Volcanic Wine Awards: The Pacific Coast - Wine & Spirits Magazine

Volcanic Wine Awards: The Pacific Coast


Volcanic Wines International and Wine & Spirits Magazine are pleased to announce the winners of the First Annual Volcanic Wine Awards. In this report, we are sharing the results for the volcanic wines of the New World, specifically, Chile and the West Coast of the US.

Despite Chile’s active and widespread volcanism, its volcanic terroirs remain largely unexploited. But exceptions are growing in the rocky, upper elevations of the Andes, and especially in the cooler Lake District in the south, where permeable volcanic ash soils— andosols—are locally known as trumão. These young, heavily layered, soft, airy ribbons of volcanic ash are home to rabbit warrens, país vines, and some award-winning chardonnay from Malleco.

The depth of the purest rocky volcanic terroirs in California’s Napa Valley are measured in inches, not feet, and are found along the upper ridges of the Mayacamas and especially the Vaca Range on the east side, where cabernet is invariably broad-shouldered, dark and sumptuous, and zinfandel more seriously structured. Interspersed strips of white volcanic tuff appear on Diamond Mountain and in the Vaca foothills (White Rock Vineyards), a fascinating medium for vines producing long-lived cabernet sauvignon.

To the north, in Lake County, obsidian provides a distinctive cabernet terroir. And to the west, “Sonoma Volcanics” is the official name for the mix of decomposed basalt, andesite and rhyolite lavas and compressed ash that is sprinkled throughout Sonoma County. On Sonoma Mountain, cabernet vines grown in dark red, acidic, basalt-derived soils coupled with a north-eastern exposure at Laurel Glen earned a Chairman’s Award for an elegant 2014.

Oregon’s Willamette Valley offered a host of volcanic pinot noirs, grown on heavily weathered basaltic soils, called Jory (deep) and Nekia (much more shallow). Noted for their light reddish color, savory red-fruit character and silken textures, these wines contrast with the highly structured pinots from McMinnville’s shallow, 45-million-year-old accreted marine basalts. The Willamette’s volcanic-soil-derived pinot noirs are quite different from wines that grow in the valley’s sedimentary soils, which often produce pinots with a dark bluish-red color, and equally dark fruit. —JS

Silver             Kofkeche     $35     Kofkeche 2021 Malleco Chardonnay
Malleco is on the way south from Concepción toward the Lake District, deep enough into the volcanic south that this wine "screams volcanics first, chardonnay second," noted Mary Gorman MW. John Szabo MS picked up on the bright, fresh florals of a cool climate chardonnay, finding it "pretty lovely and highly drinkable." —CW Via Pacifica Selections, San Francisco, CA

Gold             Kofkeche     $30     Kofkeche 2021 Malleco
A unanimous Gold medal from the panel, this savory chardonnay earned accolades for its crisp citrus flavors, clean and precise. "It just had so much refreshment, saltiness, freshness," said Mary Gorman MW. "There well-defined fruit and a lot of layering, but it's not a fruity wine— more layered with oyster-shell saltiness." John Szabo MS commented on the wine's persistence and density, while Corey Warren found it focused on the lens of the soil. —CW Via Pacifica Selections, San Francisco, CA

WHITE

Bronze             Shannon     $18     Shannon 2023 Lake County Clay Shannon Sauvignon Blanc
Simple in its fruit scents of grapefruit and grass, luscious with ripe citrus, this is a little blunt and grapey, finishing warm and clean. —JG Shannon Family, Kelseyville, CA

Bronze             Wild Diamond     Wild Diamond 2022 Lake County Moon Tears Albariño
Pale yellow plum flavors meet saline mineral edges in this tart white. The scent leans into peach fuzz and pit, lasting with leesy creaminess. —JG Wild Diamond Vineyards, Lower Lake, CA

Honorable Mention             Brassfield     $18     Brassfield 2022 High Valley Lake County Pinot Gris
Scents of lime and lemon rind meet almond-skin bitterness in this tart and unctuous pinot gris. Serve it well chilled. —JG Brassfield Estate, Clearlake Oaks, CA

