2009 Belle Pente, Estate Reserve Pinot Noir
We’ve featured a number of Brian O’Donnell’s wines in the past, including a previous vintage of his Estate Reserve Pinot Noir. Some of you may even recall the class he taught here at the shop in 2011 about Oregon terroir, focussing on the geology, geography, and the soil types found in the northern Willamette Valley. This is a man who knows his stuff! Brian founded his Yamhill-Carlton winery, Belle Pente (French for “beautiful slope”), in 1994 with his wife Jill. The beautifully situated hillside vineyard consists of ancient sedimentary WillaKenzie soil and they have farmed it organically since 2000, and biodynamically since 2005. Brian’s estate reserve Pinot Noir always represents the very best from the winery, with fruit sourced from the best individual blocks in their estate vineyard, capturing the unique, site-specific nuances of each block. We recently ran into Brian at a tasting and had a chance to sample his 2009 reserve. When we learned that he had just a small amount left, we grabbed it! The majority of fruit for this vintage comes from his original 1994 planting, which typically produces his most complex wines, as well as from a block of Wädenswil clone planted in 1998 that generally produces his most concentrated fruit. The warm 2009 vintage produced bigger, bolder wines and this one is no exception. It is dark and spicy, with plenty of power and complexity and supple texture. His website describes it as “a big man who can dance…A Sumo wrestler ‘en pointe.’” Delicious now, he says it should reach peak maturity around ten years from the vintage date. It is $47 and, with its bold flavors, could stand up to pork, veal, or other somewhat hearty fare.
2010 Stoller Family Estate, Dundee Hills Reserve Pinot Noir
While many winemakers we’ve featured found their way to the Willamette Valley in search of the perfect place to create the wines of their dreams, Bill Stoller was born right there on his property, and raised on his family’s farm outside of Dayton, Oregon. His education took him in the direction of business and economics, but after a successful career and founding two human resource companies, he was able to pursue his passion of making wine. In 1993 he acquired his family property, which at the time was not thought to be prime farmland. But with its rocky, well-drained Jory soil and south-facing slopes in the Dundee Hills, Bill, who was also co-owner of Chehalem Winery and had some experience in the Oregon wine world under his belt, knew that it was an ideal site for vineyards. He planted his first vines, ten acres each of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, in 1995. Today, all of the Stoller wines are made from their estate fruit, and their Pinot Noirs show the dark fruit flavors, spice, and earthiness that the volcanic soil, elevation, and exposure of their vineyards imparts. The Reserve Pinot is made from a selection of their best vineyard blocks and barrels in the cellar and is carefully blended to express the character of the vintage which, in 2010, had a long, cool growing season and an unusually late harvest though several weeks of sunshine at the end helped ripen the fruit fully. The long season tended to produce balanced wines with vibrant fruit flavors. This one is beautifully textured, with a plush mouthfeel, elegant spicy flavors and a long, seamless finish. It is $39.75 and the winery suggests pairing it with classic grilled or roasted salmon, filet mignon, or soft cheeses.