I'm just going to say what no one seems willing to admit. 2011 is going to go down as one of the greatest vintages for Oregon wine in history. A brief history, true, but the point is the same. And apparently controversial.
I think I can finally say this with a straight face because I have most of my 2011 wines sold. Don't accuse me of shilling to move wines from an allegedly substandard vintage. I finally feel like I can say what I really think, not that I haven't before. I can just do it without opening myself to accusations of only being positive about things because I have wines to sell. Happily that's not an issue.
The weather in 2011 was cold all spring and summer long. Then unusually dry, mild weather through October into November allowed for a historically late harvest under relatively nice conditions. The fruit in the winery was riper tasting than the sugar measurements might have suggested. The acidity was stellar, with terrific energy propelling the fruit flavors to a long aftertaste.
And yet the vintage immediately received bad press because of the late harvest, as if the summer couldn't possibly have yielded something worthwhile, much less anything made to last.
For producers who want to make big, rich wines, ok, the year was a challenge. You won't find goopy, top heavy wines full of dense fruit and lumber flavors in 2011. Likewise, you may find some underripe, hard, mean little wines that taste best in the rearview mirror, especially with the rich, opulent 2012s waiting in the wings.
Taste before you buy, but be open to what's truly special and exceptional about this year - the subtlety. What I think you will find are some of the most nervy, energetic and delicate wines I've ever had from this fair state. Wines of low alcohol, light color, intense perfume and lacy, fragile flavors with way more tensile strength than you might expect.
And that's the key. Great wine is not synonymous with ageworthy wine. But the most truly ageworthy wines are great, are what we most want from our wines, and I expect many top notch ageworthy wines will come from the 2011 vintage in Oregon.
Can I prove it? No. We won't know how things turn out until time passes. And yes, many wines from 2011 taste really shut down right now, essentially not generous in the way a cut flower doesn't smell as it will after a few days in a vase. These delicate things take time. They demand your patience.
What I do know is this - the beauty that has emerged from the roller coaster 2011 vintage is there. It's not always easy to see, certainly not what will be there over time. But the greatness is there, the beauty that will win out over time if it's not already apparent.
And I'm betting an extra large amount of library wines that this is the vintage to hold in the cellar. I want more of this vintage than any other to pour at future dinners and special events, to sell years later to customers who prize the delicacy of fine aged wine, and of course to share with my sweet at home. Our home.