RED

Silver             Brassfield     $40     Brassfield 2021 High Valley Lake County Malbec
"The brilliant color reminds me of macerating berries in Port wine," said Karen Goodlad, who enjoyed the layers of blueberries, tobacco and sour cherries in the end. Julie Bramowitz was taken by the wine's appearance as well—"a high-staining florescent neon color"— and the tarragon scent over purple fruit. Juan Pablo Escobar found it to be "a great wine and an interesting representation of malbec: serious but fun and drinkable." —JG Brassfield Estate, Clearlake Oaks, CA

Silver             Wild Diamond     Wild Diamond 2016 Lake County
Still youthfully restrained at eight years of age, this Bordeaux-variety blend takes time to show itself, walled off behind what feels like a raw volcanic minerality. That aggressive structure begins to meld with the secondary characteristics of the fruit, Juan Pablo Escobar found, noting the wine's harmony. There's complexity in the floral notes, in the meaty and gamey tones, in the scents of roses that come up with air. —JG Wild Diamond Vineyards, Lower Lake, CA

Bronze             Obsidian     $80     Obsidian 2021 Red Hills Lake County Half Mile Cabernet Sauvignon
Black in its volcanic soil tannins and its blackberry fruit, this shares notes of rosemary, cypress and sandalwood. "The fruitiness makes it approachable," Julie Bramowitz found. —JG Obsidian Wine Co., Sonoma, CA

Bronze             Obsidian     $40     Obsidian 2021 Red Hills Lake County Volcanic Estate Cabernet Sauvignon
Ripened to honeyed notes and soft tannins, this wine's blackberry fruit has purity. Juan Pablo Escobar liked the way the tannins connected with the fruit, and how they connected him to the volcanic soil. —JG Obsidian Wine Co., Sonoma, CA

Bronze             Shannon     $50     Shannon 2019 High Valley Lake County Ovis Nero d'Avola
A very different take on nero than you might find in Sicily, this wine is packed with red fruit and licorice, darkening to ripe blackberry. Juan Pablo Escobar found a lot of fruit, even though the wine is not overly sweet. "It's structured and weighty," he said, "the alcohol not so pronounced, the finish lingering on fruit." —JG Shannon Family, Kelseyville, CA

Bronze             Shannon     $30     Shannon 2020 Lake County 13 Rams Red Wine
This is a big petite sirah, perfumed by oak even as its rich fruit feels cool, zesty and clean. The alcohol is well integrated into the fruit, along with enough refreshing acidity to hold the wine in the cellar—as will the polished tannins. —JG Shannon Family, Kelseyville, CA

Honorable Mention             Brassfield     $38     Brassfield 2021 High Valley Lake County Grenache
The brickish color is translucent, as is the strawberry fruit of this grenache. This is simple, a little minty and light. —JG Brassfield Estate, Clearlake Oaks, CA

Honorable Mention             Brassfield     $22     Brassfield 2020 High Valley Lake County Eruption
There are a lot of grapes involved in this blend, from cabernet and malbec to syrah, grenache and zin. It's potent and lush, with the Rhône varieties bringing white pepper and violet scents up front, then bright, tart berry fruitiness coming up in the end, Karen Goodlad found. —JG Brassfield Estate, Clearlake Oaks, CA

Honorable Mention             Shannon     $50     Shannon 2019 High Valley Lake County Ovis Petit Verdot
Tart blueberry flavors lend this petit verdot enough fruit to balance the tannic structure. It's a bold red with hints of dark chocolate. —JG Shannon Family, Kelseyville, CA
Silver             Ackerman Family Vyds.     $98     Ackerman Family Vyds. 2019 Coombsville Cabernet Sauvignon
A generous wine, this is long in its saturation of flavor without being aggressive. Instead, it's "elegant, with soft graceful tannins, and feels calm," said Juan Pablo Escobar. Karen Goodlad appreciated the way the wine evolved, "savory at first, with walnut, leather and olive; then the sour cherry fruit comes out, then the tannins come through. The wine is bold and exactly what it should be." —JG Ackerman Family, Napa CA

Silver             Del Roba     Del Roba 2021 Coombsville Merlot
Fresh and savory, this is very merlot in its vibrant and voluptuous fruit. It starts with "berries, berries, berries," Karen Goodlad found, "then turns understated, finishing on sour cherry notes." Julie Bramowitz responded to the floral notes and the interaction of the oak and fruit—"a textbook California merlot." —JG Del Roba, Napa, CA

