I try to keep my composure when tasting wines that really excite me. So if you'd been there at Byron and Dana Dooley's Seven of Hearts tasting room in Carlton, OR, the other day, you might not have noticed me flipping out on the inside. That's because I was trying the most exciting Oregon pinot noirs that I'm tasted this year and back into the last.
Byron has two labels, Seven of Hearts for purchased fruit and Luminous Hills for 100% estate grown wines at his vineyard in the far southwest corner of the Yamhill-Carlton District. (Full disclosure - Byron and I are both sourcing pinot noir from a new vineyard on Ribbon Ridge this coming year, and we were tasting with the vineyard owner. Nothing from that vineyard was represented in what we tasted, since it's only in production with this coming harvest. I don't think any of that matters to my judgement here, but in case you think it could, now you know.)
I'd heard about Byron's wines for the past half year from sources I trust. I had a bottle of the 2007 Seven of Hearts Pinot Noir Eola-Amity Hills and enjoyed its delicacy. I'd also met Byron at a dinner earlier this year and tried the now released 2008 Luminous Hills Pinot Noir Lux, which was young of course but also very interesting in aroma, texture and taste. That turns out to be a theme with Byron's wines.
Rather than detailed recountings of the specific wines, which I didn't note, let me just say -- try Byron's 2008s. From the base Seven of Hearts Willamette Valley Pinot to the fanciest "Reserve" bottling, they are all tremendously interesting, unique wines with real savor. There's plenty of ripe 2008 fruit, but great acid balance and tannic texture. Color isn't an issue for Byron, so if saturated purple is your idea of pinot noir hue, these might not be for you. However, if you're like me and you're looking for pinot noir that rises above the crowd, that tastes and smells great but will be even better on the dinner table, and will unwind well in the cellar, these are your wines.
The best part? I think the most expensive wine is $35. Sometimes I wonder if people don't get the widespread respect and buzz they deserve if they don't price their wines high enough. Obviously that's no reason to raise prices; it's just a shame. I'd put these wines up against anything in this state. They won't have the dark hue or oaky sheen of others, but for aromatic interest and depth & percision in the mouth, well, let's just say I have my work cut out for me if we're making wine from the same source this coming year. Actually, I'm looking forward to the challenge of seeing where my technique matches up, and learning from Byron as we go.
I haven't been out to Byron's vineyard yet, but I can't wait for the chance. In the meantime, I've recommended one friend to check out the tasting room on E. Main in Carlton this weekend when she has family in town. There's a lot of wine and food to explore in Carlton, but Seven of Hearts should not be missed. Even more so because Dana sells her incredibly delicious Honest Chocolates in the tasting room. They even have a few chocolate and wine pairings to try. Let me know if you've tried these wines (and chocolates) and report back if you visit. I want to hear what others think of these incredible wines.