Pinot noir grapes at Chehalem Ridgecrest Vineyard, Newberg, Oregon
|Colour of berry skin||Black|
|Also called||Blauburgunder, Spätburgunder, Rulandské modré|
|Notable regions||Burgundy, Champagne, Santa Cruz Mountains AVA, California (Russian River Valley), Marlborough, Central Otago, Oregon, Casablanca Valley, Ahr, Romania, Tasmania, Mornington Peninsula, Yarra Valley|
|Notable wines||Gevrey-Chambertin, Nuits-Saint-Georges|
|Ideal soil||Chalky clay|
|Cool climate||Cabbage, wet leaves|
|Medium climate||Strawberry, raspberry, cherry, mushroom, meaty|
Pinot noir (French: [pino nwaʁ]) is a red wine grape variety of the species Vitis vinifera. The name may also refer to wines created predominantly from Pinot noir grapes. The name is derived from the French words for pine and black; the pine alluding to the grape variety having tightly clustered, pine cone-shaped bunches of fruit.
Pinot noir grapes are grown around the world, mostly in the cooler regions, but the grape is chiefly associated with the Burgundy region of France. Other regions that have gained a reputation for Pinot noir include the Willamette Valley of Oregon, the Carneros, Central Coast and Russian River AVAs (American Viticultural Area) of California, the Walker Bay wine region of South Africa, Tasmania and Yarra Valley in Australia and the Central Otago, Martinborough and Marlborough wine regions of New Zealand. Pinot noir is also a primary variety used in sparkling wine production in Champagne and other wine regions.
It is widely considered to produce some of the finest wines in the world, but is a difficult variety to cultivate and transform into wine. The grape's tendency to produce tightly packed clusters makes it susceptible to several viticultural hazards involving rot that require diligent canopy management. The thin-skins and low levels of phenolic compounds lends Pinot to producing mostly lightly colored, medium bodied low tannin wines that can often go through dumb phases with uneven and unpredictable aging. When young, wines made from Pinot noir tend to have red fruit aromas of cherries, raspberries and strawberries. As the wines age, Pinots have the potential to develop vegetal and "barnyard" aromas that can contribute to the complexity of the wine.
Pinot noir's home is France's Burgundy region, particularly in Côte-d'Or. It is also planted in Austria, Argentina, Australia, Canada, Chile, north parts of Croatia, the Republic of Georgia, Germany, Italy, Hungary, Kosovo, the Republic of Macedonia, Moldova, Greece, Romania, New Zealand, South Africa, Serbia, Slovenia, Switzerland, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, United States, Uruguay, Ukraine and Slovakia. The United States has increasingly become a major Pinot noir producer, with some of the best regarded coming from the Willamette Valley in Oregon]] and California's Sonoma County with its Russian River Valley and Sonoma Coast appellations. Lesser known appellations can be found in Mendocino County's Anderson Valley as well as the Central Coast's Santa Lucia Highlands appellation and the Santa Maria Valley & Sta. Rita Hills American Viticulture Area in Santa Barbara County. In New Zealand, it is principally grown in Martinborough, Marlborough, Waipara and Central Otago.
The leaves of Pinot noir are generally smaller than those of Cabernet Sauvignon or Syrah and the vine is typically less vigorous than either of these varieties. The grape cluster is small and conico-cylindrical, vaguely shaped like a pine cone. Some viticultural historians believe this shape-similarity may have given rise to the name. In the vineyard Pinot noir is sensitive to wind and frost, cropping levels (it must be low yielding for production of quality wines), soil types and pruning techniques. In the winery it is sensitive to fermentation methods, yeast strains and is highly reflective of its terroir with different regions producing sometimes very different wines. Its thin skin makes it susceptible to bunch rot and similar fungal diseases of the bunch. The vines themselves are susceptible to powdery mildew, and in Burgundy (and elsewhere) infection by leaf roll and fanleaf viruses causes significant vine health problems. These complications have given the grape a reputation for being difficult to grow: Jancis Robinson calls Pinot a "minx of a vine" and André Tchelistcheff declared that "God made Cabernet Sauvignon whereas the devil made Pinot noir." It is much less tolerant of hard, windy, hot and dry, harsh vineyard conditions than the likes of Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Merlot, or Grenache.