Silver             Diamond Creek     Diamond Creek 2018 Napa Valley Volcanic Hill
From a south-facing hillside of white volcanic tuff, Diamond Creek's Volcanic Hill is a powerful cabernet, showing great concentration and detail. Julie Bramowitz said it was "distinctly northern California," finding scents of cedar, campfire embers, spice and black cherry. Juan Pablo Escobar appreciated the elegance of the wine's forest fruit notes. —JG Diamond Creek Vineyards, Calistoga, CA

Silver             Storybook Mountain     $45     Storybook Mountain 2019 Napa Valley Mayacamas Range Zinfandel
From the red volcanic soils northeast of Calistoga, this estate blend is a subtle and elegant five-year-old Napa Valley zin. It's fragrant with roses and fruit detail, melding into the soft, volcanic tannins. While all the panelists had positive notes, especially as the wine opened, they were reluctant to raise it higher than a silver medal. "It's complex, with a ton of depth," said Juan Pablo Escobar. "I love the structure; there's a lot of fruit concentration and acidity you don't often find in zinfandel. There's enough acidity to do a lot with food, particularly lamb. If this wine had a few years on it, I could see some secondary characteristics that would make it more gold for me." —JG Storybook Mountain, Calistorga, CA

Bronze             Storybook Mountain     $60     Storybook Mountain 2020 Napa Valley Eastern Exposures Zinfandel
Recognizable for its style, this is a clean and savory zinfandel with scents of madrone and, in 2020, ripe notes of raspberry cordial. Panelists found it starved for air, their initial impressions of overcooked or muddled fruit changing to what Juan Pablo Escobar described as "really interesting fruit coming up—it represents volcanic soil, the way the vine behaves with the soil, giving a light wine with grip." For Karen Goodlad, time with air "changes it to a beautiful cracked pepper finish, with forest floor scents, the fruit clean and ripe." —JG Storybook Mountain, Calistorga, CA

Honorable Mention             Covert     $245     Covert 2021 Coombsville Clone 341 Cabernet Sauvignon
This has the opulent richness of ripe Napa Valley cabernet, and while Juan Pablo Escobar described it as "a good representative of volcanic cabernet," he was one among several panelists who wished it had more freshness and acidity. —JG Covert Estate, Napa, CA

WHITE

Silver             Lava Cap     $26     Lava Cap 2023 El Dorado Chardonnay
Mineral riches are there in the tense aroma, layered with pale chamomile as the wine moves through juicy flavors of apple and pear. This is more a volcanic white than a varietally driven chardonnay. The wine gains complexity with air, as “the aromatics come alive.” Christy Frank described it as “a rugged style,” with enough minerality and tension to balance the warmth and ripeness. “I would drink it,” she said, echoing the sentiments of panel chair Josh Greene. —JG Lava Cap Winery, Placerville, CA

Silver             Lava Cap     $45     Lava Cap 2023 El Dorado Sauvignon Blanc
A zaftig sauvignon, floral and mineral, bright with lemon zest—there’s clarity to its richness. Patricio Tapia enjoyed the wine's rusticity, finding a lot of personality, herbal tones and ripe fruit. "Pretty original," he said. Christy Frank considered it an "old-school style that reminds me of my youth. I like that you get the flint and the herbs; it's not trying to be New Zealand." —JG Lava Cap Winery, Placerville, CA

Silver             Starfield     $34     Starfield 2022 El Dorado Hope Rising
A blend of marsanne and roussanne, with a small amount of viognier, this offers floral notes and what Christy Frank described as a balance of tension and texture: “There’s phenolic structure to balance the opulence.” Patricio Tapia pointed out the “beautiful ripe white fruit in a classic Rhône-variety scent,” with nutty scents of alcohol lifted by bright acidity. —JG Starfield Vineyards, Placerville, CA

Bronze             Starfield     $34     Starfield 2022 El Dorado Marsanne
This is a rich, smoky marsanne, lasting on cool, zesty lime flavors. Christy Frank found it honeyed and floral, without a lot of tension to its structure. Patricio Tapia enjoyed the creamy, balanced texture and the nuttiness of the flavor. —JG Starfield Vineyards, Placerville, CA

