It was a long fun day. As we left Canyonville it started raining and it rained on an off all the way to Salem. The driving wasn’t too bad as the traffic was pretty light and we made good time. We arrived in Salem about 11:00 am, just in time for the wineries to open. We wound our way through town to Highway 221 toward Dayton and made Cristom Vineyards our first stop. What a beautiful winery. It is located on a hillside. All the flowers were blooming and the driveway was lined with cherry trees in bloom.
We must have been the first ones there as the door was still locked even though it was well past opening time. Becky opened up and welcomed us in. After admiring the view we started in with tasting the wines. It was really nice to be the only ones in the tasting room, we were able to get so much information on the wines. We have tasted Cristom wines in restaurants on a couple of occasions, and liked them. The wines we tasted at the winery did not disappoint. In general, all grapes are estate gown on the 55 acres Cristom has planted. We started the tasting with two white wines.
2008 Estate Pinot Gris – This wine is estate grown, fermented in stainless steel and undergoes malolactic fermentation. There is a small amount of residual sugar. The nose was floral and citrus with a bit of minerality. There was good acid with a medium long finish.
2009 Estate Viogner – Estate grown on 25 acres. Cristom was the first to plant Viogner in the Willamette Valley. This wine is aged 3/4 in neutral oak and 1/4 in stainless steel and undergoes malolactic fermentation. The nose was obviously floral with interesting spice/cedar notes behind the floral nose and flavors. This wine was complex, had good acid and a round mouth feel. We both liked this wine very much.
Next we moved on to the reds. All Pinots were from the very difficult 2007 vintage. The weather was difficult causing wine makers to gamble as to when to harvest. Called a “wine makers vintage” by Becky, meaning it was a vintage that separated good wine makers from great wine makers. She stated Cristom’s 2007 are drinking quite well now, rather a pleasant surprise for the difficult vintage.
2007 Sommers Reserve Pinot Noir – This wine is a vintage blend, the one exception to estate grown. The grapes are 60% estate grown, with the remainder from Amity, Carlton or Dundee depending on the vintage. This wine represents an expression of the vintage for Cristom. This wine is aged 18 months in the barrel, one year in the bottle and is produced using 30-40% whole cluster fermentation. This gives the wine a pleasant complexity of flavor with a light mouth feel and light typically Pinot color.
2007 Eileen Vineyard Pinot Noir – This vineyard has the highest elevation of all the vineyards on the estate. These grapes have the coolest growing area, the most whole cluster fermentation and more new oak. The flavors tasted of berry, tobacco and spice with moderate tannins and good acid. The finish was long and this wine is a bigger version of the Sommers Reserve.
2007 Jessie Vineyard Pinot Noir – This vineyard is a few years older than Eileen and on a very steep location. There are five soil types within the vineyard producing complex flavors in the grapes. Some areas of this vineyard are irrigated, due to extremely good drainage at the upper elevations, though in general Cristom practices dry farming. This wine had a typical pinot noir nose with berry, vegetal and cedar flavors. There was a lot of pepper and some cloves in the background with a long finish of very complex flavors.
2007 Louise Vineyard Pinot Noir – This vineyard is the oldest and at the lowest elevation. It was planted in 1993. The nose was closed. The flavors tasted of tart red fruit with fairly complex flavors, moderate tannins and good acid. This was a more typical Pinot Noir.
2008 Amity Syrah – This was a “bonus wine” offered by Becky. Cristom has one acre of Syrah and they do not produce this wine every vintage. The color was dark ruby, the nose had cedar on the nose, but lacked the typical smoky nose. The flavors were fruity with a cedar pop of flavor. The dark fruit flavors were complex and pleasant with moderate tannins and good acid. This was a very interesting wine, though it did not taste like a more typical cool climate smoky Syrah.
Overall, we liked the Cristom Pinot Noir very much. Our favorites were the Sommers and the Jessie Vineyard. Of the whites, the Viognier was my favorite. The take away from Christom was the very light color with very complex flavors and a light mouth feel. These wines were excellent and the bar has been set very high for tastings to follow.