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De Ponte Cellars Captures My Attention....Again

De Ponte (“Duh Pawnt”) Cellars is one of my favorite producers of Oregon Pinot Noir. I have highlighted the winery previously in consecutive years: 2014 -, and 2015 -

The winery is unique for several reasons. First, the winemaker, Parisian-born Isabelle Dutarte, has been the lead winemaker at De Ponte Cellars since the winery’s first Pinot Noir release in 2001. Besides the 20-acre estate vineyard in the Dundee Hills, 8 acres of Pinot Noir are also farmed at Lonesome Rock Ranch, just west of the western edge of the Yamhill-Carlton AVA in the shadow of the Coastal Mountain Range, a promising, but still largely unexplored region for Oregon Pinot Noir. In addition, Lonesome Rock Ranch is home to a herd of steers who feed on pomace from De Ponte’s winemaking process, and beef raised here is sold in Carlton at the winery’s historic Lonesome Rock Firehouse tasting room under the Lonesome Rock Cattle Company label. Finally, De Ponte Cellars is one of the few wineries to offer Melon, a varietal known as Muscadet in the Loire region of France.

De Ponte Estate Pinot Noir is quintessential Dundee Hills Pinot Noir. The Dundee Hills is, of course, the birthplace of Oregon Pinot Noir and today is the most densely populated sub-appellation in the Willamette Valley. The vines thrive here in volcanic Jory soils formed by ancient Columbia River basalt lava flows. The Jory series of reddish silt clay and loam is stained red with iron oxide, thus the name “Red Hills of Dundee,” and is the most defining and distinguishing feature of this appellation. Because of its protected location, the Dundee Hills viticultural area is shielded from dramatic climatic variations. The nights are warmer, there is less risk of low-elevation fog and frost, and the appellation is drier than the surrounding areas.

The Pinot Noir from the Dundee Hills is typically nuanced, delicate, and fruit-centric, with good acidity and soft and silky textures. Fruits are typically red but can be black in warmer vintages and tastes of earth, cola, sassafras, Dr. Pepper, and baking spices combined with floral aromatics are common. The De Ponte Pinot Noirs epitomize this profile.

De Ponte Cellars Pinot Noir is sold online at Tasting is available daily at the winery, located just off Breyman Orchards Road at the western end of the Dundee Hills or in Carlton at the Lonesome Rock Ranch Firehouse, open Friday-Sunday. The 2014 vintage Pinot Noir wines are available through February for an additional 10% off all case sales in addition to club discount. Some past vintages are available on the website.

I sampled four newly released 2014 De Ponte Cellars Pinot Noirs. Oregon Pinot Noir from the 2014 vintage is pretty much a no-brainer. The growing season was flawless from start to finish. The wines are sensual, with the right blend of savory and fruit characters. They are generous now but will perform beautifully after a few years in the cellar. You can’t go wrong picking any of this litter.

2014 De Ponte Cellars Dundee Hills Oregon Pinot Noir

14.1% alc., 1,156 cases, $44. This wine is composed of vineyard blocks throughout the estate property. Aged 12 months in French oak barrels, 20% new. · Moderate reddish purple color in the glass. Very savory nose, with aromas of forested path, spice and cherry. Noticeable attack, mid palate purpose and follow through of intense cherry goodness. A bit earthy, with the taste of iron-rich soil coming through. Nicely composed, with gentle tannins, and an assertive finish. A welcoming ode to the Dundee Hills AVA. Score: 92

2014 De Ponte Cellars Estate Dundee Hills Oregon Pinot Noir

14.2% alc., 432 cases, $60. A limited bottling from the most prized vineyard blocks and select barrels. Aged 12 months in French oak barrels, 50% new. · Moderate reddish purple color in the glass. The dreamy nose reminds of walking through an angel garden with aromas of loam, pine needle, alpine flora and black cherry. Delicious mid weight flavors of black cherry, raspberry and spice with a thread of iron “minerality.” Elegant, silky and gorgeous, with refined tannins, juicy acidity and a very long and memorable finish. As good as the Dundee Hills bottling is, this wine is a step up in class. Score: 94

2014 De Ponte Cellars Baldwin Family Reserve Dundee Hills Oregon Pinot Noir

14.2% alc., 219 cases, $75. Typically a richer, more full-bodied offering that is the winery’s most limited production. Aged 12 months in French oak barrels, 80% new. · Moderately dark reddish purple color in the glass. The nose offers a luxurious deep black cherry perfume that raises the senses like a pheromone. The flavor profile is similar to the Estate bottling, but this wine has more structure and fruit sap. Striking mid palate presence of deliciously ripe dark cherry, blueberry and black raspberry fruits that are delicately spiced. A dreamy wine that has a slightly creamy texture, noticeable but supportive tannins, and a long finish that is almost too good to be true. Still seductive when tasted two days later from a previously opened and re-corked bottle. Score: 95

2014 De Ponte Cellars Lonesome Rock Ranch Willamette Valley Pinot Noir

14.1% alc., 742 cases, $44. Aged 12 months in French oak barrels, 20% new. · Moderately light reddish purple color in the glass. Complex nose with aromas of black cherry, cranberry, brier, pine tree, terra cotta and gravelly soil. Light to mid weight in style and quite elegant, yet offering intriguing flavors of black cherry and purple berry with a subtle chalky flavor and texture. Quite distinctive from the De Ponte Estate Pinot Noirs, with a lighter frame, a little more tannin and a grounded, earthy quality. In this case, being different is a good thing. Score: 93

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