Hello friends. Three Oregon Pinot Noirs today, representing the best of our tastings over the past few months. Two are from the beloved (and rapidly dwindling) 2012 vintage; the third a single-vineyard Pinot from a producer whose only Pinots we’ve previously had access to have been more generic Willamette Valley bottlings.
La Paulee is the entry-level wine for the lovely Scott Paul Pinot Noir lineup, and it offers fine bang-for-the-buck at its $39 release price. Today, however, the winery is offering our list a pretty significant discount off release price, a discount that gets us lower than I’ve seen this wine priced in years, and lower by a few bucks than anything else I see nationally. Please note: this is a one-time offer for this pricing. Any reorder requests would likely need to be fulfilled at something closer to $39.
This 2012 comes from four outstanding vineyards: Maresh and Nysa in the Dundee Hills, Ribbon Ridge Vineyard in Ribbon Ridge, and Azana in the Chehalem Mountains. The fruit was native-yeast fermented, and then aged in older French oak barrels for 10 months. After bottling in August 2013, it has now had an additional three years of bottle age to soften and mature.
It’s worth noting that this vintage was made entirely by Kelley Fox when she was still at Scott Paul. I know we have many Kelley acolytes on the list, and with good reason: her Pinots always offer a visceral thrill, a sense of being very much living things in the glass. This begins with a dark aromatic profile: black cherry, threads of smoke, and lovely resinous forest floor notes, pine needles crunching underfoot. Oh, bottle age: there’s nothing like it for sanding down rough edges. This is a supple, seamless wine, with fleshy fruit, yes, but ultimately an earth-driven wine, very much in keeping with Kelley’s style. A lovely late-release ’12, from a vintage that continues to offer untold pleasures.
Brian O’Donnell launched Belle Pente in 1994 after many years of home-brewing and home-winemaking. It’s one of Oregon’s hidden gems, open only twice per year (Memorial Day, Thanksgiving) and producing a series of earthy, terroir-expressive Pinot Noirs. In my opinion, Belle Pente still does not receive a level of attention commensurate with the quality of wines Brian crafts. Probably because he’s as nice and unassuming as a winemaker gets, and just quietly goes about his business, making vintage after vintage of haunting, ethereal Pinot Noir.
Here is how Brian describes this wine: “[TEXT WITHHELD]e.”
The estate site for Belle Pente sits on marine sedimentary soils in Yamhill-Carlton, and this 2012 fruit (with yields of 2.2 tons/acre) was harvested in early October 2012, then aged for 18 months in a combo of 33% new French oak, 40% 1-2 year old, and 27% 3-5 year old barrels. It was bottled in June 2014 and has had a subsequent two-plus years to evolve in bottle. Listed alc is 13.8%, and this begins with a nose of black cherry and raspberry, kirsch, and earthy notes of fresh ground coffee and silty minerals. The palate possesses a gorgeous minerally core, shaded by rich black cherry and black plum fruit and continuing notes of black coffee. This still nurtures subtle finishing chew, a remnant of the powerful tannins of 2012, but much of that tannic structure has integrated beautifully, and this drinks very much like a wine about to enter its peak window. Right now it is perfectly poised, offering both power and elegance.
We’ve offered Tyson Crowley’s Willamette Valley Pinot Noir four times. His Entre Nous Pinot Noir another four times. But we haven’t had access to any of his single-vineyard Pinots. At least not until today. Prior to this month, I hadn’t even tasted any of them; I only knew of them via their sterling reputation, and by the fact that the tiny quantities produced rarely left the borders of the state of Oregon.
I loved all three single-vineyard Pinots I tasted, but none more so than Gehrts. And there’s extra poignancy here, because in 2014, leading Burgundy producer Louis Jadot purchased the vineyard (it literally shares a fence line with Domaine Drouhin Oregon; I suppose the French will follow the French), so 2013 is the last vintage where Tyson will be able to produce a single-vineyard bottling from this lovely site.
Gehrts was planted in 1999 on the red volcanic jory soils of the Dundee Hills, to a mix of Dijon-clone Pinot Noir vines. Here is how Tyson describes what happened in the vineyard in 2013: [TEXT WITHHELD].
Aged for 19 months in neutral French oak, this comes roaring up out of the glass with rose petals, red cherry fruit, and warm dusty soil notes. The rosewater tones were so beautiful that I wondered if, smelled blind, I might have called this as Nebbiolo instead of Pinot Noir. It is austerely fruited, with such a deeply mineral core, that it’s no wonder Burgundian powerhouse Jadot swooped in and purchased the site; it must have felt like home.
Please limit order requests to 36 bottles total (mix and match as you like), and we’ll do our best to fulfill all requests. The wines should arrive in a week or two, at which point they will be ready for pickup or shipping during the next temperature-appropriate shipping window.