Well that got me thinking, since I was in McMinnville Oregon, heart of the Willamette Valley, if Panther Creek Cellars could qualify as Couger Juice, and if for that matter, I qualified as a couger. Happily, since I am neither a cradle robber nor does Willamette Pinot Noir resemble the strange phenomenon of the yellow snow Cougar Chard, I can report that there are some very big cats in the Willamette Valley that are NOT hunting for Ashton Kutcher.
Panther Creek has been making that famous Oregon Bob Cat Juice, Pinot Noir, since 1986. Purchasing grapes from all over the Willammete Valley AVA, their goal is to make wines that express the personality of the vintage and vineyard as purely as possible. Each wine is different and is encouraged to show it’s terroir.
The winery is located in an old power plant near the old grange building and railroad station in McMinnville. The re-purposing of these historical buildings to make world class wine is something that makes the story more interesting, and this particular building previously housed three large diesel generators that provided power McMinnville before the advent of cleaner power sources.
First up, I tasted the Bob Cat Juice, also known as 2008 Elton Vineyard Chardonnay. While this was a rich chard, it was unoaked and very refreshing on a warm late summer day. The notes of lemon curd, fresh citrus, and light chalky citrus rind also showed granny smith apples and a hint of cream on the finish. Even though I’m not normally a chardonnay girl, there are occasions like this where I hide my ABC card and chug down the white.
Starting in with the Pinot Noirs, we begin to focus on the single vineyard designates, which showcase a particular sub appellation in the valley. The first, 2007 Verde Pinot Noir, is a blend of three sustainably farmed vineyards, showcasing the variety of techniques that different sustainably farmed vineyard properties can produce. The Momtazi Vineyard is biodynamic, the Elton Vineyard is LIVE Certified (more on that in a minute) and the Temperance Hill Vineyard is organic. It is a classically Oregon wine in my opinion, with a silky texture, earthy forest floor and cinnamon spiced cloves, pepper, and mushrooms. I got the impresion that I was drinking wine soaked in mulling spices, which left my mouth coated after the wine was long gone. For $35 retail, this is a great wine to explore the terrior and is a MUST BUY.
Now, back to LIVE certified. You may remeber that we discovered LIVE in July at the wine Bloggers Conference. LIVE stands for Low Input Viticulture and Enolgy. It’s a non profit that provides education and
Next up, the entry level Pinot, 2007 Winemakers Cuvee Blend is the workforce of the winery. This fighting pinot retails for about $25 and exposes pather Creek and the willammette to a wider audience. It’s a blend of Lazy River, Benderic and Freedom Hill Vineyards and has a light and delicate color with a bright red fruit and cherry nose. There is a sweet finish on the nose, but the palate is all black cherry, dark black spice notes, and tons of red fruit like Hood Strawberries. Just to be clear, these are not the big watery strawberries that the rest of us make do with during most of the summer months. These are these amazing, juicy, potent little berries that ANY good Oregonian will gladly show off. I also tasted pomegranate, and raspberries with a touch of cream. It was a lovely wine, TRY it if you find it around.
Ahhh here we come to one of my favorite vineyards in The Willamette. The 2007 Shea Vineyads Pinot Noir is a bold bright cherry bomb, black cherry and cedar. There were several root beer, cola, and sassafrass notes with a lot of cinnaomn bark and floral notes. Rose petals stood out with the black raspberries and white pepper followed by bakaing spice, and nutmeg. I really loved this wine, and though it was a rich pinot for Oregon, the depth of spice and earthy notes opened up and developed as we sipped on the glass. Those Hood Strawberries came out to play again, and the bright acidify just lingered and left my tongue dancing. This would be a great wine to age, and I think in 3-5 years it will only be more amazing. It retails for $40, but I’d buy this in a heart beat. This is a MUST BUY.
The 2006 20th Anniversary Pinot Noir is a celebratory blend where the winemaker picked their favorite barrels and blended the final wine, which aged in barrel for 6 additional months. The big dark ruby colors and bold black cherry notes also complimented blackberry flavors. It had a lovely aroma of rose petals and jasmine. It’s a special wine and is worth a SPLURGE.
Happy Drinking! More Oregon to come…