Vineyard & Winery
Other Current Releases
2011 Belle Oiseau
As many of you know, we are enamored with the wines of Alsace. So we were thrilled when our friend Andy Fortgang (of Le Pigeon and Little Bird Bistro in Portland) approached us a few years ago to create a traditional Edelzwicker blend for one of the restaurants. Edelzwicker literally means "noble blend", so is made from some combination of the "noble" varieties of Alsace: Riesling, Gewurztraminer, Pinot Gris, and Muscat.
Although many wines labeled as Edelzwicker today tend to be sweet and innocuous, Andy was after a classic dry style to match with the house-made charcuterie at Little Bird. So we sat down with the individual varietals, and concocted the Belle Ouiseau "formula": roughly equal parts Riesling and Pinot Gris with a splash of Muscat. Initially served exclusively at the restaurant from kegs, we did a small experimental bottling in 2010, and a more extensive one in 2011.
The 2011 Belle Oiseau (bell woz-oh, which means "Pretty Bird") includes 45% Pinot Gris from Walker Vineyard, 40% Riesling from Yamhill Vineyard, and 15% Muscat from Stag Hollow Vineyard. The Pinot Gris contributes weight and body, the Riesling freshness and vibrancy, and the Muscat brings aromatic lift. It is a terrific Oregon original with a noble Alsatian pedigree. Perfect as an aperitif, with raw oysters, moderately spicy Asian-influenced dishes, and of course charcuterie!
323 cases produced $18/bottle Purchase Information
2010 Willamette Valley Riesling
As with all of our Rieslings since 2007, the grapes for this wine are exclusively from Yamhill Vineyards, less than one mile from the winery on the "back side" of our hill here in the heart of the Yamhill-Carlton appellation. The vineyard was planted in 1984 on soils and at an elevation very similar to our Belle Pente estate vineyard, and has been a source of Riesling for us since 1998.
With the cool summer and beautiful, lingering fall of 2010, we waited to harvest the grapes until early November. Netting around the vines protected the fruit from the swarms of birds that attacked the vineyards during October, and allowed us to wait until the fruit was fully mature.
Since roughly 25% of the clusters were showing signs of botrytis, we sorted those out from the unaffected fruit and processed them separately. The "regular" fruit was destemmed and pressed immediately. The botrytized fruit was crushed and left to macerate on the skins for 5 days prior to pressing. The two lots were kept seperate through vinification, and blended together prior to bottling. The botrytized / skin contact portion made up about 1/3 of the final blend.
Oregon Riesling often reminds me of a hypothetical blend of Alsace, Austria, and Australia. This 2010 version, with it's modest 11.8 alcohol level, might send you to one of the more southern German regions like the Rheinhessen or Nahe. The botrytis contributes elevated spiced apple and pear aromas, along with wet stones in a spring-fed creek. The palate is rich, ripe, and focused with great freshness and a crisp, clean finish.
Enjoy this captivating Oregon Riesling now and over the next decade as an aperitif or with shellfish, raw or in cream sauces.
152 cases produced $18/bottle Purchase Information
2006 Willamette Valley Gewurztraminer
This is our third (and final) vintage from Hyland vineyard in McMinnville (we are actively seeking a new source). The wine features an exuberant floral, spicy, nose and a broad, rich palate. It strikes a wonderful balance between the hedonistic side of Gewürztraminer and it's more restrained, food friendly personality. This wine will make a wonderful accompaniment to traditional holiday meals, and is a great match with almost any kind of cheese.
145 cases produced $18/bottle Purchase Information
2010 Belle Pente Vineyard Chardonnay
Our 100% Estate Grown Chardonnay comes from a little 2 acre parcel planted in 1999 on a steep southwest facing slope with rows running up & down the hill from north-east to south-west. This 2010 version continues a string of very compelling wines that started with the 2004 vintage. It is also exciting in the broader context of what is happening with Chardonnay in the Willamette Valley in general. Over the past decade, the quality level of these wines has risen to approach the point of parity with Pinot!!
In keeping with our normal practice, we divided the block into an "early" and a "late" picking, harvesting half of the grapes on October 14th and the balance on October 22nd. The earlier harvest date allows us to maintain good natural acidity in the wines, and the second provides more developed and nuanced flavors and aromas. Blending the two lots together allows us to achieve complex, balanced wines every year. With the cool growing season, the alcohol came in at 13%, and even with a complete malolactic fermentation, the wine is bright, fresh, and lively.
We have pioneered the use of Oregon oak in Chardonnay, deploying them 50/50 with French oak barrels for over 10 years. The wines are 100% barrel fermented, but with very modest use of new oak, typically in the 10-15% range. This allows the toasty oak characteristics to play a supporting role vs stealing the limelight, to provide an accent vs being the main attraction. Elevage was over 12 months with frequent lees stirring, and the wine was assembled, lightly filtered, and gravity bottled in early October of 2011.
At almost 4 years from vintage, this wine is beginning to hit it's prime. Enjoy now and over the next six years with rich white fish dishes, baked mac and cheese, fresh pesto, and dozens of other white and green foods!
330 cases produced $30/bottle Purchase Information
2011 Murto Vineyard Pinot Noir
Two thousand eleven was the latest harvest on record at Belle Pente. The grapes for this Murto Vineyard Pinot were actually picked during the first few days of November, and the wine went into barrel the day before Thanksgiving! Bud break occurred several weeks late, and warm, dry conditions during flowering in early July set the stage for a sizable crop. Given the "lateness" of the season, rigorous crop thinning was necessary to get the yields into a manageable range. Even with diligent work in the vineyard, we were just barely able to achieve full ripeness by the end of the season.
