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Brooks Winery

This iconic Oregon winery has been on my must-visit bucket list for some time. Luckily, Janie Brooks was in town and she, along with winemaker Chris Williams, met me at the hospitality center and winery in the Amity- Eola Hills that overlooks the Cascade Range and the Willamette Valley floor. The facility is impressive, with multiple sitting areas both indoors and outdoors to enjoy Brooks wines along with appropriate food matches prepared by a chef on site. (All photos courtesy of Andrea Johnson Photography)

The history of Brooks Winery is well known to pinotphiles. The founder, winemaker Jimi Brooks, was highly respected by his Oregon colleagues for his devotion to holistic farming and winemaking in the Willamette Valley. He started Brooks Winery in 1998 after winemaking stints at Maysara and WillaKenzie Estate wineries, but tragically passed away six years later at the relatively young age of 38 years. The winery was bequeathed to Jimi’s only child, Pascal, who was eight years old when his father died, making him the youngest winery owner in the world.

After Jimi’s death, a consortium of winemakers from the Willamette Valley kept the winery productive until winemaker Chris Williams, Jimi’s former assistant winemaker, who had worked along side Jimi at Maysara, WillaKenzie Estate and Brooks Winery, took over in 2005. He was able to bring continuity to Brooks wines since he shared Jimi’s philosophy and has remained the winemaker to this day.

Janie Brooks Heuck, Jimi’s sister, now manages the winery, turning it into a family legacy. Since becoming Managing Director in 2004, she increased production from 3,500 to 20,000-25,000 cases annually.

In 2009, a 20-acre vineyard was acquired in the Eola-Amity Hills that Jimi had farmed biodynamically since 2002, and Demeter Biodynamic certification followed in 2012. The site was originally planted between 1973 and 1977 to Pinot Noir and Riesling. 10 acres of own-rooted vines remain on this aged vineyard that is now named Brooks Estate Vineyard. 2014 was a bright hallmark for the winery, as the new winery and tasting room opened, and the winery was the focus of a feature length documentary titled, ‘American Wine Story,’ that was shown at multiple film festivals in 2014 and is available at

The logo or symbol on the label of Brooks wines was created by founder Jimi Brooks and represents the cycle of life and rebirth.

Brooks Winery was named one of five “Must Visit Wineries” by USA Today and I can see why. The wines are all excellent and the hospitality is unriviled. Tasting is available daily from 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. with different tasting options and food pairings available. Along with the Wine Bar, craft beer is available on tap so that all visitors can indulge their preferences. Visit

Currently, Brooks specializes in Pinot Noir and Riesling, with several other white aromatic varietals also available. 17 different Rieslings are offered, sourced from 14 different vineyards. Multiple Pinot Noirs are produced from estate and sourced fruit including a Rosé. All Pinot Noir wines undergo 100% de-stemming, followed by a 5 to 7-day cold soak, and a subsequent native yeast fermentation kept cool to avoid over extraction especially in warm vintages. Use of new oak is very modest. The wines are bottled after cross-flow filtration.

After a tour of the winery, I settled in with Janie and Chris in a private tasting room that is available for special tasting experiences and the trade. It has an unusual wall of cork tiles and is highly suitable for wine sampling. The first wines reviewed were tasted at the winery and the subsequent wines were evaluated at home in my usual fashion.

Winery Tasting:

2015 Brooks Runaway Red Willamette Valley Pinot Noir

13.6% alc., 4,300 cases, $23. A blend of ten vineyards and a barrel selection. 100% de-stemmed, native yeast fermentation, aged 10 months in French oak barrels. Tasted at the winery. · Moderately light reddish purple color in the glass. A highly approachable wine with uplifting aromas of cherry and peppery spices. Soft and suave in the mouth with flavors of cherry, cranberry and spice, finishing with modest intensity. Score: 88

2014 Brooks Big Cheese Vineyard Eola-Amity Hills Oregon Pinot Noir

14.50% alc., pH 3.60, TA 0.52, 100 cases, $48. 50% Pommard and 50% 777 clones, ten-year-old vines. Aged 18 months in French oak barrels. · Moderate reddish purple color in the glass. The nose leads with fruity plum, blackberry and boysenberry aromas as well as lesser noted nutty oak and savory forest floor aromas. Fruit forward and ripe, featuring flavors of purple grape, black cherry and boysenberry in a mid weight styled wine with complimentary oak in the background and some finishing length. Score: 89

2013 Brooks Terue Wines York Hill Vineyard Columbia Gorge Oregon Pinot Noir

12.2% alc., $48. A second label for wines from outside the Willamette Valley. · Light reddish purple color in the glass. Very elegant, with aromas and flavors of cherry, blueberry, Damsel plum and spice. Gentle tannins, good vibrancy, and a pleasing, but short finish. Score: 88

