Anam Cara Cellars Heather’s Vineyard Vertical
As I sit at my computer buckets of rain are pouring down in Orange County, California, reminding me of my
early December trip to the Willamette Valley when rain persisted throughout my four day trip. The bright spot
was that I had journeyed to Oregon for a special vertical tasting of Anam Cara Cellars Heather’s Vineyard Pinot
Noir Vertical Seminar & Tasting held at Anam Cara Cellars’ Tasting Room in Newberg on December 6, 2015.
Owners Nick and Sheila Nicholas have quite a following, and well over sixty people showed up for the seminar.
Anam Cara Cellars is a small family estate vineyard and winery founded in 2001 focused on Pinot Noir from
estate grapes, with smaller production of estate Chardonnay and Riesling. The 33-acre vineyard is located on
the southeastern slopes of the Chehalem Mountains, just north of the town of Newberg, and was originally an
overgrown walnut, hazelnut and plum orchard with a neglected Christmas tree forest and a quaint farmhouse
dating to 1902.
Initial plantings of the Nicholas Estate Vineyard began in 2001 consisting of 27 acres and including 5 5-acre
blocks of Pinot Noir clones 114, 115, 667, 777 and Pommard, along with one acre each of Chardonnay and
Riesling. Later, six more acres were planted in 2-acre blocks each of Wädenswil clone Pinot Noir, Chardonnay
and Riesling. The site lies between 350 and 650 feet elevation with well-drained soils of primarily the Loess
(wind blown ice age sediment) series with outcroppings of volcanic Jory soils. Farming until recently has been
done by Nick and Sheila assisted by their son Mark and daughter Heather using both organic and biodynamic
practices (the vineyard is both certified L.I.V.E and Salmon Safe and the winemaking facility joined the L.I.V.E
program allowing the wines to qualify for Oregon Certified Sustainable Wine status.
Anam Cara is Celtic for “friend of my soul” and represents rare friendships that transcend time and distance
and symbolizing the long journey the owners have taken to make wine. Sheila hails from Scotland and Nick
from Lodi, California. They met in London while both were working and in 1981 returned to the United States
where they married and opened a small chain of pizza parlors in Northern California.
The Pinot Noir lineup includes the following bottlings: Estate, Estate Reserve, Heather’s Vineyard and Mark
(Wädenswil clone bottling was offered in addition in 2011). Heather’s Vineyard, named after the Nicholas’
daughter, is intended to be the most elegant expression of the vineyard (the Mark bottling is the most
masculine expression of the vineyard). Once-used French oak barrels are used for aging. Grapes are selected
from Reserve rows, cropped to less than 1.5 tons-per-acre.
The photo taken at the seminar below L to R: Nick, Heather, Rusty, Sheila
In vintages 2005, 2006 and 2007, Heather’s was made with 100% clone 114. Clone 114 is rarely used as a
stand-alone clone since it is inconsistent from site to site, sometimes offering a rich aroma of cherry and spice
and a soft, lovely demeanor, and other times being thin, hard and tannic. The Nicholas Estate Vineyard turned
out to be very suitable for clone 114 and it offered the elegance when grown on this site that was desirable for
the Heather’s bottling. From 2008 to 2011, clone 114 was used in combination with other clones and 2012 was
again 100% 114.
The winery’s initial winemaker was Aaron Hess (2005 to 2009) and his successor is Michael Collins who crafts
the wines at 12th & Maple Winery in Dundee. Nick and Sheila have considerable say in the winemaking and
The purpose of the seminar was to first taste a vertical of Nicholas Estate Pinot Noir, 2005-2012, to consider
the vertical of Heather’s Vineyard Pinot Noir to follow in the context of the vintage. What surprised me most
about this vertical tasting was that two less esteemed vintages in Oregon, 2007 and 2011, produced exquisite
wines that were aging beautifully. Also it was commendable that each vintage of Heather’s displayed an
elegant style that contrasted with the more full-bodied Estate bottling.