Honorable Mention             Starfield     $34     Starfield 2022 El Dorado Viognier
Scents of gardenia turn toward a floral bitterness in a warm finish. John Szabo MS found this to be varietally correct, as did Patricio Tapia, who described it as “viognier here and everywhere, simple, with one dimension of sweet ripe fruit.” —JG Starfield Vineyards, Placerville, CA

RED

Gold             Starfield     $44     Starfield 2020 El Dorado Jacks are Wild
The team at Starfield report that their vines grow in Mariposa Loam, describing it as fine-grained metamorphosed igneous rock. For this blend, they focus on petite sirah and grenache, with tempranillo, cinsault and aglianico all creating layers of flavor that last, leaving a sense of freshness. It feels like a swift river of fruit—panelists found dark licorice, floral notes and bright cherries, with succulent tannins keeping the wine on course. —JG Starfield Vineyards, Placerville, CA

Silver             Lava Cap     $40     Lava Cap 2020 El Dorado Cabernet Franc
Notes of sundried tomatoes and roasted herbs infuse this wine's red fruit concentration. Christy Frank and John Szabo both pointed to the wine's appealing rusticity, with Frank finding gravelly tannins underneath the warm fruit. —JG Lava Cap Winery, Placerville, CA

Silver             Starfield     $38     Starfield 2020 El Dorado The Miner's Inch
The two dominant grapes in this blend are grenache and mourvedre, with petite sirah, aglianico, roussanne, cinsault and tempranillo each hovering at around 10 percent. Our panelists appreciated the wine's contrast of freshness and ripeness. While the dry tannins are severe, they have a rustic elegance; while the plummy fruit edges toward prune, it holds succulence. This is well blended and easy to enjoy. —JG Starfield Vineyards, Placerville, CA

Bronze             Lava Cap     $45     Lava Cap 2019 El Dorado Cabernet Sauvignon
It takes some time for this wine to reveal a taste of blackberries, along with the bitterness of their seeds, the mineral tannins mean at first, before the "sun-kissed black fruit" comes forward. A warm, ripe cabernet. —JG Lava Cap Winery, Placerville, CA

Bronze             Starfield     $48     Starfield 2020 El Dorado Bronson Bros.
There's a wild edge to this wine's black fruit and dark earth scents. Christy Frank enjoyed the rustic style, with sweet fruit edging into prunes, blood and iron. Patricio Tapia described it as "severe in a positive sense; I like how the tannins react in the mouth, leaving a spicy impression." —JG Starfield Vineyards, Placerville, CA

Honorable Mention             Lava Cap     $30     Lava Cap 2022 El Dorado Grenache
Light, warm and peppery in its simple strawberry flavor, this wine's fruit is touched by sweetness. Patricio Tapia found this to be an "easy red, needing a light chill and grilled sausages." —JG Lava Cap Winery, Placerville, CA

Honorable Mention             Lava Cap     $45     Lava Cap 2019 El Dorado Syrah
This wine's dark spice and earthy mineral power lend smokiness. "It leaves the lips tingling," said Christy Frank, who found it "warm and sunny, from a very roasted slope." —JG Lava Cap Winery, Placerville, CA

WHITE

Silver             Hanzell     $78     Hanzell 2021 Moon Mountain District Heritage Chardonnay
“This is a really good wine with length, serious depth and complexity,” said John Szabo MS, appreciating the concentration of the flavors. It’s a creamy style, introduced by oak, then moving toward what Patricio Tapia described as a beautiful delicacy and fine acidity. Szabo seconded Tapia, who stated, “It’s elegant wine; you can taste the sunshine.” —JG Hanzell, Sonoma, CA

Honorable Mention             Ehret     $42     Ehret 2023 Knights Valley Sauvignon Blanc
Passionfruit and tropical melon flavors were some of the wine’s aspects that the wine panelists called out, finding it fragrant and herbal, if not particularly zesty. There’s plenty of alcohol here, and some green notes to the fruit. —JG Ehret, Healdsburg, CA