However, Pinot noir wines are among the most popular in the world. Joel Fleischman of Vanity Fair describes pinot noir as "the most romantic of wines, with so voluptuous a perfume, so sweet an edge, and so powerful a punch that, like falling in love, they make the blood run hot and the soul wax embarrassingly poetic." Master Sommelier Madeline Triffon calls Pinot "sex in a glass".
The tremendously broad range of bouquets, flavors, textures and impressions that Pinot noir can produce sometimes confuses tasters. In the broadest terms, the wine tends to be of light to medium body with an aroma reminiscent of black and / or red cherry, raspberry and to a lesser extent currant and many other fine small red and black berry fruits. Traditional red Burgundy is famous for its savory fleshiness and 'farmyard' aromas (these latter sometimes associated with thiol and other reductive characters), but changing fashions, modern winemaking techniques, and new easier-to-grow clones have favored a lighter, more fruit-prominent, cleaner style.
The wine's color when young is often compared to that of garnet, frequently being much lighter than that of other red wines. This is entirely natural and not a winemaking fault as Pinot noir has a lower skin anthocyanin (coloring matter) content than most other classical red / black varieties. Callistephin, the 3-O-glucoside of pelargonidin, an orange colored anthocyanidin, is also found in the berry skins of Pinot Noir grapes.
However, an emerging, increasingly evident, style from California and New Zealand highlights a more powerful, fruit forward and darker wine that can tend toward Syrah (or even new world Malbec) in depth, extract, and alcoholic content.
Pinot noir is also used in the production of Champagne (usually along with Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier) and is planted in most of the world's wine growing regions for use in both still and sparkling wines. Pinot noir grown for dry table wines is generally low-yielding and of lesser vigour than many other varieties, whereas when grown for use in sparkling wines (e.g. Champagne) it is generally cropped at significantly higher yields.
In addition to being used for the production of sparkling and still red wine, Pinot noir is also sometimes used for rosé still wines, Beaujolais Nouveau-styled wines, and even vin gris white wines. Its juice is uncolored.
History, mutants and clones
Pinot noir is almost certainly a very ancient variety that may be only one or two generations removed from wild, Vitis sylvestris, vines. Its origins are nevertheless unclear: In De re rustica, Columella describes a grape variety similar to pinot noir in Burgundy during the 1st century CE, however, vines have grown wild as far north as Belgium in the days before phylloxera, and it is possible that Pinot represents a direct domestication of (hermaphrodite-flowered) Vitis sylvestris.
Ferdinand Regner has argued that pinot noir is a cross between Pinot Meunier (Schwarzriesling) and Traminer, but this claim has since been refuted. In fact Pinot Meunier has been shown to be a chimerical mutation (in the epidermal cells) which makes the shoot tips and leaves prominently hairy-white and the vine a little smaller and early ripening. Thus Pinot Meunier is a chimera with two tissue layers of different genetic makeup, both of which contain a mutation making them non-identical to, and mutations of, Pinot noir (as well as of any of the other color forms of Pinot). As such, Pinot Meunier cannot be a parent of Pinot noir, and, indeed, it seems likely that chimerical mutations which can generate Pinot gris from other Pinots (principally blanc or noir) may in turn be the genetic pathway for the emergence of Pinot Meunier.
