Please The Palate Wine of the Week: Utopia Estate Pinot Noir, Ribbon Ridge AVA

Ribbon Ridge is the smallest AVA in Oregon. It is entirely contained within the Chehalem Mountains AVA in the Willamette Valley. The AVA includes 3,350 acres of land and approximately 500 acres are currently planted. There are approximately 34 vineyards and 11 wineries in the Ribbon Ridge AVA and one of them is Utopia Vineyard, a small, family owned winery producing only a few hundred cases of each wine each year and the Utopia Estate Pinot Noir is the Please The Palate wine of the week.

Daniel Warnshuis began in the Bay Area. After college, he got a job with a company who’s headquarters were in Oregon, and his boss, an amateur chef and wine collector, introduced him to wine. At 23 years of age, and based in Napa, he converted his laundry room into a wine cellar. He began importing wine in 1989 and then started an online retail cellar. While he was importing French wines, Daniel was also an early proponent of Oregon Pinot Noir before anyone else knew about it. He was known as the “pied piper of Oregon wine” in Napa.

Daniel purchased 19 acres in 2000 in Ribbon Ridge. His first planting was in 2002 and his first vintage of 97 cases of estate Pinot Noir was in 2005. In 2007, Daniel moved to Oregon from California. Today he has 17 acres under vine and recently acquired 37 more acres which is being cleared. And he farms organically.

Daniel has planted a variety of Pinot Noir clones in his vineyard. He sees clones as tools in his winery. The first estate Pinot Noir in 2005 has six clones in it. In 2013, the estate Pinot Noir had 12 clones in it.

Utopia Estate Pinot Noir 2013, Ribbon Ridge AVA – The 2013 vintage saw early bud break and a long warm summer. The 2013 estate Pinot Noir has red fruit notes of cherry and strawberry and spice aromas and on the palate, the wine is silky with a round mouthfeel.

Utopia Estate Pinot Noir 2014, Ribbon Ridge AVA – The 2014 vintage brought record heat. The 2014 estate Pinot Noir has an elegant nose with darker red fruit and bramble notes. On the palate, it is lush with more texture and slightly grippier tannins.

Utopia Estate Pinot Noir 2015, Ribbon Ridge AVA – The 2015 estate Pinot Noir exhibits currant, red and black cherry and herbaceous notes. This fruit-forward wine has bright acidity and tannins on the palate and finishes with minerality.

All three vintages of Utopia Estate Pinot Noir, as well as 2016, are available for $48 per bottle.