Download &
print (pdf)

Virtuous Willamette Valley Pinot Noir

The North and South Willamette Valley continue to lead in tons of Pinot Noir crushed in 2016 with the North Willamette Valley demanding the highest average price for ton of Pinot Noir grapes.





Guillén Family Wines, Dayton

Guillén Family Wines is a remarkable success story for a Mexican family that immigrated to Oregon. Jesús Guillén, Sr., arrived in Oregon in 2000 from Chihuahua, Mexico, encouraged by another Mexican immigrant working as a winegrower. He became the vineyard manager at White Rose Estate in the Dundee Hills. His son, also named Jesús, graduated from the University of Chihuahua in 2001 with a degree in computer systems engineering. A year later, he traveled to Oregon to visit his father, fell in love with the Willamette Valley, and stayed to learn English at a local community college. His mother, brother and sister also immigrated to Oregon.

Jesús, Jr., soon acclimated to the Oregon lifestyle and became intrigued by Oregon Pinot Noir. He read extensively about viticulture and winemaking, as he developed a keen palate for the local wines. He became a vineyard worker for Patricia Green Winery in 2002 and worked alongside his father at Laurel Ridge Winery where Jesús, Sr., was helping Greg Sanders, the new proprietor and winemaker at White Rose Estate, make his wines. Upon completion of the winery at White Rose Estate, Jesús, Jr., began working in the White Rose cellar and learned many winemaking skills from Mark Vlossak of St. Innocent Winery, who was the consulting winemaker. He also received some mentoring from Gary Andrew. Because Jesús, Jr., showed such talent, he was promoted to winemaker at White Rose Estate in 2008, working closely with Greg Sanders.

Jesús, Jr., launched his own small label, Guillén Family Wines, in 2009 with the 2007 vintage, sourcing fruit from Vista Hills Vineyard (near White Rose Estate in the Dundee Hills). The Guillén Pinot Noir wines are vinified in a similar fashion to those of White Rose Estate, using 100% whole cluster (since 2010), native yeast fermentations, and aging sur lie in either neutral (Damian bottling) or 100% new (Adrian bottling) French oak barrels. The Guillén Family Pinot Noir wines tend to be more extracted than the White Rose Estate Pinot Noir wines so they have their own character.

Over time, Jesús, Jr., has expanded his vineyard sources and total production to include both cuvées named after his sons (Esteban, Damien and Adrian) and vineyard-designates. One of the newer fruit sources is the Domingo Vineyard, named after his grandfather that Jesus, Sr., planted at the foot of the Dundee Hills.

The Damian bottling is based on harmony and complexity. The Adrián is designed more for the long term, and even though it has a high level of harmony when bottled, it requires some time to show its full potential.

Guillén Family Wines are poured for tasting at Vintner’s Cellar PDX in Portland on weekends. The wines are sold primarily through a mailing list, wine club and fine wine retailers in the Portland, Oregon area. Futures pricing is available. Visit www.guillenfamily.com. Future plans call for the winery to move into its own production facility with a place for regular tasting.

The 2014 wines reviewed here were previously reviewed with Jesús in December 2015. There is low inventory of the 2014 Adrián and Damian, all others sold out. The 2015 vintage wines were bottled with Diam corks and will begin release this month.

2014 Guillén Esteban Willamette Valley Pinot Noir

13.5% alc.,154 cases, $25. 56% Domingo, 42% Vista Hills and 2% Meredith Mitchell vineyards. A selection of the most approachable barrels in the cellar. 100% whole cluster, native fermentation. Basket pressed and aged on the lees for 11 months in 100% neutral French oak barrels. · Moderately light garnet color in the glass. Really nice perfume of cherry, rose petal, and sweet pipe smoke. Light to mid weight flavors of black cherry, raspberry, tobacco and rose water, Noticeable but complimentary whole cluster input. Easy to like, with polished, fine-grain tannins and a bright finish. Score: 90