Pinot gris is a Pinot color sport (and can arise by mutation of Pinot noir or Pinot blanc), presumably representing a somatic mutation in either the VvMYBA1 or VvMYBA2 genes that control grape berry color. Pinot blanc is a further mutation and can either naturally arise from or give rise to Pinot gris or Pinot noir; the mutation - reversion path is multi-directional therefore. The general DNA profiles of both Pinot gris and blanc are identical to Pinot noir; and other Pinots, Pinot moure and Pinot teinturier, are also genetically similarly close. It should be noted therefore that almost any given Pinot (of whatever berry color) can occur as a complete mutation or as a chimera of almost any other Pinot As such, suggestions that Pinot noir is the fundamental and original form of the Pinots are both misleading and highly tendentious. Indeed, if anything, Pinot blanc may be the original human-selected form of Pinot, although given the genetic variability of this longstanding genetic line, thinking of Pinot as a familial cluster of grapes sharing a fundamental and common genetic core is almost certainly nearest the truth. It is this 'core' around which the sub-varietally identifying color variations (blanc, rouge, noir, gris, rose, violet, tenteurier, moure, etc.) occur, along with the more striking chimeric morphological mutation that is Pinot Meunier, and the interesting further mutations of this variety as Pinot Meunier gris and as the non-hairy mutation which the Germans classify as 'Samtrot' (effectively 'Pinot red velvet').
A white berried sport of Pinot noir was propagated in 1936 by Henri Gouges of Burgundy, and there is now 2.5ha planted of this grape which Clive Coates calls Pinot Gouges, and others call Pinot Musigny. There is however no published evidence, nor any obvious reason, to believe that this is other than a (possibly quite fine) form of Pinot blanc, having simply arisen as a selected natural mutation of the original Pinot noir in the Gouges' vineyard.
In the UK, the name 'Wrotham Pinot' is a permitted synonym for Meunier and stems from a vine that one of the pioneers of UK viticulture, Edward Hyams, discovered in Wrotham (pronounced 'root-ham')in Kent in the late 1940s. It was in all probability the variety known as ‘Miller’s Burgundy’ which had been widely grown on walls and in gardens in Great Britain for many years. Archibald Barron writing in his book, Vines and Vine Culture, the standard Victorian work on grape growing in the UK, states that the variety was: found by [the famous horticulturalist] Sir Joseph Banks in the remains of an ancient vineyard at Tortworth, Gloucestershire – a county well known for its medieval vineyards. Hyams took the vine to Raymond Barrington Brock, who ran what was to become the Oxted Viticultural Research Station, and he trialled it alongside the many other varieties he grew. Brock said that when compared to supplies of Meunier from France, Wrotham Pinot: had a higher natural sugar content and ripened two weeks earlier. Hyams, ever the journalist in search of a good story, claimed that this vine had been left behind by the Romans although provided no evidence for this. Brock sold cuttings and the variety became quite popular in early vineyards, although it is unlikely that any vines from the cuttings supplied by Brock survive in any of today’s UK vineyards. Despite the fact that today all plantings of Meunier in the UK stem from French and German nurseries, the name Wrotham Pinot is still a legally acceptable synonym for this variety, although never used by UK growers.
Pinot noir can be particularly prone to mutation (suggesting it has active transposable elements), and thanks to its long history in cultivation there are hundreds of different clones in vineyards and vine collections worldwide. More than 50 are officially recognized in France compared to only 25 of the much more widely planted Cabernet Sauvignon. The French Etablissement National Technique pour l'Amelioration de la Viticulture (ENTAV) has set up a program to select the best clones of Pinot. This program has succeeded in increasing the number of quality clones available to growers. In the new world, particularly in Oregon, wines of extraordinary quality continue to be made from the (ex-University of California at Davis) Pommard (principally UCD4) and Wadensvil (UCD 1A and / or 2A) clones.
Gamay Beaujolais is a Californian misnomer for a UCD clone series of upright-growing ('Pinot droit') Pinot noir. Planted mostly in California it also became established in New Zealand. In this latter country, its disposition to poor fruit set in cool flowering conditions can be problematic. Claims that the 'Gamay Beaujolais' Pinot noir was brought to California by Paul Masson. are not correct. It was collected in France by Harold Olmo for UCD in the 1950s and was one of the first Pinot noir vines this institution offered as a high health clonal line from about 1962 onward. However, it was misleadingly identified at UCD as a 'Gamay Beaujolais' type (of Pinot noir). In general, these upright growing 'Pinot droit' clones are highly productive (in suitable, hot-to-warm, flowering conditions) and in California and New Zealand they give robust, burly, wines favored by those who like muscle rather than charm and velvety finesse in their Pinot noir wines. In Burgundy, the use of (highly productive) Pinot droit clones is reportedly still widespread in inferior, Village appellation, or even non-appellation, vineyards and Pinot droit is consequently regarded, arguably with very good reason, as a (genetic) sub-form significantly inferior to classical, decumbent, 'Pinot fine' or 'Pinot tordu', clonal lines of Pinot.
