Recently Tasted Willamette Valley Pinot Noir
Élevée Winegrowers, Dundee, OR
This winery is a Study in Willamette Valley Terroir, focused on exploring unique flavors and textures of the
Willamette Valley’s diverse appellations. Winemaker and proprietor Tom Fitzpatrick believes a wine is shaped
equally by one’s growing and winemaking choices. Consequently, at the heart of Élevée is the concept of
‘winegrower’ - one part ‘winemaker’ and one part ‘grower.’ The two are inextricably linked.
In 2008, after a UC Davis education and years of professionally growing and crafting wines for others in
Burgundy, Napa Valley, New Zealand and Oregon, Tom was presented with an opportunity to bring his idea to
life when Archery Summit’s Gary Andrus decided to sell a very special, high-density site in the Dundee Hills
that he had planted back in 1998. Tom purchased it and named it Élevée Vineyard. In 2016, he began directing
the farming on two additional and diverse sites in the Chehalem Mountains and Eola-Amity Hills. The three
vineyards are all LIVE Certified Sustainable and farmed by him. The resulting wines express the unique
personality of each site and the distinct influence of each vintage, intended to exhibit the diversity and range of
Willamette Valley terroir.
The wines are more similar than different, but given the information in the map above, one can discern terroir-driven
The Tasting House at Élevée Vineyard is open most weekends throughout the year. Check the website at
www.eleveewine.com beforehand. You can also email to make an appointment.
2016 Élevée Winegrowers Élevée Vineyard Dundee Hills Willamette Valley Pinot Noir
13.8% alc., 350
cases, $50. Released September 1, 2018. A 4-acre high-density planting in volcanic (Jory) soil. 43% 777, 43%
115 and 14% Pommard. 100% de-stemmed, 10-day cold soak, native inoculum, aged 11 months in French oak
barrels, 36% new.
Moderate garnet color in the glass. Aromas of red cherry and raspberry, sandalwood and
musk lead to a mid weight styled wine that is elegant in character, offering an oak-kissed cherry core. Very
refined with sound acidity and a modest but satisfying finish. Much better when tasted several hours after
opening as the oak reached better integration.
2016 Élevée Winegrowers Björnson Vineyard Eola-Amity Hills Willamette Valley Pinot Noir
14.0% alc., 300 cases, $50. Released
September 1, 2018. 15-acre vineyard planted beginning in 2006 to
Pommard, Wädenswil and Dijon clones in Nekia series volcanic soil.
50% 777, 50% Pommard. 100% de-stemmed, 10-day cold soak, native
inoculum, aged 11 months in French oak barrels, 29% new.
garnet color in the glass. Engaging aromas of cherry, wine cask and
brewed tea. Mid weight plus in concentration, with a fat core of ripe
black cherry and blackberry fruits. Exceptionally good energy, with
harmonious tannins and excellent finishing power. More engaging
when tasted several hours after opening with better oak integration.
2016 Élevée Winegrowers Madrona Hill Vineyard Chehalem Mountains Willamette Valley Pinot Noir
13.9% alc., 300 cases, $50. Released September 1, 2018. Vineyard consists of 19 acres planted to Pommard
and Dijon clones in Laurelwood series (Loess) soil. 100% de-stemmed, 10-day cold soak, native inoculum,
aged 11 months in French oak barrels, 30% new.
Moderately dark garnet color in the glass. Shy aromas of
black cherry, black raspberry, and pine. Big and bold in the mouth in a mid weight plus style, offering boastful
flavors of black cherry and purple berry framed by supportive tobacco oak. Nice harmony, with gracious tannins
and a fruit-driven finish.
Lenné Estate, Yamhill, OR
Steve and Karen Lutz along with a group of investors launched Lenné Estate in 2002 dedicated to producing
Pinot Noir from a 20.9-acre vineyard located near the town of Yamhill in the Yamhill-Carlton AVA.
The Estate Vineyard is planted to Dijon clones 114, 115, 667, 777 and Pommard in shallow, low vigor Peavine
(sedimentary soils). The site is steeply sloped with a south-facing aspect.
