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Jackson Family Wines Infuses New Life into Zena Crown Vineyard

Premier Pacific Vineyards developed Zena Crown Vineyard located just west of Salem, Oregon, in the Eola- Amity Hills AVA in the early 2000s, and it instantly became celebrated among producers such as Alexana Winery, Beaux Frères, Expression Wines, Penner-Ash Wine Cellars, Soléna and Soter Vineyards who released Zena Crown vineyard-designated Pinot Noirs. In 2013, Jackson Family Wines purchased the 115-acre Zena Crown Vineyard, that includes Zena East, West and Middle, representing part of the company’s initial foray into the Willamette Valley. With the 2013 vintage, Zena Crown Vineyard became a domaine and label, releasing less than 1,000 cases from the most expressive and distinctive blocks of the vineyard.

Zena Crown Vineyard is located on a southwest facing slope of weathered and well-drained volcanic soils at the southern end of the Eola-Amity Hills AVA. The vineyard is a fairly uniform and harmonious site but the vineyard’s 17 blocks each have their own twists of aspect, depths of soil and grade changes. Elevation increases from 300 feet at the base of the slope to 650 feet at the vineyard’s high point offering a distinctive crown of conifers. The vineyard is planted to a rich diversity of Pinot Noir clones, including Dijon, Pommard, Wädenswil 2A, Mt. Eden, and Archery Summit clone 2 (“828”). It is the diverseness of the vineyard and clones that provides the opportunity to produce distinctive block-driven wines.

Zena Crown Vineyard is surrounded by the vineyards of Bethel Heights, Cristom and St. Innocent wineries, and sits adjacent the Van Duzer Corridor, a gap in the Coast Range that funnels cold Pacific winds into the Eola- Amity Hills. The result is small berries with thick skins, structured tannins, buoyant acidity, and slow ripening, with the region consistently the last to be harvested each vintage in the Willamette Valley.

Renowned veteran Oregon winemaker Tony Rynders is the consulting winemaker and is teamed with Shane Moore, who relocated to Oregon leaving a position as associate winemaker for La Crema in California. Moore comments about his approach in Oregon, “You have to adapt and let the environment sculpt the wines, rather than enforcing established dogma or systems upon it. I never thought I would pick on emotion before arriving here. The Willamette Valley is not an environment for safe or clinical winemaking...we listen to the vineyard, and we adapt.”

Winemaking might incorporate some percentage of whole clusters in the fermentation depending on the vintage, the clone, and the intended wine. Aging and malolactic fermentation occur in French oak barrels, 75% to 90% new depending on the wine and year. The wines are never racked until bottling. After a year and a half in oak, the wines are bottled with a Diam closure and are unfined as a rule. I found that the oak was perfectly integrated in these wines and I didn’t even mention oak in my review notes. How inviting!

2013 Zena Crown Vineyard Conifer Eola-Amity Hills Oregon Pinot Noir

13.0% alc., pH 3.65, TA 0.52, 240 cases, $75. A blend of Zena East Block 12 and Zena West 1A and 14. These blocks include 114 and “828,” and Pommard, all seven years old. Harvest Brix 20.5º-22.5º. Aged 17 months in French oak barrels, 75% new, medium to medium plus toast. · Moderate reddish purple color in the glass. Seductive perfume of cherry, strawberry, forest floor and spice lingering in the glass over time. Satiny on the palate, with a mid weight core of delicious dark red and black fruit flavors supported by elegant tannins. As the name implies, there is a conifer thread in the background. Very fresh, and everything is in its place, with a highly enjoyable but not exceptionally intense finish. Score: 92

2013 Zena Crown Vineyard The Sum Eola Amity Hills Oregon Pinot Noir

12.9% alc., pH 3.65, TA 0.50, 302 cases, $75. A blend of multiple clones from several vineyard blocks. This wine represents the sum of the land. 40% whole cluster fermentation. Clones 777, Pommard and 667, seven years old. Harvest Brix 22.1º-22.5º. Aged 17 months in French oak barrels, 71% new, medium to medium plus toast. · Moderate cherry red color in the glass. The whole cluster endows this wine with a gorgeous nose, offering hi-tone aromas of black cherry, forest floor, spice cabinet and rose petal. The cherry fruit takes on a darker and deeper aroma over time in the glass. Both red cherry, strawberry and darker fruits such as boysenberry provide nuance as does a savory note. The texture is particularly tantalizing, as is the lingering finish that seems to last until the next sip. Score: 93

2013 Zena Crown Vineyard Slope Eola Amity Hills Oregon Pinot Noir

12.7% alc., pH 3.65, TA 0.53, 348 cases, $100. Sourced from Zena East blocks 5 and 6 that stretch from the highest point of the vineyard at 600 feet down to areas of lower elevation. Clone 667, seven years old. Harvest Brix 22.2º-22.7º. Aged 17 months in French oak barrels, 85% new, medium to medium plus toast. · Moderately dark reddish purple color in the glass. You need to be sitting down when you drink this beauty. Pleasant aromas of earth-kissed black cherry, crushed berries and mushrooms. Upon entry, there is an explosion of purple grape and berry flavor that is eye-opening. The sappy fruit saturates the palate with goodness, carrying through to a finish that displays uncommon intensity and length. Even better the following day when tasted from a previously opened and re-corked bottle when the aromas and flavors became exhumed in an orgasmic display. Score: 97

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