Pair with:

pork chops riesling

Pork Chops w/ Herb Apple Compote

If Pinot Noir had a BFF it might just be this recipe. Pinot Noir and pork go together like peas and carrots because they both have a similar palate weight and there’s just enough tannin to melt the minimal amount of fat in pork chops.

Because Burgundy is still the standard by which the world’s Pinot Noirs are judged, I consider it high praise to say that this mesmerizing 2013 from Cristom could easily be mistaken for Premier or Grand Cru red Burgundy (which almost certainly would cost more). The fact that the Willamette Valley has become a legitimate rival to Burgundy, in such a relatively short period of time, is one of the greatest stories in wine.

As Cristom’s “Eileen” Pinot Noir cruises effortlessly into its prime drinking window, as poised and perfumed as Pinot Noir gets, I can’t help but reflect on how the producers of Willamette Valley have exponentially raised the bar since I first got into the wine business. I repeatedly say that the best “pound for pound” Pinot Noir on earth comes from Oregon, and this wine is further evidence of that. I don’t think any wine region has had such a meteoric rise, and Cristom is one of its heritage properties—critically beloved and focused first and foremost on viticulture, which is why their wines are so consistently brilliant.

The “Eileen” vineyard, named for Cristom’s co-founder, Eileen Gerrie, is the estate’s ‘grand cru’ site in the Eola-Amity Hills AVA, a high-elevation parcel exposed to cooling Pacific breezes and rooted in volcanic basalt. Critic Allen Meadows of Burghound called this ’13 “positively Volnay-esque,” and while I’m inclined to agree, I think it’s just as powerful at this point to call it “peak Willamette Valley.” That, to me, is equally high praise: This wine is a benchmark.

Cristom was founded in 1992 by Paul and Eileen Gerrie, who first began planting her namesake vineyard in 1997. It was augmented in 2006 to reach its current size of 16.61 acres, and its positioning is such that it is refreshed by breezes funneled in through a break in the Pacific Range called the Van Duzer Corridor (a key feature of the Eola-Amity Hills AVA). The soils in the Eileen site are various types of volcanic basalt, from different “series” including Nekia and Jory. Between the wide diurnal temperature shifts and the mineral-rich, well-draining soil, this is an ideal site for Pinot Noir—as has been borne out since the release of the first Pinot Noir from the site in 2000.

The estate is Certified Sustainable by an organization called LIVE (Low Input Viticulture and Enology), which means not just eliminating chemical inputs in the vineyards but taking a natural approach in the cellar as well. Vineyard manager Mark Feltz and winemaker Steve Doerner have both been with Cristom since its founding, and today Paul and Eileen Gerrie’s son, Tom Gerrie, runs the show. He is currently in the process of converting the estate to biodynamic farming.

Doerner and company ferment the Cristom wines using native yeasts and varying percentages of whole grape clusters depending on the vintage. Aging is done in an array of Burgundy barrels of varying sizes, a small percentage of which are new. It’s a gentle, minimally invasive approach that yields wines of impeccable finesse and balance, even in a warm, “generous” vintage like 2013.

In the glass, it’s a deep and luminous garnet red moving to pink at the rim, with a highly perfumed nose of red and black raspberries, bing cherry, warm spices, violets, black tea, and underbrush. It is slightly over medium-bodied on the palate and starting to show a few ‘secondary’ notes of leather and damp leaves, but the balance of fruit and earth still skews strongly toward fruit. It is very fine, filigree, bright, energetic, long…really everything one could ask for from the Pinot Noir grape.

This, right here, is why people fall in love with Pinot Noir and never look back, and if you’re a Burgundy drinker, I’d encourage you to throw this bottle into a side-by-side tasting with something serious. I’m confident—no I’m certain—it will perform. Serve this in Burgundy stems after a 30-minute decant with a simple, crisp roast chicken or the attached baked salmon preparation. This one is special, so try to cellar a few, too. Cheers!  

Cristom was founded in 1992 by Paul and Eileen Gerrie, who first began planting her namesake vineyard in 1997. Its positioning is such that it is refreshed by breezes funneled in through a break in the Pacific Range called the Van Duzer Corridor (a key feature of the Eola-Amity Hills AVA). The soils in the Eileen site are various types of
volcanic basalt, from different “series” including Nekia and Jory. Between the
wide diurnal temperature shifts and the mineral-rich, well-draining soil, this
is an ideal site for Pinot Noir.

In the glass, it’s a deep and luminous garnet red moving to pink at the rim, with a highly perfumed nose of red and black raspberries, bing cherry, warm spices, violets, black tea, and underbrush. It is slightly over medium-bodied on the palate and starting to
show a few ‘secondary’ notes of leather and damp leaves, but the balance of
fruit and earth still skews strongly toward fruit. It is very fine, filigree,
bright, energetic, long…really everything one could ask for from the Pinot Noir
grape.

We encourage you to throw this bottle into a side-by-side tasting with a
serious Grand Cru Burgundy. We’re confident this library vintage “Eileen” will
show well and warm your soul.

“This small-production stunner is right in its “sweet spot” and promises many more years of delicious drinking ahead. This is as good—but nowhere near as expensive—as Pinot Noir gets!”