My father-in-law lives in Southern California, and he’s always had an affinity for referring to the west coast as the Left Coast. I can’t even think West Coast anymore without my brain auto-correcting to Left Coast.
Meet Left Coast Cellars.
Located in Oregon’s Willamette Valley, Left Coast Cellars focuses exclusively on craft wines — 134 acres of estate-grown Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, Pinot Blanc, Viognier, and Syrah.
A Quick Primer on the Willamette Valley may be in order here if you’re not familiar with it.
The history of wine in the Willamette Valley dates back to the 1800s. The first wineries in the region were established by German and Swiss immigrants who were looking for a new place to grow their grapes.
The Willamette Valley is located in the northwestern corner of Oregon, and its cool climate and volcanic soils make it ideal for growing pinot noir. The region has become one of the most important wine-producing regions in the United States.
Left Coast Cellars is certified LIVE sustainable (essentially, this means they use fewer and less toxic pesticides and fertilizers). This is Oregon, after all. I’d be surprised if they weren’t some flavor of sustainable-organic-biodynamic. There are over two miles of hiking trails on the property, and a birding hotspot (with over 87 different bird species spotted on the property). If you’ve followed my blog for any amount of time, you know I’m a total birdie (that’s like a groupie, but for birds).
I haven’t tasted a drop of wine, and I’m already intrigued.
A few years ago, we took a family wine vacation (yes, that’s a thing in my family) to Oregon. We loved it — not just the wines (which are outstanding), but the place. We almost didn’t come home. I even caught the Mr. Armchair Sommelier checking into Newberg real estate. If only our roots (and jobs and schools) weren’t so deep here on the Right Coast.
Oregon Pinot Noirs
Oregon is known for its world-class pinot noirs. The cool, coastal climate and volcanic soils create the perfect environment for this delicate varietal. Oregon pinots are characterized by bright fruit flavors, earthy notes, and silky tannins.
Some of Oregon’s most famous pinot noir producers include Willamette Valley Vineyards, Beaux Freres, and Domaine Serene. Oregon pinot noirs are perfect for pairing with food, and they also age well.
Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris are the most widely planted red and white grapes in Oregon, and two of my all-time favorite varieties. Oregon Pinot Gris is downright sublime, perhaps not quite as swoony as Alsace, but it bears no resemblance to the insipid bulk Pinot Grigio that drains out of Italy. I adore Pinot Noir in any of its terroiristic styles. But Oregon Pinot Noir is unique (to my palate, anyway) in that it’s a Goldilocks wine. It’s earthier and less overtly fruity than California Pinot (not as much sunshine in Oregon), but not quite as earthy and funky as Burgundy. It’s just right.
Without reservation, these Left Coast Cellars Pinots are two of the most interesting wines I’ve tasted in recent weeks. Color me impressed!
The Orchards Pinot Gris 2015 /90
100% Pinot Gris. Fermented and aged in stainless steel. The Orchards Vineyard is planted on the site of an historic apple and pear orchard, dating back to the pioneers who settled Oregon (think Oregon Trail, circa 1840s).
I poured this wine at room temperature (because I forgot to put it in the fridge), and while I don’t usually enjoy tepid whites, in this case, I was rewarded in spades for my memory lapse. Good gravy, what Oregon can do with Pinot Gris! A beautifully expressive nose of yellow apple, lemon curd, pears, minerals, and (even though it doesn’t really make sense with the stainless steel ferment and age) vanilla. Dry with an energetic vein of acid. The ABV comes in at 13.7%, but it didn’t feel hot, or out of whack. Concentrated and elegant flavors of perfectly ripe pear, honey-crisp apple, lemon, and vanilla. I only wish the layered finish had gone on for a smidge longer, but you can’t have it all for $18 bucks. Yes, I said $18 bucks. Crazy value. Crazy. I’m ordering more of this one!
Cali’s Cuvee Pinot Noir 2014 /91
100% Pinot Noir. Fermented in stainless steel, and aged for nine months in 10% New French Oak; the balance in two, three, and four-year French oak.
Insanely approachable. A slightly bashful nose of red cherry, strawberry, red currant, raspberry, vanilla, nutmeg, and violets. Dry and beautifully balanced, with a softness that begs you to pour another glass. The flavors mirror the nose, with the addition of rhubarb and red plum, with a finish of minerals and white pepper. 13.5% ABV.
This beauty of a Pinot is available for only $24. Honestly, I thought that was a typo. I’m ordering more of this one, too!
I really did intend to share these two wines with a friend (after I wrote my tasting notes), but the Mr. Armchair Sommelier and I couldn’t stop refilling our glasses!
Tasting these two wines reminded me how much I love Oregon, and especially Oregon wines. I’m thinking about joining an Oregon Wine Club (not one single winery, but a club that curates a variety of Oregon wines). If you know of one, please let me know.
Both of these wines were provided to me as media samples. My palate and my opinions are mines. All mine.