Frühburgunder (Pinot Noir Précoce) is an early-ripening form of Pinot noir. Across the Pinot family, ripening in typical climates can be dispersed by as much as four, and even six, weeks between the very earliest (including Précoce) clones and the very latest ripening. Virus infection and excessive cropping significantly add to delaying of Pinot noir ripening.
In August 2007, French researchers announced the sequencing of the genome of Pinot noir. It is the first fruit crop to be sequenced, and only the fourth flowering plant.
In the Middle Ages, the nobility and church of northeast France grew some form of Pinot in favored plots, while peasants grew a large amount of the much more productive, but otherwise distinctly inferior, Gouais blanc. Cross-pollination may have resulted from such close proximity, with the genetic distance between the two parents imparting hybrid vigor leading to the viticultural selection of a diverse range of offspring from this cross (which may, nevertheless, have also resulted from deliberate human intervention). In any case, however it occurred, offspring of the Pinot - Gouais cross include: Chardonnay, Aligoté, Auxerrois[disambiguation needed], Gamay, Melon and eleven others. It should not however be inferred that Pinot noir was the Pinot involved here; any member of the Pinot family appears genetically capable of being the Pinot parent to these ex-Gouais crosses.
Pinot noir is produced in several wine growing areas of Australia, notably in the Southern Highlands in New South Wales, Yarra Valley, Geelong, the Bellarine Peninsula, Beechworth, South Gippsland, Sunbury, Macedon Ranges and Mornington Peninsula in Victoria, Adelaide Hills in South Australia, Great Southern Wine Region in Western Australia, all Tasmania, and the Canberra District in the Australian Capital Territory.
In Austria, Pinot noir is sometimes called Blauburgunder (literally Blue Burgundy) and produced in Burgenland and Lower Austria. Austrian Pinot noir wines are dry red wines similar in character to the red wines of Burgundy, mostly aged in French barriques. Some of the best Austrian Pinots come from Neusiedlersee and Blaufraenkischland, (Burgenland) and Thermenregion (Lower Austria).
Quality Pinot noir has been grown in Ontario for some time in the Niagara Peninsula and especially the Niagara-on-the-Lake and Short Hills Bench wine regions, as well as in Prince Edward County and on the north shore of Lake Ontario. It has also been grown recently in the Okanagan, Lower Mainland, and Vancouver Island wine regions of British Columbia, the Annapolis Valley region of Nova Scotia and the Lanaudière and Brome-Missisquoi regions of Quebec.
Pinot noir is increasingly being planted in the U.K. and is now the second most widely planted variety, (305-ha in 2012) almost all of it for sparkling wine. In good years, red wines can be made and these are very good. More usually, attractive rose wines are made. For UK sparkling wine, Pinot noir is considered essential for top quality.
Pinot noir has made France's Burgundy appellation famous, and vice versa. Wine historians, including John Winthrop Haeger and Roger Dion, believe that the association between Pinot and Burgundy was the explicit strategy of Burgundy's Valois dukes. Roger Dion, in his thesis regarding Philip the Bold's role in promoting the spread of Pinot noir, holds that the reputation of Beaune wines as "the finest in the world" was a propaganda triumph of Burgundy's Valois dukes. In any event, the worldwide archetype for pinot noir is that grown in Burgundy, where it has been cultivated since AD 100.
Burgundy's Pinot noir produces great wines which can age very well in good years, developing complex fruit and forest floor flavours as they age, often reaching peak 15 or 20 years after the vintage. Many of the wines are produced in very small quantities and can be very expensive. Today, the celebrated Côte d'Or escarpment of Burgundy has about 4,500 hectares (11,000 acres) of Pinot noir. Most of the region's finest wines are produced from this area. The Côte Chalonnaise and Mâconnais regions in southern Burgundy have another 4,000 hectares (9,900 acres).
