What a difference a year makes

Have you ever wondered what it would be like if you had been born in a different year? Would you have the same convictions, vote for the same party, hold the same religious beliefs and like the same kinds of foods if you were born in a different decade? Would you be more conservative like Richie Cunningham in the TV show Happy Days if you had been born in the 1950s instead of the 1970s? Do you think it would matter if you were born only one year earlier or later?

I like to think my birth year had an effect on me. 1969. What a momentous year. Led Zeppelin released their first album and Hendrix played Woodstock. Neil Armstrong was the first man to walk on the moon. Stonewall riots in New York City ushered in the gay rights era. The Concorde was the first supersonic plane to break the sound barrier. The Summer of Love. All of that and the yin and yang of ‘69 was amplified by my star sign, pieces. It left an indelible mark on my world view.

It goes without saying that wine is also impacted by the year in which it was born. Why else would we fuss so much about the vintage. “Oh man ’96 was a great year for California Cabs.” “I’ll take a ’05 Bordeaux over that any day.” Its loads of fun to experience the difference a year can make by conducting a vertical tasting. Grab a few friends, pick your favorite wine by producer and by four or five sequential years and compare them side by side. Nothing beats it.

Beautiful Wife and I decided to do a micro-vertical with one of our favorite wines, Argyle Winery Nuthouse Pinot Noir. We selected the ‘06 and ‘07 for our little tasting. Both of these wines are a little young, but we’re an impatient sort, so we went forth. Argyle viticulturist, Allen Holstein, does a brilliant job of selecting the grape clones and managing the Lone Star and Knudsen Vineyards where Nuthouse Pinot grapes are grown to get the best berries year after year. Winemaker, Rollin Soles, deftly combines chemistry and artistry to make those grapes into wine that makes me euphoric. So what did these guys have to work with in ’06 and ’07?

The Oregon Willamette Valley had an excellent year in 2006 with a warm summer that persuaded the fruit flavors to burst forth and a little rain right before harvest kept the alcohol levels in check. The 2007 season started with a warm spring and rolled into a moderate summer, ideal for abundant amounts of fruit to mature. However rain deluged the wine region in September and October making for a challenging harvest.

Comparing the two wines side-by-side it was obvious that they are siblings. They both had a bright disposition and grounded in the land from where they came. They aren’t twins though. Their birth years made their mark.

2006 Argyle Nuthouse Pinot Noir

Look Playful, with translucent eyes and a broad smile of ruby-red lips.
Smell Saucy and earthen as a ripe blueberry Violet Beauregarde after she rolled in the Oregon soil.
Taste Boarding school charm with a penchant for a smoke after class. The ‘06 began with blackberry and dried cherry which hung around for a long time to be joined by cocoa, cinnamon and puckering tannins. Its velvety smooth with good acidity and a polite acknowledgement of alcohol.
Price $60

 2007 Argyle Nuthouse Pinot Noir

Look Fresh-faced with rosy, cranberry cheeks.
Smell Forthright and confident Hermione Granger with a strawberry and graphite mist issued from her wand.
Taste The younger sister emerges from the Nuthouse with the same fruit forward posture, but less of an attitude. She has a clean, bright cherry introduction that smoothly rounds into a smoky, lingering finish.
Price $60ish (I think)  

 I went back and forth trying to decide which one I liked better. Was it the more complex, darker ‘06 or the more innocent, fruitier ‘07? I think I’ll have to do this test again to really decide. Why don’t you try it and tell me what you think? I’d love to hear it.

Full disclosure: I had the wonderful fortune to work part-time at Argyle Winery, during which time I developed a fondness for the people and the wine. This is a completely biased review.

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4 Comments to “What a difference a year makes”

  1. Did not know you worked at Argyle. Not a huge fan of Argyle’s pinots, but like the Chards and Sparklers a lot. I especially am a fan of the dark and bubbly Black Brut, which reminds me that I need to pick up a case for the winter. I’ve generally found the 07s to be a bit on the thin side though that’s not universal. I also believe that if you can get a good deal on 07 pinots that they will be fine after a few more years of aging.

    • Hey Chuck, yeah, I had the good fortune of working part-time at Argyle when I lived in Portland. It ended up being an expensive job because I spent more on wine than I made. It was wonderful to share the enjoyment of wine with so many people in that job. In addition to my regular duties in the tasting room, I learned a lot by helping with crush and production after harvest as well as disgorging, dosing and recorking the sparkling. Really miss it. If I end up back in Oregon some day, I’ll try to work there again.

  2. We picked the fruit for 2007 the day before any rain. I think it retained the juicy center of this wine as a result. I’ve enjoyed tasting both these wines as they age. A very fun tasting of these two wines should include trying them with food. Watch how creamy textured the 2007 wine becomes, thats the definition of late season ripening.
    By the way, you’re welcome to come back for disgorging or punchdowns anytime, we have a portable defibrillator now for you older, bon vivants, just in case!

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