We strive to make age worthy wines. Some of our wines will age beautifully and some should be enjoyed in their youth. The trick is to know the possibilities that lie within your bottle. To help, we are providing a guide to help you decide when to open your St. Innocent bottles.
We do not set out to make wines that require aging to be fully enjoyed, like great Bordeaux or vintage Port. All of our wines can be enjoyed in their youth. Some vintages produce wines that are not as “showy”, developing more slowly and benefit from waiting 6-12 months after they are released. These are cooler vintages where the grapes do not get as ripe.
Famed wine writer Gerald Asher is quoted as saying he enjoyed many bottles of old Pinot noir, but almost never without thinking how much fresher and more lively the wines might have been if he had drunk them at 5-8 years of age. Mark believes the optimum age to enjoy Oregon Pinor noir is often in that 5-8 year window. In fact, he drinks most of his bottles in the first decade. However he also believes he would be remiss if he did not also share the amazing experience of some of his wines at 10-20 years of age.
Mark does not consider his wines to develop significant "aged" aromas or flavors until they are at least 10 years old. Thus, the original tasting notes for a specific wine are accurate for most of the first decade. Those notes are only ammended after the wines have that have more developed bottle character.
We recommend that all our Pinot noirs be decanted 1-2 hours before serving, even the wines older than 10 years.
Because Mark has a limited number of bottles in our library, many are infrequently tasted. If you have one of our older bottles and would like to send us your tasting notes, they will be gladly received. Those comments are added to the ageability references listed.
Vintage is the single greatest factor in how Oregon Pinot noir ages. The personality of a vintage is usually determined in the 2-4 weeks before the grapes are picked, the time after veraison is complete. Prior to that time, the grape has none of the flavor or aroma qualities essential to making wine. Flavors develop in the berry over time. It takes several weeks for the flavors we want to develop and the flavors we want to lose (the green, herbal ones) to disappear. Very warm and sunny conditions in the last couple of weeks can cause high sugar levels (high alcohol) and lower acidity while we are waiting for the flavors and tannins to mature. Cooler conditions with less sun tend to bring our more complex spice, floral and earth notes at moderate alcohol levels.
Because the time of bloom varies by a month or more, harvest can vary between mid-September to last half of October. The harvest conditions affect the quality, quantity, and balance of the tannins, flavor components and acidity. More is not better; it is about the relationship between these components. It is especially about picking fruit with good flavors and no rot, expecially in Pinot noir.
Warm vintages produce wines to drink in the youth when they are vibrant and fresh. Cooler vintages often need 1- 3 years for the flavors and aromas to emerge, but can amaze you with their beauty in 4-10 years. These variations are more about personality than quality.
Winemakers play an essential role. Their single biggest decision is deciding when to pick. Early pickers capture more acidity, freshness while retaining more herbal notes. Late pickers tend to make more fruit forward wines with less complexity. We try to pick in the middle of the ripening curve, capturing the point of maximum complexity. We use a very small percentage of new wood, using it to support the nuances of the individual terroirs and round out the tannins. We bottle the Villages Cuvée earlier to capture the fresh fruit (11 months), and bottle the vineyard-designated wines later to capture their complexity and nuances (16 months).
The classic or great Oregon vintages (good acidity paired with excellent skin maturity) are 1985, 1994, 1998, 2002, 2008, and 2012. These are usually vintages with moderate crops and very "normal" weather. Grapes do not like extremes, not too dry, not too wet, not too warm, not too cold. They will hit their peak in 10-18 years.
In vintages that were warm like 1992, 2003, 2006, and 2009 the evolution of wines in the bottle will be more rapid. This is because the heat during these harvests reduced the acid level in the finished wine and acidity is one of the main factors that affects aging (tannin is the other and primarily skin, not oak tannin).
In the cool vintages, with leaner and less ripe skins, waiting 3-4 years from vintage to begin drinking the wines will allow the fruit components to emerge more fully. They will also evolve more slowly than other vintages. These were 1989, 1993, 1995, 1999, 2004, 2007, 2010 and 2011. If the grapes were clean and the level of maturity was good (i.e., they were actually ripe), wines from these vintages will evolve over 12-20 years. As an example, I showed the 1989 Pinot noir, O'Connor at a dinner at Lure in NYC in 2012 and it was beautiful. This wine was focused with nuanced fruit and very supple on the palate. The 1998 Pinot noir, Freedom Hill was just hitting its stride and was a lovely match with their award-winning cheeseburger and steak. The 2000 Pinot noir, Seven Springs was still a bit closed.