In Jura département, across the river valley from Burgundy, the wines made from pinot noir are lighter.
In Champagne it is used in blending with Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier. It can also appear unblended, in which case it may be labeled blanc de noirs. The Champagne appellation has more Pinot planted than any other area of France.
In Alsace it is generally used to make Pinot-noir d'Alsace, a varietal rosé wine. However, it is also used to make genuine red wines usually called Pinot noir rouge, which are similar in character to red Burgundy and Beaujolais wines but are consumed chilled. Prominent examples are Rouge de Barr and Rouge d'Ottrott. Pinot noir rouge is the only red wine produced in Alsace. Lack of acidity and complexity often prevent Alsatian pinot noir from achieving anything more than pleasant, easy drinking, quality levels.
In Germany it is called Spätburgunder (lit. "Late Burgundian"), and is now the most widely planted red grape. Historically much German wine produced from Pinot noir was pale, often rosé like the red wines of Alsace, and very simple; over-cropping and bunch-rot were major contributing factors to this. However, recently, despite the northerly climate, darker, richer reds have been produced, often barrel (barrique) aged, in regions such as Baden, Palatinate (Pfalz) and Ahr. These are rarely exported and are often very expensive in Germany for the better examples. As "Rhenish", German Pinot noir is mentioned several times in Shakespearean plays as a highly prized wine.
There is also a smaller-berried, early ripening, lower yield variety called Frühburgunder (Pinot Noir Précoce, lit. "Early Burgundian") which is grown in Rheinhessen and Ahr area and can produce very good wines. In the last 20 years or so, serious efforts have been made to develop and husband good quality high health clones of Frühburgunder selected from Württemberg vineyards, and the future of this form of Pinot noir in Germany consequently looks promising.
In Italy, where Pinot noir is known as Pinot nero, it has traditionally been cultivated in South Tyrol, the Collio Goriziano, Franciacorta, Oltrepò Pavese, Veneto, Friuli and Trentino. It is also planted in Tuscany.
In South Tyrol the variety is first noted 1838 as "Bourgoigne noir" in a grape wine buy list of the "k.u.k. Landwirtschafts-Gesellschaft von Tirol und Vorarlberg, Niederlassung Bozen" and later called "Blauburgunder" like in Austria. The first analytical descriptions are from Edmund Mach (founder of Ist. Agr. San Michele a.A.) in the year 1894: Friedrich Boscarolli - Rametz/Meran - Rametzer Burgunder 1890, Chorherrenstift Neustift - Blauburgunder 1890, R.v.Bressendorf - Vernaun/Meran - Burgunder 1890, C. Frank - Rebhof Gries Bozen - Burgunder 1889, Fr. Tschurtschenthaler - Bozen - Burgunder 1890 & 1891, Fr. Tschurtschenthaler - Bozen - Kreuzbichler 1889 & 1891 & 1887.
Large amounts of Pinot were planted in central Moldova during the 19th century, but much was lost to the ravages of phylloxera; Soviet control of Moldova from 1940 to 1991 also reduced the productivity of vineyards.
|This section does not cite any references or sources. (September 2013)|
Pinot noir is New Zealand's largest red wine variety, and second largest variety overall behind sauvingnon blanc. In 2014, pinot noir vines covered 5,569 hectares (13,760 acres) and produced 36,500 tonnes of grapes.
Pinot noir is a grape variety whose "importance" in New Zealand is extremely high. However, initial results were not promising for several reasons, including high levels of leaf roll virus in older plantings, and, during the 1960s and 1970s, the limited number and indifferent quality of Pinot noir clones available for planting. However, since this time importation of high quality clones and much-improved viticulture and winemaking has seen pinot noir, from Martinborough in the north to Central Otago in the south, win numerous international awards and accolades. Pinot noir is now one of New Zealand's most sought-after varieties and is its pre-eminent red varietal (outside of the Syrah and Bordeaux varietals produced in Hawkes Bay).
