2016 Belle Pente Vineyard and Winery, Belle Pente Vineyard, Pinot Noir, $45
Winery Info: Belle Pente is a 70-acre hillside vineyard and winery just east of Carlton, Oregon, founded by Brian and Jill O’Donnell in 1994.
The name (“beautiful slope” in French) describes the site and also reflects the inspiration they draw from the wines of Burgundy and Alsace. Brian has a deep understanding of the geology, geography, and soils of the Willamette Valley and has farmed biodynamically since 2005.
Winemaker: Brian O’Donnell
Grapes: 100% Pinot Noir. Mostly Dijon clone (primarily 115 and 114), with about 25% Wädensvil and Pommard. Fermented with vineyard indigenous and ambient yeasts and aged 18 months in French oak barrels, one third new.
Vineyard: Sourced from six of the eight blocks of their estate vineyard in the Yamhill-Carlton AVA, planted between 1994 and 1999. The soil is marine sedimentary (Willakenzie) over sandstone.
Flavor Profile: The 2016 vintage tended to produce very concentrated wines with great flavor. This one is very aromatic and elegant, with flavors of ripe blueberry and blackberry, good minerality, and a hint of licorice. There is a nice underlying sense of freshness, depth, and balance.
Availability: 595 cases produced. This wine is in limited supply.
Drinking Window: Enjoy now or over the next five years.
Food Pairing: Brian suggests pairing it with rich dishes featuring “wild mushrooms, big birds, or small animals.”
2018 Evening Land Vineyards, Seven Springs Vineyard Chenin Blanc, $38
Winery Info: Evening Land was founded in 2005 by a group of investors, with the much-celebrated Burgundian Dominique Lafon as consulting winemaker. The winery has gone through a number of changes over the years and is now headed by Rajat Parr, James Beard award-winning author and celebrated sommelier, along with highly-acclaimed winemaker Sashi Moorman. They are now sole stewards of Seven Springs Vineyard in the Eola-Amity Hills AVA, considered by many to be one of the top vineyards in the Willamette Valley.
Winemakers: Rajat Parr and Sashi Moorman, with assistant winemaker Damien Lapuyade.
Grapes: 100% Chenin Blanc, aged one year in puncheon and six months in tank.
Vineyard: Their estate Seven Springs Vineyard, in the Eola-Amity Hills. Sourced from 1.1 acres of vines planted on iron-rich basalt soil. The vines were grafted to Chenin Blanc in 2016.
Flavor Profile: 2018 was a warm, dry vintage and the Chenin fruit ripened fully, developing into a beautifully textured, food friendly wine. It is clean, fresh and bone dry, with lovely notes of citrus and a nice touch of flint.
Availability: 125 cases made. This wine is still in decent supply.
Drinking Window: Enjoy now if you prefer it on the younger, fresher side. But Chenin Blanc is ageable and you could give it three to five years to see how it develops.
Food Pairing: Perfect with oysters or seared scallops.