RED

Chairman's Award             Laurel Glen     $130     Laurel Glen 2014 Sonoma Mountain Estate Cabernet Sauvignon
Patrick Campbell planted this 16-acre estate with the help of Phil Coturri in 1977, the vines rising up to 1,100 feet in the Sonoma volcanics of Sonoma Mountain. The site was famed for its cabernet long before a group led by Bettina Sichel bought the property in 2011. Sichel brought Coturri on to manage the vines, and Randall Watkins to make the wine. Their 2014 is still tight, fresher than any of the younger cabernets we tasted from Sonoma and Lake counties. Patricio Tapia noted how "the earthy tannins lend some originality to the wine; I love the way it evolves in the mouth." It took time for this wine to come forward in the glass, eventually catching the attention of all the judges. "It smells like a wine from a place," noted John Szabo MS, "not made, but born. The fruit has an evergreen, coastal forest scent, the balance striking a happy ground where mountain herbs and beautiful bitterness coincide." —JG Laurel Glen, Glen Ellen, CA

Gold             Hanzell     $125     Hanzell 2020 Moon Mountain District Heritage Cabernet Sauvignon
This historic estate, founded in 1953 by James Zellerbach, is now owned by the De Brye family; Jason Jardine has run the estate since 2014, and guided the farming toward CCOF organic certification in 2021. He describes the soils where this cabernet grows as Red Hill volcanic, as well as Raynor Montara clay loam. The wine earned a unanimous gold medal from our panel, lauded for the lively gentleness of volcanic expression, as if gaining its structure directly from the soil. Christy Frank praised it as being "more about Moon Mountain and volcanic soil than varietal cabernet." And Patricio Tapia called out its "clean, clear, pure red fruit; there's no mintiness. I really like the earthy, iron-like tannin structure and the way the wine moves. There's a lot going on." —JG Hanzell, Sonoma, CA

Bronze             Ehret     $125     Ehret 2020 Knights Valley Hillside Reserve Red Wine
Inky with black fruit and peppery, gravelly tannins, this cabernet gains a touch of sweetness from a coconut hint of oak. —JG Ehret, Healdsburg, CA

Bronze             Louis M. Martini     $140     Louis M. Martini 2020 Sonoma Valley Monte Rosso Cabernet Sauvignon
Grown in Monte Rosso's red volcanic soils, this ripened to a sunbaked opulence. It holds a hint of tobacco, as well as an appealing tannic structure that keeps the ripeness in line. It will benefit from decanting or some cellar time. —JG E&J Gallo, Modesto, CA

Honorable Mention             Ehret     $125     Ehret 2020 Knights Valley Hillside Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon
Warm and mature with fleshy ripeness, this wine's roasted fruit has a raisined edge. Gravelly tannins keep it firm and structured. —JG Ehret, Healdsburg, CA

Honorable Mention             Ehret     $69     Ehret 2020 Knights Valley Merlot
Sweetly ripe, this is a warm, rustic merlot with some herbal notes and hints of cedar. The fruit touches on raisins, while the wine feels plush. —JG Ehret, Healdsburg, CA

SPARKLING

Bronze             Domaine Divio     $75     Domaine Divio 2020 McMinnville Crémant Blanc de Noirs
Tart red-berry fruit shines through the toasty-autolytic qualities of this pale copper-pink blanc de noirs. The dosage is perceptible over the sharp acids, but the two are well integrated in the end. Karen Goodlad found the wine's persistent bubbles kept it fresh and clean, with a lively peachy note. —JS Domaine Divio, Newberg, OR

WHITE

Silver             Cristom     $60     Cristom 2022 Eola-Amity Hills Louise Vineyard Chardonnay
The floral side of chardonnay is on display in this wine's scent of daffodils and green herbs, alongside lovely, chivy reductive character. The palate is well balanced and tightly wound, with grippy acids and impressive length. Karen Goodlad found a volcanic mineral edge to the wine, with hints of oak rounding the pretty citrusy notes. —JS Cristom Vineyards, Salem, OR

Bronze             LucidWild     $95     LucidWild 2022 Dundee Hills Hidden Chardonnay
This is racy and lean, tightly wound in its stony length and depth. Amy Racine found a thyme-like herbal note and light flavors of limes and lemons. —JS LucidWild Estate, Dundee Hills, OR

