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De Ponte Cellars

I did not visit De Ponte (“Duh Pawnt”) Cellars on my recent trip to the Willamette Valley, but I tasted several recent releases at home and was so impressed I wanted to highlight the winery. Being close to more famous neighbors like Domaine Drouhin Oregon, Archery Summit and Domaine Serene, this winery flies a little bit under the radar. I have visited the vineyard and winery in the past as part of the International Pinot Noir Celebration.

Scott and Rae Baldwin acquired their Dundee Hills property in 1999 and started this small family winery in 2001, naming the winery after Baldwin’s grandfather, Manuel de Ponte, who grew grapes and made wine in California’s San Joaquin Valley. The Baldwins are immigrants from California where they owned a walnut orchard in the Central Valley and lived in Carmel Valley.

The De Ponte estate vineyard is planted to 20 acres of Dijon clone Pinot Noir and 2 acres of Melon de Bourgogne. The Melon grape has sparse plantings in the United States and was a mistake. The original growers thought they were planting Pinot Blanc grapes but it turned out to be Melon de Bourgogne, identical to the grape used in the Muscadet from the Loire Valley of France. The wine has turned out to be very popular.

In 2007, the Baldwins bought 80 acres with an existing 6-acre Pinot Noir (667 and 777) vineyard on the western edge of the Yamhill-Carlton AVA. Named Lonesome Rock Ranch, another 2 acres of Pinot Noir were planted in 2010. This site is exposed to more weather extremes than the De Ponte Vineyard. The soils are rich, red volcanic Jory in type. The vineyard does not lie within the Yamhill-Carlton AVA boundaries, situated two miles to the west of the Yamhill-Carlton AVA border line and one of only three other vineyards within the Willamette Valley that are closer to the Pacific Ocean. A herd of steers roam on the property, graze on grass, and are fed pomace left over from De Ponte’s winemaking process. The beef is sold under the Lonesome Rock Cattle Company brand (wine club members only).

The talented winemaker is Parisian-born Isabelle Dutarte who studied at the University of Bourgogne and has made wine professionally for well over 30 years. Her impressive resume includes winemaking stints like Maison Joseph Drouhin before she moved to Oregon in 1993 to assist the Drouhin family with Domaine Drouhin Oregon. Her mentor at Maison Joseph Drouhin was Laurence Jobard, the head winemaker with whom she worked for ten years. She became the head winemaker at De Ponte Cellars in 2001, moving permanently to the Yamhill Valley five years later. Shortly after, she also founded her own label, 1789 wines.

The winery has two tasting rooms. The original winery tasting room is located in the heart of the Dundee Hills at 17545 Archery Summit Road and is open daily. The newest tasting room is located in historic Carlton just off Main Street and is housed in an old firehouse. Known as the Lonesome Rock Firehouse, it is open for tasting Friday through Sunday 12:00-5:00. The website is

The 3-bedroom De Ponte Cellars Vineyard Retreat, located on the property with views of the Willamette Valley and Mount Hood is available for rent. A concierge can be arranged and a chef provided to prepare meals. The 2,000 bottle De Ponte library wine and international wine list is available to guests.

2012 De Ponte Cellars D.F.B. Dundee Hills Willamette Valley Melon de Bourgogne

13.0% alc., $25. Old vines planted almost 40 years ago. D.F.B. = D. Fred Baldwin. · Very light pale yellow and clear. The nose is pleasing with aromas of citrus including pineapple, and hints of marzipan and banana cream. Crisp, bright and juicy, with flavors of citrus, apple and peach backed by lively acidity, carrying over to the tight finish. Score: 88

2010 De Ponte Cellars Estate Dundee Hills Willamette Valley Pinot Noir

13.5% alc., $55. Sourced from the best blocks in the vineyard. · Medium reddish purple color in the glass. An elegant wine with soft tannins, offering aromas and flavors of red cherry, cranberry, baking spice, sarsasparilla and oak. There is a generous oak sheen expressed as notes of toast and espresso. Juicy with a good grip of backing acidity. Score: 90

2011 De Ponte Cellars Estate Dundee Hills Willamette Valley Pinot Noir

13.5% alc., $55. · Moderately light garnet color in the glass. Nicely perfumed with bright aromas of strawberry, cherry and raspberry coulis. Lighter in color than the 2010 vintage Estate bottling, but brighter and more tantalizing with a crisp expression of red fruit. The tannins are nicely integrated, the oak is complimentary, and the finish is refreshingly crisp. A wine of great finesse, charm and harmony. Score: 94

2011 De Ponte Cellars Baldwin Family Reserve Dundee Hills Willamette Valley Pinot Noir

13.4% alc., $70. A winemaker selection of full-bodied and complex barrels in the cellar. Limited production. · Moderately light garnet color in the glass. The nose envelopes your senses with aromas of red cherry, raspberry and exotic spices that reveal themselves gradually in the glass over time. Superlatives can hardly due justice to this wine which is extraordinary in every way. It is polished, balanced, elegant and hi-collared, with a delicious core of vivid cherry, raspberry and spice flavors, a caressing texture, and remarkable persistence on the finish. This wine seduces with charm, not power. A connoisseur's wine that will age beautifully. Score: 96

2011 De Ponte Cellars Lonesome Rock Reserve Willamette Valley Pinot Noir

13.4% alc., $44. “Proud to be Lonesome” is a tagline on the label. · Moderate reddish purple color in the glass. Still a little shy at this stage, but that is my only nit. Soaring scents of dark raspberry, blackberry, plum, cardamom spice and oak. Very intriguing. Delicious array of darker, spiced berry and stone fruits with an earthy undertone. The tannins are evident but supple, and the finish invites another sip. Can be enjoyed now, but there is no hurry. Score: 93

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