2005: Record dry winter. Cool and wet spring decreased crop. Summer was warm and dry, but not hot. Rain
over the course of a week in October, but dry harvest conditions. Degree days: 2,059
2005 Anam Cara Nicholas Estate Chehalem Mountains Oregon Pinot Noir
13.6% alc., pH 3.80, TA 0.48,
213 cases. 25% Pommard, 25% 667, 20% 114, 15% 115, 15% 777. Aged in 30% new French oak barrels.
most savory wine in the lineup that is showing its age. That said, it is still quite enjoyable for the tertiary
characters of tobacco, mulch and leather enhancing the fading black cherry core.` Time to drink up.
2005 Anam Cara Heather’s Vineyard Chehalem Mountains Oregon Pinot Noir
13.7% alc., pH 3.90, TA
0.45, 70 cases. 100% Dijon 114. Aged in once-filled French oak barrels.
Incredibly, this wine is still delightful
after ten years. Definitely has an aged Pinot character but still pumping out plenty of Bing cherry fruit flavor.
Very languorous on the palate, with a bit of astringency showing up on the finish.
2006: Mild spring, good fruit set, mild spring, warm and dry summer with a few heat spikes in June and
September (not quite as warm as 2003). Intermittent rains resulted in compressed harvest. Degree days: 2,176
2006 Anam Cara Heather’s Vineyard Chehalem Mountains Oregon Pinot Noir
15.1% alc., pH 4.0, TA
0.41, 50 cases. 100% Dijon 114. Aged in once-filled French oak barrels.
Much better than the Estate bottling.
The nose is strikingly aromatic, featuring a perfume of fresh dark stone fruits and berries. The fruit is delicately
presented but flavorful, and the cherry-fueled finish is delightfully spiced.
2007: Wet and cool at start, good set with generous yields. Waves of rain in late September. Larger berries and
less extraction. Degree days: 1,891
2007 Anam Cara Nicholas Estate Chehalem Mountains Oregon Pinot Noir
12.8% alc., pH 3.80, TA 0.48,
1,100 cases. 29% 667, 26% 115, 23% 114, 23% 777, 9% Pommard. Aged in 21% French oak barrels.
retaining gregarious aromas of fresh cherry pie glaze. Soft and gracious on the palate, with a charge of spice
enhancing the red fruits. Quite juicy and enjoyable. Much better than the bottle reviewed in 2010.
2007 Anam Cara Heather’s Vineyard Chehalem Mountains Oregon Pinot Noir
13.4% alc., pH 3.80, TA
0.50, 70 cases. 90% Dijon 114, 10% Pommard. Aged in once-filled French oak barrels.
The aromatics are
stunning, featuring a mix of red cherry, grape and nutty oak scents. Delicate with gossamer tannins and a
slippery finish. Much better than the bottle reviewed in 2010.
2008: Large crop. Cool growing season followed by September rain followed by warm, dry weather. Nearly a
perfect growing season that received claims of “best Oregon vintage ever.” The wines were initially somewhat
tannic and offered no instant gratification. Degree Days: 1,929
2008 Anam Cara Nicholas Estate Chehalem Mountains Oregon Pinot Noir
13.8% alc., pH 3.80, TA 0.49.
37% 667, 25% Pommard, 13% 114, 13% 115, 12% 777. Aged in 18% new French oak barrels.
ripe, showing a bit of tertiary characters with age such as marzipan and floral bouquet. Appealing suave texture
with plenty of sweet black cherry and black raspberry flavors to delight.
2008 Anam Cara Heather’s Vineyard Chehalem Mountains Oregon Pinot Noir
14.0% alc., pH 3.90, TA
0.47, 50 cases. Unfiltered. 100% Dijon 114. 100% once-filled French oak barrels.
Scents of red cherry and
raspberry leap from the glass. Attention-grabbing on entry, with layers of cherry and red berry flavors
complimented by a hint of spice and oak. Silky and feminine, yet with a bold, velvet hammer finish.
