Sunday, April 02, 2006

New Oregon Trail

Recent stories showing that wines with funky labels, especially those featuring critters, sell really well may lead some to conclude that clever marketing is more important than what's in the bottle. To be sure, some bad wines are getting a boost from good art direction.

Hopefully, quality winemakers will hop on board the eye-popping label bandwagon, giving impulse buyers a decent shot of enjoying a good wine. One vintner that does not have to play catch up is Van Duzer, an Oregon producer of wonderful pinot noirs and pinot gris. They not only make great wines, their pinot noir is wrapped in a great label.

At a winetasting party we did last fall, the Van Duzer label was the visual hit of the party. And, the wine inside was as well. We had another bottle of the '02 Van Duzer pinot noir last night with dinner, and I was reminded of how delicious and interesting this wine is.

With its earthy complexity and brown spice notes, this pinot noir is a terrific example of Willamette Valley pinot noir. Oregon's Willamette Valley tends to be cool with its fair share of rain, not unlike Burgundy where the world's most exultant pinot noirs are made in great vintages. Willamette Valley, again like Burgundy, will never achieve the consistency of California's famous pinot-producing appellations, such as the Russian River Valley. But when conditions are right, they make enticing and sophisticated pinot noir that is unique.

I enjoy good California pinot noirs with their generous, ripe fruit. But Oregon pinots are a must for other occasions. Hopefully, creative labels like Van Duzer's will help beat a path to the doors of many great Oregon winemakers. With Van Duzer, at least, there is truth in advertising.


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