2014 Guillén Damian Winemaker’s Cuvée Willamette Valley Pinot Noir

13.5% alc., 140 cases, $40. A meticulous selection of the best barrels in the cellar that offer harmony, complexity and mouth feel. 40% Vista Hills (667), 20% Meredith Mitchell (Pommard) and 40% Saikkonen (Pommard) vineyards. No cold soak. 100% whole cluster, native yeast fermentation. Basket pressed, aged on the lees 11 months in French oak barrels, 20% new. Filtered at bottling. · Moderate garnet color in the glass. enticing aromas of black cherry, pine sap and spice lead to a middleweight, cherry-driven wine that is succulent yet refined. Elegantly composed, with filigree tannins, an adroit finish and impressive harmony. The winemaker went for harmony rather than boldness and it shows. Score: 94

2014 Guillén Adrián Reserve Cuvée Willamette Valley Pinot Noir

13.6% alc., 125 cases, $60. 100% Pommard clone from Vista Hills (40%), Saikkonen (20%) and Meredith Mitchell (40%) vineyards. 100% whole cluster, native fermentation. Basket pressed and aged on the lees for 11 months in 100% light toast new French oak barrels. Filtered at bottling. Jesús’s attempt to mimic DRC. · Moderate garnet color in the glass. The nose is replete with dark red cherry and berry aromas. Highly structured in a mid weight plus style with a strong physique. Gutsy flavors of dark red and black berries, black tea, tobacco and spice. Aggressive on the attack, finishing with a lengthy sweet cherry kiss. Score: 93

2014 Guillén Meredith Mitchell Single Vineyard McMinnville Pinot Noir

13.2% alc., $45. Self-rooted Pommard clone planted in 1996. 100% whole cluster, native fermentation, Aged 11 months on the lees in neutral French oak barrels. · Moderately dark garnet color in the glass. The aromas arrive grudgingly over time in the glass showing a mix of earthy and dark fruit tones. Mid weight plus in style, with concentrated flavors of blueberry, pomegranate and black raspberry framed by rather brutish tannins. Fruit-driven, with an intensely sappy finish. Score: 89

2014 Guillén Vista Hills Single Vineyard Dundee Hills Pinot Noir

13.2% alc., $45. Pommard clone planted in 2006. 100% whole cluster, native fermentation. Aged on the lees for 11 months in neutral French oak barrels. · Moderate garnet color in the glass. Whole cluster infused nose offering scents of dried rose petal, pipe smoke, burnt tobacco and cherry. Silky in the mouth with good energy in a mid weight styled wine offering a tobaccolaced cherry core, balanced tannins and some finishing depth. Score: 91

2014 Guillén Saikkonen Single Vineyard Ribbon Ridge Pinot Noir

14.1% alc., $45. Pommard clone planted in 2003. 100% whole cluster, native fermentation. Aged on the lees for 11 months in neutral French oak barrels. · Moderate garnet color in the glass. Shy but pleasant aromas of wet woodland, fertile earth, mulch and dark cherry. Light to mid weight essence of ripe, dark red fruits that enter with more power than they exit. Muscular tannins dominate making for a dry finish. Not enough joy for my taste. Score: 87

2015 Guillén Esteban Willamette Valley Pinot Noir

13.5% alc., 495 cases, $25. A four vineyard blend (Vista Hills, Meredith Mitchell, La Dolce Vita and Domingo) 52% Pommard, 18% 667 and 30% 115. 100% whole cluster, native fermentation. Aged 11 months on lees in French oak barrels, 5% new. A selection of the most approachable barrels in the cellar. · Light garnet color in the glass. Aromas of cherry, burnt tobacco, rose petal and grains arrive immediately upon opening. Like able, with a straightforward core of light to mid weight cherry fruit accented with subtle spice and cola notes. Lacy tannins and welcome acidity with a modest finish. Instantly gratifying. Score: 89

2015 Guillén Damian Winemaker’s Cuvée Willamette Valley Pinot Noir

13.8% alc., 73 cases, A meticulous selection of the best barrels in the cellar based on harmony, complexity and mouth feel.$40. A three vineyard blend (33% Vista Hills, 33% FlËnerie, and 33% Meredith Mitchell). 66.6% Pommard, 33.3% Dijon 667. 100% whole cluster, native fermentation. Aged on the lees for 12 months in French oak barrels, 20% new. · Moderately dark garnet color in the glass. Really nice perfume of wild boysenberry, wilted rose, exotic spice and tobacco. Very streamlined in style with impressive balance and elegance. Vivid mid weight flavors of purple and black berries with a healthy tannic backbone that is supportive and not intrusive. The wine finishes with a gentle grip of acidity and toothsome fruit. Score: 94