Honorable Mention             David Paige     $55     David Paige 2021 Eola-Amity Hills RPG Vineyard Chardonnay
Karen Goodlad thought this wine's best attribute to be its silky texture, along with its inviting scent of apples and brioche. The panel found if short on depth and focus, clean and correct with moderate length and depth. —JS David Paige Wines, Amity, OR

Honorable Mention             St. Innocent     $60     St. Innocent 2021 Eola-Amity Hills Temperance Hill Vineyard Chardonnay
Tara Q. Thomas found this pinot noir to have lift and restraint in its herbal and peppery notes. "But not for everyone," she noted, as others on the panel found it rustic, with dry, astringent tannins, oak dominating the cherry tones of the fruit. Ambitiously made. —JS St. Innocent, Jefferson, OR

Honorable Mention             Willamette Valley Vineyards     $39     Willamette Valley Vineyards 2022 Willamette Valley Estate Chardonnay
For Karen Goodlad, this wine has the lemon-lime aromas and the balance she expects from a volcanic Willamette chardonnay. That citrusy fruit is leesy and lactic, well-integrated with the wood scents, the wine dense and substantial overall. —JS Willamette Valley Vineyards, Turner, OR

RED

Gold             Big Table Farm     $72     Big Table Farm 2021 Willamette Valley Sunnyside Vineyard Pinot Noir
A delicate and sophisticated pinot noir layering floral perfume over gentle, silky tannins. It has length, depth and elegance to spare. Tara Q. Thomas found it refined and pretty, "with candied cherry balanced by earth, rose and smoke. I can see the volcanic here." —JS Big Table Farm, Gaston, OR

Gold             Cristom     $80     Cristom 2022 Eola-Amity Hills Jessie Vineyard Pinot Noir
This pinot noir shows off the Eola-Amity Hills, more rugged and textural than other Willamette AVAs. Presented in a minimal-intervention style, its waxy lanolin notes and open-oxidative cranberry fruit joins in a lovely savory expression, spicy and exotic. Its firm tannins need time, but the wine has depth and structure to last. "There's a lot of wine here, but it's not overblown," said Josh Greene, while Karen Goodlad added, "It's tart red cherry–driven, not black. Well-made wine, which means it's not ‘made.’" —JS Cristom Vineyards, Salem, OR

Gold             Domaine Divio     $60     Domaine Divio 2022 Dundee Hills Pinot Noir
The dark tones of this pinot noir include scents of cola berry, black plum and black cherry fruit. The wine's flavor depths are held firmly, the texture tight and juicy, with lasting stony tannins that panelists found volcanic. Amy Racine responded to the complexity of the fruit, with hints of rose petal, dried herbs and aniseed. "It feels Italian," she said, "the acids will break through for salumi." —JS Domaine Divio, Newberg, OR

Gold             LucidWild     $310     LucidWild 2022 Dundee Hills Chosen Pinot Noir
The youthful, purple color matches this wine's juicy plum and black cherry flavors. While this taster found it to be a cherry, easy, friendly wine that could take a light chill, Karen Goodlad agreed on it being "a happy wine," enjoying a progression from herbs to oak to tart cherry flavors. And Amy Racine thought it clearly stated a Willamette style—"the identity is there, with pretty, tart cranberry rhubarb flavors." —JS LucidWild Estate, Dundee Hills, OR

Gold             LucidWild     $95     LucidWild 2022 Dundee Hills Fusion Pinot Noir
While this wine earned unanimous gold from the panel, one taster found it a bit extracted and another thought the fruit muddled, "but there's tension," she said, with vanilla, blackberry and plum flavors." As for this taster, the wine came off as top notch, fine and finessed, its floral red fruit lovely and poised. It feels comfortable, gentle, delicate. —JS LucidWild Estate, Dundee Hills, OR

Silver             Adelsheim     $100     Adelsheim 2021 Chehalem Mountains Bryan Creek Vineyard Pinot Noir
There's nice volcanic chew to the tannins of this old-school pinot. It’s slightly woody, with ripe, red-fruit flavors over a firm and gritty texture (Tara Q. Thomas noted a bitterness to the tannins, like chicory and cacao nibs). Balanced in its depth and length, this is solid stuff. —JS Adelsheim Vineyard, Newberg, OR

