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Wine of the Week: Penner-Ash 2009 Pas de Nom Pinot Noir

Some wines just don’t need a name. They’re so good you just sit back and savor the delights of berry notes leading to a cinnamon-spice finish, all perfectly rounded and smooth, without the slightest nod to the weak, watery structure boasting too much fruit that constitutes most Pinot noir.

Penner-Ash, a young winery by Lynn and Ron Penner-Ash located near Newberg on a breathtaking hill overlooking acres of Yamhill-Carlton AVA vineyards, with Mt. Hood poking into the horizon to the east, sure knows how to make Pinot noir. Released last August, the Pas de Nom is a true gem and very rare to find, being sold for upwards of $100. Only ten barrels of this Pinot noir were crafted, using a blend of grapes from five different Yamhill-Carlton and Dundee Hills vineyards, which then are aged in four different French oak barrels, of varying ages and levels of oak.

Yes, the wine seems more complicated than calculus, which is why the name is such an appropriate label. This is truly extraordinary wine, the type that causes casual wine fans to become collectors. The tannins give the wine an elegant feel, only to become bolder with two or three years of aging. Some smoke mingles with the initial lush berry, leading to a gentle finish similar to the scorched top of a crême brulée.

View of Mt. Hood from Penner-Ash

Not as elegant, but just as bold and beautiful, with even more huckleberry notes is the new 2010 Willamette Valley Pinot Noir from Penner-Ash. The 2010 Riesling is a classic Oregon version, a tad too sugary still, needing more depth. Interestingly, while both had the excellent berry notes of the 2010 Willamette Valley and the Pas de Nom, the 2010 Dundee Hills Pinot Noir and the 2010 Dussin Estate SVD Pinot Noir lacked the structure that the others proudly possessed.

When you’re the leading example of Oregon Pinot noir, a wine that seamlessly melds all of the elements of a joyous wine together, you don’t need a name. You need a special occasion to drink it.

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