By selecting the vintage, the varietal, and the vineyard, you can see my notes below.
The vineyard site also affects the way Pinot noir ages. This effect is not only in duration, but in the way the wine changes over time. The changes in Seven Springs are significant over two decades, while Freedom Hill evolves very slowly and steadily. The speed of change also varies. Justice Vineyard improves dramatically over seven years while Shea develops very slowly. Here are a few comments on site.
Pinot noirs from Temperance Hill develop over ten or more years. Brickhouse, Seven Springs, and Freedom will improve for 10-18 years. White Rose has very old vines and ages very well, but it tastes so good why wait? Justice and Zenith are lovely in their relative youth, so I would drink a significant portion in 6-10 years, although both will age up to two decades. Shea appears to last forever, easily 15-20 years and evolves more slowly than the other sites.
Although many St. Innocent wines will develop over an extended period of time, not all are meant to age. The exceptions are our white Pinot noirs - the Oeil de Perdrix - and Pinot blanc. These wines are meant for early consumption and are unlikely to improve with age.
Our Chardonnays will improve over 5-8 years. Chardonnays from Freedom Hill Vineyard from 2013 and on have the benefit of older vines and will have a longer window of development, probably 8-12 years.
Our Pinot gris is the most age worthy of our white wines. In this way they are similar to their Alsace counterparts. In 2011 I enjoyed a bottle of 1993 Pinot gris, Vitae Springs Vineyard and it was impeccable. Unfortunately, we used a synthetic cork beginning in 2004 thinking it would prevent the problem of "corked" wines. These closures allowed more oxygen to permeate and prematurely aged the wine. We discontinued their use in 2011. Our wines sealed with synthetic corks should be enjoyed within 8 years of bottling.
The Villages Cuvée Pinot noirs are blends of multiple sites and have been blended for early drinkability. They will improve for 5-8 years, but are not meant for long term aging.
Some single vineyard St. Innocent Winery Pinot noirs have demonstrated an exceptional ability to develop over an extended period. The ageability notes listed on the back label have proven to be very conservative. The back label for the 1998 Pinot noir, Shea Vineyard advised aging for up to 8 years, but at 16 years, the wine still has a long future ahead of it, probably 4-6 years before it begins to get "old".
|Vintage||Varietal||Vineyard||Mark's Notes||Customer Notes||When to Enjoy|
|1988||Pinot noir||Willamette Valley||Past its prime|
|1989||Pinot noir||O'Connor||Past its prime|
|1989||Pinot noir||O'Connor||Past its prime|
|1989||Pinot noir||Reserve||Past its prime|
|1990||Pinot noir||O'Connor||Past its prime|
|1990||Pinot noir||Seven Springs||Past its prime|
|1991||Pinot noir||O'Connor||Aged Pinot character with nuanced red fruit, smoke, spice, nice length||NOW|
|1991||Pinot noir||Seven Springs||Brambley and cedar nuances, berry fruit, complex with earth in the finish||NOW|
|1992||Pinot noir||Allison's||Past its prime|
|1992||Pinot noir||O'Connor||Lovely earthy core of red fruit, nuanced spice notes, elegant fruit in finish||NOW|
|1992||Pinot noir||Seven Springs||Brambley berry fruit with pepper, spice, & mushroom notes||We paired it with a spicy duck sausage and the wine turned out to be a perfect accompaniment with its rich, mellow blackberry notes.||NOW|
|1993||Pinot noir||Willamette Valley||Past its prime|
|1993||Pinot noir||O'Connor||Aged cherry and berry aromas with layered spices and nice length||NOW|
|1993||Pinot noir||Seven Springs||Still very impressive with good concentration and lovely fruit showing||NOW|
