Evesham Wood, “Illahe Vineyard” Pinot Noir

Willamette Valley, Oregon 2016

Character
Fruit
Earth
Body
Tannin
Acid
Alcohol
At this very moment, we are witnessing the evolution of a world-class terroir in Willamette Valley. Like Burgundy, the elite producers here handcraft varietal bottlings of Pinot Noir that shine with distinction and nobility. What Evesham Wood accomplishes in their remarkable, fair-priced wines is indicative of why Oregon is truly special, but today’s “Illahe Vineyard” chisels it in stone.

What you’re getting in this distinguished bottling is naturally farmed Pinot Noir, an outstanding single-vineyard site, and a mere 200-case production in the acclaimed 2016 vintage. It’s a lot to take in for one bottle of affordable wine, but one thing that rings loud and clear is that it doesn’t seem feasible, nor does it seem fair, for these low prices to remain steady. Winemaking sensation Erin Nuccio of Evesham Wood constantly delivers one of the great values in the world of Pinot Noir, and its pleasures are only magnified for those who are Burgundy aficionados. It perfectly evokes soil character, mineral tension, and compacted layers of brambly fruit (especially in ‘16) that can go 12 rounds with fine Premier Cru Burgundy, be it in the glass now or preserving in the cellar for later. Taste it, you’ll see. 

[*NOTE: Today's allocation represents the very last of their stock!]

Nuccio’s backstory is by now well-known to SommSelect subscribers: He started his career in wine at a retail shop in Washington, DC; moved west with his wife to attend enology school and apprentice at wineries; then landed a job with Evesham Wood founder Russ Raney, whose vineyard, first planted in 1986, was (and is) a model of sustainability and small-scale perfectionism. Over the years, Nuccio became winemaker at Evesham Wood while also launching Haden Fig (a SommSelect’s subscriber favorite), and in 2010 Nuccio and his wife, Jordan, purchased Evesham Wood outright. In addition to bottling wines from Evesham Wood’s jewel-box estate vineyard, “Le Puits Sec” (“The Dry Well”), Nuccio continues the Raney tradition of crafting single-vineyard bottlings from sustainably farmed sites across the Willamette Valley.

Just west of Salem, the “Illahe” Vineyard is a sprawling, south-facing slope planted to roughly 50 acres of Pinot Noir. The site as a whole is generally regarded as a warm area by Willamette Valley standards—although it does take advantage of cooling winds funneled from the Pacific through the Van Duzer Corridor. The soils are a mix of marine sedimentary types with patches of volcanic “jory,” with elevations ranging from about 250-450 feet. It’s a gently rising slope with a full-south aspect, so it tends to bud and flower earlier than most vineyards in the region. Even in warm vintages, Nuccio remains true to form (without utilizing irrigation) by harvesting at the exact perfect time and coaxing out finesse and balance in the winery. 

With the passion and dedication of their predecessors to fuel them, Erin and Jordan strive to maintain the consistency of quality in the same manner of Russ Raney by successfully allowing the vineyard to speak for itself. As with all the Evesham Wood wines, this minuscule-production, vineyard-designate wine was made entirely by hand: It’s farmed, harvested, and “punched down” (pushing the cap of skins into the juice during fermentation) manually. The wine was then funneled into eight barrels, only 10% new, for 18 months of maturation. After bottling in late 2018, they remained undisturbed until we claimed our stake last week!

When blind-tasting this wine, my friend (a Master of Wine) and I were torn between Burgundy and Willamette, but the additional lift of lush, pure fruit brought us back to the latter—though our predicted price point was way over the one you see today. Above all, Evesham always delivers a perfectly ripe core of fruit at the heart of their wines, with freshness, balance, and fine-grained tannins giving it terrific lift and body on the palate. Their stellar 2016 release, thanks to a warm growing season, amplifies that polish and richness all while staying true to their signature elegance. Baskets of plush, bramble fruit and black cherries leap out of the glass with mouthwatering appeal before melding with more savory components of damp herbs, underbrush, petrichor, rose petals, and turned soil. The silky, medium-bodied texture delivers just the right amount of spice and mineral verve on the finish. It’s a remarkably delicious terroir wine that has so much to say. This will continue evolving over the next 5+ years, but it’s fully ready to drink now after a 30-minute decant. Serve this around 60-65 degrees in Burgundy stems and relish in this affordable, world-class Pinot Noir. Cheers.

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Country
United States
Region
Oregon
Sub-Region
Willamette Valley / Illahe Vineyard
Variety
Pinot Noir 100%
Alcohol
13%
Oak
10% New French Barrels
Soil
Marine Sediment w/ Some Volcanic
Farming
Sustainable
Service Temperature
60-65ºF
Glassware
Burgundy Stems
Drinking Window
Now-2026+
Decanting
30-60 Minutes