Wine and Walnuts

A blog about eating, drinking, cooking and reading in the not so Deep South

California v. Oregon, Round Two: Argyle Willamette Valley 2008 Pinot Noir

Label image from Argyle website

Label image from Argyle website

In the last post, we talked about California Pinot Noir and the differences between it and Pinot Noir from Oregon, broadly.  To recap:  Cali Pinot Noirs tend to be fuller-bodied and more fruit-driven with flavors and aromas of juicy red fruits, while Oregon Pinot Noirs are typically lighter-bodied and complex, with earthy aromas and a subtle fruit character.

Naturally, these are generalities — there are many, many subtle variations when it comes to wine, so the above won’t always hold true: a lot is going to depend on where the grapes were grown, how the wine was fermented and aged, and the winemaker’s unique stamp on it.  This is just meant to be shorthand to get you started — I’m sure you’ll find California Pinots that exhibit more Oregonian characteristics, and vice versa. 

In the last post, I talked about the Hahn Monterey Pinot Noir from California, which happens to fit the California Pinot Noir flavor profile.  It’s ripe and fruit-driven, with plum and dark cherry flavors, and strawberry and floral aromas. In a nutshell.

This last weekend I picked up a bottle of Argyle Willamette Valley 2008 Pinot Noir from Oregon. I noticed right up front the difference between the Hahn Pinot Noir and this Oregon example – the Argyle Pinot Noir was more subtle and earthy, and I didn’t get all that fruit up front like I did with the Hahn Pinot Noir.

(If I was really intent on becoming a student of the differences between California and Oregon Pinot Noir, I’d have opened both bottles on the same night and tasted them side by side for comparison. Wish I had.)

Tasting Notes

My impressions:  Aromas/nose – cedar, spice box, rose petals, tart cherry, notes of cinnamon.  Taste – spicy fruit flavors, tart cherry, medium-long finish. Zesty acidity.

From Argyle website (

“You are all going to like this Pinot Noir. Besides the raspberry and cherry fruit aromas, this is the first Willamette Pinot I’ve ever gotten bright boysenberry fruit aromas from! Deep underlying scents of fresh tilled earth and Eastern spice rack further add to the complexity and wonderful smell of this classic Willamette Valley Pinot Noir. The mouth-feel and flavor exceed what one expects from the already enticing smell. This wine has lovely balance for those red fruits wrapped up into a velvet-textured tannin shell. The center of the palate is cherry creme with bright minerality. Enjoy a long lasting finish accented by red cherry and a hint of dark chocolate.”

Expert Ratings:

Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate: 90 points
Wine Spectator: 90 points

And there ya have it.  If someone twisted my arm and made me choose between typical California Pinot Noir and typical Oregon Pinot Noir, I’d likely choose the Oregon-style.  But then, a lot would depend on the mood I’m in and the food I’m pairing it with.


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About The Author

Kimberly Houston


4 Responses to “California v. Oregon, Round Two: Argyle Willamette Valley 2008 Pinot Noir”

  1. Michael says:

    If the question is ever “Pinot noir?” the answer for me is always & resoundingly “OREGON”. My heart is in Willamette Valley amongst the vineyards & down to earth winemakers, the gorgeous acidity & sensual textures. I love Argyle & always will.

  2. I know — my mantra of late has been: “must drink more Oregon Pinot, must drink more Oregon Pinot. . . ” ; )
    This was my first Argyle Pinot Noir — loved it. L-O-V-E-D. In fact, the reason I felt drawn to the Argyle is because I saw something you posted on your Facebook wall a few weeks ago about them, and I made a mental note of it. Yeah! : )

  3. Glad I could help “infect” someone else with the Oregon Obsession

  4. Yep, I always love taking wine suggestions from those in the know!

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