2015 Guillén Adrián Reserve Cuvée Willamette Valley Pinot Noir

13.8% alc., 72 cases, $60. A three vineyard blend (33% Vista Hills, 33% FlËnerie, and 33% Meredith Mitchell). Pommard clone. 100% whole cluster, native fermentation. Aged 12 months on the lees in 100% new French oak barrels. Filtered at bottling. · Moderate garnet color in the glass. Nice perfume of boysenberry, wood spice, and wassail spice. A little less extraction than the 2014 version, but just as satisfying, with a tasty core of spiced black cherry fruit. Sleek in the mouth, with congenial tannins that elevate the fruit. The wine ends on a high note with fresh dark cherry good will. Needs more cellar time for full expression. Score: 93



Tyee Wine Cellars, Corvallis

This winery and vineyard is located on the Buchanan Family Century Farm founded over 120 years ago in the southern Willamette Valley. Five family generations have grown crops here in a sustainable manner. The oldest vines date to 1974, with subsequent plantings throughout the 1980s. The old, self-rooted vines make up more than half of the estate vineyard. In 2000, Dijon clones 115 and 777 and Pommard were planted on phylloxera-resistant rootstock.

The current winemaker and general manager is Merrilee Buchanan Benson who grew up at thee Wine Cellars and has worked intimately with her family in the winery and vineyard her entire life. She took over as winemaker with the 2006 vintage, coinciding with tree’s production of Estate wines made from grapes grown exclusively in the family’s Estate Vineyard adjacent the winery.

Tyee is an early Northwest word meaning “chief” or “best” and symbolizes the winery’s commitment to producing excellent estate wines to compliment the local cuisine.

The wines are of exceptional quality and offered at extremely reasonable prices. To purchase, visit www.tyeewine.com.

2015 Tyee Estate Williamette Valley Pinot Noir

13.5% alc., 600 cases, $28. Released November 2017. A blend of all grapes grown in the Estate Vineyard with vines from 15 to 41 years old. · Moderately light garnet color in the glass. Highly nuanced nose, featuring aromas of cherry, strawberry, rose petal, dried herbs and sandalwood. Lighter weighted but quite flavorful, with tastes of cherry, red berry, spice and cola. Refined and sleek, with fine-grained tannins, deft oak input and a juicy finish. Score: 90

2014 Tyee Estate Barrel Select Willamette Valley Pinot Noir

13.5% alc., 200 cases, $35. Released May 2017. A winemaker’s barrel selection. · Moderate garnet color in the glass. More brooding, with slowly emerging aromas of darker red cherries and berries, earthy flora and rose petal. More sap, more tannic backbone, more finish and more age worthy than the regular Estate bottling. Black cherry fruit driven with compliments of spice, savory herbs and seasoned. Needs more time to reach full potential. Score: 92



Winter’s Hill Estate, Dayton

Winter’s Hill sits in the Golden Reach of the Dundee Hills, bordered to the East by Domaine Serene, to the south by Stoller Vineyards and to the North by Vista Hill Vineyards. South-facing, at an elevation of 525-730 feet, the site has Jory soils. The original plantings of own-rooted Pinot Noir date to 1990. Newer plantings of Pinot Noir in 1997 have brought the total to 21 acres. Clones are Pommard, Wädenswil, and Dijon 114 and 115. All Pinot Noir wines are sourced from the Estate Vineyard that is LIVE Certified Sustainable and SalmonSafe since 1999.

Delphine Gladhart joined the Gladhart family winery in 2004 and has been the winemaker ever since. I have been privileged to taste the winery’s Pinot Noir wines dating back to 2004. The labels have been updated for the 2015 vintage reviewed below. Visit www.wintershillwine.com to check for visiting room hours and tasting options.

