2011 J.K. Carriere, Gemini Vineyard, Pinot Noir
This month we present two Pinots from two familiar faces—new wines from wineries we have featured in the club in the past. The first is this single-vineyard Pinot from J.K. Carriere. Winemaker Jim Prosser stopped by the shop several weeks ago and we had the pleasure of tasting through his current releases with him. It was great to finally meet Jim and to hear him talk about his winemaking philosophy and goals. And at the end, it was this Pinot from Gemini Vineyard that we chose to put in the club. In case you’ve forgotten, Jim is the one who is deathly allergic to bees, hence the wasp featured prominently on his label, and he focuses on producing classically-styled Pinot Noirs, always aiming for grace over power in his wines. Gemini Vineyard is in the Chehalem Mountains AVA and consists mostly of Laurelwood soils—rich, windblown loess. It is non-irrigated and sustainably farmed, and the grapes for this wine were planted in 1995 with Pommard clone. As 2011 was an extremely cool growing year, Jim ended up letting the fruit hang a long time in order to develop, resulting in a wine that is fully ripe, but with tons of balancing acidity. Jim describes it as having great structure (“like a serious bike frame”), with substantial beauty. The dark red, spicy fruit is backed by pepper and herbs, and a lean, stoniness. Jim suggests decanting it well if you drink it soon, or to lay it down for five to ten years while it continues to develop. It is $60 and, whenever you chose to enjoy it, it would be excellent with grilled ahi, boeuf Bourguignon, or of course, salmon.
2011 Beaux Frères, Les Cousins Pinot Noir
We have featured Beaux Frères wines in this club in the past when price allowed. And we have frequently referred to the winery, its location, or its winemaker, sometimes as a point of reference, but more often, as a benchmark of quality in both terroir and in winemaking. Mike Etzel is one of the most respected Pinot producers in Oregon, and his estate is located in the coveted Ribbon Ridge appellation. He farms biodynamically, and with great passion and attention to detail, from his nurturing of the microbes in the soil, to his meticulous hands-on management of each vine from bud break to harvest. Mike makes just several wines a year from his estate vineyards, plus a Willamette Valley blend sourced partially from other carefully selected growers. And then, once in a while nature steps in and creates its own situation. In the cool 2011 growing season, everything was delayed about a month, and while, in the hands of an experienced producer like Etzel, the fruit is still excellent, he didn’t feel he could release it as an estate wine. So, for the second time ever, he declassified the entire vintage of his Upper Terrace fruit and, combined with barrels from the cellar, produced this wine, “Les Cousins.” Not such great news for the winery, perhaps, but excellent news for us! When we poured this Pinot at an Oregon tasting a while back, it was showing beautifully—elegant, fresh, and aromatic, with soft spice and earth notes. Made with the same meticulous care and commitment as his top Pinots, but at a very easy to swallow $28.50, it is ready to drink now (while you wait for his higher-end wines to come of age), or over the next several years.