Cottonwood's winemaker, Aaron Lieberman, is an idealist. After earning a degree in soil science from Oregon State University, he decided that the best way to apply his knowledge would be to help farmers in developing countries. So he joined the Peace Corps and was posted to Guatemala for three years. While Aaron was in Guatemala, his father, Phil, thought of another use for his son's agricultural know-how: Phil purchased a small farm in Oregon's Eola Hills and waited for Aaron to come home and get to work.
When Aaron returned to the States, he resisted his father's tempting offer and instead found a job as a vineyard manager at Amity Vineyards in the northern Willamette Valley. After the harvest each year, Aaron volunteered to help crush grapes, and before he knew it he'd landed a job at Owen Roe Winery as assistant winemaker.
With an eye toward his son's burgeoning expertise as a winemaker, Phil wondered if his new farm in the Eola Hills might be better planted to vines rather than vegetables. Accordingly, he and Aaron planted two acres with eight different varieties--including eight distinct Pinot clones--and their Cottonwood Winery produced its first small batches of Pinot and Syrah in 2002.
Because Cottonwood has just two acres under vine, Aaron sources the bulk of his fruit from nearby vineyards in the Dundee Hills, a number of which he used to manage while at Amity Vineyards. For example, most of the Pinot Noir in Aaron's 2002 Marina Piper came from Durant Vineyard (38%) and Winter's Hill Vineyard (57%). Winter's Hill is located on an amazing south-facing parcel between Stoller Vineyards and Domaine Serene--Oregon's "Corton Hill." In 2002, this region experienced a near-perfect growing season. Expert Steve Tanzer noted that it was "one of the most successful vintages to date for Oregon Pinot Noir."
Aaron's goal with the Marina Piper was to marry New World Pinot Noir with Burgundy: "Ideally the wines I make will be approachable as soon as I put them in the bottle, but will cellar gracefully as well. Burgundians are not so worried about fruitiness in their Pinot Noir. They are concerned that the wine has an excellent balance and great vinous quality, which improves with age."
This is a medium-bodied Pinot that will unpack its complex flavors after a long period in the glass. The Durant Vineyard Pinot gives this wine a bouquet of cherry and raspberry, while the Winter's Hill Vineyard Pinot lends notes of tobacco and black licorice. Drink now-2008.