Pinot, Paul & Volnay
Part 4 of a 2006 Oregon travelogue
by Thor Iverson
Scott Paul – It’s easy to miss Scott Paul’s brand-spanking new tasting room (and their even less-frequently spanked new winery, still in semi-skeletal form across the street), because it’s sorta tucked between what looks like a grain mill and a bunch of construction vehicles. As a result, we zip right by it the first time, and have to double back…which isn’t really much of a problem in the micro-village of Carlton.
The facility itself is bright but cozy, with the much commented-upon rabbit prominently featured on one wall, and fairly quiet. Most of the winery principals wander through at one point or another – Scott Paul Wright ambles, looking concerned (quite possibly over the state of construction across the road, given the quickly-advancing summer), while winemaker Kelley Fox strides purposefully through the room as if she intends to smash through the front door with her forehead. We don’t bother them, instead settling at a central table and perusing the tasting options.
Most pinot noir producers would not openly invite comparisons to Burgundy. Why that might be would vary from producer to producer, but the most obvious reason is that the wines are usually so different that their proximity will show one or the other in ill light. Not so at Scott Paul, for Wright owns a small, specialized Burgundy importing company, and presents these wines alongside his own. It’s a bold move.
Huber-Verdereau 2004 Bourgogne Blanc (Burgundy) – Lemon, apple and grapefruit with a flat, slate-like texture. Crisp and a little chewy on the finish. A nice little chardonnay, with no particular aspirations.
François Gay 2003 Savigny-les-Beaune (Burgundy) – Big, ripe and floral, showing dark plum and medium tannin with a heavy, seemingly alcohol-induced palate weight. A bit thudding. It’s actually not at all a bad wine for the vintage, but it’s really neither my style nor what I look for from a Savigny.
Pascal Bouley 2003 Volnay (Burgundy) – Juicy raspberry sours with a leafy finish. It seems overtly malic (or at least the acidity is slightly out-of-balance on the high side, possibly leaning towards the volatile), with strong, drying tannin. Turns to cran-raspberry juice on the biting, tongue-numbing finish. There’s potential, and fans of this style might find much to like here, but it’s most definitely not for me.
Scott Paul 2004 Pinot Noir “La Paulée” (Willamette Valley) – A selection made in the cellar, assembled from the best lots, and named after one of the bacchanalian wine dinners for which producers in Burgundy are famous. It’s restrained and aromatically repressed at first, but it can be coaxed both with aggressive swirling and retronasal agitation. There’s strawberry and concentrated plum on a foundation of sweet lead, which trends towards the gelatinous but then finishes with the emergence of seeds and a grace note of bitterness. The acid’s flawless, the balance is fine, and the finish is extremely long. A lovely wine in the first throes of its adolescence.
We mention to our tasting room host that we’d be interested in seeing what else from Scott Paul is available for purchase, and she responds by offering to open a second wine for us. This strikes us as kind and generous, though we’re not about to object.
Scott Paul 2004 Pinot Noir “Audrey” (Willamette Valley) – The pinnacle of what’s available in a given year, and again a cellar selection; this time named after Audrey Hepburn. That’s a lot to live up to. And yet, the wine surpasses expectations: beautifully soft and elegant, full of life, and possessed of hidden strengths expressed with delicacy. The nose is pristine, showing red cherry and lavender, followed by the gentlest of explosions on the palate: flowers and light red fruit. The finish is lithe, silky and seductive, with spices intermingling with a fine particulate granite texture, and lingers until the sensation can no longer be separated from the memory. Stunning, world-class pinot noir.
Copyright ©2006 Thor Iverson.