Silver             Brooks     $60     Brooks 2021 McMinnville Cahiers Pinot Noir(CK)
Dark and savory, this is a meaty and substantial pinot with moderate length and depth. There's lots to commend—Karen Goodlad found scents of dried cherries and plums, while Tara Q. Thomas commented on the wine's "earthy, volcanic savor and chewy aspect well wrapped within the fruit." —JS Brooks Wine, Amity, OR

Silver             Cristom     $80     Cristom 2022 Eola-Amity Hills Paul Gerrie Vineyard Pinot Noir
Attractively spicy, this is dark fruit–inflected with great depth and slippery, youthful tannins. Lots of structure here: The wine feels properly volcanic and will be a beauty in three to four years. The meatiness of the tannins stood in the way for some panelists. Amy Racine pointed to the black fruit, plum and soy notes, finding the wine heavy for a pinot noir. —JS Cristom Vineyards, Salem, OR

Silver             David Paige     $65     David Paige 2021 Eola-Amity Hills Pinot Noir
Ripe with sweet, dried fruit meeting the wood and cola-berry flavors, this is highly extracted, its generous alcohol needing time to integrate. Tara Q. Thomas thought it "pretty, with dense dark cherry flavors, rose and tobacco scents," agreeing that "It needs lots of time." —JS David Paige Wines, Amity, OR

Silver             Domaine Divio     $60     Domaine Divio 2022 Eola-Amity Hills Pinot Noir
The deep color predicts the dark concentration of this wine's savory fruit. It carries a stemmy, leafy, herbal character, along with a good dose of stony minerality. Karen Goodlad called this out as a "great wine—on the fuller side, with acidity and an iron volcanic influence that's just right." —JS Domaine Divio, Newberg, OR

Silver             J. Christopher     $75     J. Christopher 2019 Chehalem Mountains Medici Vineyard Pinot Noir
The garnet rim to the color shows evolution and the wine is either modest in its intensity of aromas and flavors, or subtle, complex and integrated, depending on the taster. Josh Greene appreciated how it expressed its volcanic origins without any hard edges. —JS Loosen Bros. USA, Oregon City, OR

Silver             J. Christopher     $40     J. Christopher 2019 Dundee Hills Volcanique Special Selection Pinot Noir
A delicate pinot with scents of faded roses and potpourri. It finishes a little sweet and astringent, while overall, it's soft, gentle and refined, with good drive. —JS Loosen Bros. USA, Oregon City, OR

Silver             J. Christopher     $30     J. Christopher 2019 Willamette Valley Basalte Pinot Noir
This pale red is open and aromatic, on the oxidative side in its scents of potpourri and faded flowers. It may lack a kick of energy to take it to the next level, but the silky tannins and length make it an appealing, transparent pinot. —JS Loosen Bros. USA, Oregon City, OR

Silver             LucidWild     $155     LucidWild 2022 Dundee Hills Beast Pinot Noir
There's fine spiciness over dark, juicy, plum and black cherry fruit. It's tightly wound on the palate, with dusty, firm tannins amplifying the fruit depth. Karen Goodlad appreciated how the acidity cut through the cherry notes, "like a cherry sauce you'd serve over roast duck with orange rind." —JS LucidWild Estate, Dundee Hills, OR

Silver             Willamette Valley Vineyards     $79     Willamette Valley Vineyards 2021 Eola-Amity Hills Florine Elton Pinot Noir
Nicely savory, deep and plummy, this wine's complexity is pointed up by salty, volcanic tannins. There's impressive length and depth, with lots going on. A touch of sweetness speaks more to ripe fruit than sugar, balanced by the tannins. —JS Willamette Valley Vineyards, Turner, OR

Bronze             Brooks     $58     Brooks 2021 McMinnville Coury Pinot Noir
Though the scent is closed off, the flavors come on deep, dark and woodsy. It's bold up front, then it drops off quickly. A highly drinkable style. —JS Brooks Wine, Amity, OR