Steve is the accomplished winegrower and crafts the wines in collaboration with noted Oregon vintner David
O’Reilly. Grapes are typically 100% de-stemmed, aged in French oak barrels for 10-11 months with the
percentage of new oak varying but usually more in the single clone bottlings.
The winery’s tasting room is open each afternoon Wednesday through Sunday and other times by
appointment. The website is www.leneeestate.com. Year in and year out, Lenné Pinot Noir is about as
consistently outstanding as you can find among the myriad of producers in the Willamette Valley.
2016 Lenné Le Nez Yamhill-Carlton Willamette Valley Pinot Noir
14.0% alc., 399 cases, $36.
Released March 1, 2019. This wine is composed of each of the five clones planted at Lenné: 777,
114, 115, 667 and Pommard. The infant wine is generally more fruit forward than the winery’s
Moderately dark garnet color in the glass. The nose offers a lovely mix of black
cherry fruit and botanical aromas. Discreetly concentrated in a forward-drinking style, with flavors
of black cherry, blackberry, black tea and earth supported by tender oak. Well-balanced with a
2016 Lenné Estate Yamhill-Carlton Willamette Valley Pinot Noir
14.0% alc., 350 cases, $40.
Released February 1, 2019. A barrel selection of the finest parts of the estate vineyard,
comprised mostly of 114 and Pommard.
Moderate garnet color in the glass. Nicely perfumed with
aromas of cherry, ripe cranberry, subtle spice and rose petal. Elegant, yet flavorful, with a mid
weight charge of blackberry and black raspberry fruit flavors. Less extraction than the singleclone
bottlings and not as complex, but forward drinking and satisfying. There is enough tannic
backbone to support several years of enjoyment.
2016 Lenné Estate South Slope Select Yamhill-Carlton Willamette Valley Pinot Noir
14.0% alc., 250
cases, $55. Released February 1, 2019. A blend of mostly Pommard and 115.
Moderate garnet color in the
glass. Soaring aromas of cherry, black plum, spice and sawdust. Impeccably balanced with excellent breeding
in a mid weight style with a core of black cherry and blackberry fruit flavors. A bit reserved, becoming more
engaging over time in the glass. The barrel treatment is adroit and the moderately long finish pleases.
2016 Lenné Estate Karen’s Pommard Yamhill-Carlton Willamette Valley Pinot Noir
14.0% alc., 100 cases,
Moderately dark garnet color in the glass. Aromas of well-ripened black cherry and black raspberry fruits
with a hint of underbrush and cola. The boysenberry and blackberry fruits flood the mouth with goodness, yet
the wine is sleek, upbeat and charming. Mid weight plus in concentration, with modest tannins and integrated
oak. Somewhat reserved, and noticeably more giving when tasted the following day from a previously opened
and re-corked bottle.
2016 Lenné Estate Jill’s 115 Yamhill-Carlton Willamette Valley Pinot Noir
14.0% alc., 100
cases, $58. Released February 1, 2019.
Moderately dark garnet color in the glass. Energetic
aromas of spiced cherry and complimentary toasty oak. The pretty black cherry and black raspberry
core caresses and envelopes the palate in a scintillating fashion. This wine really grabs your
attention. Impressive concentration, yet bright and vigorous, with nuanced additional flavors of
orange Pekoe tea and mocha. The mouthfeel is satiny and the finishes displays both intensity and
2016 Lenné Estate Cinq Élus Yamhill-Carlton Willamette Valley Pinot Noir
14.0% alc., 125 cases, $78. A blend of
the best barrel from each of the five estate clonal blocks.
Moderately dark garnet color in the glass. The nose is the
most seductive in the 2016 lineup, offering the scent of juicy,
pure blackest cherry. The chorus of ripe and expansive
black raspberry and blackberry fruit along with the
supportive, juicy acidity is utter contentment . A complete wine with
exemplary harmony, leaving behind an extremely long trail of of black
cherry goodness. As good as this wine is now, it is an ideal cellar
candidate and would be an ideal centerpiece for a special dinner in the
Privé Vineyard, Newberg, OR
Mark and Tina Hammond report that 2017 was an exceptional growing season for them in the Chehalem
Mountains. The summer months had plenty of warmth, but the 38-year-old Pommard clone vines are late to
ripen, allowing for longer hang time and excellent fruit development.
