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penner ashWhen we visited Willamette Valley in the fall of 2014 the tasting rooms were pouring their 2011 vintage. I had been a dreadful, cool, rainy year and the wines were thin and tight, across the board disappointing. When we returned the following summer, the 2011 vintage was still available and many had undergone a remarkable transformation. They were still angular but were developing character and depth after a few months of bottle age. This Penner Ash was especially impressive so I picked up a bottle to see how it would age.

it is, right now, drop dead gorgeous.

Effusively aromatic with lots of dark fruit for an Oregon Pinot, it shows, black cherry, brown sugar, clove and intriguing hints of smoke and musk delicately threaded with mint notes after aeration.

The palate greets you with black cherry and cola on a medium frame, not plush but supple and sure-footed. A core of bright, pure juiciness persists well into the finish, the surprisingly sandy tannins creating counterpoint and tension with the easy-going acidity all evolving with shapely elegance.  The wine has a linear through line but becomes animate at the back of the midpalate with oscillating expansions and contractions that give the wine a sense of life. Very well made and well-preserved.

Graceful and refined but humming with some dark energy beneath the even-tempered surface, building a mystery with Sarah McLachlan

Technical Notes: This wine was made before the winery was purchased by Jackson Family Wines in 2016. Grapes were harvested from a variety of sites around the Willamette Valley. Aged 10 months in 23% new French oak, 20% one year-old French oak, 26% two year-old French oak, and 31% in neutral French oak.

Score: 93

Storage Conditions: Excellent

Price: $45 (Purchase recent vintages here)

Alc: 13.3%