|1994||Pinot noir||Temperance Hill||This has not been opened for a decade, but expect some lovely spice and dark cherry fruit at its core||Past its prime|
|1994||Pinot noir||O'Connor||A very dense wine, still showing solid tannin structure, dense red fruit and spice||NOW|
|1994||Pinot noir||Seven Springs||A very dense wine, big and tannic with wild berries, pepper, and spice||NOW|
|1994||Pinot noir||Freedom Hill||A very dense wine, black cherry and rich earthiness, fruit opening with air||NOW|
|1995||Pinot noir||O'Connor||Elegant with pretty, spicy red berries and lovely, delicate finish||NOW|
|1995||Pinot noir||Seven Springs||Needs a short decant, then shows nuanced dark berry fruit, spice, and elegance||Immediately!|
|1995||Pinot noir||Freedom Hill||A gentle bruiser with earth, dark cherries, and dried flowers||NOW|
|1995||Pinot noir||Brickhouse||Elegant with nuanced fruit, Burgundian layers, and lovely finesse||NOW|
|1996||Pinot noir||Temperance Hill||Powerful red cherries, still some tannins in the finish||NOW|
|1996||Pinot noir||O'Connor||Very dense with tannin, it finally softened exposing a lovely core of fruit and layers of spice||Past its prime|
|1996||Pinot noir||Seven Springs||Still dense tannins, wild berries, earthy spices||Mitch Stevens recently opened this bottle and he said it was wonderful with grilled King salmon.||NOW|
|1996||Pinot noir||Freedom Hill||Still dense tannins, black cherry, earthiness with big structure||NOW|
|1996||Pinot noir||Brickhouse||Spice, white pepper, raspberries, complex, quite rich||NOW|
|1997||Pinot noir||Temperance Hill||Not tasted recently, but probably fairly earthy with dark floral undertones||Past its prime|
|1997||Pinot noir||O'Connor||Unfortunately this became very earthy with strong character of Brettanomyces||Past its prime|
|1997||Pinot noir||Seven Springs||Lovely elegance, wild berries, pepper, and spice, nuanced finish||NOW|
|1997||Pinot noir||Freedom Hill||Earthy elegance with dark cherry, clay, and dried flowers||Immediately!|
|1997||Pinot noir||Brickhouse||Aged berry notes with typical spice, white pepper, and mushrooms||NOW|
|1998||Pinot noir||Willamette Valley blend||Past its prime|
|1998||Pinot noir||Temperance Hill||Bright, sweet red fruits, spices, hints of smoke, layered complexity - very compelling||NOW|
|1998||Pinot noir||O'Connor||Layers of red fruit, bright spices, some floral and smoke notes, showing some aged character but still lovely||Now to 2019|
|1998||Pinot noir||Shea||Amazing, complex berries, sweet dark fruit and dried flowers, great depth||Now to 2018|
|1998||Pinot noir||Seven Springs||Wonderful example of Seven Springs, wild berries, bramble, earthy spices, complex finish||NOW|
|1998||Pinot noir||Freedom Hill||Layered black cherry, spice, earthiness with solid tannin structure||NOW|
|1998||Pinot noir||Brickhouse||Elegant and silky texture with black raspberries, cinnamon, and pepper||NOW|
|1999||Pinot noir||Temperance Hill||Beautiful balance, typical black cherry, purple flower, and hints of smoke||NOW|
|1999||Pinot noir||Shea||Layered wild berries, dark flowers, complex with extended finish||Now to 2021|
|1999||Pinot noir||Seven Springs||Quite bright with wild berry fruits, earthy spices, and very well balanced||"It still has plenty of acidity, but we really enjoyed its complexity and very long finish." - Mitch Stevens||NOW|
|1999||Pinot noir||Freedom Hill||Rich black cherry, big structure with lots of tannin||Now to 2019|
|1999||Pinot noir||Brickhouse||Very Burgundian, layered raspberry, spice, many layers||“We just enjoyed this wonderful wine with some grilled lamb. It is stunningly good. Smelled just like a Chambolle Musigny.”||Now to +2|
|2000||Pinot noir||Temperance Hill||Restrained, with black cherry, purple flowers||NOW|
