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Oregon Pinot Noir Stirs a Bidding Frenzy

A recent auction had professional wine buyers frantically outbidding one another

L.M. Archer By September 9, 2021
The wines offered at the sixth annual Willamette Pinot Noir Auction 2021. Photo courtesy of Easton Richmond.

Blue skies, warm weather, and stunning Willamette Valley hillside views proved a welcome backdrop to the sixth annual Willamette: The Pinot Noir Auction held in early August at the WillaKenzie Estate.

After an in-person, walk-around preview and seated luncheon, Hawaiian-shirted auctioneer, Fritz Hatton, gaveled the 2021 event open.

On cue, trade members rushed to outbid one another for 85 one-of-a-kind Pinot Noirs, and seven Chardonnay lots that showcased the 2019 vintage. Nearby, eager volunteers strained to track bobbing paddles and virtual ClickBid offers, while winemakers, in their finest fleece, looked on like proud parents at their children’s dance recital.

The hybrid auction followed an online preview week held in late July for the wine trade, who could bid for barrels produced in 2019 by 89 participating winemakers from across Oregon’s AVAs. The winning bidders will, in their turn, sell the wines to their customers.

Wine auctioneer Fritz Hatton led the bidding at the sixth annual Willamette Pinot Noir Auction 2021. Photo courtesy of Easton Richmond.

2019: classic in the making

Though lauded by winemakers as an extraordinary vintage, 2019 still proved challenging. “The conditions during ripening have a tremendous influence over the ultimate profile of the wines,” said winemaker Tom Fitzpatrick from Alloro Vineyard. “That’s what happened in 2019, which were cooler, damper conditions in the early part of the month of September.”

Shifting weather patterns left wineries scrambling to adjust, as early September’s wet, cool climate turned warm and dry later in the month. “It was a great exercise in how to develop your plan and throw it out on the last day,” added Jessica Mozeico of Et Fille. “To me, one of the things that stands out about the 2019 vintage is just the extraordinary balance and bright, fresh acidity of these wines.”

Ultimately, the 2019 vintage yielded wines of stunning elegance, combining subtle, cooler-vintage aromas and flavors with warmer-vintage fullness and concentration. 

“I think the 2019 for me is one of my favorite vintages of my career,” concluded Josh Bergström of Bergström Wines. “It’s high in acid, low in alcohol, extremely succulent, and savory and bright and fresh and salty. A lot of saline flavors and textures. I think it’s an Oregon classic in the making.”

The 2021 auction raised $705,100 to help benefit the Willamette Valley Wineries Association’s education and marketing initiatives.

The top five barrels sold included:

5 Oregon Pinot Noir to try:

While you’re waiting for the 2019 wines to hit the market, try some of the wines from participating estates.

bottle of Winter’s Hill Estate Watershed Dundee Hills Pinot Noir 2018

Winter’s Hill Estate Watershed Dundee Hills Pinot Noir 2018 ($25)

One of the best high-quality-to-value Oregon Pinot Noirs for $25 around. Heady aromas of clove, rose petal, sous bois, and raspberry, with hints of anise and licorice on the palate. An ethereal wine with lithe body, refined tannins, and a delicate finish. 

bottle of Et Fille Willamette Valley Pinot Noir 2019

Et Fille Willamette Valley Pinot Noir 2019 ($28)

Techies-turned-winemaking father-daughter duo, Howard and Jessica Mozeico, founded Et Fille in 2003. After Howard’s untimely passing in 2017, Jessica continues his legacy. This quiet stunner offers lovely notes of cherry and red berry, plus ballerina-like balance, elegant acids, and seamless structure.

bottle of Belle Pente Yamhill Carlton Estate Reserve Pinot Noir 2015

Belle Pente Yamhill Carlton Estate Reserve Pinot Noir 2015 ($50)

Despite the warmer vintage, this 2015 Reserve Pinot Noir pours out light, bright, and elegant, with savory notes of dark red raspberry, blackberry, sous bois, cinnamon, and sandalwood that linger on the finish.

bottle of Willamette Valley Vineyards Bernau Block Pinot Noir 2017

Willamette Valley Vineyards Bernau Block Pinot Noir 2018 ($65)

Lead winemaker, Christine Clair, hits it out of the park with this red-fruited, light-bodied, aromatic Pinot Noir sourced from the earliest Estate Vineyard Pinot Noir vines planted by founder Jim Bernau. 

bottle of Bergström Dundee Hills Bergström Vineyard Pinot Noir 2019

Bergström Dundee Hills Bergström Vineyard Pinot Noir 2019 ($110)

Second-generation winegrower, Josh Bergström, holds his own with this ruby-hued, blue-fruited, basalt-nosed brooder that offers age-worthy complexity and depth.