Historically, one notable Pinot noir wine was the St Helena 1984 from the Canterbury region. This led to the belief, for a time, that Canterbury might become the natural home for Pinot noir in New Zealand. While the early excitement passed, the Canterbury region has witnessed the development of pinot noir as the dominant red variety. The next region to excel with pinot noir was Martinborough on the southern end of the North Island. The moderate climate and long growing season gives wines of great intensity and complexity. In the 2000s, other sub-regions in the Wairarapa have been developed to the north of Martinborough.
At around this time, the first plantings of Pinot noir in the Central Otago wine region occurred in the Kawarau Gorge near Bannockburn. Central Otago had a long history (for New Zealand) as a producer of quality stone fruit and particularly cherries. Significantly further south than all other wine regions in New Zealand, it had been overlooked despite a long history of grape growing, albeit with little serious wine production. However, Central Otago benefits from being surrounded by mountain ranges which increased its temperature variations both between seasons and between night and day making the climate unusual when compared with the typically maritime conditions in New Zealand; Central Otago's climate is in fact markedly continental.
Some of the first vines were planted in holes blasted out of the north facing schist slopes of the region;, such highly marginal conditions underscore the initial difficulties confronting contemporary 'pioneering' vineyards in this region. The first results coming in the mid to late 1990s excited the interest of British wine commentators, including Jancis Robinson and Oz Clarke. The latest sub-region appears to be Waitaki, near Kurow, on the border between Otago and Canterbury.
A recent blind tasting of New Zealand pinot noir featured in Cuisine magazine (issue 119), Michael Cooper reported that of the top ten wines, five came from Central Otago, four from Marlborough and one from Waipara. This compares with all top ten wines coming from Marlborough in an equivalent blind tasting from last year. Cooper suggests that this has to do with more Central Otago production becoming available in commercial quantities, than the relative qualities of the regions' Pinot noir. In addition, as the industry has matured, many of the country's top producers have made the decision no longer to submit their wines to reviews or shows.
Typically, New Zealand Pinot noir is fruit-driven, forward, and early maturing in the bottle. Alcohol levels are markedly higher than for Burgundies, and natural acidity lower. Many New Zealand pinot noir producers leave their fruit on the vine much longer than is either possible or acceptable in Burgundian vineyards, and plummy flavours, heavier textures, and consequently more Syrah-like wine structure, results. Markedly, the wines tend to be quite full bodied (for the variety) and very potable in their youth. High-quality examples of New Zealand Pinot noir, particularly from the Martinborough region, are distinguished by savoury, earthy flavours with a greater complexity. Central Otago Pinot noirs have become characterised as "fruit bombs"—big, soft textured, wines, rich in flavours like boysenberry and Blackboy peach, high in alcohol and low in natural acid. More subtle, finer, examples are produced however, but they are usually elite wines only. Tamarilo characters, which were prominent in the above-mentioned St. Helena Pinot noir, continue to characterise many large production Waipara Pinot noirs and most Canterbury ones as well. Specialist producers in these co-mingled regions can surpass these limitations however, and a range of wines, from burly, bold, tannic and dark new-world style "reserves", to finer, more Burgundian-influenced Pinot noirs are now becoming more prominent. Marlborough pinot noirs are often fragrant and appealingly round, but can lack depth and proper tannin ripeness. Multi-area blends made by large producers (usually blending Marlborough, Waipara, and Central Otago fruit) can offer good value and good drinking at affordable prices.
In Slovenia, the pinot noir is produced especially in the Slovenian Littoral, particularly in the Goriška Brda sub-region. In smaller amounts, the Pinot noir is also produced in Slovenian Styria. The wine is usually called Modri Pinot (Blue Pinot) or also Modri Burgundec (Blue Burgundy).
Not often found, Pinot noir has been produced in small amounts in Lleida province, Catalonia, under the appellation "Costers del Segre" DO. There is also a small vineyard of Pinot noir within DO Montsant which has the wine produced in Celler de Capçanes although as Pinot noir is not a permitted grape varietal within the DO, it is released under the broader DO Catalunya.