|2000||Pinot noir||Shea||Nuanced and complex, with red and black fruit and dark flowers||Now to 2021|
|2000||Pinot noir||Seven Springs||Continues to be beautifully nuanced and delicate, with typical terroir||Now to 2019|
|2000||Pinot noir||Freedom Hill||Black cherry, lovely earth notes, well structured but nuanced||Now to 2018|
|2000||Pinot noir||Brickhouse||Lovely barnyard, cloves with many layers||NOW|
|2001||Pinot noir||Temperance Hill||Black cherry and floral aromas, a bit rustic||NOW|
|2001||Pinot noir||Shea||Wild and somewhat gamey aromas, showing aged fruit and somewhat coarse tannins||NOW|
|2001||Pinot noir||Seven Springs||Dominant wild berry and earth notes||NOW|
|2001||Pinot noir||Anden||Wild berries, spice with rustic tannins that are softening||NOW|
|2001||Pinot noir||Freedom Hill||Black cherry, earth, one of the best wines of the vintage||Now to 2018|
|2001||Pinot noir||Brickhouse||Lovely barnyard, cloves with many layers, the best Brickhouse ever.||NOW|
|2001||Pinot noir||White Rose||Beautiful red fruit, still lovely, balanced, and engaging||Now to 2018|
|2001||Pinot noir||Willamette Valley||Past its prime|
|2002||Pinot noir||Seven Springs||Bright, engaging, sensual, with beautiful berries, wild spices, great length and complexity||Now to 2020|
|2002||Pinot noir||Freedom Hill||Rich black cherry, big structure with more nuances. Spectacular!||Now to 2018|
|2002||Pinot noir||Anden||Earthy with wild fruit, pie spice, and white pepper.||Now to 2021|
|2002||Pinot noir||Villages Cuvée||Past its prime|
|2002||Pinot noir||White Rose||Rich red fruit, still lovely, engaging, and hedonistic||Now to 2018|
|2003||Pinot noir||Villages Cuvée||Past its prime|
|2003||Pinot noir||Temperance Hill||Lovely dark cherry, balanced floral and spice notes with hints of smoke||NOW|
|2003||Pinot noir||White Rose||Complicated, balanced, complex, ripe and slightly candied dark red fruit with mixed earthy floral nuances, ready to drink now||NOW|
|2003||Pinot noir||Shea||Primary berry fruit, with earthy floral notes, beginning to show age||NOW|
|2003||Pinot noir||Seven Springs||Earthy, ground spices, wild berries, layered finish with medium dense tannins||NOW|
|2003||Pinot noir||Freedom Hill|
|2004||Pinot noir||Villages Cuvée||Nice, drinkable Pinot noir with medium body||NOW|
|2004||Pinot noir||Justice||Still incredibly engaging, lovely spice and berry layers with textured and lengthy finish||NOW|
|2004||Pinot noir||Temperance Hill|
|2004||Pinot noir||Shea||Tight berry and dried floral notes, complex and a bit closed into the finish, decant for 2 hours prior to drinking||Al French says this wine is "still very fresh and vibrant. Beautiful color. Has a long life ahead."||NOW to 2020|
|2004||Pinot noir||White Rose|
|2004||Pinot noir||Seven Springs||Layered wild berry and ground spice with slightly dusty overtones, rich with nice acidity, multidimensional finish||Now to 2020|
|2004||Pinot noir||Freedom Hill||(Tasted with plastic cork - not standard bottling) Surprisingly bright with black cherry, layered clay, and some floral notes||Now to 2018|
|2005||Pinot noir||Villages Cuvée|
|2005||Pinot noir||Temperance Hill|
|2005||Pinot noir||White Rose|
|2005||Pinot noir||Seven Springs|
|2006||Pinot noir||Villages Cuvée|
|2006||Pinot noir||Temperance Hill||Lovely ripe fruit aromas of sweet berries, purple flowers, and chocolate, lengthy finish||NOW|
|2006||Pinot noir||Zenith||Ripe red and black fruit flavors with spice and cedar notes, backed by ripe tannins and moderate acidity||NOW|
|2006||Pinot noir||Shea||Aromas of dark spices, wildflowers and black fruit with hints of tar and wet earth, extremely dense||Now to 2018|
|2006||Pinot noir||Justice||Ripe berry notes with baking spices and hints of smoke, wonderful breath of texture||NOW|
