“As long as it shines” — Jesse Lange’s 2014 “Reserve”
Even though Wine Spectator has all but dashed the hopes of our Pinot Noir bargain-hunters — all is not lost. Spectator landed on 96 points overall for Oregon’s 2014 vintage, then 95 points for the 2015s. The result? Fewer and fewer of Oregon’s top-echelon Pinots will come in under $30. That’s why today’s 2014 Lange Estate Pinot Noir Reserve Willamette Valley warrants your attention. Wine & Spirits has named Lange Estate Oregon’s “Winery of the Year,” and wunderkind winemaker Jesse Lange has been crafting a lineup of Pinot Noirs that have brought the critics to their knees. In 2014, Lange’s “Reserve” Pinot is a plush, jaw-dropper that earned 94 points from James Suckling, who praised its “striking purity of fruit,” “full body,” and “silky tannins.” At $27.50 per bottle, our 96 cases will be gone in a flash. No dawdling.
A few years back, we knocked our knuckles raw on the door of Lange Estate. We were hoping for some face time with the young winemaker who had catapulted his family’s estate into Oregon’s top echelon by earning 2012 Winery of the Year honors from Wine & Spirits Magazine. Finally, our persistence paid off: A wiry guy who looked like he could burn up the Boston Marathon course in 2:36 let us in. It was Jesse Lange, and he treated us to a vertical tasting that left no mystery as to what the buzz was about.
Fast-forward a year, and Jesse called us up, out of the blue. Lange spoke quickly, and with the intensity of someone who only has time for facts. When we could get a word in, we picked his brain about the Lange Estate Willamette Valley “Reserve” Pinot Noir from the picture-perfect 2014 season — which Wine Spectator rated 96 points, and which many believe tops the landmark 2012 vintage, us included.
Jesse, in typical understatement-of-the-year fashion, described his 75 individual lots from world-class Willamette sites like Lange Estate Dundee Hills, Freedom Hill, and Temperance Hill, as “a really nice cross-section of Willamette Valley.” The warm and generous 2014 season supplied lush fruit across the board, and Lange, an obsessive farmer, calls all the shots on when to pick and can track each box of berries plucked off his vineyards to the very barrel in which they age.
In the cellar, “making the ‘Reserve’ is the most fun,” Jesse told us. In contrast to his expressive single-vineyard wines, “I don’t have any self-imposed restrictions on what barrels or vineyards go into it — could be an old block or young block, as long as it shines.”
His meticulously selected Pinot Noir grapes undergo daily punch-downs over two weeks, which enhances concentration, before Lange captures all the free-run juice and employs his “spice rack” — individually selected French oak barrels to complement each lot. The “Reserve” blend is then painstakingly culled from the very best barrels in the cellar.
The 2014 Lange Estate Winery Pinot Noir Reserve Willamette Valley is vivid and deep ruby to the rim. Aromas of clove and cinnamon accent ripe black cherries, plush Oregon strawberries, and high-toned red fruit tinged with burnt-orange peel notes and cedar smoke. Creamy mouthfeel, plush, with juicy black cherry and marionberry, and framed by soft tannins that fade into a silky, resonant, mouthwatering finish. Structurally, the 2014 goes head to head with the banner 2008 and 2012 vintages — each hailed as the best ever, until the 2014s came along — with even more black fruit and brooding structure. Enjoy now through 2027.
Marveling over its “striking purity of fruit,” “full body,” and “silky tannins,” James Suckling, the former European bureau chief for Wine Spectator, bestowed 94 points on the 2014 Reserve.
Absolutely singing right now, this will thrill New World Pinot Noir bargain-hunters looking for a drink-now gem or one to cellar.
— Wine Access Wine Team