Lenné Estate: Hard Work Pays Off
Steve and Karen Lutz, along with a group of investors (HLC Wines LLC) launched Lenné Estate in 2002,
dedicated to producing ultra premium Pinot Noir from a 20.9-acre vineyard near the town of Yamhill, Oregon.
The site is on low vigor sedimentary and volcanic soils and has many famous neighboring estates such as
WillaKenzie, Shea Wine Cellars & Vineyard, Soléna, Soter and Beaux Fréres. Steve and another partner,
Scott Huffman, had worked together at Anne Amie and searched for the perfect site since 1999. Together they
laid out the vineyard and planted the first 10 acres of Pinot Noir (Dijon 115, 777 and Pommard) in 2001.
Establishing the vineyard presented several challenges. The soils are "crappy" according to Steve. When you dig into the soil, you encounter shale and sandstone at about one foot. In places Steve had to break up the topsoil with a rock bar to give the roots a better chance to reach the clay beneath. The vines were dry-farmed from the start. The
steepness of the site made farming difficult. 35% of the vines were lost in the first year and in 2003, an
additional 2.5-acre block of Pommard succumbed to the record heat of that year. In 2004 and 2005, the
Pommard block was replanted along with an additional 2.5-acre block of Dijon 114 and 667. As we walked the
vineyard together, I could sense in Steve the dedication and hard work that had driven him to create this
magnificent site for Pinot Noir. The payoff for Steve and his partners has come with the Pinot Noir wines springing
from Lenné Estate, which are among the finest I have had from the Yamhill-Carlton district.
The name, Lenné, sounds French, but is derived from Steve’s father-in-law, Len, who raised his family,
including Steve’s spouse Karen, on a chicken farm west of London, England. Len passed away in 1999, but he
contributed part of the down payment on the vineyard so it seemed only natural to honor him. The first two
vintages of Lenné Estate Pinot Noir were released under the LeNez label (also pronounced “Lenay”), and in
2006, the Lenné Estate label was added. The wines under the Lenné Estate label represent the best barrels
from the vineyard in each vintage.
Steve struck up a relationship with noted Oregon vintner, David O’Reilly, and the Lenné Estate wines are
produced in collaboration with O’Reilly at Owen Roe. At some point, Steve hopes to have a winery on site
where the current tasting room sits (pictured above). Winemaking proceeds with as little oxidation as possible.
At most, 30% new French oak is used (20%-25% in 2007). Certain special barrels, chosen for their mid-palate
and finish are used for the Lenné Estate Pinot Noirs. Some clones stand out in certain vintages and they are
bottled as clone-designated Pinot Noirs. The wines are unfined and unfiltered as a rule. A saigneé Rosé was
made in 2008 (55 cases).
Some grapes are sold to Owen Roe but more are being retained for the Lenné Estate wines with each vintage.
Production in 2008 was 1,300 cases and in 09 is projected to be 1,500 cases. Projected maximum production
from the estate will be 2,000 cases annually.
When I visited Steve before the 2009 IPNC, we tasted through the lineup of 2007 Lenné Estate Pinot Noirs
which were released in January 2009. I previously reviewed these wines and the 2006 vintage wines in the
PinotFile, but will include my tasting notes below from July 2009 as well. 2007 was a challenging vintage that
forced Steve to ride out some rain before picking, but the steep, windy and warm sites like Lenné Estate
performed well in 2007. I also tasted the 2008 Lenné Estate Pommard Pinot Noir. Steve is thrilled with the
2008 vintage wines which sport “mouthwatering acidity, deep color, and well-developed skin and seed tannins.”
He said that yields were generous in 2008 leading to well-structured, long-lived wines.
2007 LeNez Willamette Valley Pinot Noir
14.0% alc., $30. Contains each of
the five clones of Pinot Noir grown on the estate vineyard.
Charming and highly
approachable red-fruited wine that is fresh and vibrant with supple tannins.
2007 Lenné Estate Jill’s 115 Yamhill-Carlton District Willamette Valley Pinot Noir
14.0% alc., 49 cases, $68. The two best barrels in
the cellar of 115 clone.
Dreamy aromatics that keep on coming over time
in the glass. Berry, cherry, and currant scents echoed on the palate with
added hints of cola, mocha and brown spice. The tannins are supple,
the texture is silky and everything is working in harmony. Potent for a
2007 Oregon Pinot Noir. I am not usually a fan of single clone Pinot Noirs but
this one is a complete wine.
Lenné Estate is an exemplary producer of fine Yamhill-Carlton District Pinot Noir. You can taste the heart and
sole of Steve and his crew in every bottle. The wines from this special vineyard seem to speak to me and I
have quickly become a fan. Get on board through the mailing list, or buy the wines offered on the website
(www.leneestate.com) and through the quaint tasting room (pictured below with Steve) at 18760 NE Laughlin
Road in Yamhill. The tasting room is open from 12:00 to 5:00 on weekends or by appointment (503-956-2256).
There may be an investment opportunity at Lenné Estate which would allow the investor-partner to enjoy the
property and participate closely in brand development (contact Steve at firstname.lastname@example.org).