2021 Pinot Noir, Sass Winery
A beautiful vintage for complexity and delicacy, dark cherry and black raspberry aromas lead to ripe berry flavors and rich baking spices, with a touch of truffly earth. Fine tannins complement the silky texture. Grapes were hand-harvested, de-stemmed, leaving 85 percent of the berries uncrushed, then dropped by gravity, not pumps, into 1.5-ton open-top fermenters for two weeks before a gentle press. 868 cases produced.
Tucked into the folds of Oregon’s fertile Willamette Valley, small vineyards flourish on land once thought unsuitable for anything but grasses or Christmas trees. Each year, the struggling vines produce tight clusters of grapes that gradually ripen during the long, dry summer. The hazy, warm days and cool nights of autumn – and the big temperature swing between night and day – help the fruit develop layers of flavor and aroma that produce outstanding wines.
Sass Winery is one such place, producing small amounts of handcrafted, high-quality pinot noir, pinot blanc, pinot gris, chardonnay, riesling, sauvignon blanc and rosé of gamay noir. They produced only a few hundred cases of wine in their first few years and now still only make about 3,500.
Their winemaking practices help their estate Wild Winds Vineyard, at the winery in the South Salem hills, produce bright, high-toned pinot noir from east and southeast-facing slopes on volcanic soil. They also purchase fruit from other vineyards, most notably from Walnut Ridge Vineyard, at the south end of the Willamette Valley, which grows pinot noir with deep, dark-fruit notes and hints of spice from sedimentary soils on southwest-facing slopes. Diversity at each site produces elegant, complex, sharply focused wines with impeccable balance of fruit, silky tannins and firm acidity.
Winemaker Jerry Sass, inspired by wines his father made from Finger Lakes grapes in western New York, founded the winery in 1996, believing in natural, non-invasive winemaking. Today he makes wine from vineyards that are naturally and sustainably dry-farmed, celebrating every small part of each vineyard’s rich ecosystem.