V I N T A G E S 2 0 1 9 - 2 0 2 2
OVERVIEW OF THE VINTAGES
The 2020 vintage in Oregon State faced significant challenges due to wildfires. Unfortunately, a large majority of the Pinot Noirs produced showed signs of smoke taint, were flabby and manipulated, and didn’t showcase the excellent quality of wine that Oregon has produced for over a decade. Luckily, 2021 has arrived and, with it, has produced one of the best vintages over the past ten years.
In the middle of June 2021, the vineyards saw heat spikes of over 115 degrees in some areas, but fortunately, it hit at the perfect time in the growing process, as it seems that the fruit wasn’t affected at all, and the plants were incredibly resilient. In the following months, normal heat levels created a nice and even growing season, while September provided some cooling so that the fruit could hang and finish ripening. Oregon was fortunate not to have any large wildfires in the area, and rain pressure was low, so most vintners were able to pick at the perfect time.
The Pinot Noirs from 2021 have, across the board, been wonderfully delicious with fresh fruit, perfect levels of acidity, rounded sweet tannins, and a lush finish. They are some of the best Pinot Noirs I have tasted. Structurally they are a bit light, with very few gifting grippy tannins that need time in the bottle, so I am a bit worried about how they will age in the long term. However, they have enough power, finesse, acid, and fruit that the best should age for a decade or more with no problems whatsoever.
The 2021 Chardonnays could be even better than the Pinot Noirs showing a more ripe but balanced vintage than the 2020s or 2019s. The best examples sport lemony acidity, crazy minerality, and wonderful stone and citrus fruits. This vintage really shows how Oregon is playing on the world stage with Chardonnay.
Yields were a bit down in 2021 compared to a “normal” vintage. But what is normal right now? It seems that every single year we have some sort of black swan event that shouldn’t happen. So when you find your favorites from the vintage, make sure to buy cases of what you love and enjoy them over the next decade or more.
Senior Editor, Oregon
Winery of the Year: Bergstrom
The Bergstrom winery, nestled in the heart of the Willamette Valley in Oregon, is a highly regarded producer of premium wines focused mainly on Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. The family-owned estate was founded by Dr. John Bergstrom and his wife Karen in 1999 with the vision of crafting world-class wines. Today, their son Josh Bergstrom leads the winemaking operations, upholding the family's commitment to quality and expressing the unique terroir of the region in each bottle. The Bergstrom winery has gained recognition for consistently producing wines of exceptional elegance, complexity, and balance, making them highly sought after by wine enthusiasts and collectors. People love to visit the Bergstrom winery for various reasons. Firstly, the winery offers a warm and welcoming atmosphere where visitors can engage with the family and staff, who are passionate about sharing their love for the wines and the region. The intimate tasting room allows for personal attention and a more immersive experience in the old home nestled among the vines. Additionally, the stunning vineyard landscapes provide a picturesque backdrop for wine tasting, creating a serene and idyllic setting. It’s the perfect combination of wine history, a beautiful setting, and phenomenal wines. The 2021s from Bergstrom are some of the best in the area and deserve your attention. Please see my reviews of the Bergstrom wines below.
Winemaker of the Year: Bruno Corneaux from Domain Divio
Domaine Divio, owned and operated by Bruno Corneaux, is a boutique winery located in the picturesque Willamette Valley of Oregon. Bruno, originally from Burgundy, France, brings his expertise and passion for winemaking to create exceptional Pinot Noir and Chardonnay wines. Domaine Divio is dedicated to crafting wines that showcase the unique characteristics of the Willamette Valley terroir while embodying the elegance and finesse associated with Burgundian winemaking traditions. His Pinot Noirs from 2020 were some of the best that I had from Oregon during one of the most challenging vintages in recent history, despite showing slight smoke taint in some of the wines. And his 2021 vintage is remarkable with poised and delicate Pinot Noirs that have extraordinary balance, perfect levels of fruit, mouthwatering acidity, and a sense of place. Bruno has developed his craft nicely, showing in everything he touches. And the tasting experience at his tasting room in the Willamette Valley is a beautiful experience that every wine lover should try.
Sparkling Winery of the Year: Lytle Barnett
Andy Lytle does it again this year with one of the best sparkling wines I have tasted out of Oregon. His 2016 Brut Sparkling Wine (IWR 96) is made in the traditional method and is aged for years before release, which creates those lovely yeasty and earthy notes that I love. Look for his wines with as much age as possible, and you will be richly rewarded. Please see the review below of the 2016 Brut, which was the best yet from the estate.
Wineries to Watch: Audeant
It’s rare to stumble upon a new winery that makes you stand up and pay attention, but Audeant is doing just that with remarkable Pinot Noir and Chardonnay out of the Willamette Valley. Winemaker Andrew Riechers is a wizard, crafting scintillating wines that rise above the rest. Production is small, so get on the distribution lists quickly, as these wines are only going to get more and more expensive as time goes on when people discover these gems.