Last night I went into the cellar to grab some aged wines from Ponzi Vineyards, one of the Oregon Wine trail's longer and more established wineries. For me, the love affair with Ponzi, and their very Burgundian Pinot Noir's goes back to my early days of wine tasting. I found a bunch of 1985 Ponzi Pinot Noir Reserve and a stash of 1983 Pinot Noir on the shelf at wine shop in New Jersey and of course, grabbed them, storing them in my parents basement that was cool enough to keep things nice for years to come. By the end of the 80's those wines had moved with me to Denver but a few made their way back to Philadelphia when I returned to finish school. Gosh how I loved those wines, with the 85 Ponzi Reserve lingering in my memory for many years to come.
About seven years ago, I made my first trek to Oregon, and the Willamette Valley, home of Ponzi and many other true Burgundian style producers. For me, other than a few winemakers in Santa Barbara like Jim Clendenen and Bryan Babcock, the best Pinot Noir made in the USA always has come from Oregon. On that trip I bought some of the Ponzi 1999 Reserve Chardonnay and of course their 1999 Pinot Noir. Last night we popped them and was patience ever worth it. The Chardonnay was as clean and fresh as any Chablis, with the oak all but gone, and nothing but pure lemon, lime, apple and fresh pear fruit going down the gullet. The Pinot Noir was a mind blower, harking back memories to that stunning 85 Reserve I always wish was still in my cellar. Was I back in Beaune, drinking wines at the bar Via Mokis where I spent ten hours tasting my way through Burgundy? Here was a stunner of an American Pinot Noir that if served blind would have had people thinking what was in the glass was something from the Cote d'Or. Showing off a deep purple robe, with scents of oh, so nice, Pinot spice, cinnamon, violets and rose petals, the wine was all cherry and raspberry flavors, soft and ripe, and now, at age 11 perfectly ready. We followed the 1999 up with a 2000 Ponzi Pinot Noir. While it was good, it didn't come close to the 1999, as it suffered some TCA cork taint, that tended to throw off what was in the glass.