Pinot noir is a popular grape variety all over Switzerland. In German-speaking regions of Switzerland it is often called Blauburgunder. Pinot noir wines are produced in Neuchâtel, Schaffhausen, St. Gallen and Bündner Herrschaft. In Valais, Pinot noir is also blended with Gamay to produce the well known Dôle.
By volume most Pinot noir in America is grown in California, with Oregon second in production. Othergrowign regions are the states of Washington, Michigan, and New York.
California wine regions known for producing Pinot noir are:
- Sonoma Coast AVA
- Russian River Valley AVA
- Central Coast AVA
- Sta. Rita Hills
- Monterey County / Santa Lucia Highlands
- Santa Cruz Mountains AVA
- Carneros District of Napa and Sonoma
- Anderson Valley
- Livermore Valley
- San Luis Obispo County / Arroyo Grande Valley, Edna Valley
Oregon wine regions known for producing Pinot noir:
- Willamette Valley AVA
- Dundee Hills AVA
- Eola-Amity Hills AVA
- Yamhill-Carlton District AVA
- McMinnville AVA
- Chehalem Mountains AVA
- Ribbon Ridge AVA
Richard Sommers of HillCrest Vineyard in the Umpqua Valley of Oregon is the father of Oregon Pinot noir. An early graduate of UC Davis, Sommers moved north after graduation with the idea of planting Pinot noir in the Coastal valleys of Oregon. He brought cuttings to the state in 1959 and made his first commercial planting at HillCrest Vineayard in Roseburg Oregon in 1961. For this he was honored by the Oregon State House of Representatives (HR 4A). In 2011 the State of Oregon honored him for this achievement and also for producing the first commercial bottling in the state in 1967. It was announced by the state of Oregon in the summer of 2012 that an historical marker would be placed at the winery in the summer of 2013. Sommers who graduated from UC Davis in the early 1950s brought Pinot Noir cuttings to Oregon's Umpqua Valley in 1959 and planted them at HillCrest Vineyard in 1961. These first Pinot noir cuttings came from Louis Martinis Sr.'s Stanley Ranch located in the Carneros region of Napa Valley. The first commercial vintage from these grapes was the noted 1967 Pinot noir although test bottlings were made as early as 1963. In the 1970s several other growers followed suit. In 1979, David Lett took his wines to a competition in Paris, known in English as the Wine Olympics, and they placed third among Pinots. In a 1980 rematch arranged by French wine magnate Robert Drouhin, the Eyrie vintage improved to second place. The competition established Oregon as a world-class Pinot noir producing region.
The Willamette Valley of Oregon is at the same latitude as the Burgundy region of France, and has a similar climate in which the finicky Pinot noir grapes thrive. In 1987, Drouhin purchased land in the Willamette Valley, and in 1989 built Domaine Drouhin Oregon, a state-of-the-art, gravity-fed winery. Throughout the 1980s, the Oregon wine industry blossomed.
During 2004 and the beginning of 2005, Pinot noir became considerably more popular among consumers in the United States of America, Australia, New Zealand and Asia possibly because of the movie Sideways. Being lighter in style, it has benefited from a trend toward more restrained, less alcoholic wines being at or around 12% alcohol by volume.
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- Dr. Liz Thach, MW
- http://books.google.com/books?id=5mQ2eoBtS88C&lpg=PA1&ots=X_gyGvKLXL&dq=Richard%20Sommers%20of%20Hillcrest%20Vineyards&lr&pg=PA20#v=onepage&q=Richard%20Sommers%20of%20Hillcrest%20Vineyards&f=false page 20
- Teichgraeber, Tim (October 14, 2008). "David Lett, founder of Oregon Pinot Noir, dies". Decanter. Retrieved December 15, 2009.
- Colman, Tyler (October 13, 2008). "David Lett and an Eyrie Vineyards retrospective". Dr. Vino. Retrieved December 15, 2009.
- Merlot demand skids, perhaps 'Sideways?' - Food Inc. - MSNBC.com
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