Oregon, which shares with Burgundy a cool, often cloudy climate, has always leaned more toward the leaner, lower-alcohol style of Pinot Noir than its neighbor to the south. Not driven by the idea of Big Fruit, growing grapes closer to the edge of ripeness, Brian O’Donnell concentrates on finding the narrow place where the natural intensity of small-berried Pinot Noir crosses with its finesse, its acidity and red fruit. Murto Vineyard, from which he has sourced grapes grown to his specifications for twenty years, lies in the Dundee Hills, known for their red clay and the unique peppery finish it imparts. South-facing for the sun, protected from chilly winds, its situation lets the grapes ripen, even in a short vintage like 2013, when the grapes had to be picked early lest they be lost. (In Oregon, once the rain begins, it doesn’t pass.) Out of this uncertain situation, where a warm season was truncated by rain, the 2013 Murto emerges from its months in barrel (25% new) gorgeous, concentrated, and rich, showing a cedary, floral, red-fruit nose. Lighter in the mouth, coming in at a nicely low 12.5% alcohol, it has less of the usual finesse and a touch of rusticity. Brambly tannins with Murto’s characteristic spice (cinnamon, allspice) underpin the cranberry, cherry, and strawberry fruit, giving it a darker underside and delicious finish.
Pairing: Coho Salmon, Lamb Tagine
VARIETY: PINOT NOIR
REGION: Willamette Valley, Oregon, USA