Last Saturday I ventured to the motherland of Oregon Pinot Noir, the northern Willamette Valley. The Saturday before Thanksgiving has become an insider’s haven. Wine club members and guests come to barrel sample, pick-up shipments, and celebrate the upcoming releases without the throngs of Thanksgiving embibers seeking liquid relief from extended family. A brief photo tour highlights the day.
Beaux Frères, an iconic Willamette Valley producer, started our day with soaring aromas. The Belles Soeurs label, above, has been discontinued since 2005, when they transitioned this non-estate blend to Beaux Frères “Willamette Valley.”
The two Etzel brothers, sons of Beaux Frères co-founder Michael G. Etzel, collaborate on a few labels, including this Napa Valley Cabernet. It holds great promise, though you may be prosecuted for opening this young.
La guitarra providing ambience at Beaux Frères.
2014 futures of Beaux Frères Willamette Valley, Beaux Frères Vineyard, and Upper Terrace wines. Already memorable, they will certainly improve with another 1 to 4 years in bottle.
The pinnacle of the Willamette Valley, Shea Vineyard (previously referenced on the bottle in the first photo). Currently holding the highest price tag in the valley at $5,000 per ton, Shea produces some of the best wines in Oregon–hallmarks of Oregon Pinot Noir.
Imperfect clusters left on the vine at Shea Vineyard. When you pay $5,000 per ton, producers expect near-perfection from the fruit. The harvest crew left these grapes due to sunburn, uneven ripening, or some other flaw.
In 1996, after selling all of their fruit for 10 years, Shea Vineyard decided they should hold back some of their acclaimed grapes to make their own wine. I tasted through the 2014 pinot noirs from various blocks and clones, and all clocked in around 14.8% abv. The warm southwest-facing site resulted in dense wines that pushed the edge for the varietal during this hot vintage. Most wine enthusiasts could mistake the 2014 Shea Cellars pinots for another varietal if tasted blind.
Shea Wine Cellars, rarely open to the public, welcomes members and guests on the Saturday preceding Thanksgiving.
Shea Vineyard in the late afternoon sun on a bluebird day.
Oak barrels stacked outside of Sineann Winery. Sineann’s winemaker Peter Rosback travels back and forth between the Willamette Valley and New Zealand making wine in both hemispheres, fall in Oregon and spring in New Zealand. He sells wines from both regions under his Sineann label. His wines provide stunning value when compared to his neighbors in the valley.