Wine by the Numbers

Have you ever noticed that while many pinot producers strive to maintain integrity from grape to glass other wineries too often bottle a wine that can’t possibly have much in common with the fruit from which it’s made? Heavy oak, big extract and alcohol frequently ruin an otherwise decent wine. It’s as if every wine made in this style was intended to be some sort of crowd-pleaser or garner high-praise from influential wine critics and publications. I’m so tired of that. Domaine Coteau, however, appears not to be, at least not entirely.


2002 Domaine Coteau Pinot Noir is a translucent and deep plum-purple in the glass. Sweet vanilla and black cherry fruit were very much evident in the nose as was high quality oak cooperage. I was disappointed that this pinot offered none of the forest-floor aromatics that I find so exciting in Oregon pinot noir. Although the quality of fruit extract and total absence of alcohol heat were very well executed, I found the black fruit character of this wine to be one-dimensional. However, Domaine Coteau did offer the rich and silky texture that so many enjoy in good domestic pinot.

I believe Domaine Coteau Pinot Noir is best assessed not by what it offers up-front but rather by what was absent from the outset. To me, the wine lacked acidity through its full finish and was aromatically straightforward without any nuance or real subtlety; this pinot had too much residual sugar. While the high quality oak, which was certainly used in making this wine, offered spice and vanilla I found its presence to be heavy-handed (although many others will disagree). Yet, this offering WAS an honest, albeit straightforward expression of Oregon pinot noir.

In the end, 2002 Domaine Coteau Pinot Noir IS very well made, and therein lie the rub: it seems crafted with a particular style of pinot serving as its model and produced by a rote approach executed in the winery. Based upon tasting this wine alone and with food I feel there are many other Oregon pinots worthy of the $25.00 this pinot demands. I can only recommend this wine to those preferring straightforward, fruit-driven pinot noir, however I do hope future vintages can showcase the leaner, more aromatically engaging style of pinot which fruit of this quality is certainly capable.

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