After spending the day with Patton Valley Vineyard winemaker and vineyard manager Jerry Murray, I’ve found my morale high and my belly full of outstanding wine.
Perched in the hills of the Willamette Valley near the small hamlet of Gaston, Patton Valley Vineyard is a little off the beaten path in relation to the rest of the Willamette Valley, and I am convinced that this is its greatest asset.
Complete with sweeping views of the Chehalem Mountains, the site has 24 acres under vine with an estate winery and tasting room. The vineyards were first planted in 1997, with Jerry Murray coming on as winemaker and vineyard manager in 2005.
Jerry brought with him Willamette Valley experience from his time at Erath, as well as experience in New Zealand, Germany, and other wine regions that found their way onto his “hemisphere hopping” itinerary. Imagine if Walter Sobchack from the Big Lewboski cared as much about winemaking as he did about Shomer Shabbos, and you have the enigmatic Jerry Murray.
As we walk through the estate vineyard, a few brave berries have begun veraison, the process that causes grapes to turn their skins from green to purple. Today is August 17, and according to the textbook, harvest should happen sometime around October 10, though this is just a rough estimate. Jerry likes the way the 2008 vintage is looking. Things got off to a late start in terms of ripening, but soon caught up with warmer temperatures, and pests/diseases have been a non-issue.
The wines of Patton Valley Vineyard are hard to describe, and I hesitate to try, but try I must. It is important to understand that Mr. Murray is not trying to make Pinot Noir in a Burgundian style, nor is he trying to make it in the image of any other Pinot Noir producing region. Jerry Murray is trying to make Pinot Noir as it was intended to be made at the Patton Valley site, and the result is exceptional.
The “reserve” wine is the “Lorna-Marie Cuvee”, a Pinot Noir made from the best of the best that Patton Valley has to offer. Today we are drinking the 2006 vintage, and while it has many years left in it, it is a pleasure to enjoy now. The nose is soft yet confident, with a meaty, balanced, and complex palate that is equal parts fruit and earth. In terms of style, it is unlike any Pinot Noir I’ve ever had, and I say that as a compliment, as the integrity and character of the Pinot Noir grape is not compromised.
The Patton Valley lineup is rounded out with the main bottling of Pinot Noir, a Rose of Pinot Noir, and a small quantity of Syrah made from Washington state fruit. I could ramble on with tasting notes on the rest of the wines, but I suggest you simply try the wines for yourself.