Christopher Mazepink, winemaker and general manager at Archery Summit, isn’t the least bit fazed by Pinot Noir. Perhaps that’s because he went straight from graduate school at Oregon State University to making it. Instead of being intimidated by the famously persnickety grape, he’s excited by the challenges crafting topnotch Pinot Noir presents.
Mazepink quickly fell in love with the varietal. He especially relishes the winemaking process, the grapes’ diversity at different sites and Pinot Noir’s distinctive character. Pinot Noir has, he says, “more personality than any other grape…. It will never be formulaic…. You’ll never see the same vintage twice.”
Oregon’s Pinot Noirs are considered by many to offer the best of California and the best of Burgundy. Mazepink thinks that “people are chasing the Oregon style” for this reason. The wines combine the ripe fruit flavors of California Pinots with the minerality, freshness of fruit, and savory, spicy character of Burgundy wines. They’re generally good both when young and when aged five to eight years.
Much is done at Archery Summit as it is in Burgundy. Its caves are modeled after the subterranean cellars of the famed Côte d’Or. Mazepink uses Old World techniques–including wooden tanks, native yeasts and large percentages of whole clusters–as well as Pinot-centric technological innovations to craft his Pinot Noirs. He’s been known to occasionally stomp the grapes with his feet. (Some of the best Ports are still made this way.)
At Archery Summit, Mazepink makes six to eight Pinot Noirs each year. The grapes are grown in the AVAs (American Viticultural Areas) that he considers to be the Willamette Valley’s finest. “I firmly believe that the best wines in Oregon,” he says, “are made from the Dundee Hills and Ribbon Ridge AVAs,” where the winery’s six estate vineyards are located.
Archery Summit’s wines often receive high ratings. The Wine Spectator recently rated four of its 2011 vineyard-designated wines (Archer’s Edge, Archery Summit, Arcus and Renegade Ridge) 90 or above. Mazepink, who started at Archery Summit in 2013, is used to receiving similar scores from Robert M. Parker’s Wine Advocate and other publications as well.
Mazepink thinks like you might. “I’m a consumer first,” he says. “Our wines are made to go with a wide range of food.” And that, says this food-and-wine lover, is just how it should be.
Premier Cuvée Willamette Valley Pinot Noir 2012 (SRP $54*): This wine is a blend of grapes from six vineyard estates in the Dundee Hills and Ribbon Ridge AVAs. Whereas its single vineyard wines are about the place, Archery Summit’s blends are about the style and the vintage, and the 2012 vintage was stellar. Aromas and flavors of blackberries and other dark fruits. A touch of cinnamon and star anise spice. Lush and layered. Sustainably farmed.
Vireton Pinot Gris Willamette Valley 2012 (SRP $24): One of Mazepink’s mandates at Archery Summit is to raise the profile of its Pinot Gris, and this is the first nationally distributed white wine from the winery. It offers fresh fruit, fresh acidity and fresh minerality. Aromas and flavors of apple, lemon, lime, white peach and tropical fruit. Flinty minerality. Lively. Notable textural richness and residual flavor.
*Wines can usually be found for less–sometimes considerably less–than the SRP (suggested retail price). Check out wine-searcher.com to get an idea of actual prices.