Must-Try Wine of Week: 2012 Owen Roe Sharecropper’s Willamette Valley Pinot Noir

Winemaker David O’Reilly of Owen Roe found that during his first couple vintages in the early 2000s, a time of economic downturn, wine growers in the Pacific Northwest were having trouble selling their grapes at harvest. O’Reilly wanted to help the farmers and also obtain the prime wine grapes.

It was decided to bring back the historical business practice of sharecropping, and thus the appropriate name of the wine, “Sharecropper’s.” A partnership developed in which Owen Roe would acquire the grapes, make the wine, and once it was sold, share the profits with the wine growers. Due to the popularity of this wine, Owen Roe is now able to pay the wine growers up front. This vintage of Sharecropper’s pinot noir is sourced from four premium Willamette Valley vineyards including Anna’s, Lenné Estate, Merriman, and Sojourner.

Wine lovers frequently ask me for the name of a good pinot noir in the $20 range, one they can drink on a daily basis without stretching their wallets. Finding good, cheap pinot these days is an oxymoron, but Sharecropper’s is an exception.

The excellence of the 2012 Sharecropper’s Pinot Noir reflects Oregon’s ideal growing season in 2012. The wines from this vintage are unusually generous and ready to drink upon release. The wine is convivial now, but has the balance to age nicely for five years.  It’s a perfect wine to buy by the case and watch evolve over the next few years—if you can keep your hands off it.

The invigorating nose is filled with bright aromas of black cherry, black raspberry, and nutmeg. It’s velvety on the palate, with noble tannins, and the dark cherry and berry fruit core is racy and vibrant. Hints of baking spice and oak vanillin add interest.

Pair this wine with almost anything grilled this summer, including juicy hamburgers, Copper River salmon, pork tenderloin, chicken, even carne asada. 

Find the wine locally at www.totalwine and www.winex for about $20, as well as online at the Owen Roe website store (

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