Hit me, Hamina, one more time!

This is the second of the wines that Todd Hamina sent for Team Elitistreview to try. He says it is about half whole clusters and 25% new oak. It was included in the sample case he sent me, he says, to give me an idea of where he is going with his wines.

Bugger me, he is going somewhere really lovely and totally delicious. Ranking things at this quality level is very silly, and likely to slip one up into giving points to wine, which is bloody stupid. So let us limit ourselves to the childish outcry, “Wow! This is the best ever!”. Toddy can clearly make extremely fine wines and has some great pieces of land to work with. The note!

Zenith Vineyard Pinot Noir 2010 Biggio-HaminaPinot Noir Zenith Vineyard 2010, Biggio-Hamina Cellars

Hell’s bells! This smells delicious! It has lovely, elegant, refined fruit of incredible beauty. The fruit is polished and highly attractive. This is what Pinot should smell like.

I can detect only very faint hints of new oak which are perfectly balanced as a seasoning for the scrummy, pretty fruit. There is clearly a sense of place on the nose. Given my relative inexperience with boutique Oregon wines, I would guess this was a really smart Morey-Saint-Denis if I just sniffed it.

But the palate has a totally different acid/fruit/tannin thing going on – it is more similar to the Youngberg Pinot we had the other day than it is to Burgundy. There is clearly a consistency to the terroir of the AVA, and fuck me it is a damned good terroir for Pinot Noir.

The palate bursts with succulent, beguiling fruit; it is such a charmer. The tannins and acid are in perfect harmony with the fruit and it shows itself to me a silken, svelte beauty that is so winsome you just want to grab the bottle and hide under the bedclothes so you can drink it all yourself.

This is one of the few New World Pinots I have had that merit the descriptor callipygian, it is just so perfectly formed. There is nothing out of place, it is so harmonious and shapely.

Six years of age do not seem to have harmed it in the slightest; indeed it seems to have developed real hints of tertiary characteristics. It is on the cusp of beginning to mellow into a soft, well-titted-out drinking companion. By arse, I think this is totally beauticious and beguiling and will only get better.

It has really impressive length, with fruit and a hint of wood showing on the finish. The finish is impressively complex, there are layers of flavour that reveal themselves as you swirl this around your mouth then swallow it.

There is no green character which makes arses say that whole-cluster is bad for the wines, but adding them into the fermentation tanks does seem to have had the usual effect they have on a wine – it is quite pale. I am commenting on the colour of the wine last because who in their right mind cares if their Pinot Noir is pale.

This is a stunning wine of class, beauty and style. I love it totally. Todd Hamina is a brilliant winemaker who just guides his grapes through to wines that express where they are made with a soft, non-interventionist hand. Who could ask more from a maker of Pinot?

The expression of place in the two Biggio-Hamina wines Team Elitistreview have tried have left us frankly stunned. I think our eyes have been opened to a whole new expression of the best red grape variety, an expression that we really love and will no doubt been eager to try more in the future.

Thank you, Todd! You have done our future drinking a great favour!

  • Tom Blach

    It sounds stupendous, David, I shall hope to find some one day. Do you mean secondary rather than tertiary, though? I don’t usually find what I think of as tertiary flavours in red burgundy in wines less than thirty years old and I’d be surprised if this has evolved to that extent.
    I wish you could taste the wine currently in my glass, Lambrusco di Sorbara Sant’agata 2014 from Paltrinieri, I think you’d love its explosive and decadent thing which at the same time manages to be a totally dry and adult drink.

  • As far as I’ve understood with Burgundy, primary characteristics come from the fruit, secondary from winemaking and tertiary from ageing. As someone who loves Burgundy (well, good Pinot in general) these are the terms I always use. I know most people refer to secondary flavours as being age-derived, but that is because they are filthy Claret drinkers who have not been educated about proper wine (naturally I don’t include you in this category of people). There were the beginnings of tertiary flavours here (which seemed a bit of a surprise to me too on a six year old wine) and they were totally delicious and promised the wine would develop and give lots more pleasure in the future. I bet this wine will have a long and extremely attractive ageing profile.

    I always hate my tasting notes just after I’ve written then until about 4-5 days later when (hopefully) I do not think they are so bad – so I may be misjudging what I’ve written here – but I don’t think I’ve done this wine justice. It was really extremely good, amazingly so if you take into account that it costs $50. It delivered so much pleasure and promised an awful lot more for the future. To give you an idea of how good I thought this was, when I poured us two tasting samples before getting down to drinking I said, upon sniffing, “Christ on a bike, this smells just like Clos des Lambrays!”.

    I am fantastically grateful to Todd, not just for sending me some free wine, but introducing me to a whole new expression of my favourite – by which I mean the best – red grape variety. I shall be aiming to buy and try a lot more from the region in the future.

  • Richard Brooks

    That comment about MSD chimes with me. When I drink good pinot noir that is not from Burgundy, this is the village I most often think of. I’ve never found a pinot with the spice of Vosne or the structured minerality of old-fashioned Gevrey. But the charming succulence of a good Morey seems more achievable in other locations. Not that they are trying to be Burgundy of course… just that this is usually the closest comparison.

  • Not sure I agree, Richard. If there is one village that is making a lot of modern, international-styled wines it is Gevrey. Even I have placed some Gevrey wines elsewhere and some from elsewhere in Gevrey. I have to say I’m not entirely convinced that Gevrey should be heading more and more in the ‘modern, international’-direction, but then again I’ve had a lot of clean, zippy Gevrey’s that are the cat’s arse. So I’m fucked if I know what in the name of bums I’m talking about. I just have a deep and intimate love of the wines of Morey, they have such wonderful, unique personality I cannot see them being ‘default quality Pinot’.

  • I must say that I am thrilled that you loved this wine. Quite often as a winemaker the focus is on the task at hand in order to accomplish the immediate goals. By sending you this 2010, which in my opinion is one of the finest vintages in Oregon with 1993 as its stablemate in terms of absolute beauty, I was reminded again that my focus is on lasting satisfaction. Sometimes the stars are aligned, other times you must earn that winemaking moniker. Ten was a year hit hard in the vineyard by birds as their primary food source, blackberries, didn’t ripen. However, what was left of the decimated crop was an absolute dream. The Zenith vineyard, in the Eola-Amity Hills AVA, is one of volcanic soils with an alluvial deposit on top.

  • Toddy, when it comes to wine I tell it like it is. And this wine offered enormous pleasure and I feel it will continue to do so for many years to come. My frame of reference when it comes to Pinot is fine, extremely fine, Burgundy, so I’m definitely coming at this from a different angle to it than most of your customers whom, I would guess, drink more US wine than me. The fact that this wine pleasured Dani and me immensely shows that it is of a quality that transcends a particular idiom and is simply extremely fine wine. I hope I made that clear in my note. You should feel dead chuffed with yourself for producing a wine the quality of which would stun any over of Pinot.

    Thank you for giving us the opportunity to try a wine of unabashed style, complexity and god-damned amazing quakity

  • Guy Dennis

    A friend of mine from work in London is a wine enthusiast and is going to Oregon. Naturally, I pointed him to Elitist Review, and he has now requested a visit to the domaine. Do they welcome visitors?

  • Indeed we do Mr. Dennis.

  • Guy, there are few better places in the world where one can visit if you have an interest in fine wine that really speaks of where it comes from. Toddy is a top chap too, I’d love to meet him! 🙂