GARY HORNER’S TAKE ON OREGON PINOT IS DOWN TO
Erath winemaker Gary Horner.
Gary Horner is an astute teacher when it comes to sharing the art of Oregon Pinot. As the winemaker of Erath Winery in Dundee, Oregon, he can charmingly enlighten visitors on the pioneering influence winery founder Dick Erath had on the Willamette Valley, explain the geologic makeup behind the region’s terroir and clarify the science behind his winemaking techniques.
Yet when it comes to consuming the winery’s critically acclaimed selection of Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris, his words of wisdom become quite simple, almost Zen-like. “The key to enjoying our Pinot,” Horner says, “is to allow the wine to come to you.”
This sage advice acknowledges the Burgundian variety’s reputation for being the wild card in the grape world. It also speaks to the unfettered complexity that is inherent in the exceptional Pinots that Erath produces, suggesting that they are best enjoyed when the consumer doesn’t dwell on the grape’s eccentric temperament.
According to Horner, this philosophy of mentally “letting go” is a crucial element in the art of food and wine pairing. “Some people look at Pinot and become very hesitant to pair it with food, because they think too much about the grape,” the winemaker says. “But once they latch onto the idea of not worrying about its nature, they discover that the Pinot Noir goes nicely with a very broad spectrum of dishes.”
While the secret to enjoying an Erath Pinot may be to not dwell on the grape’s eccentric properties, it should be noted that Erath’s winemaking process does its part to help its consumers achieve this level of enlightenment. Over the course of the last decade, Horner has introduced technological advances such as micro-oxygenation and cross-flow filtration into Erath’s winemaking process—pioneering techniques designed to enhance flavor and aromatic qualities in the wines. And in the vineyard, Erath practices cost-effective measures to promote stability and health in the notoriously fickle grape.
The introduction of these progressive methods has allowed Erath to create Pinots of exceptional quality and value, not to mention influence. “Lots of wineries in the Willamette Valley started using these techniques after we did,” Horner says. www.erath.com
Erath 2009 Prince Hill 777 Clone Pinot Noir, Dundee Hills ($45) Strong, steady aromatics of cedar and pepper give way to a robust expression of stone fruit and cocoa on the palate. The wine’s gentle, lilting finish is subtly accentuated by the tartness of grapefruit.
Erath 2009 Leland Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley ($50) This deeply hedonistic wine starts out innocently enough, with slight scents of vanilla and leather. Yet it doesn’t take long for the Pinot to reveal its cards, as faint hints of Pippin apple set the stage for stout, indulgent strokes of cranberry, graham cracker and cinnamon. The sinfulness concludes with a silky mouthfeel and delicate cocoa accents.
Erath 2009 La Nuit Magique Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley ($65) In terms of flavor composition, this wine certainly lives up to its name, which is French for “the magic night.” Essences of cigar and dark chocolate fill the nose, preparing the palate for currant and black-cherry notes and a velvety mouthfeel that smoothly transitions into a subdued, spicy end.