Patricia Green Cellars (PCG) produces phenomenal Pinot Noir that gets as close as “dirt to wine” as could be possible. PGC prides itself on making wines that are a clear expression of each distinct vineyard in which the wine grapes grow. As partner Jim Anderson puts it, “we’re making wines from dirt to wine.” Patricia Green produces about 15 different variations of Pinot Noir that vary subtly when the grapes are sourced from the same Willamette Valley AVA and vastly when the grapes are sourced from different AVAs including Ribbon Ridge, Dundee Hills, Chehalem Mountains and Yamhill-Carlton.
Prior to my recent trip to Oregon, I thought I could expertly identify the profile of Willamette Valley Pinot Noir. After an hour at Patricia Green, I realized how little I actually knew. Sure, there are certain characteristics that the archetypes of the varietal possess. But, Willamette Valley Pinots actually vary quite a bit from label to label, vineyard to vineyard and vintage to vintage. Indeed, I have never been in a wine making region where there was so much talk about clonal types. Add several different soil types and weather variations from year to year, and you will find that there isn’t one single prototype for Willamette Valley Pinot Noir.
Another factor that leads to variation among Pinot Noir labels is whether the winery uses native or commercial yeasts. Native yeasts are those that naturally find their way on the wine grapes and in the vineyard. Commercial yeasts, however, are purchased and used by the winery to convert the sugar to alcohol. The use of commercial yeasts allows a winemaker significantly more control over the fermentation process and the flavors and aromas that will ultimately be present in the wine. Impressively, Patricia Green Cellars’ Pinot Noir is made only with native yeasts.
Partners Patricia Green and Jim Anderson run a tight operation at PGC where they produce 9,000 cases of Pinot Noir annually with the help of only a few full-time staff members. The wines range from highly structured to silky texture, very earthy character to red fruit aromas, notes of mint and herbs to smoke and spice, musty barnyard to sour cherry. One thing is certain: each and every wine has enough complexity to keep you thinking long after the finish.
We tasted through at least a dozen very good Pinot Noirs at Patricia Green Cellars, but I had a few favorites:
Ana Vineyards, Dundee Hills 2010: great balance.
Balcombe Block 1B, Dundee Hills 2010: incredible complexity.
Marine Sedimentary, Ribbon Ridge 2010: the best example of dirt to wine.
Estate, Yamhill County 2002: a Willamette Valley Pinot Noir benchmark.
The next time you come across Patricia Green Cellars Pinot Noir, don’t pass it by. Cheers!
 From Jancis Robinson’s The Oxford Companion to Wine: “clone in a viticultural context is a single vine or a population of vines all derived by vegetative propagation from cuttings or buds from a single ‘mother vine’ by deliberate clonal selection.” The most commonly planted clones in Willamette Valley seem to be Pommard and Dijon.