Our Oregon Pinot Noir Vintages
Because our production of Nysa is small (only two acres of the 35 planted) we are able to offer you only properly cellared wines that begin to express the secondary, non-fruit, characteristics of the noble Oregon pinot noir grape. The integration of fruit in perfect balance with forest floor, mushroom, game, and spicy non-fruit secondary flavors is what motivated our love for pinot noir grown in cool climates. Finesse, elegance and complexity is obtained in the vineyard, but only years in the bottle allow these features to fully express in your glass, share and enjoy!
The Growing Season
Bud break occurred during the fourth week of March, and bloom during the second week of June, a bit later than normal. A cooler year than 2006 with harvest rainfall that created challenges for many growers not use to these conditions; skilled vineyard management with keeping the fruit zone open to air flow avoided rot in Nysa. The first lot of Nysa pinot was picked for Josh Bergstrom in the fourth week of October, followed by Ken Wright’s portion of the Vineyard. Our block of Nysa’s “old vines” was picked on Halloween.
Our current release, the 2007, has a nose of red raspberry mixed with dried violets. The lush tannins produce a silky smooth medium bodied wine. The finish begins with the predominant raspberry flavor leading into an elegant complex of flowers and spice framed by a balanced acidity to age 10 more years. Best served with salmon or lamb. This is a classic cool weather pinot from Nysa with amazing finesse.
The Growing Season
Although storms carrying a lot of rain swept through Oregon in mid-January by the time spring rolled around the 2006 growing season had caught up to allow bud break by the third week of March, and bloom about the second week of June. Perfect bloom weather resulted in too many clusters, thus we spent significant time doing “green harvest” passes to pare back the crop to what our cool growing climate could actually ripen. Harvest was accomplished in perfect weather, warm enough that everything ripened smoothly, yet not all at once, with cool mornings for picking, and very little rain. Our Pinot noir grapes were picked in the second week of October.
The 2006 Pinot Noir has a nose of black cherry mixed with chocolate. The creamy tannins produce a rich deep mouth feel accentuated by cherry and plum. The finish begins with the subtle secondary characteristics of coffee and black tea integrating with the black fruit yet still possessing sufficient acidity to age 4-5 more years. Best served with hearty beef or stews. This is the richest and fullest body Nysa we have produced to date.
The Growing Season
A warm spell appeared in January resulting in an early bud break on March 16th. The unusually dry winter ended with a very wet spring. Cool rainy weather the second week of June during bloom reduced crop levels. Cool temperatures during Fall and light rains at the end of September helped to achieve flavor development without causing sugars to soar too high. Pulling leaves in the fruit zone allowed airflow to dry the clusters and thus avoid rot or mildew. These cooler Fall temperatures are just what pinot noir needs to maintain acidity while ideal flavor development occurs.
This 2005 Pinot Noir has a nose of cherry mixed with cedar and sage. The creamy tannins produce a rich mouth feel accentuated by cherry and raspberry. The finish begins with penetrating fruit flavors grabbing your attention and then trails off with spice and sufficient acidity to compliment salmon, lamb, or beef Bourgogne—and allow extended cellaring for secondary characteristics to emerge. In our high elevation Dundee Hills vineyard Mother Nature allowed us to produced only 500 cases of this special offering.
The Growing Season
It was an unusual year. Warm weather in February caused bud break to occur in the second week of March, much earlier than usual. Then cool weather came during flowering—Mother Nature thinned our crop for us (usually we thin to 2 Tons per acre). June, July, and most of August were very hot, but the heaviest August rainstorm in a couple of decades brought the heat to an end. This rain burst many of the berries causing them to ooze juice attracting ants and yellow jackets; those grapes the insects did not eat, an unusually early migratory bird flock took leaving the vines to easily mature 3/4 Ton per acre! The Indian summer in mid-September allowed flavors to mature coolly and fully prior to harvest occurring the first week of October.
Currently (May 2012) the 2004 Nysa has a nose of strawberry mixed with forest floor and game. The soft tannins produce a rich full-bodied mouth accentuated by the fully developed secondary flavors that reflect the holy grail of pinot noir! The finish begins with penetrating truffle and red fruit trailing on, and on, and on with still sufficient acidity to allow another 5-7 years of cellaring–but why, this wine is perfect now. Less than 40 cases remain with local restaurants buying up most of it.
These notes were made by Michael Stevenson, winemaker at Panther Creek, during a tasting of all the Nysa vintages across all producers in the summer of 2005. We tasted through the bottled history of Nysa vineyard with some of the folks who have been working with the site and discussed what was, is and what might be. (Panther Creek, Ken Wright and Bethel Heights have all made wine from the site since 1998.)
The wines were tasted side-by-side in flights, starting with the oldest (1998) and continued through to the 2002 vintage.
Attending: Michael Mega, Michael Stevenson, Ken Wright of Ken Wright Cellars, Terry Casteel of Bethel Heights, and Laurent Montalieu who was the inaugural winemaker at Willkenzie Estate and has gone on to his own custom crush project where Nysa 2004-2006 were made. Nick Peirano, owner of Nick's Italian Cafe and staunch supporter of Oregon wine for over 27 years also sat in with us.
1998 Bethel Heights - aromas are dark and smokey; rustic and slightly raisiny but not in a problematic way. Flavors are red fruits and some raisin but not overripe or alcoholic; wonderful, zippy acidity, drinking very well.
1998 Ken Wright Cellars - aromas are red fruit driven and have a lovely spice component; flavors seem to be a bit more blue fruit and smoke centered, palate has brightness similar to the Bethel Heights and is also drinking very nicely.
