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Laura Volkman Vineyards: A Whisp of a Winegrower under that Hat

Regular readers of the PinotFile know that I have been a fan of the Pinot Noirs from Laura Volkman Vineyards and have written extensively about Laura and her wines since 2008 (see for the most recent article).

Laura farms 3.5 acres of Pinot Noir at her Elle Rêve Vineyard adjacent her home in the Chehalem Mountains of Oregon. The vineyard is planted primarily to Dijon 115, with lesser amounts of 114, 667, 777 and Pommard clones. Unlike most winemaking ventures where the husband is the principal vineyardist and winemaker, Laura is the one who performs nearly all the vineyard and cellar work. For the most part, she doesn’t allow anyone else, even her husband, Jim, to monkey with the vines. For a very slight woman who weighs a hair over 100 pounds, you have to admire her gumption. Jim has his own profession, and provides a helping hand and support only if needed.

Cool fermentations are preferred because Laura believes they preserve the delicate aromas of Pinot Noir. Various proprietary yeasts are used to create the distinctive flavor profiles that set apart her two major bottlings, Rachel Estate and Jacob Estate, named after her two children. The Rachel Estate is the more feminine wine produced from the west block of the vineyard and includes clones 114, 667 and Pommard. The Jacob Estate is sourced from the east block of the vineyard and is composed of clones 114, 115 and 777. It is the most robust and more darkly fruited of the pair. The Pinot Noirs are raised in a modest percentage of new French oak barrels without racking. The wines are unfined and unfiltered. Winemaking is performed at nearby August Cellars.

The Laura Volkman Vineyards labels display artwork depicting Laura in her vineyard wearing a red dress and her trademark straw hat drawn by noted watercolor artist, Terry Peasley. Beside the Rachel Estate and Jacob Estate, there is an earlier drinking Pinot Noir named after her husband, St. James Estate, and a Chardonnay sourced from the Celilo Vineyard in the Columbia Gorge region of Washington named after the family dog, Bella. Total production is less than 500 cases annually.

The wines are sold through a mailing list and on the website at as well as retailer Tasting is available by appointment at the vineyard property in Newberg, Oregon (503-806-4047).

I recently reviewed the Laura Volkman Vineyards estate Pinot Noirs from the 2008 and 2009 vintages. All the wines have remarkably suffuse aromatics, silky tannins, powerful flavors in an elegant style and proper balance for medium-term age ability. The 2009 vintage wines are more precocious and promiscuous, while the 2008 vintage wines, which ultimately will prove to be more age worthy, are still in need of further cellaring. The Rachel Estate bottling is more demure and seductive like fine lingerie and more nuanced, while the Jacob Estate Pinot Noir is more aggressive, macho and darker fruited.

2009 Laura Volkman Celilo Vineyard Bella Washington Chardonnay

14.7% alc., pH 3.60, 220 cases, $25. Wente clone. Partial MLF. Fermented in 50% oak (25% new) and 50% stainless steel. · Light straw yellow color in the glass. Aromas of lychee, gooseberry, parchment and a slightly pungent aroma that defies my description. More traditional flavor profile in the mouth with the taste of apple, pear, and flint, finishing with a hint of citrus and lees. Decent.

2009 Laura Volkman St. James Estate Oregon Pinot Noir

13.7% alc., pH 3.70, 320 cases, $25. · A blend of Rachel and Jacob blocks of the vineyard. No new oak. Moderately light reddish-purple color in the glass. Very nicely composed perfume of black cherries, baking spice and subtle herbal oak. A solid wine with appealing flavors of dark red stone and berry fruits with underpinnings of herbs, tea and tobacco. Very bright acidity leaves a refreshing impression on the short finish. A perfect wine for enjoying now at the dinner table. Good (+).

2009 Laura Volkman Rachel Estate Oregon Pinot Noir

13.7% alc., pH 3.70, 125 cases, $40. Pommard, 667 and 114 clones. Aged on the lees in 35% new French oak barrels. · Moderate reddish-purple color in the glass. I had to look up some superlatives for this one. The perfume reminds me of the first crop of fresh berries in the early summer covered in vanilla pastry creme. Silky and elegant on the palate with well-mannered fine grain tannins and intensely flavorful core of black cherries, raspberries, sandalwood, vanillin, herbs and spice brought into focus with a good cut of acidity. The most appropriate superlative I could find was “heavenly.”

2009 Laura Volkman Jacob Estate Oregon Pinot Noir

13.7% alc., pH 3.70, 125 cases, $50. Clones 777, 115 and 114. Aged on the lees in 35% new French oak barrels. · Moderately intense reddish-purple color in the glass. Reserved, but seductive aromas of dark plum reduction sauce, blackberries, shaved oak and truffle. More intense than the Rachel Estate, with a plethora of darker fruit flavors including plum, blackberry and cassis that hang around on the palate and keep on giving on the long, long finish. An underlying earthy quality adds interest and supple tannins make for easy drinking. A hunk with charm.

2008 Laura Volkman Rachel Estate Oregon Pinot Noir

13.5% alc., 100 cases, pH 3.74. $40. A blend of Pommard, 667 and 114. Aged in 50% new French oak barrels. · Moderate reddish-purple color in the glass. Demure but alluring perfume of perfectly ripe black cherries and black raspberries, cut flowers and a swirl of spice. The nose is flat-out great. Medium-weighted and lush mixed dark red berry fruit coats the palate, expands in the mouth and lingers on the long finish. The ripe tannins are noticeable, yet not imposing. More sap than the 2009 vintage, but less giving at this stage. This wine is very seductive now, but will ultimately be a bombshell.

2008 Laura Volkman Jacob Estate Oregon Pinot Noir

13.5% alc., $50, 100 cases, pH 3.74, sold out at winery. Blend of clones 777, 115 and a small amount of Pommard. Aged in 50% new French oak barrels. · Moderate reddish-purple color in the glass. Enticing aromas of spiced berry jam and crushed cherries with a loamy note in the background. Moderately intense and flavorful with noticeably ripe, dark mixed berry fruits framed by firm tannins, finishing with bright acidity, a riff of savory herbs, and some aromatic persistence. Needs more time to integrate the tannins, but this wine will always have a tannic presence. The fact that this wine is sold out indicates high consumer regard for this wine. Very good.

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