At $22, the 2016 Pinot Noir from Iris Vineyards in the Willamette Valley gives us the chance to experience a superb, limited-production Pinot — 1,000 cases were produced — at a price that is pretty much unheard of for wines of this quality.
That may be, in part, because Iris Vineyards is in the lesser-known southern Willamette Valley, in the coastal hills near Eugene. The area has gotten far less attention than wineries in the northern part of the valley, in such famed areas as the Dundee Hills, which benefit from their proximity to Portland.
Iris is an 800-acre property owned by Richard Boyles (who is also the president of a hotel management company) and Pamela Frye, who started to plant their vineyard in 1996 and released their first vintage in 2001.
As for their 2016 Willamette Valley Pinot Noir, the fruit comes from Iris’s own Chalice Vineyard and from Winter’s Hill Estate in the Dundee Hills.
It shows impressive complexity with a defining earthiness — forest floor and minerals — and aromas and tastes that suggest spicy red cherry, black cherry, and blueberry crisp. Some subtle herb and dry cocoa notes provide accents. Lively acidity, restrained oak, and alcohol at a moderate 13.8 percent round out the equation in this balanced and refreshing wine.
A glance at Iris’s other wines, including Chardonnays, a Pinot Gris, a Syrah, a Merlot, and a Cabernet Franc, shows that almost all of them are under $30, with some around $20. Based on the quality of the Pinot Noir, the prospect of tasting more of them is intriguing.
The Pinot Noir has just been released, is available from the winery, and should be at select retailers in the coming weeks and months.