2013 Brooks Rastaban Willamette Valley Oregon Pinot Noir

12.0% alc., pH 3.61, TA 0.59, 300 cases, $55. Rastaban is a star, the eye of the dragon in the constellation Draco. A barrel selection first produced in 2003 from Momtazi Vineyard. This wine is composed of Pommard, 115 and 777 clones from the Brooks Estate Vineyard that has some of the oldest, biodynamically farmed vines in the Willamette Valley. A consistent elegant style of wine vinified with small amount of new oak - 20% in this vintage, and often the best effort of the vintage. Aged 18 months in French oak barrels. · Moderately light reddish purple color in the glass. The promising aromas of cherry, black plum, spice and forest floor entice. Light to mid weight in style and reflective of the vintage, with a pleasing charge of red and purple fruits accented with cardamom spice and Italian herbs. Very juicy, with fine grain tannins and a finish that warms the soul. Score: 92-93

The Janus bottlings have a core of fruit from the Brooks Estate Vineyard combined with primarily grapes from Eola-Amity Hills vineyards. A mini vertical was tasted to show vintage differences yet a consistent style. Janus is the winery’s flagship Pinot Noir and is the richest and most intense blend offered in honor of Jimi’s legacy of crafting expressive blends. Janus was a Roman mythological God depicted with two faces looking to both the future and the past.

2012 Brooks Janus Willamette Valley Oregon Pinot Noir

Moderate crimson color in the glass. The savory nose offers scents of compost and mushroom with subtle notes of wild berries. Elegantly composed, with a middleweight core of earth-kissed plum and marionberry flavors backed by juicy acidity. There is noticeable staying power on the glorious finish. Score: 93

2010 Brooks Janus Willamette Valley Oregon Pinot Noir

12.2% alc.. · Moderately light reddish purple color in the glass. Redder fruits such as cherry and cranberry are featured along with notes of sandalwood, tea leaf, and a hint of mushroom. Rather delicate and light in weight, with some oak inlay and dry tannins on the finish. Score: 90

2009 Brooks Janus Willamette Valley Oregon Pinot Noir

13.8% alc.. · Moderately light reddish purple color in the glass. Ripe purple berry and stone fruits blend with savory notes of mushroom and herbs on the nose. Nicely composed, with ripe, but not overripe flavors of black plum and boysenberry with a hint of spice. The tannins are submerged and the finish has staying power. Score: 92

2007 Brooks Janus Willamette Valley Oregon Pinot Noir

Moderately light reddish purple color in the glass. Intoxicating aromas of cherry, wilted rose and potpourri lead to a lightly weighted and elegant wine that is more savory than fruity with flavors of tea leaf, herbs, tobacco, smoke alongside light red fruits, finishing with a dry, slightly grippy finish. Score: 89

I rarely review or even drink domestic Riesling. Chris initially offered me a couple of Brooks Rieslings to sample and I was hooked. He ended up sharing six different Rieslings with me, all superb. My notes are not extensive but you get the idea. A Terue Wines Muscat and Brooks Gewüztraminer were also excellent. I realized there is a serious commitment to Riesling at Brooks and the quality of the wines reflect this goal. The degree of dryness of each Riesling is depicted on the back label.

2014 Brooks Ara Willamette Valley Oregon Riesling

13.8% alc., pH 3.00, TA 0.92, RS 12.9 g/L, 300 cases, $28. 50% estate fruit. Dry. · Scents of flint, petrol, ripe apple and peach on the nose, and enticing flavors of apple and pear on the palate in this crisp, refreshing wine

2015 Brooks Bois Joli Vineyard Eola-Amity Hills Oregon Riesling

12.5% alc., pH 3.00, TA 0.86, RS 31.7 g/L, 300 cases, $24. A medium dry offering. Vineyard planted at 720 feet elevation in marine sedimentary soil. Sent straight to press and fermented in stainless steel. Cross-flow filtered. · Terrific in every way, featuring a core of white peach, apricot and pear fruits that soar on the nose and palate. Good concentration, and lively acidity, with a glorious peach-driven finish.

2015 Brooks Sweet P Eola Amity Hills Oregon Riesling

11.6% alc., pH 3.01, TA 0.81, 600 cases, RS 39.7 g/L, $24. 100% estate grapes. Medium dry. · Very clean aromatic profile, featuring scents of stony fruits, white flowers and mineral. Admirable acid and sugar balance with a juicy thread of white peach, apricot and tropical fruits spearheading the pleasure. The wine finishes with a cleansing burst of acidity. Sweet P is for me.

2014 Brooks Le Chenaie Vineyard Eola-Amity Hills Oregon Riesling

$24. Moderately sweet. · This wine is infused with mineral and petrol notes typical of great Riesling. The crisp texture delights as does the citrusinfused finish of noticeable persistence.

