Hamilton Russell Vineyards in South Africa has developed an international reputation over 40 vintages for unusually restrained, classically styled Pinot noir, with deep structure and spice balancing fruit opulence. Hamilton Russell Oregon aims to express this stylistic philosophy with the very best Willamette Valley fruit – showcasing the restrained, structured classicism of great European Pinot noir and the bright purity of Oregon fruit. The celebrated Zena Crown vineyard in the Eola-Amity Hills, delivers a dark spice and tensile, fine-grained tannin structure to balance the complex lifted fruit the best Oregon Pinot noir is known for.
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93 pts Vinous – “Dark, glistening scarlet. Powerful, spice-tinged cherry, black raspberry and floral scents are complemented by suggestions of succulent herbs and candied licorice. Sweet and penetrating on the palate, offering ripe dark berry and cherry cola flavors that pick up smoky mineral and exotic spice nuances on the back half. Finishes very long and spicy, with a lingering floral note and late arriving tannins.”
93 pts Washington Wine Blog – “One of the great sites for Pinot Noir in the Willamette Valley, the ‘Zena Crown Vineyard’ is a dramatic setting in the Eola-Amity Hills AVA. The nose is seriously good as a light dusting of white pepper combines with shades of black truffle and peat moss that all take shape in the glass. The palate is beautifully textured with a good combination of ripeness, viscosity and tension. Downright juicy red fruits dance with citrus rind and peat moss tones on the palate. Gorgeous to savor right now, the 2018 ‘Zena Crown’ Pinot Noir will enjoy a long life ahead of it. Drink 2020-2032”
93 pts Blue Lifestyle – “Medium ruby color, crisp. tangy nose, smooth, silky and juicy with crisp cherry and hints of spice; classic, balanced and long.”
92 pts Wine Spectator 3/31/21
Polished and gracefully structured with raspberry and bold cherry flavors that take on a hint of underbrush and black tea and build toward refined tannins. Drink now through 2028. 172 cases made
90 pts Wine Advocate – “The 2018 Pinot Noir Zena Crown has a pale ruby purple color and bright scents of raspberries, strawberries, powdered sugar, watermelon and dried herbs. Medium bodied, the palate offers good concentration with a sturdy frame and long, juicy finish.”
While it was a warmer than average vintage, temperatures stayed in the low to mid 90s with few heat spikes, making for a balanced year with less widespread heat stress than in prior years, especially 2017. Low rainfall during late September and into October allowed winemakers to manage harvest easily, picking grapes when they wanted to, instead of dodging rain or having to harvest fruit early. When moderately warm days occur along with cool nights, vines rest in the evening and concentrate efforts on developing more fruit complexity and flavor. Ideal conditions like this occurred throughout Oregon in 2018. Late bud break was due to a slightly wetter and cooler April. Harvest was slow and steady in 2018 resulting in truly excellent fruit composition, with sugar levels, acidity, and pH all close to average. The 2018 vintage in the Willamette Valley has made some exceptional wines.