2015 Winter’s Hill Dundee Hills Pinot Noir

13.75% alc., 485 cases, $39. The winery’s flagship bottling. · Moderately light ruby red color in the glass. The nose expands over time in the glass to reveal hi-tone aromas of cherry, red berry and fertile earth. Light to mid weight in style, featuring red cherry and berry flavors woven through with a savory thread. Fresh and expressive, and forward drinking with a gentle but adequate tannic backbone. A reliable daily drinker. Score: 90

Since 2006, the winery has selected two individual barrels from different blocks and bottled them separately to show the differences among the distinct blocks in the vineyard. For the 2015 vintage, four barrels from four separate blocks were produced.

2015 Winter’s Hill Block 8 Single Block Series Dundee Hills Pinot Noir

13.6% alc., 98 cases, $49. Block 8 is a warm and steep block planted to Wädenswil clone. Only second time winery has bottled 100% Wädenswil wine. · Moderately light garnet color in the glass. The nose starts out quite savory with aromas of bramble and dried herbs, transforming over time in the glass to a predominance of black cherry, wild strawberry, spice and cola aromas. Light to mid weight flavors of spiced red cherry and strawberry with an earthy thread and the right touch of oak. Nice harmony, with a deep cherry finish. This wine grows on you over time. Score: 91

2015 Winter’s Hill Block 9 Pommard Single Block Series Dundee Hills Pinot Noir

13.8% all, 98 cases, $49. From a warm, southwestern-facing block. · Moderate garnet color in the glass. Charming atoms of Bing cherry, warm spices and herbal oak. Engaging attack of deep cherry flavor accented with a hint of savory herbs and floral goodness. Silky in the mouth, with plenty of sap to satisfy, backed by polished tannins. The finish is grand. Score: 92

2015 Winter’s Hill Block 10 Single Block Series Dundee Hills Pinot Noir

14.2% alc., 98 cases, $49. Block 10 is the highest elevation block planted to Pinot Noir and receives the most direct sunlight. 100% de-stemmed. · Moderate garnet color in the glass. Heady aromas of marionberry, purple grape and baking spices. Aims to please in the mouth, with an attack of vivid black cherry and spice flavors that demands attention. Remarkable intensity, yet cohesive tannins and acidity make for seamless drinking. The wine’s remarkable ending offers uncommon vibrancy. Score: 94

2015 Winter’s Hill Block 10 Single Block Series Whole Cluster Dundee Hills Pinot Noir

14.2% alc., 98 cases, $49. 100% whole cluster fermented. · Moderate garnet color in the glass. Dramatic aromatics that excite including scents of black cherry, black raspberry, rose petal and exotic spices. My notes say, “Oh-man!” Equally seductive on the palate, with mid weight unctuous flavors of black cherry and black raspberry immersed in exotic spices. Noticeably different texturally from the 100% de-stemmed version of this wine with meaty, fine-grain tannins that seem to caress and elevate the fruit. A very long, flavorful and juicy finish completes the picture. A connoisseur’s wine. Score: 95

2015 Winter’s Hill Reserve Dundee Hills Pinot Noir

13.8% alc., 250 cases, $65. A selection of the finest blocks in the Estate Vineyard. After 12 months of aging, 12 barrels were chose that best represented the 2015 vintage. · Moderate garnet color in the glass. Deep aromas of dark red cherry and berry with a bit of savory herbs. An elegant, mid weighted style, offering the essence of well-ripened cherries and berries. Nicely composed, with gentle tannins and a finish that impresses with its length. Both weight and weightlessness in this wine that is still somewhat reserved and not as expressive as it probably will be. Score: 93



More Wine

2015 Nicolas-Jay Willamette Valley Pinot Noir

13.0% alc., pH 3.63, TA 0.56, 2,400 cases, $65. Released April 2017. Fruit sourced from almost every AVA in the Willamette Valley. All vineyards are biodynamic, organic and LIVE certified. Winemakers are Jean-Nicolas Méo and Tracy Kendall. Harvest Brix 22.6º. · Moderate garnet color in the glass. A wine of both fruit and savory character offering aromas and flavors of black cherry, dark red berry, spice and savory herbs. An easy going, mid weight style, that is somewhat expansive in the mouth, finishing modestly. The tannins are relegated to the background making for a gentle mouth feel. Score: 90


Print entire newsletter