike with notes of plum pie with mincemeat, along with notes of graphite, cherries and sage.

pinot noir balletto rose bottle
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On the palate, it reveals flavors of plums, raspberries, cola, spice and dried cherries. He is the author of “The Northwest Wine Guide: A Buyer's Handbook” (Sasquatch, 2003) and has contributed to four other books.

It is a truly delicious Pilot Noir that is eager to convey the nuances of Sonoma's Russian River Valley with elegance and grace. Violets, smoke, and spice-laced aromas add dimension and interest from the first sip, with blackberry, black cherry, and raspberry fruit prevailing on the well-defined palate.

The nose gives an explosion of dominating red cherry fruit laced with a heady mix of herbal and floral tones, all woven through an allspice-laden matrix. The palate profile produces a dynamic synergy between ripe raspberry and dark cherry fruit with the warm infusion of vanilla.

This elegant Pilot Noir from Sonoma's Russian River Valley comes from dry-farmed vineyards, showcasing a well-concentrated nose bursting with ripe red berries and spice-laced notes. Expect ripe raspberry fruit to dance with subtle dried herb nuances, gaining depth and finesse toward the fine-grained finish.

This wine is perfect for pairing with the earthy undertones of mushroom-themed sides, roasted poultry, and choice cheese options (consider goat, Brie, and Gruyère). Grown on the rugged ridge tops of California's Manchester Ridge, overlooking the pelting waves of the Pacific, the coastal La Follette grapes may not make it into the cellar every year.

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Expect an engaging mix of herb and earth, laced with muted florals and dense, dark cherry fruit on the nose. Complex layers of warm baking spice, a vibrant generality, and well-defined structure bound by an elegant intensity, all generously supported by rich red cherry fruit allow for a significant palate impression.

Medium-bodied, well-tuned acidity, velvety tannins, and a persistent, opulent finish all combine to make this low production wine (390 cases) one to find. This Demeter Certified Biodynamic Pilot Noir from California delivers a delicious mix of aromatic fruit and the warm layers of earth and spice.

Expect exquisite concentration of the cherry and plum profiles bolstered by the savory expressions of fine-cut tobacco leaves and fresh espresso to carry through the persistent finish. Here's a Pilot Noir that promises an aromatic thrill with ripe cherry and dense blackberry fruit wrapped in heady fresh tobacco leaves and delicate floral tones.

Made with organic grapes grown in Mendocino, California, the aromas on this pleasing Pilot consist largely of bright red fruit with a touch of sweet vanilla spice and cherry pie in the mix. Perfect pairing partners include pasta dishes with red sauce, burgers, pizza, mushroom-driven themes, a wide variety of appetizers, grilled chicken, steak, or pork chops, and an expansive list of choice cheeses.

Chocolate-covered strawberry notes sift through the silky tannins, engaging the senses with vibrant acidity and a plush, persistent finish. Hops and Sips The Willamette Valley of Oregon has a reputation for the red wine, but there are other success stories in the area.

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Yet it presents myriad challenges for viticulturists and winemakers who will use polite terms such as “finicky” in public when they would rather use the coarse and colorful language of the vineyard and the cellar. As a result, pinotnoir ranks among the most expensive for consumers to acquire because of the work to get the grapes ripe and the attention the wines demand in the cellar.

The perfume nose presents dark red notes of strawberry, cherry vanilla and Raisin with a pinch of violet and Muscovy sugar. Hood Winery 2018 Estate PinotNoir, Columbia Gorge, $38: The Pickford family and their Hood River winemaker, Rich Cushman, continue to show with their 2018 Columbia Gorge PinotNoir why they are regularly awarded platinum for their work with Oregon’s signature grape.

Cushman’s light touch with new French oak over 12 months creates a youthful and fresh style that leans toward sweet blue fruit, joined by cocoa-covered pomegranate and cherry pipe tobacco. His decision to establish it with Dijon clone 777 pinotnoir has proved to be a delicious move, thanks in large part to the work of his winemaker, Brian Carter.

This project signals a step beyond the norm for Carter, a master blender of big Washington reds, but his talent and degree from Oregon State University help explain his success with this rather delicate expression of pinotnoir. Rose petal, saffron, sage and blood orange aromas lead to classic and fruity pinotnoir flavors of strawberry and raspberry.

Secondary notes of moist earth, sage and Black Forest Cake set up the food-friendly finish of Rainier cherry and caramel.

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