When we give mention to classic producers, it’s not uncommon to see “pioneer” in the writeup. The word is tossed around quite a bit, but Elk Cove Vineyards matches the definition precisely: They are truly a region-defining producer, having been one of the first 10 wineries in all of Oregon (there are currently 500+ in Willamette Valley) when the Campbell family settled here in the early 1970s.
Today’s “Mount Richmond” is a premium single-vineyard bottling from a site that has been family-owned for more than two decades. Nestled in the Willamette Valley’s northern sub-appellation of Yamhill-Carlton, “Mount Richmond” is a site of perfection for the delicate and finicky Pinot Noir grape. This sprawling vineyard yields a bountiful crop, but the scrupulous Adam Campbell (and crew) farms it sustainably, crafts it traditionally, and only selects the finest barrels of the batch in order to label it a true “Mount Richmond.” You’re receiving the product of several decades of refinement and hands-on farming; it’s the ultimate expression of Oregon Pinot Noir, one that consistently rivals high-end Burgundy. Blind-taste this alongside a youthful Premier or Grand Cru Burgundy (likely to be much more expensive) and see which one you like better—the results will surprise you in the best possible way.
When Pat and Joe Campbell discovered this property in 1974, it was mostly hinterland with a rundown barn and a trailer—the latter of which became their home for a year while they converted the former into a functioning winery. The Campbells planted their very first vine here and, with the help of friends and family, this far-fetched vision became an obtainable reality. At the beginning, work was tedious, there wasn’t much equipment and most everything was carried out by hand—even grape crushing. The blonde-haired boy in the picture is Adam Campbell, son of Pat and Joe and lead winemaker of Elk Cove since 1999. This land is all Adam has ever known and that way of life has been seamlessly transferred into each bottle. Their property today spans a whopping 350 acres, but not an iota of terroir expression has been misplaced or diluted—and that’s clearly evident in their single-vineyard bottlings.
“Mount Richmond” is a selection of Pommard and Dijon clones of Pinot Noir that are farmed with rigorous sustainable techniques: cover crops, organic treatments, zero chemicals, and extremely limited irrigation (only for the first three years of a vine’s life). Adam tells it better: “High-quality wine really starts in the vineyard. The time I spend stomping through our 350 acres of vines not only helps us make good decisions in viticulture, it also informs our winemaking decisions. Good winemaking is a mixture of art and science, but at the end of the day, I need great vineyard sites and impeccable farming to make phenomenal wines.”
The Pinot Noir is fermented in temperature-controlled stainless steel tanks and sees a twice-daily pigeage (punching down of the grape skin ‘cap’ that forms at the top). The wine is then transferred into 50% new French oak barrels for 10 months. Afterwards, all barrels are tasted and only the finest make it into a “Mount Richmond” bottling. The 2016 has a dark ruby with slight magenta, almost purple hues flashing out to the rim. The nose is incredibly bright and vivid, with unmistakable high quality Pinot notes like black cherry liqueur, wild raspberry, pomegranate, strawberry pie, orange zest, tea leaves, tobacco leaf, cola nut, forest floor, rose petal, and aniseed, next to an intense backbone of interwoven baking spices. The palate is supple, smooth, and lush with its mouth-filling array of ripe black-red fruits. Various spices populate the finish alongside fine-grained tannins and a refreshing rush of acidity. There is serious structure in “Mount Richmond”—it will age 10-15 years, effortlessly—but the sweet core of fruit and air of youthfulness makes it a wonderful treat today. Serve at 60-65 degrees in large Burgundy stems and drink it next an eye-popping presentation of grilled salmon in a decadent plum sauce. Cheers!
Willamette Valley — Yamhill-Carlton AVA
Pinot Noir 100%
50% New French
Willakenzie (Silty Clay Loam)
Large Burgundy Stem