Oregon Pinot Noir 

Sip on the cool climate of the Willamette Valley

With apologies to California, where they make some outstanding Pinots, I prefer the cool-climate wines that are the hallmark of Oregon's Willamette Valley. They seem closer in style to the Burgundies I love, offering elegant fruit flavors beautifully balanced by lively acidity. Delicious on their own, they're even better paired with food, which is how it should be. Here are the panel's top three Oregon Pinot Noir picks:

2013 Arterberry Maresh Pinot Noir, $25

This Pino opens with heady aromas of cherry blossom, cocoa, vanilla bean, a hint of smoke and five spice. It's a fruit-forward red offering creamy cherry and blackberry fruit along with nuanced flavors of rose hip tea and cola. It finishes with dusty tannins and a refreshing hit of crisp acidity and is an exceptional value for an excellent Oregon Pinot.

2012 J. K. Carriere Pinot Noir, Vespidae, $40

The aromas are a combination of cherry and dark berry fruit with funky touches of earth and herb. On the palate, this Pinot is all about elegance and balance, with ripe dark fruits playing against tart cherry. Supple tannins come through on the long finish filled with spicy notes of fresh raspberry.

2013 Soter Vineyards North Valley Pinot Noir, $33

The nose is an intriguing mix of perfumed spice, chocolate covered cherries and buttered popcorn with a hit of oak. The flavors are a bit restrained at first, but the wine opens up nicely with time in the glass. It offers a bold core of candied cherry fruit backed by soft oak, light tannins and a kiss of white pepper on the creamy finish.

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