1998 Panther Creek - aromas are earthy, gamey and dark fruit driven; flavors have similar blue fruit character with oak playing a role here as with the other two wines, there is wonderful acidity here and also a bit more tannin.
1999 Bethel Heights - aromas centered around a black pepper character with some red fruits in there as well; flavors reflect more of the black pepper and hints of sweet red fruit, tannins are very fine, ripe and well structured.
1999 Ken Wright Cellars - aromas are red fruit driven with big perfume and purity; flavors have more red fruits like sweet red cherry, tannins are assertive but very ripe and perfectly in line with the flavors and texture.
1999 Panther Creek - some pepper but mainly ripe red fruits; flavors are very similar to the nose also showing some tannin and lingering, persistent finish.
2000 Bethel Heights - some pepper character but whiter and much less of it; more black fruit driven than the red I more associate with the Dundee Hills; flavors are beautiful, round and sweet, drinking very well; wine seems elegant and gentle.
2000 Ken Wright Cellars - dark fruit and game on the nose, mouth has more of the lovely dark fruit and nice sweetness like a blackberry liqueur very approachable and the flavors are still fresh and sweet.
2000 Panther Creek - nose is showing a hint of corruption which responds well to air; similar to the above black fruits and smoke, flavors of dark black and blue fruit, mouth is very clean and approachable silky tannin which extends the finish very nicely; oak plays a bit more of a role here as well.
2001 Bethel Heights - lovely ripe fruit at the core of the aromas and just the barest hint of a bit of white pepper which makes the nose even that much more complex; flavors of dark fruit and cola opulently balanced wine which is drinking superbly.
2001 Ken Wright Cellars - nose is a little tight but opens up nicely; ripe blue fruits and a lovely woody perfume palate reflects the aromas very nicely also showing very well; this wine is also very nicely balanced.
2001 Panther Creek - aromas of warm earth and red fruit very appealing pure cherry fruit in mouth tannins are present but quite fine and very appropriate.
2002 Bethel Heights - sweet earth and dark fruit in nose black and blue fruits in mouth which are very ripe and fresh seamless in mouth and very sweet with a hint of tannin.
2002 Ken Wright Cellars - distinct aromas of cherry brandy; very refined cherry brandy reappears in mouth with wonderfully pure fine tannins supple and very supportive.
2002 Panther Creek - rich and opulent nose; dusty earth and dark ripe fruit flavors are very ripe but stays fresh and vibrant; fruits are redder than nose would suggest and quite intense a big wine and, as with the other two, shows great balance.
There was not a single wine in the tasting that I would not have been happy to have on the table for dinner. The excellence of the site and commitment to first-class grape growing and winemaking really showed through all night.
1998 was a real surprise for me. I have not been as big a fan of the vintage as others have until recently. What at first seemed to me to be dominated by overripe character and a muddiness of some aromas has become quite refined and appealing. There are still some slightly raisiny characteristics and that showed up in all three wines. But it works well with the beautiful red fruit and zippy acidity. The wines are starting to develop a bit of bottle bouquet and are drinking very well.
1999 is a wonderful vintage. All of the wines were quite tight and responded slowly but very positively to aeration. There was no consensus about the vintage at the table but I feel it is really a world-class year and seems not to be aging with any rapidity. In the aromas and flavors of the three wines I had the sense that there is much more there than was being revealed. Nobody who owns any of these wines should be in any hurry to drink them and if they do open a bottle, please decant with lots of air. You'll be happy you did.
2000 has been a vintage that I have liked since it was in the barrel. 2000 does not have the big structure of 1999 or 2002 but the wines have wonderful aromas of dark fruits and very interesting gamey character as well. In the mouth I have found the 2000's to be very supple and balanced. The reduced aromas in the Panther Creek responded well to some aeration and seems to be an anomaly, as I opened two other bottles of this wine last week both smelled wonderful.
2001 is a vintage that the wine press has painted with a very large and often inaccurate brush. Higher than normal yields and huge clusters did result in dilute wines from some producers but many of us, including the three wineries represented here, avoided that fate. This vintage surprised me more than any other we tasted. I have been a fan of '01 since our wines were bottled and my love for it has increased as I have tasted other excellent wines and read more poorly informed wank on the subject from the 'experts'. I do not think they are big and bold like '02 or beautifully structured and age-worthy like '99. But they are drinking very, very well now and going through some interesting changes in the bottle. All three wines were darker in color than I would have expected and all three demonstrated a lovely richness and complexity of flavor.
The 2002s were predictably beautiful. I loved all three of them.
A note about the wines from Bethel Heights. A unique combination of wonderful wines and wonderful people, I have long enjoyed the wines from this producer. Terry noted that 2001 was the first year that the grapes from the North Block were segregated from the rest of the lot. That was because the North Block is quite a bit slower to ripen than the rest of the site and actually to effectively develop in many years. Several of us at the table felt that the peppery character in the 1999 and 2000 probably emerged from this section of the vineyard. Bethel Heights received the largest portion of fruit from this site until the division of the vineyard was reassessed and became more equitable. I want to make it clear that the peppery component was not seen by the panel as a flaw. In fact it seemed to serve well as a complexing agent, especially in the 2000 vintage.
I am a big fan of this vineyard. Michael Mega is a dedicated and thoughtful owner who is truly committed to growing the best fruit that he can. I enjoyed all of the wines we tasted and will continue to search out the wines from Nysa vineyard in the future.