Antica Terra’s 2011 “Coriolis” Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley

Winemaker Maggie Harrison walks her vineyard
Winemaker Maggie Harrison walks her vineyard (photo: Northwest-wines.com)

So, it should be stated up front, I really like the 2011 Oregon Pinots. Lighter sure, but for good producers the quality is sound and the aromatics are remarkable. Maggie Harrison, who although has been making superb Pinots on her own for a decade, is always framed by her time with Manfred Krankl at Sine Qua Non. There I did it myself. But the winery does it on their own website. She was there nine years, so I suppose it was game changing. Still, this is her own show, and this wine has little to do with the central coast wines she made with Krankl. It is all finesse. And that is the real story here.

Maggie Harrison's 11 acre vineyard planted to sandstone with oyster fossils
Maggie Harrison’s 11-acre vineyard planted to sandstone with oyster fossils (photo: thebestofwines.com)

Review: 2011 Coriolis Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley

Wow. This is extremely aromatic; soaring, almost an exploding perfume of potpourri-like spice, cedar, black fruits, vague stem notes and forest floor, high notes of pine and resin with dried cranberries. The mouth is broad and soft with black fruit at its core, again some stem and pine flavors that almost structurally holding this soft but long and expansive wine together.  The weight of the wine is medium, but the finish while long is weightless, something I cherish, but others complain of bitterly as if it’s a fault. This is a beautiful wine, long and so silky with an airy finish, the aromas lingering, wafting as the alcohol volatilized, long after the wine is swallowed. Just delicious, with elements that make me think this easily could be confused with a very good Burgundy or even a very high-level Beaujolais, I find this wine very successful.  For others, this beautiful wine might be dismissed as too light. Utter silliness. 93 points for me. $54

The Winery and Geology of the vineyard

Coriolis is the second wine of Antica Terra label, where Harrison was brought on as winemaker and partner to push up the quality a decade ago.  Indeed, with her talent, she has put them on the map. The winery name refers the ancient soils of the vineyard that the original owners planted in 1989. Unique to the region, an ancient indurated seabed has pushed to the surface on this vineyard spot and has been encircled by the much younger, fertile soils that flow around it. The Antica Terra vines are planted directly into fractured sandstone that is studded by fossilized oyster shells. Harrison reports (and sometimes worries) about the underdeveloped and frail nature of her twenty-year-old vines. While a vine’s roots can reach deep into soil and rock for water, it is their root system near the surface from which vines get most of their nutrients. Perhaps she has reason to worry: vines in Burgundy that are planted to limestone sites with very little topsoil have difficulty achieving old age. She describes chlorosis when she writes:”The smallest changes in the environment can cause the leaves to turn yellow and fall.” This too happens in Burgundy, where acidic ground water that has eroded limestone can form a casing around the roots inhibiting iron intake causing chlorosis. She mentions fossilized oyster shells, and it is interesting to note that the difference between the two sandstone and limestone is that limestone consists of 50% or more of calcium carbonate (CaCO3)  which is derived (in Burgundy) from marine life, like oysters. In any case, these vines are certainly not well nourished, but with extreme care, and very careful fruit selection, the wines coming from this vineyard are routinely superb.  

Giving to Charity:  Coriolis is a side project where 100% of the profits are donated to the  Phil Knight Cancer Challenge.

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Crush at Antica Terra Winery
Crush at Antica Terra Winery (photo googlemaps.com)

 

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Diary of a Winebuyer

About Me: Thirty years ago, I graduated with a degree in political science from the College of Letters and Science at the University of California at Berkeley. Having grown up at the height of the Cold War, I still have vivid remembrances of being instructed to hide under our elementary school desk, covering our heads. The young, white, female teacher, training us without explanation, to face away from the windows. I suppose it is not all that surprising that I had a particular interest in the realpolitik of international relations. My fascination grew with the discovery that certain conditions almost uniformly exist where all revolutions ferment. Did this mean that the revolutions which had occurred in the first half century were revolutions which had been usurped by Marxists who were in the right place at the right time? Probably. A favorite professor was A. J. Gregor. This was a man who, while rakishly wearing a Gestapo-styled black leather motorcycle jacket, exuded expertise on fascism (which he looked the part) and Marxism. Improbably, he did it with a significant swagger. Then in my last semester, I had the blind luck to take a class on Asian Marxist revolution, and the professor, who just happened to be visiting that year while he worked on some unnamed project, was Chalmers Johnson. In retrospect, I should have known his name, as he was a luminary in the political science community but at that time, I did not. It was a remarkable opportunity to experience the ivory tower, but I seem to remember being anxious to get on with life. After college, I drifted through a few of jobs that were of interest to me. One of my former high school teachers said to me. "If I were in your shoes, I'd get a job as a flight attendant." So in order to be young while I could still afford to, I accepted a job serving chicken or beef at Pan American. With that airline losing money faster than it could sell its routes, I got a job doing cellar work at David Bruce Winery. This was the beginning of my wine career. All during this period, I wrote a still unpublished novel about homegrown terrorists the U.C. Berkeley campus, attempting to use some of what I learned in school, weaving in the Vietnamese political and military strategies of Dau Tranh as professor Johnson had lectured years before. Since the early 1990's, I have been involved in the wine industry, selling fine wine in both the retail and wholesale arenas. I have approached learning about wine, by always challenging myself to question how I know what I think I know? And in an effort to try to find answers I've turned, with varying degrees of success to wine books. Overall, I've not been happy with the quality of most wine writing, finding the authors either to lack any deep knowledge, or unable to move much past what I consider to be superficial information. I recognize that wine writers have to monetize their work, but I believe this has dramatically held back our knowledge and understanding of wine. I have set out to add to our industry's base of knowledge where I can. My first series, 'The Terroir of Burgundy' (which I should probably re-edit and complete some kind of conclusion, but I got involved in this project), can be viewed here. I currently work as a sales and marketing manager for a Burgundy and Bordeaux importer based in Atherton, California.

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