The 2-acre vineyard is divided into northern (Le nord) and southern (Le sud) sections.
My experience, confirmed by the Hammonds, has been that these wines drink best after one year in bottle and
ideally three years for a real leap in development. The reviews below should be taken in this context and
undoubtedly will be even more engaging with more time in the cellar.
Privé Vineyard is a members-only winery. Members are welcome by appointment. Non-members can visit if
referred by a member. Inquire at firstname.lastname@example.org. Those on the allocation list can now place orders
online through the website at www.privevineyard.com. Beautifully etched magnums ($160-$240) are
available. In addition to the wines reviewed here, the winery offers a Chehalem Mountains AVA Pinot Noir and
a Ruby Pinot Port.
2017 Privé Vineyard Le sud Chehalem Mountains Willamette Valley Pinot Noir
13.8% alc., $75.
Moderately light garnet color in the glass. Aromas of Bing cherry, bakery and underbrush. Sleek and silky in the
mouth in an elegant and lacy mid weight style, displaying flavors of dark red and black cherry and blueberry
with a dusting of toasty oak. The finish is striking with waves of pure cherry righteousness. Still young and
showing barrel dress, showing much better oak integration when tasted the following day from a previously
opened and re-corked bottle. Give this wine a year or two.
2017 Privé Vineyard Le nord Chehalem Mountains Willamette Valley Pinot Noir
13.7% alc., $65.
ruby red color in the glass. Vibrant aromas of Bing cherry and rose petal. Very similar to Le sud but with a bit
more extraction and dusting of oak. Middleweight styled, with seductive elegance, offering flavors of dark red
and purple berry fruits with a pinch of spice. Juicy, with inviting harmony and a generous cherry-driven finish.
Wait a year or two on this wine for full enjoyment.
2017 Privé Vineyard Joie de Vivre Estate Chehalem Mountains Willamette Valley Pinot Noir
13.8% alc., 300
magnificently etched and signed bottles, $105.
light garnet color in the glass. The very deep cherry aroma
is complimented by gracious oak. A step up in hedonism,
offering a mid weight charge of darker cherry and purple
berry fruits that saturate the palate. Plush and expansive in
the mouth, yet still feminine in demeanor, with valued inherent
structure. The texture is seductively smooth and the finish is ridiculously
long. When tasted the following day from a previously opened and recorked
bottle, my notes say “Mind-boggling!”
Red Electric Wines, Amity, OR
This winery is a collaboration between winemaker John Grochau and winegrower Douglas Ackerman, owner of
Armstrong Vineyard. John is the winemaker and owner of Grochau Cellars in Amity, Oregon. His winemaking
experience includes stints at Erath Winery and Brick House Vineyards.
The winery name is derived from the Red Electric commuter trains that carried passengers from Portland to the
communities of the Willamette Valley. Many of these communities are now intimately associated with Oregon
Pinot Noir including Sherwood, Newberg, McMinnville, Forest Grove, Carlton, Salem and Eugene.
The Armstrong Vineyard was established in 2007 by Doug and Michele Ackerman in the Ribbon Ridge AVA and
has been farmed organically since 2013. Soils are the classic ancient sedimentary Willakenzie series found in
this AVA. The planted clones include Pommard, Wädenswil, and Dijon 114, 115, 667 and 777. In 2017, one
acre was grafted over to Chardonnay, primarily Mt Eden clone, with scion wood sources from Cameron and
During the first five years of grape production, the fruit was sold to local wineries including Native Flora, Seven of
Hearts, Cameron and Ayres.
Pinot Noir winemaker principles include a moderate use of whole cluster fermentation when stems are
optimally lignified, native yeast fermentation, acidulation only when necessary, and limited use of new oak
For more details on Red Electric or to purchase wine, email email@example.com.
2016 Red Electric Armstrong Vineyard Interurban Ribbon Ridge Willamette Valley Pinot Noir
13.77% alc., 300 cases, $28. 12% whole cluster fermentation. Natural yeast fermentation.
25% Pommard, 20% 777, 20% 115, 20$ 667 and 2% Wädenswil. Aged in French oak barrels, 5%
Moderately light garnet color in the glass. Shy, but pleasant aromas of black cherry, rose
and damp earth. Light to mid weight nucleus of earth-kissed cherry and red candy flavors. Juicy
acidity, with silky tannins and well-mannered oak.
