Friday, May 1, 2009

Raptor Ridge

What is Pinot Noir supposed to be? This is the question that Oregon Pinot producers often ask themselves and each other. I was fortunate enough to attend the famous Oregon Pinot Camp in 2004. It was here I met Annie and Scott Shull, owners of Raptor Ridge Winery. During our several days in camp, Scott hosted a seminar about Oregon style and how the Pinots in Oregon live in a 3-dimensional spectrum of styles defined as opulent, elegant and age worthy, with each sharing a common space. After tasting through many wines that demonstrated the diversity of style, I really began to classify all Pinot in this spectrum. The fact I kept coming back to over and over, is that there are many excellent examples of opulent new world Pinots, and opulent and age worthy wines.For some reason, the intersection of elegant and age-worthy seemed inconsistent at best. Many producers that try to occupy this space fall short and are very vintage dependent. I felt at the time, that Raptor Ridge was one of the few producers that was really hitting this balance well.
I have been chasing Raptor Ridge for almost 5 years, ever since Pinot Camp. As I built an Oregon portfolio with my last distributor, I kept harassing Annie. Finally, through a series of fortunate coincidences and timing, we finally hooked up, and now I am proud to announce the inclusion of Raptor Ridge in the ampelography portfolio.
These Pinot Noirs are outstanding! The alcohols ride in the mid 13% range, and the wines have both fresh acidity and nice tannin backbone. Beautifully aromatic, I imagine these wines will really develop in the 3-5 years from vintage range. Located on the side of Chehalem Mountain, and with fruit contacts from Shea Vineyard and Meredith Mitchell, Raptor Ridge Scott knows how important vineyard work is, and spends most of his time during harvest in the vineyards. The winery is named after the birds of prey (Red-tailed Hawks, Kestrels, Sharp-Shinned Hawks and Owls) that make Raptor Ridge their home.

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