|2006||Pinot noir||White Rose||Lush, ripe red fruits and sweet spice with hints of violet, berries, white pepper, and red flowers, soft tannins||Now to 2018|
|2006||Pinot noir||Momtazi||Layers of rich dark fruits, coffee, and roasted spices, long finish with ripe tannins and dark fruit, earthy and dense||Now to 2017|
|2006||Pinot noir||Anden||Layered, lush red and black fruits with spice and pepper notes, rich and ripe tannins||Now to 2020|
|2006||Pinot noir||Seven Springs||Remarkable finesse, balance, and depth, red and blackberry fruits with dusty spice and pepper notes, rich yet delicate tannins||Now to 2020|
|2007||Pinot noir||Villages Cuvée||Nicely balanced, remains bright||NOW|
|2007||Pinot noir||Winemaker's Cuvée||Alluring floral and berry notes, with forest floor and chocolate characteristics, layered sweet fruit and spice notes on the palate||Now to 2019|
|2007||Pinot noir||Temperance Hill||Purple flower and berry notes with spice and smoke overtones, nuanced dark fruit and anise||Now to 2020|
|2007||Pinot noir||Zenith||Silky tannins and earthy mineral notes support bright red fruits: cherry, raspberry, and cranberry||NOW|
|2007||Pinot noir||Shea||Complex and layered, with dark fruit, spice, pepper, and truffle notes||Now to 2021|
|2007||Pinot noir||Justice||Perfumed nose, sweet spice, red and dark berries, orange peel, and summer wildflowers, texturally rich, lingering finish||Now to 2020|
|2007||Pinot noir||White Rose||Lush nose of flowers, sweet spices, and red fruit, incredibly textural, with soft tannins and rich, layered flavors||Kevin and Vicki Barcus said it's drinking splendidly and told us they wish they could "bottle the nose for posterity".||Now to 2020|
|2007||Pinot noir||Momtazi||Wild, rustic, and exotic, with asian spice and dark fruit notes, rich ripe tannins, and a complex, lingering finish||Now to 2019|
|2008||Pinot noir||Villages Cuvée||Bright red fruit with sweet spices, cherry and red berry with hints of flowers||NOW|
|2008||Pinot noir||Temperance Hill||Ripe, sweet cherries, strawberry preserves, purple flowers, and hints of smoke and earthy spices||Now to 2021|
|2008||Pinot noir||Zenith||Sweet cherries and raspberries with hints of spice and wood smoke||Now to 2018|
|2008||Pinot noir||Shea||Red and black berries, fresh and dried flowers, with hints of sweet herbs, white pepper, and an undertone of forest floor||Now to 2022|
|2008||Pinot noir||Justice||Sweet and smokey, with ripe dark fruit and a spicy sauvage character, thick, dense, and concentrated with a lingering finish||Now to 2019|
|2008||Pinot noir||White Rose||Dense red raspberry aromas with layers of rich floral scents, deep berry flavors and intense textural weight, elegantly balanced||Now to 2019|
|2008||Pinot noir||Momtazi||Complex and rustic, with layers of blue and black fruit, Indian spices, coffee and pepper, textural and intense||Now to 2020|
|2008||Pinot noir||Freedom Hill||Red and black cherries, dark flowers, ground spices, pepper, earthy minerality, finishes with ripe tannins and balanced acidity||Now to 2021|
|2008||Pinot noir||Fujin (Momtazi)||Ripe, broad, dark fruits with sweet mocha, dark floral and asian spice nuances, very approachable with balanced weight||Now to 2018|
|2009||Pinot noir||Villages Cuvée||Fresh, bright fruit enhanced by complex floral and layered sweet ground spices||Now to 2018|
|2009||Pinot noir||Temperance Hill||Vibrant, red fruit with spicy notes, followed by darker fruit and mulled spices with hints of dark flowers on the finish||Now to 2021|
|2009||Pinot noir||Vitae Springs||Cherry blossom, raspberry, cranberry, and cedar aromas are buoyed by savory and sweet spice notes on the palate||Now to 2019|
|2009||Pinot noir||Zenith||Raspberries with smoke, cedar, and dark spice, followed by layered red and dark fruits and subtle floral and forest floor flavors||Now to 2021|
