2009 Brooks, Rastaban Pinot Noir
If you’re not familiar with the Brooks story, the winery was founded in 1998 by Portland native Jimi Brooks, who nurtured a deep passion for wine and an overriding commitment to organic and biodynamic farming. Sadly, Jimi passed away suddenly in 2004 at the age of 38, the result of an aortic aneurysm. It was just before harvest but friends, family, and the local wine community rallied around to help complete that year’s vintage and the winery has stayed on track ever since. Before his death, Jimi bequeathed the winery to his son Pascal who, now 18, is the youngest winery owner in the country. Jimi’s sister, who had originally stepped in to oversee winery operations, will continue to do so until Pascal comes of age. In 2006 Chris Williams was brought on as fulltime winemaker and he is continuing Jimi’s dream of producing wines of great depth, flavor and balance, with the same commitment to natural farming and gentle approach to winemaking that Jimi practiced. Brooks still focuses on two grapes: Pinot Noir and Riesling. Their Rastaban Pinot is named for a star representing the eye of the dragon in the constellation, Draco. It is sourced from their estate vineyard in the Eola-Amity Hills, originally planted between 1973 and 1977, which they purchased in 2009 and which was certified biodynamic by Demeter in 2012. Aged for 18 months in French oak, this wine has lovely floral and forest floor aromas and is rich and full, with dark fruit flavors and soft balancing tannins. They made only 300 cases and it is $51. It would be a perfect Pinot for grilled salmon or duck.
2011 Colene Clemons Vineyards, Margo Pinot Noir
When we put the Colene Clemens 2009 Reserve Pinot in the club back in 2012, we detailed the history of this Willamette Valley winery. It is owned and operated by Joe and Vicki Stark who began with an abandoned farmstead and orchard on a steep, rocky, south-facing slope located on the western edge of the Chehalem Mountains where they converge with Ribbon Ridge. With sedimentary and volcanic soils, at elevations between 350 to 650 feet, it was a perfect site for them to pursue their dream of making the finest estate-grown Pinot Noir possible. (You may recall that their hilltop tasting room was a finalist for Sunset Magazine’s 2011 “Most Beautiful Winery Tasting Room of the Year,” with its stunning panoramic views including Pald Peak to the north, and the Coast Range to the west.) They currently have 40 acres of vines, planted to five different Pinot Noir clones: three Dijon, plus Pommard and Wadensvil. And they adhere to sustainable farming practices, using organic approaches whenever possible and non-invasive methods, such as hand hoeing and extreme crop reduction to limit yields. Steve Goff, who spent six years as assistant winemaker to Beaux Frères’ Mike Etzel, continues to work as winemaker and vineyard manager. Their 2011 Margo (named for their granddaughter) is produced from each of the five clones planted in their estate vineyard. It spends eleven months in French oak, and is bottle unfined and unfiltered. The result is a lovely wine, smooth and balanced, with flavors of dark fruit and earth that evolve as the wine opens up. It is $36 and is ready to drink now or over the next few years.