Kelly's mom and pop and left this bottle at our house as a gift a few weeks back. I have had Panther Creek pinots numerous times in the past but didn't know what to expect from this one. I figured being a 1996 it was probably in the twilight of its life at best. The 1996s were being made by winemaker Mark Vlossak. Mark produces some of Oregon's most consistent and fine wines. These days Mark is the winemaker/proprietor at St. Innocent which deserves kudos not only for their great wines but the commitment to keeping them affordable.
According to the Panther Creek website:
Shea Vineyard was first planted with wine grapes in the late 1980s. Today Shea Vineyard is a 200-acre property with 140 planted acres. 135 acres are planted with Pinot noir vines. The balance is planted with Chardonnay, and Pinot Gris. Roughly 15% of the Pinot noir fruit is used each year by Shea Wine Cellars for its releases. The balance of the Pinot noir fruit is sold to wineries as close as the adjoining properties on both sides of the vineyard and as far away as Ojai, California. The vineyard sits on sedimentary soil over fractured sandstone. Shea was one of the early vineyards in this area of Yamhill County and on this soil type.
Having done no research before drinking it, I was curious. The wine was absolutely superb. There was still a pretty amazing core of fruit. The wine was ambering throughout the glass Blueberry preserves, hints of spice, a bit of creaminess, a velvety texture, and a little vibrancy on the end. This wine is mature and sexy.
This morning I decided to check what Pierre Rovani had written about it. There was no rating but a fairly detailed account of the wine. Seems it was a bit beguiling to him at the time. Amazing what can happen to a wine in 9 years. From erobertparker.com, Rovani's review (Oct 1998):
Panther Creek's 1996 Shea Vineyard is very reduced. At the winery it offered aromas of rubber and gamey meats that slowly transformed into stewed plums, cherries, and strawberries following aeration. It displayed excellent concentration, intensity, and a flavor profile dominated by reduced flavors (rubber, raw beef, and game) as well as spicy oak. Kaplan informed me that he and his team (including winemaker Mark Vlossak) had been confounded by this wine since fermentation. I have tasted it twice since. The first time it displayed spicy cherry yogurt aromas, as well as a creamy, complex, cinnamon-tinged, and sweet cherry-filled character. It was absolutely delicious. However, at a subsequent showing, it appeared more reduced than ever. Readers willing to cellar this wine for 5-6 years, or those who are willing to decant it for a number of hours, will be impressed by the wine's fruit (putting a few pennies in the wine will hasten the dissipation of the reductive notes). However, since I cannot expect readers to have loose change on hand at all times, I am reserving judgement.