|2009||Pinot noir||Shea||Aromas of red fruit with sweet floral highlights and hints of caramel, big ripe fruit and flowers on the palate with sweet spices||Now to 2022|
|2009||Pinot noir||Justice||Subtle red and dark red fruit with pie spice and hints of anise, textural and elegantly complex||Now to 2021|
|2009||Pinot noir||Momtazi||Complex layers of blue and black fruit with eastern spice notes and a "sauvage" sense of wildness||Now to 2021|
|2009||Pinot noir||Freedom Hill||Structured and rich, with dark berries, dark earth, carmelized fruits, and forest floor notes||Now to 2021|
|2010||Pinot noir||Villages Cuvée||Fresh, bright, red and dark fruit, spice, good acidity, sweet cherry and red berry flavors||NOW|
|2010||Pinot noir||Temperance Hill||Red cherry and berry fruit and darker floral aromas with hints of smokey spices||Now to 2021|
|2010||Pinot noir||Zenith||Red and dark fruit, layers of spice, hints of dark flowers, good acidity||Now to 2021|
|2010||Pinot noir||Justice||Very balanced, lingering rich and heady aromas and flavors||Now to 2020|
|2010||Pinot noir||Shea||Intense, perfumed nose, dense mixed berry fruits, spices, summer and dried flowers, complex tannins||Now to 2026|
|2010||Pinot noir||Momtazi||Blue and black fruit, Indian spices, coffee, and pepper||Now to 2021|
|2010||Pinot noir||Freedom Hill||Structured and intense with dark berries, wild flowers, roasted sweet spices, and dark earth||Now to 2023|
|2011||Pinot noir||Villages Cuvée||Fresh, bright red and dark fruit, red berries, pepper, spice, and dark floral notes||NOW|
|2011||Pinot noir||Vitae Springs||Brilliant red fruit on the nose, heavier on the palate with cherry, sweet earth, and spice notes||Now to 2022|
|2011||Pinot noir||Temperance Hill||Cherry and berry fruit with smokey spices on the nose, darker red fruit and dark flowers on the palate||Now to 2021|
|2011||Pinot noir||Zenith||Rich nose of dark cherries, red raspberries with ground spices, layers of red and dark red fruit on the palate with broad tannins||Now to 2026|
|2011||Pinot noir||Justice||Texturally broad and layered with spice and berry components, supple tannins, lingering finish||Now to 2023|
|2011||Pinot noir||Shea||Intense, dark red and black fruit aromas, dense mixed berries, spices, and dried flowers, broad, rich tannins||Now to 2028|
|2011||Pinot noir||Momtazi||Blue and black fruit, indian spices, coffee, and pepper||Now to 2024|
|2011||Pinot noir||Freedom Hill||Rich and rustic, with rich fruit and wild flower aromas, dark berries, earth, roasted fig, and caremelized fruit||Now to 2027|
|2012||Pinot noir||Villages Cuvée||Full flavored, texturally rich, red berries, spices, pepper, and dark floral notes||Now to 2021|
|2012||Pinot noir||Temperance Hill||Brilliant ripe cherry and berry fruit, sweet, smoky spices, dense, sweet finish||Now to 2025|
|2012||Pinot noir||Zenith||Red berries, bright floral and spice, lush dark fruit with pie spices and forest flavors, lengthy finish||Now to 2026|
|2012||Pinot noir||Justice||Dense red berries with floral and spice aromas, rich tannins, and expansive finish||Now to 2022|
|2012||Pinot noir||Shea||Dense with dark fruit and floral aromas, concentrated fruit, and roasted sweet spices||Now to 2031|
|2012||Pinot noir||Momtazi||Dense blue/black fruit and roasted eastern spice notes are layered with rich peaty flavors. Ample ripe tannins balance with its acidity.||Now to 2026|
|2012||Pinot noir||Freedom Hill||Rich and generously fruited with dark, wild cherries, loads of spice and underlying dark earth||Now to 2028|
|2012||Pinot noir||Vitae Springs||Dark cherry fruit in its nose with silky texture. It has a balance of elegance and richness that charms while not overpowering the senses.||Now to 2025|