2011 Foris Vineyards Winery Pinot Noir Maple Ranch Rogue Valley
Expert Rating
ST 91 points
(Read the full review below)
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Maple Ranch Vineyards Stephen Tanzer's #1 Under-$25 Oregon Pinot Noir

Each year, at the conclusion of Oregon's International Pinot Noir Celebration, we head south on I-5. Four hours and fifteen minutes later, we take the Grant's Pass exit, then slalom another 45 minutes into the mountains, the GPS set on Maple Ranch.

The vineyard is planted on the terrace of the Siskiyou Mountains just 25 miles from the Pacific. The coastal range stands between the valley and the ocean to the west. Looking to the east, in the early morning hours, the snowcapped peaks of the Cascades cast an ominous shadow. Here, at nearly 1700 feet in elevation, off of one of the more daring Pinot Noir plantings on the coast, winemaker Bryan Wilson and proprietor/viticulturist, Ted Gerber, turn out what many believe to be Oregon's finest under-$30 Pinot Noir.

"Unless you make the drive up here, it's difficult to understand the challenges," Ted began. "In many ways, we're more like Central Otago than Willamette Valley. On a hot summer day in the Dundee hills, the temperature is in the low 90s. Nighttime lows are in the 60s. Here in the Rogue Valley, summer highs often top 100, but when the sun goes down, it drops into the 40s. It took me years to figure out that we could grow excellent Pinot Noir on Maple Ranch — but ONLY if I taught myself to forget everything I'd learned before."

Pinot Noir, unlike Cabernet Sauvignon or Chardonnay, doesn't fare well when farmed to high yields. When crop levels top four tons per acre, Pinot struggles to fully ripen, making for lean, insipid wines. As a result, in cool microclimates like Burgundy and the Willamette Valley, growers tend to conduct multiple "green harvests," clipping off less ripe clusters so as to speed up the maturation cycle of those that are left. At first, Gerber did as he'd always been taught to do, and dropped fruit. But after four or five vintages where his Maple Ranch Pinot Noir displayed Port-like concentration, and flirted with 15 degrees in finished alcohol, he went back to square one.

"Ted learned that trimming back to 2-2.5 tons/acre was too much," Bryan explained. "When the seeds browned, the sugars were too high, and acids had plummeted. So, little by little, Ted backed off the crop thinning. The best vintages in Willamette Valley tend to come from warm years. At Maple Ranch, the great years are cold. That's why the 2011 is both the richest and most balanced Pinot Noir I've ever made on Maple Ranch."

Stephen Tanzer, the stingiest Pinot Noir critic in the world, is often tough on New World Pinot Noir. Not this time. Picked at 24.3 Brix without sacrificing a gram of acidity, Tanzer's International Wine Cellar called Wilson's 2011 Foris Pinot Noir Maple Ranch "concentrated but lithe, with excellent finishing thrust, slow-building tannins and impressive persistence." The International Wine Cellar's 91-point score would be the highest rating for any under-$25 Oregon Pinot Noir of 2011.

Tasting Notes

2011 Foris Vineyards Winery Pinot Noir Maple Ranch Rogue Valley
"Vivid red. Sexy, floral- and smoke-accented aromas of blackberry and cherry-cola, with a spicy quality adding lift to the bouquet. Silky and sweet on entry, then firmer in the mid-palate, offering intense dark berry and bitter cherry flavors and a hint of spicecake. Concentrated but lithe, with excellent finishing thrust, slow-building tannins and impressive persistence. This fruit was harvested at 24.3 Brix, which is pretty high compared to most of the fruit in the Willamette Valley in '11."
91 points -- Stephen Tanzer's International Wine Cellar


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