2009: Warm and sunny; warmer than 2008. High yields. Fleshy but better balance than 2003 or 2006. Forward
and showy. Higher alcohols even very ripe. Degree days: 2,095
2009 Anam Cara Nicholas Estate Chehalem Mountains Oregon Pinot Noir
13.8% alc., pH 3.60, TA 0.54,
627 cases. 37% 667, 18% 115, 17% Pommard, 15% 777, 13% 114. Aged in 16% new French oak barrels.
wine will bring you to attention. Intense attack of cherry and blueberry fruits that persist long after the wine is
swallowed. Impressive fruit expression with engaging aromatics, and a firm tannic backbone that leaves a bit of
astringency behind on the aftertaste.
Warm January and February followed by a wet spring which delayed ripening and reduced yields. Cool spring
and early summer. Indian summer that began in early October and lingered saved the vintage. Wines are
pleasant with lower alcohol, bright acidity and decent balance with less color. Bird pressure was a problem.
Degree days: 1,722
2010 Anam Cara Nicholas Estate Chehalem Mountains Oregon Pinot Noir
13.2% alc., pH 3.60, TA 0.55,
1,200 cases. 30% 115, 20% 777, 20% Pommard, 18% 667, 12% 114. Aged in 23% new French oak barrels.
Slightly under ripe in character but highly aromatic featuring an uplifting perfume of fresh crushed cherries and
a deep cherry flavor on the palate. Tobacco and herbal notes contribute a savory bent.
2011: Cool spring and early summer until a warm and dry September saved the vintage. Bloom was not until
July. Ripeness was challenging. Harvest extended into November for the first time on record. Vintage also set
records for minimal temperature and rain. Alcohols were low and about the same as 2010. Degree days: 1,794
2011 Anam Cara Nicholas Estate Chehalem Mountains Oregon Pinot Noir
12.4% alc., pH 3.60, TA 0.56,
1,700 cases. 33% 114, 27% 115, 15% Pommard, 14% 777, and 11% 667. Aged in 21% new French oak
Much lighter in weight but highly flavorful with an array of juicy red fruits that are vibrant. Easy to like,
with a driving, cleansing finish.
2011 Anam Cara Heather’s Vineyard Chehalem Mountains Oregon Pinot Noir
12.4% alc., pH 3.60, TA
0.55, 50 cases. 75% 114, 25% 777. Aged in once-filled French oak barrels.
A very demure and delicate wine
that is almost rose in character. Flavors of red cherry and cranberry are infused with a touch of dried herbs and
backed by smooth tannins.
2012: Ideal growing season that was warm and completely dry. Wines are ripe, rich and fruit forward with
balanced tannins. Degree days: 2,068
2012 Anam Cara Nicholas Estate Chehalem Mountains Oregon Pinot Noir
14.2% alc., pH 3.70, TA 0.54,
1,700 cases. 20% 667, 20% 115, 20% 114, 20% 777, 20% Pommard. Aged in 21% new French oak barrels.
Still young and fresh featuring dark cherry, dark raspberry, blueberry and spice aromas and flavors with a
delicate touch of oak. Enticing, with a lingering finish.
2012 Anam Cara Heather’s Vineyard Chehalem Mountains Oregon Pinot Noir
14.2% alc., pH 3.70, TA
0.51, 90 cases. 100% 114. Aged in once-filled French oak barrels. Unfiltered.
Noticeably elegant and silky with
charming flavors of cherry and hi-tone spice. The gossamer tannins are well matched to juicy acidity, making
for harmonious drinking.
Check with the winery about availability of these older wines. At the seminar, only the 2008 Heather’s Vineyard
Pinot Noir was sold out, with all other vintages still available. The 2011 and 2012 Heather’s Vineyard Pinot Noir
were still available in magnum ($160 regular, $136 club). Many vintages of the Nicholas Estate Pinot Noir are
still available in limited quantities.