Brandborg Pinot Noir

I’m not prone to nationalistic sentimentality, but because I grew up in a household with parents who had to flee their native land, freedom and independence were never just abstract ideals. It seemed important for me to choose an American wine for my staff selection this Independence Day weekend. In this spirit, I want to shine a spotlight on the 2006 Pinot Noir “Bench Lands” from Brandborg. Terry Brandborg is not new on the scene. Back in the early 90’s, I was delighted with Brandborg’s Anderson Valley Pinot Noir that he made in a facility in Richmond, CA. Sometime in 2001, Terry and his partner Sue ventured north and settled in the Umpqua Valley in southern Oregon. There they have been able to realize their dream of running a winery and vineyard. The “Bench Lands” bottling is produced from fruit sourced from a number of vineyards that are situated along the Umpqua River. The vineyards, though differing in soil types, all share the benefits of cool maritime air and fog that get sucked in from the coast which lies only 25 miles away. Ideal conditions for growing Pinot.
If you’ve ever come by our store asking for a recommendation on a domestic Pinot Noir under $20, you may have noticed my face scrunch up like I just sucked on a lemon. It is not that there aren’t any Pinot Noir at that price range, it is just that there aren’t too many good ones. Trust me when I say, we’ve tasted a lot of wine in the hopes of finding that good one. Well, that “one” is the 2006 Pinot Noir “Bench Lands”. This Pinot Noir has lush dark fruit, more plum-like than cherry, with distinctive earth and spice notes, reminding you that you’re drinking a wine from Oregon. A recent article in Wine & Spirits magazine bestowed a 90 point rating for this wine. A high score no doubt but the real revelation is that similar high scoring Oregon Pinot Noirs had price tags of $40-$60. Now I’m not suggesting that point scores are the only way to evaluate a wine (I’ve participated on many tasting panels and know a bit how they work), but I do know that cream rises to the top and the 2006 Pinot Noir “Bench Lands” is a whopping deal!!!
In the July issue of Decanter magazine an article titled “How to get your kids into wine” caught my attention. While I haven’t yet read the article, it reminded me of a delightful episode that occurred the previous evening. As I was sampling yet another wine while making dinner, a screechy noise made me turn around. My daughter, dressed up in her latest Disney princess attire, was swirling sparkling pomegranate juice, which she insists on drinking from a wine glass. “Mama, why do we swirl?” she asked. “It smells better that way,” I answered. Satisfied with my explanation, she took a sip. Anya Balistreri

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