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Monday, Mar. 14, 2011

Elk Cove more than great Pinot

The picturesque Willamette Valley is a perfect setting for a vintage winery like Elk Cove Vineyards.

Nestled among rolling green hills with an oak tree backdrop, Elk Cove is a popular stop for folks touring Oregon wine country not only for its scenery but also for its fine lineup of exciting wines.

The folks at Elk Cove have been at it since 1974 and have the system down right from the bottle to the tasting room glass.

Elk Cove was Wine Press Northwest's 2007 Pacific Northwest Winery of the Year, and for good reason - it makes superb wines.

Leading the way, of course, are a bevy from Oregon's hallmark variety, Pinot Noir. Not far behind is a standout Pinot Gris.

Yet what makes Elk Cove a cut above many of its Willamette Valley neighbors is its diversity of other delicious wines, including Riesling, Viognier, Pinot Blanc, Syrah and a rose. Elk Cove also makes a delicious dessert wine of Riesling., Gewurztraminer and Muscat Ottonel called Ultima. And in the past, it has made a sparkling wine.

While the genesis for Elk Cove's success was with founders Pat and Joe Campbell, their son Adam has brought Elk Cove its greatest acclaim.

Adam has put together a team of support folks, including vineyard manager Travis Watson, assistant winemaker Heather Mackey and vice president of sales and marketing Shirley Brooks.

Watson supervises the 220 acres of planted grapes, including five different estate vineyards: Windhill, La Boheme, Roosevelt, Mount Richmond and Five Mountain.

Andy Perdue, editor of Wine Press Northwest, wrote this in his lead article when Elk Cove was named Pacific Northwest Winery of the Year. "Adam Campbell is all about passion. For his family, for his parents ... and especially for Oregon wine."

Good press statements like that have made Elk Cove one of the stars of the Oregon wine world.

"Champion of Value" wrote Wine & Spirits Magazine.

"Pinot Noir & Pinot Gris are standouts," wrote Wine Spectator.

"Elk Cove is one of the best known and most respected Oregon Pinot producers, thanks to their classically crafted wines," wrote Forbes Magazine.

"Long-lasting Elk Cove is one of Oregon's elite wineries," wrote Paul Gregutt of The Seattle Times.

Elk Cove is not far from Forest Grove and Hillsboro, just outside the tiny Yamhill County community of Gaston.

"The folks came from Hood River and took a chance on acquiring land in the Willamette Valley for vineyards," Adam said. "We got lucky with the site, which not only produces some of the best grapes but is considered by visitors as one of the prettiest wine scenes in Oregon."

Elk Cove makes seven Pinot Noirs, including a $100 reserve.

2008 Reserve Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, $100: Rated "Outstanding!" by Wine Press Northwest. Managing Editor Eric Degerman had to say: "Not often in life do you get what you pay for, but Adam Campbell rewards the investment in one of the Northwest's most expensive Pinot Noirs. It's also extremely expressive with whiffs of boysenberry, plums, lime, chocolate and cedar. Very little oak shows on the palate, allowing for velvety flavors of black cherry, strawberry, boysenberry, marionberry and orange pekoe tea."

2008 Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, $28: As good as the $100 bottle is, the $28 is even a bigger star at the winery. Silky smooth with aromas of cherries followed by those wonderful Oregon berries. Add some cedar spice at the beginning and you have a classic Willamette Valley Pinot Noir.

2008 Roosevelt Vineyard Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, $48: Full bodied with big cherry overtones offering both vanilla and blackberry characteristics.

2009 Mount Richmond Vineyard Pinot Noir, $48: Fresh, fruity and sexy with pie cherry and boysenberry notes. A big wine yet easy on the palate.

2009 Pinot Noir Rose, Willamette Valley, $15: Pretty in pink, aromas of ripe watermelons and strawberries. Crisp, light flavors with more ripe strawberries and watermelon.

2009 Pinot Gris, Willamette Valley, $19: Starts with grapefruit aromas and yields to pear and peach flavors. Crispness makes this a great match for shellfish taken fresh from the Oregon coastal waters.

2008 Pinot Blanc, Willamette Valley, $19: Oregon - and Elk Cove in particular - have taken this variety that can be understated and made it zing with vitality. Steel and minerals yield to jasmine, apple and citrus. A complex and food-friendly wine.

2008 Estate Riesling, Willamette Valley, $19: Oregon Riesling is a bit gentler than Washington Riesling, I think. Crisp apples are the hallmark here and sweet lime replaces the peach and apricot of Oregon's neighbors to the north.

2008 Ultima, Willamette Valley, $36: A delightfully sweet dessert wine at 19.2 percent residual sugar showing its aromatic and tasty heritage of 66% Riesling, 17% Gewurztraminer and 16% Muscat Ottonel. Delicious apricots, honey and flower components.