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De Ponte Cellars: Burgundy-bred Winemaker Finds Solace in Dundee Hills

Like so many Californians who have traveled north to Oregon to establish a winery, Scott and Rae Ellen Baldwin had owned a walnut orchard in the Central Valley of California and lived in Carmel Valley. They bought a hazelnut orchard near Forest Grove and planted a vineyard, but once they acquired the future De Ponte (“duh pawnt”) Cellars site in 1999, they sold the Forest Grove property to Apolloni Vineyards.

DePonte Cellars is a small winery located on Archery Summit Road in Dayton, Oregon, in the heart of the Dundee Hills, with Domaine Drouhin Oregon, White Rose Estate and Archery Summit wineries nearby. The estate has 20 acres of Pinot Noir (Dijon clones) and 2 acres of Melon de Bourgogne. The winery was named after Shirley Baldwin, the matriarch of the Baldwin family, whose father, Manuel de Ponte, grew wine grapes and made his own wine in California’s San Joaquin Valley.

In 2007, the Baldwins bought 80 acres with an existing 6-acre Pinot Noir vineyard on Meadow Lake Road located just west of the western edge of the Yamhill-Carlton AVA. Named Lonesome Rock Ranch, a herd of steers happily roam free-range on the property, delighting in the pomace they are fed from De Ponte’s winemaking process. Another 2 acres of Pinot Noir was planted here in 2010.

Parisian-born Isabelle Dutartre has been the head winemaker at De Ponte Cellars since the first Pinot Noir release in 2001. She has an impressive resume, having studied at the University of Dijon in Burgundy, and subsequently worked at Maison Joseph Drouhin under Laurence Jobard before she moved to Oregon in 1993 to assist the Drouhin family with the establishment of Domaine Drouhin Oregon. For five years, she flew to Oregon for harvests while working for a Burgundian cooperage firm in the south of France. With a family to raise, the travel became too much and she decided to stay in France where she found herself making wine in Bordeaux. De Ponte Cellars called a few years later and five years after joining De Ponte Cellars, she relocated along with her family permanently to the Yamhill Valley.

Dutartre also has a small boutique label, 1789 Wines, producing about 150 cases of Pinot Noir annually since 2007.

De Ponte Cellars has been under the radar for many wine enthusiasts, lacking mention in two popular books on Pinot Noir, Essential Wines and Wineries of the Pacific Northwest by Cole Danehower and Pacific Pinot Noir by John Haeger. Isabelle Dutartre is featured in Winemakers of the Willamette Valley by Vivian Perry and John Vincent

Production is 2,000 cases annually of De Ponte Cellars Pinot Noir. Melon (identical to France’s Muscadet produced in the Loire Valley) is also offered, a varietal that is rarely produced in Oregon. The original growers thought they were planting Pinot Blanc grapes, but were mistaken, and De Ponte has developed a loyal following for this unique wine.

Visit the website at for more information and a listing of the wines available. All wines are produced exclusively from the De Ponte Estate Vineyard and Lonesome Rock Ranch Vineyard.

The winery has two tasting rooms. The tasting room at the winery in the Dundee Hills is open daily from 11:00 A.M. to 5:00 P.M.. A newer tasting room opened in the summer of 2013 in Carlton inside the town’s historic fire station building which dates to 1943. Named the Lonesome Rock Firehouse, the facility has an outdoor patio and seating, and hosts special events. The Firehouse tasting room is open Friday through Sunday, 12:00 P.M. to 5:00 P.M.. The Baldwin’s grass-fed beef sourced from the couple’s cattle ranch known as Lonesome Rock Cattle Company is sold in the Firehouse tasting room to wine club members.

De Ponte Cellars offers for rent a three bedroom, three-and-a-half bath Vineyard Retreat with expansive views of the Dundee Hills AVA and the Cascade Mountains. Guests are offered private tastings in the De Ponte cellar and have access to a 2,000 bottle wine list of De Ponte library wines and international choices. Check it out at

The 2012 vintage De Ponte Cellars Pinot Noirs reflect the vintage that offered a summer filled with sunshine and warmth. The wines are ripe and well-structured, but still have the typical finesse that De Ponte wines exhibit.

2012 De Ponte Cellars Dundee Hills Willamette Valley Pinot Noir

13.9% alc., 1,401 cases, (142 cases 375ml and 250 magnums), $44. Sourced from De Ponte Cellars Estate Vineyard. Aged 12 months in 20% new French oak barrels with the remainder in 2-5-year-old French oak barrels. · Moderately dark reddish purple color in the glass. The nose is highly appealing with many nuances including aromas of plum, black raspberry, clove, cardamom, Asian 5-spice and complimentary toasty oak. The mid weight purple stone and berry fruits have a noticeable attack and finish. The cardamom spice carries over on the palate along with an earthy note. The tannins are well-integrated and the oak overlay is modest. Score: 90

2012 De Ponte Cellars Estate Dundee Hills Willamette Valley Pinot Noir

14.2% alc., 298 cases, 150 magnums, $60. A limited barrel selection of the estate’s most prized blocks. Aged 12 months in 50% new French oak barrels and the remainder in 2-5-year-old French oak barrels. · Moderate reddish purple color in the glass. The aromas are demure upon opening, but pick up intensity over time in the glass, offering intoxicating scents of boysenberry, spice and dark rose petal. The wine is soft and silky on the palate with generous flavors of purple stone and berry fruits accentuated with spice, and framed by perfectly melded tannins. The slightest oak adds interest. Very elegantly styled, with plenty of fruit goodness on the finish. Score: 93

2012 De Ponte Cellars Baldwin Family Reserve Dundee Hills Willamette Valley Pinot Noir

14.3% alc., 223 cases, 150 magnums, $75. Sourced from the De Ponte Cellars Estate Vineyard. Aged 12 months in 80% new French oak barrels and the remainder in 2-5-year-old French oak barrels. · Moderately dark reddish purple color in the glass. Aromas of blackberry, cassis, spice and oak leap from the glass. The mid weight plus flavors of well-ripened purple and black fruits attack with mouth filling richness, yet the wine is supple and light on its feet. This is a connoisseur's wine with admirable balance and sophistication with a finish that lingers for what seems like a minute. Cellar worthy. Score: 95

2012 De Ponte Cellars Lonesome Rock Ranch Willamette Valley Pinot Noir

13.8% alc., 502 cases, 102 magnums, $44. This vineyard is among the small number of vineyards located closer to the Pacific Ocean in the Willamette Valley. Aged 10 months in 20% new French oak barrels and 80% in 2-5-year-old French oak barrels. · Moderately dark reddish purple color in the glass. The aromas are enticingly fresh featuring black cherry, spice, peppercorn, rose petal and a hint of anise-laced oak. Stunning elegance with very suave, structured tannins supporting the mid weight flavors of fresh black cherry and black raspberry. Highly seductive, with a subtle earthy vein in the background. Easy to like now. Score: 94

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