As fans of Mike and Robin Murto's Dundee Hills vineyard know, this is a high elevation site that can struggle to get ripe in cool vintages. However, these 30+ year-old vines somehow manage to pull it off every year! This particular wine started out "lean and mean", but went through a profound transformation during it's second winter in barrel, and has continued to evolve beautifully over it's first year in the bottle. This is perhaps our most "Burgundian" Pinot Noir to date, checking in at whopping 12.3% alcohol! It is fun to drink today, but has the balance and structure to age beautifully for many, many years.
We have made single vineyard Pinot Noir wines from Murto since 1996. Over the 16 vintages, we can see significant variation in the textural aspects of the wine, but the core sensory characteristics are remarkably consistent from year to year: red fruit, fresh earth, and spice. This 2011 version reveals reticent strawberry and red cherry flavor and aromas, with alluring notes of cinnamon, nutmeg, Asian 5-spice, sandalwood, white and black pepper. It is medium bodied with moderate, polished tannins and bright, fresh acidity.
620 cases produced $35/bottle Purchase Information
2011 Belle Pente Vineyard Pinot Noir
As mentioned above, 2011 was our latest harvest ever. Bud break occurred around May 7th (3 weeks later than normal), and full bloom came between July 6th and 8th. Summer didn't start until the 15th of July, and was pretty much over by mid-August. Fortunately, the early fall was relatively warm and dry, with significant precipitation holding off until early November. Our Pinot Noir harvest at the estate vineyard commenced on October 17th, and concluded on the 28th.
Fruit set in the vineyard was quite heavy, much more than we could possibly ripen in a cool year. We made an unprecedented 4 passes of crop thinning during the season! After an initial round to get close to our target levels, we made additional "hi-grading" passes to improve the consistency and quality of the grapes prior to harvest. And even with that we discarded another 10% on the sorting line! In the end, we averaged 2.8 tons per acre ... prior to thinning, we might have had 5!
This "flagship" Pinot from our Belle Pente Estate vineyard included grapes from all 8 blocks representing 6 different clonal selections (mostly Pommard and Dijon 115, but with sprinklings of 114, 113, 777, and Wadensvil). Vine age ranges from 11 to 18 years. As always, over 2/3 of the grapes come from the east blocks of the vineyard, which get morning sun, but are shielded from the intense afternoon heat that we get in the west-facing blocks.
This wine echoes the freshness and vitality of the Murto but with somewhat riper characteristics. Our Yamhill-Carlton wines always lean more towards the dark fruit end of the spectrum, with black raspberry and blueberry notes revealed in this 2011 version. The fruit is complimented by complex overtones of coffee, fresh herbs, and flowers. The tannins are firm but smooth with a savory quality that keeps you coming back for more. Intriguing now, this wine will continue to evolve in a very positive direction for at least 10 more years.
675 cases produced $35/bottle Purchase Information
2010 Estate Reserve Pinot Noir
Since it's first release in 1997, our Estate Reserve Pinot Noir always represents the "best of the best" from our home vineyard. Visitors to the winery often ask "what makes it the best", or "how do you know it's the best"?. It's a great question, and to answer it requires a short digression into our vineyard design and winemaking practices.
Our Pinot Noir vineyard is divided into 8 blocks, all planted between 1994 and 1999, with 6 different selections (aka clones) of Pinot Noir planted on 8 different rootstocks. We harvest each of these combinations separately,and keep them isolated during the entire winemaking process, so each barrel of wine in the cellar relates back to a specific sub-section of the vineyard. By tasting through the barrels in the cellar over the course of several vintages, we are able to identify the "sweet spots" of the vineyard that consistently produce the best wines. Our favorite barrels from these special parcels are the ones that become the Estate Reserve bottling.
The Estate Reserve invariably includes most of the grapes from our original 1994 planting. By virtue of being the oldest vines on the property, they always display the broadest range of flavors and aromas. This block (known as the M1) always produces the most complex wine in the cellar.
The other vines that form the core of the Estate Reserve come from a steep southwest facing block (called the M2) planted to the Wadensvil selection of Pinot Noir. This part of the vineyard has the shallowest soil, and is also the warmest part of the vineyard. The individual grapes here are always smaller than in other blocks, providing a higher skin-to-juice ratio which produces very concentrated wines.
However, in 2010, only 60% of the blend came from these two blocks. As our vineyard matures, other sections are really starting to show their stuff, making the barrel selection process harder every year!
This 2010 version is classic Estate Reserve. The long growing season produced a wine of great complexity and concentration at a very modest alcohol level. Although there is no great sin in opening a bottle to enjoy tonight, this wine's best days are 8 to 10 years out in the future!
Josh Raynolds of Steve Tanzer's International Wine Cellar summed it up very nicely in his recent review:
"Bright ruby-red. A highly complex bouquet displays sexy red berry preserve, incense and candied rose scents, along with suggestions of cola, mocha and allspice. Sappy, deeply concentrated cherry and raspberry flavors are lifted and braced by juicy acidity and show excellent clarity and thrust. Closes with palate-staining intensity and sweetness, leaving suave floral and Asian spice notes behind. Impressively balanced and fine-grained, with serious cellaring potential. 93 points"
275 cases + 120 Magnums produced Purchase Information
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