2016 Red Electric Armstrong Vineyard The Pulse Ribbon Ridge Willamette Valley Pinot Noir
alc., 200 cases, $50. 9 special barrels consisting of 30% Wädenswil, 30% 115, 10% 667, 10% Pommard and
10% 114. Natural yeast fermentation, 18% whole cluster. Aged in French oak barrels, 15% new.
garnet color in the glass. A mix of dark cherry and berry are offered on the nose and on the palate in a mid
weight style. A thread of dried herbs and botanical input add interest. Very good energy, with a modestly firm
tannic backbone and a chewy finish.
2016 Red Electric Armstrong Vineyard TGV Ribbon Ridge Willamette Valley Pinot Noir
13.74% alc., 100 cases, $70. Only made
in special vintages. 4 special barrels. Natural yeast fermentation, 25%
whole cluster, aged in French oak barrels, 30% new.
color in the glass. The nose opens slowly over time in the glass,
revealing opulent aromas of dark red and black fruits. Delicious dark
red and black cherry and black raspberry flavors envelope the palate. A
classy wine that is nicely composed, with lively acidity, suede tannins
and a persistent finish filled with cherry delight. Somewhat reserved,
and deserving of more time in the cellar.
Sylvanus Estate, Yamhill, OR
A new, promising discovery for me, Sylvanus Estate is a small family vineyard located in the foothills of the
Coast Range. The vineyard has a unique microclimate, situated at the very western edge of the Yamhill-Carlton
AVA in Moores Valley, with cooler temperatures and more days of sunshine than typical Yamhill-Carlton sites. It
is the only vineyard in Moores Valley. Sylvanus means “Of the Forest” in Latin, an appropriate name for a
vineyard surrounded on three sides by Oregon Firs.
The 25-acre site contains three planting blocks, eight different soil series and rises from around 450 feet to 700
feet elevation. The first “Home Block” of Pinot Noir was planted in 2013, followed by “Willow Pond Block
containing white grapes and Pinot Noir, and lastly, “The Walnut Grove Block.”
The winery proprietors are Christian and Lisa McDonald Eddleman, sixth and seventh generation Texans,
whose love of Pinot Noir led them halfway a ross the world to study viticulture and enology at Lincoln University
in New Zealand. After working in the wine industry in New Zealand, they were led back to Oregon as they
considered it the most suitable place to make Pinot Noir.
Consulting winemaker Drew Voit says that the Sylvanus Estate Vineyard offers the highest level of stem
lignification he has ever seen in the Willamette Valley so he employs significant whole cluster fermentation in
some of the Estate wines.
Benefits of Whole Cluster Fermentation
I have written extensively about the use of whole cluster fermentation in the vinification of Pinot Noir and I am a fan of its benefits. I
recently read the results of an investigation by Anthony Fikkers proprietor and winemaker of small Yarra Valley wine producer
Fikkers Wines at www.winetitles.com.au. In 2018, Fikkers looked at the use of whole cluster fermentation in Burgundy,
Beaujolais and the Rhone Valley in France using a travel scholarship. His conclusions are presented here.
Many of the producers told Fikkers that using whole clusters in red fermentation brings freshness and personality to their wines.
French vintners cited other advantages including the creation of uniqueness and the merger of fruit and tannin giving wines a more
Most of the producers use the oldest vine parcels for whole cluster fermentation because the old vines produce the smallest
bunches and berries. Many producers said that not all vineyards produce fruit suitable for whole cluster fermentation due to
naturally high tannins. For example, at Domaine Cecile Tremblay in Burgundy, Cecile Tremblay does not use whole clusters in her
wines from Nuits Saint-George because the vineyards are already very tannic, but in Chambolle Musigny she uses 100% whole
clusters because the approach suits the terroir.
Most producers who use less than 100% whole cluster mix whole clusters and de-stemmed fruit through the fermenter. They destem
the more inferior fruit found at the sorting table. A small number of producers put whole clusters on the bottom of the
fermenter, but no one put them on top of the ferments.
