Elk Cove Vineyards Review
Address: 27751 NW Olson Rd. Gaston,Oregon 97119.
Phone Number: 503-985-7760
Tasting Hours: 10:00-5:00
Region: Willamette Valley AVA, Yamhill-Carlton AVA, Oregon
Reviewer: Rob Boss
Review Date: 9/14/2013
Reviewer: Rob Boss
(Photos by Jai Soots)
First impressions are often deceiving, even misleading. Virtually anyone living in the United States has access to Elk Cove Vineyards Willamette Valley Pinot Noir. Its an accessible wine with a nice, bright cherry nose and equally nice cherry flavor profile. Its the introduction to Oregon Pinot Noir for many people, and its price puts it on glass pour lists all across the country.
To those fortunate to have greater access to Oregon Pinot Noir, this high-production wine (14,000 cases) is frequently upstaged by its boutique winery competitors: Its good, but just OK to the initiated. (Frankly, Ive never been moved and turned them down when solicited for my own wine lists.) But making the assumption that this is all Elk Cove has to offer would be a mistake, and a trip to the winery clears that up pretty quickly.
Rounding the corner and getting first view of the grounds is spectacular. The tasting room is spacious and set up for high volume because, well, this is a major tourist attraction. But the vastness of the place takes a while to settle in. Take a minute in the parking lot, then another on the patio and take in the surroundings, almost all of which is Elk Cove property. Then step in, and these guys will pour some good wine that isnt on just any grocery store shelf.
Our flight began with the 2011 Estate Riesling, which showed honeysuckle and pears in the nose. On the palate, Granny Smith apples and ripe pears; high acidity makes this one a great food wine. This was followed by another excellent fooder, Elk Coves 2012 Pinot Blanc. The nose was full of lemongrass, bright pears and apples. The acid was on the high side but it was still a fairly balanced wine, ready for summer salads.
And then we were presented the reason why we go to the big wineries: the wine that sells out at the tasting room and doesnt get into stores. 2010 was a low production year to begin with, but at Windhill Vineyard it was lower still. The vines were planted in 1974 so at this point, the yield is minuscule. 2010 production was 200 cases. There was an intriguing nose of dusty cherry and raspberry that was just shy of palpable. It was showing well that day, offering a silky, round cherry flavor with dried spice flavors, sage and savory. After that, a dried fruit finish. This wine was polished, elegant, refined, worth the trip, worth the tasting room fee and worth the sticker price.
Last in line was a 2011, already historical for the latest vintage on record and now anticipated for the richest wine yet. Will it deliver? Early releases say yes, and Elk Coves Clay Court is a strong representative of the vintage. On the nose there was dry fruit and potpourri. The palate showed bright, young fruit but its beautifully immature right now. With less than 400 cases produced, this is a buy and hold that will be gone soon. This wine wasnt showing well on the day it was tasted, but the quality is there and it should rock with more cellar time.
Better than expected is an accurate assessment of Elk Cove. Their bread and butter wine draws customers from all over the world. But dont think those big wineries have sold out just because the bread and butter product doesnt flip your burger. They need to pay their way and allow their passion to flourish. Elk Coves tasting room delivered a much broader perspective of their work.