Bronze             Domaine Divio     $65     Domaine Divio 2022 McMinnville Hyland Vineyard Pinot Noir
Lots of dark, plummy fruit over firm, grippy tannins give this an unadulterated feel. Amy Racine found the notes of iron and bitterness provided "a volcanic signature," while Karen Goodlad was drawn in by the mix of lavender and vanilla, "an approachable style with some volcanic richness." —JS Domaine Divio, Newberg, OR

Bronze             St. Innocent     $55     St. Innocent 2019 Eola-Amity Hills Temperance Hill Vineyard Pinot Noir
While several of the panelists found this spicy, syrupy, heavy and black, it wowed me with its complex scent. The wood is present in that smoky scent, but there's so much fruit and density underneath. Full, broad and sultry-rich, at least for this taster. —JS St. Innocent, Jefferson, OR

Bronze             Willamette Valley Vineyards     $70     Willamette Valley Vineyards 2021 Tualatin Hills Tualatin Estate Pinot Noir
Rich and ripe, with notes of sweet vanilla, cola berry and sarsaparilla, this is correct, but a bit short and muted. —JS Willamette Valley Vineyards, Turner, OR

Honorable Mention             Adelsheim     $85     Adelsheim 2021 Chehalem Mountains Boulder Bluff Vineyard Pinot Noir
One panelist responded to this wine's "fruity-oaky darkness, with succulent red cherry and pomegranate flavors in a super-ripe pinot with lift." Others were less convinced, finding the wine reductive, a bit over the top, and too polished. —JS Adelsheim Vineyard, Newberg, OR

Honorable Mention             Brooks     $58     Brooks 2021 McMinnville Crannell Pinot Noir
Dense and dark, with a sweet edge, this ripe pinot has modest density and complexity. Drink it in the near term. —JS Brooks Wine, Amity, OR

Honorable Mention             Brooks     $70     Brooks 2021 McMinnville Rastaban Pinot Noir
A dark, cola berry–inflected pinot from the basalts of McMinnville, this is tightly wound, a little lean and angular in the end. Panelists found the final impression warm and sweet. —JS Brooks Wine, Amity, OR

Honorable Mention             Willamette Valley Vineyards     $55     Willamette Valley Vineyards 2022 Tualatin Hills White Tualatin Estate Pinot Noir
A simple pinot with scents of candied roses, this is fruity and dry. It's understated and correct, with good length. —JS Willamette Valley Vineyards, Turner, OR
Gold             L'Ecole No. 41     $75     L'Ecole No. 41 2021 Walla Walla Valley Ferguson Estate Ferguson Vineyard
L'Ecole's Ferguson estate rises up a hillside of fractured basalt at the southern end of the Walla Walla Valley. The elevation reaches 1,450 feet, the vines planted in a thin layer of loess over volcanic rock. In 2021, ten years after the inaugural vintage, Ferguson is decadent and powerful, holding freshness within the concentrated fruit and the dryness of the tannins. Tara Q. Thomas commented on the sense of soil and earth—a firmness and savor that countered the wine's ripeness, "a minerality that I attribute to volcanic soil," she said. —CW L'Ecole No. 41, Lowden, WA

Silver             Wilridge     $40     Wilridge 2019 Naches Heights Estate Mélange Noir
Northwest of the city of Yakima, the Naches Heights AVA is defined by a million-year-old lava flow that formed the contemporary andesite bedrock. Wilridge's estate vineyard, planted in 2007, is certified biodynamic, producing this blend of Bordelais varieties—cabernets sauvignon and franc, merlot and malbec, including a little petit verdot. The climate here is relatively cool for the Columbia Valley, lending some green edges and tomato-skin notes to the wine. At its core, this wine's fruit is purple, as supple as velvet, savory and firm. —CW Wilridge, Seattle, WA

Joshua Greene is the editor and publisher of Wine & Spirits magazine.

John Szabo MS is the Toronto-based author of Volcanic Wines (Jacqui Small Publishing 2016), co-founder of Volcanic Wines International, and partner and principal critic at WineAlign.com. He’s also part-time grapegrower on the limestones of Prince Edward County, Ontario.

Corey Warren is the Tastings Editor in addition to covering the wines of the Loire, Southern France, Argentina and South Africa.

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