Several producers avoid adding sulfur dioxide to fruit, particularly before fermentation, feeling that sulfur can harden tannins,
particularly stem tannins, which can result in a hard, unbalanced wine.
A Burgundy domain with a long history of 100% whole cluster fermentation is participating in a trial with a major university in
France, comparing the tannin profiles of 100% whole cluster wines with wines from completely de-stemmed fruit. The whole cluster
barrels show more energy and purity, with tannin supporting the fruit, while the de-stemmed wine was much more tannic. A higher
concentration of certain tannins in the whole cluster wines was found to taste sweet. This study, while not completely disclosed,
may challenge the current accusation of whole-cluster haters that claim the technique will only result in harsh, green tannins.
All Sylvanus Estate wines are considered barrel select wines. The Cipher bottling displays a unique cipher
encircling the printer’s mark. With cleverness, patience and an understanding of its story, the cipher is solvable.
Vineyard tours and tastings are available by appointment. The wines are highly allocated due to very limited
quantities. Visit www.sylvanusestate.com.
2016 Sylvanus Estate Yamhill-Carlton Willamette Valley Pinot Noir
13.9% alc., 75 cases, $50. A blend of
Pommard, 115, 777 and Mt Eden clones. Aged in French oak barrels, 25% new.
Moderately dark garnet color
in the glass. Plenty of garrigue and forest on the nose along with black cherry aromas. Well-structured and
well-endowed in a mid weight plus style, with waves of purple and black berry fruits. Almost numbing intensity,
with a serious attack and purposeful and long finish. The wine has a Syrah-like countenance but is so well put
together, it still speaks more of Pinot Noir.
2016 Sylvanus Estate The Cipher Yamhill-Carlton Willamette Valley Pinot Noir
13.9% alc., 50 cases, $65.
50% whole cluster Pommard and 50% co-fermented 115,
777 and Mt Eden clones. Aged in French oak barrels, 50%
Moderately dark garnet color in the glass. The savory
nose is driven by aromas of fertile earth and sous-bois.
Similar to the regular estate bottling, but with more
brightness, energy, refinement and polish. Spirited and delightful,
featuring an array of dark fruits creating a bold imprint on the palate.
There is some wild game character that intrigues. Blessed with a bold,
but agreeable tannin structure, this wine will hold its own for many
years to come.
2017 Sylvanus Estate Yamhill-Carlton Willamette Valley Pinot Noir
13.5% alc., 125 cases, $50. A blend of
Pommard, 777 and Mt Eden clones. Aged in French oak barrels, 40% new.
Moderately dark garnet color in the
glass. Leading off are aromas of black cherry, fertile earth, floral perfume and smoky potpourri reaching new
heights over time in the glass. The mid weight nucleus of dark red cherry and berry fruits enter with purpose.
Plush in the mouth and engaging, with sleek tannins, supportive oak, a touch of earthiness, and a civilized,
slightly tart cherry finish. Much better when tasted the following day from a previously opened and re-corked
2017 Sylvanus Estate The Cipher Yamhill-Carlton Willamette Valley Pinot Noir
13.5% alc., 75 cases, $65.
100% whole cluster Pommard clone. Aged in French oak barrels, 66% new.
Moderate garnet color in the glass.
Enjoyable aromas of black fruits and fertile soil arrive over time in the glass. A middleweight wine with
personality, offering flavors of earth-kissed purple berries and the slightest dusting of oak. Silken in texture, with
good energy, firm but not aggressive tannins, and a modest, plum-driven finish. Unchanged when tasted the
following day from a previously opened and re-corked bottle.
2017 Sylvanus Estate Home Block Yamhill-Carlton Willamette Valley Pinot Noir
13.6% alc., 75 cases,
$65. Pommard, 777 and 115/MtEden (co-ferment) clones in equal measure. No whole cluster. Aged in French
oak barrels, 66% new.
Moderate garnet color in the glass. Pleasing aromas of cherry pie and sous-bois lead to
a mid weight styled wine exhibiting uncommon polish and elegance. The flavors of dark red and purple fruits
are bottomless and carry over through a very persistent finish. The oak is beautifully integrated, and the
tannins are very agreeable. When tasted the following day from a previously opened and re-corked bottle, the
finish still stood out as extraordinary.