2014 Brooks Orchards Fold Vineyard Eola-Amity Hills Oregon Riesling

12.9% alc., $24. Dry. · Aromas of petrol, petrichor and citrus. More austere, similar to sucking on a lemon peel, with a tight, dry finish.

2014 Brooks Tethys Late Harvest Willamette Valley Oregon Riesling

11.5% alc., pH 3.14, TA 0.94, RS 140 g/L, 375 cases, $25. · Very pleasurable and not at all cloying or overtly sweet with flavors of fig, yellow raisins, honey and nuts. Spirited acidity keeps the wine buoyant and lively.

Comprehensive tasting of other wines at home:

2015 Brooks Willamette Valley Oregon Pinot Noir Rosé

14.2%, pH 3.37, TA 0.58, RS 1.4 g/L, 1,000 cases, $18 (sold out). 54% Muska, 30% Crannell and 16% B&J vineyards. 54% straight to press, 46% cold soaked for 6 hours. Fermented in stainless steel. · Moderate salmon color in the glass. Nicely perfumed with scents of strawberry, blood orange and yellow apple. Crisp in the mouth, with flavors of strawberry, cherry Sunburst candy, blood orange and watermelon, an added hint of herbs, finishing with a good cut of acidity on the thoroughly dry finish. Score: 90

2014 Brooks Willamette Valley Pinot Noir

13.0% alc., 3,800 cases, $28. A blend of multiple vineyards. 100% de-stemmed, native fermentation, aged 10 months in French oak barrels, bottled after cross-flow filtration. · Moderate reddish purple color in the glass. Aromas of black cherry pie, spice, floral bouquet and a slight straw note lead off. Light to mid weight flavors of black cherry and darker cranberry are infused with good acidity and backed by suave tannins. Forward drinking, with appropriate oak input and a modest finish. Score: 88

2014 Brooks La Chenaie Vineyard Willamette Valley Pinot Noir

13.2% alc., pH 3.41, TA 0.60, 75 cases, $48. Vineyard planted in 2006 at 485 feet elevation in ancient volcanic soils. Wädenswil clone. Aged 18 months in French oak barrels. Cross-flow filtered. · Moderately light reddish purple color in the glass. Enticing aromas of cherry, Asian spices, earthy flora and a touch of oak. Silky, elegant and reserved initially, showing more mid palate expression and finish over time in the glass. The wine’s light to mid weight flavors of dark red cherry, cranberry, raspberry and plum are infused with racy acidity that is most evident on the lip-smacking and hi-pitched, citrus-driven finish. Score: 91

2014 Brooks Temperance Hill Vineyard Eola-Amity Hills Oregon Pinot Noir

13.3% alc., pH 3.69, TA 0.51, 250 cases, $48. A legacy vineyard planted in 1981 at 675 feet elevation in volcanic basalt. Vineyard farmed sustainably and organically by Dai Crisp since 1999. 40% 777, 31% Pommard and 29% Wädenswil clones. Aged 18 months in French oak barrels. Cross-flow filtration. · Moderately light reddish purple color in the glass. The nose draws you into the glass with uplifting scents of crushed dark cherries, blackberry jam, earthy flora, herbs and vanilla. Very silky in the mouth, with a complex flavor profile of black cherry, blackberry, root vegetables, earth and mushrooms. Plenty of sap to satisfy, yet with an elegant demeanor, and exceptional length on the finish. Score: 93

2014 Brooks Crannell Vineyard Eola-Amity Hills Oregon Pinot Noir

13.5% alc., pH 3.45, TA 0.60, 300 cases, $48. Vineyard planted in 1984 at 550 feet elevation in volcanic basalt soil. 75% 115 and 25% Pommard. Aged 18 months in French oak barrels. Cross-flow filtered. · Moderately light reddish purple color in the glass. Aromas of dark red cherries and berries and rose petal arrive over time in the glass. Light to mid weight in style, with a charge of black cherry and raspberry fruits underlain with a touch of smoky oak. Nicely composed and easy to like, with a welcome surge of uplifting acidity on the finish. Score: 90

2014 Brooks Janus Willamette Valley Oregon Pinot Noir

13.8% alc., pH 3.64, TA 0.54, 1,500 cases, $38. 58% Brooks Estate Vineyard with contributions from several other vineyards in the Willamette Valley, primarily Eola-Amity Hills. Aged 18 months in French oak barrels. Cross-flow filtered. · Moderate reddish purple color in the glass. A mix of red and black berry, spice and forest floor aromas rise from the glass. A hint of volatile acidity quickly blows off. Thoroughly seductive in the mouth, with luscious flavors of black cherry, dark red berry and plum. The fruit goodness seems to build over time and the wine achieves progressive goodness the more one tastes it. Highly flavorful, yet gracious in character, with a substantial tannic backbone that ensures age ability, and a delightful finish offering both intensity of fruit flavor and valued grip. Score: 93

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