Sips of Recently Tasted Oregon Wines
I was taken back by the amazing quality in the wines from these four distinguished Oregon wineries. It was a
special pleasure to sample these wines.
Brittan Vineyards, McMinnville
Veteran winemaker Robert Brittan is among several California winemakers who have moved to Oregon to craft
Pinot Noir. Robert spent 16 years at Stags’ Leap Winery in Napa where he was the winemaker and estate
manager. Along with spouse, Ellen, who will be President of IPNC for the 2018 IPNC event, the pair purchased
a 128-acre hillside outside of the town of McMinnville tucked into the foothills of the Coastal Range. The
original 18 acres were planted in 2001, but due to the challenging nature of the site and limited topsoil, only 8
acres survived. Since 2004, the vineyard has been a rehabilitation project with continued replanting. The
winery’s first commercial release in Oregon was 2009.
Robert produces block-specific Pinot Noirs from his estate vineyard in McMinnville. The Basalt Block has
volcanic soils that lead to low yields and concentrated fruit flavors. The Gestalt Block is exposed to more wind,
and is planted atop younger, more compact intrusion basalts. The 3-acre Cygnus Block was planted in 2008 to
The winery’s tasting room is located in McMinnville and is open Thursday through Monday (check website for
hours). To purchase wine, visit www.brittanvineyards.com. A Chardonnay and Rosé of Pinot Noir from sourced
fruit are also offered.
2014 Brittan Vineyards Basalt Block McMinnville Oregon Pinot Noir
14.5% alc., 1,415 cases, $48.
Pommard, 667, 777, 115 and Swan selection. Aged 12 months in French oak barrels, 25% new.
color in the glass. A very ripe fruited wine, with aromas of black fruits, prune, dark chocolate, vanilla, nutty oak,
exotic spices and muddy earth. Impressive sap on entry in a mid weight plus style, underlain with a noticeable
snap of acidity. Firm fruit tannins and a roasted tone to the fruit, with the slightest hint of alcoholic warmth on
2014 Brittan Vineyards Gestalt Block McMinnville Oregon Pinot Noir
14.3% alc., 370 cases, $60. Clones
777, 667 and 115. Aged 12 months in French oak barrels, 35% new.
Dark garnet color in the glass. Aromas of
beef, underbrush, and fresh Marionberry jam. A mid weight plus style, with an array of purple and black fruit
flavors, supported by prominent fine-grain tannins and a welcome lift of acidity. The oak is well integrated, the
texture is velvety, and the finish is remarkable for its persistence.
2014 Brittan Vineyards Cygnos Block McMinnville Oregon Pinot Noir
13.5% alc., 150 cases, $65. Swan
selection. Aged 12 months in French oak barrels, 35% new.
Moderately dark garnet color in the glass. A
complex nose leads with aromas of blackberry, black cherry, undergrowth, fertile earth and nutty oak. The most
elegant of the three 2014 Pinot Noirs, shot through with bright acidity, in a mid weight style featuring flavors of
purple grape, anise, boysenberry and blackberry. Silky in the mouth, with a generous attack, integrated tannins,
and a lengthy, deep purple fruited finish.
Brooks Winery, Amity
Managing Director Janie Brooks Heuck says, “Some people think we’re crazy to make 20 Rieslings and 16
Pinot Noirs from 30 vineyards every year, and they might be right.” But the winery’s founder, Oregon native,
and Janie’s brother, Jimi Brooks, set out on a mission when he started Brooks Wines in 1998 to make
expressive Willamette Valley Pinot Noir and Riesling. Jimi suffered a heart aneurism and passed away
suddenly at 38-years-old, His son, Pascal Brooks, who was 8-years-old at the time, became the youngest
winery owner in the world. He remains the sole owner of the winery. Brooks is now the living legacy of Jimi
Janie Brooks Heuck, Jimi’s only sibling, volunteers her time to lead Brooks and in 2008 purchased the 25 acres
where the Brooks Estate Vineyard, winery and tasting room are located today. The winery has grown in
production from 2,500 cases in 2004 to 19,000 cases today.
Jimi’s longtime friend and winemaking accomplice, Chris Williams, has been the full-time winemaker at Brooks
since 2005. Chris worked alongside Jimi at WillaKenzie Estate and Maysara Winery, and jumped in to help
Brooks make wine when Jimi passed away on the eve of the 2004 harvest.
I don’t claim to know a lot about Riesling and do not review Riesling in the PinotFile. That said, I have tasted
multiple Brooks Rieslings on a few occasions, and can heartily recommend them. The 2015 Brooks Estate
Riesling is made from some of the oldest Riesling vines in the Willamette Valley. Fermented naturally in
stainless steel and aged another seven months, it is a special wine with 12.5% alc., pH 3.04, and RS 9 g/L
($24). The 2015 Yamhill Vineyard Riesling is made from vines planted in the Yamhill-Carlton AVA in 1987 on
unique Willakenzie marine sedimentary soils. 85 cases are produced with 13.4% alc., pH 2.92, and RS 13.4 g/
L ($24). The 2015 Orchards Fold Riesling is sourced from a vineyard only a mile from Brooks and has been
farmed by the Howard family since 1978. The vines are planted in volcanic basalt (Nekia, Jory) and farmed
holistically with young sheep grazing between the vine rows and Muscovy ducks roam the vineyard. 100 cases
produced with 11.5% alc., pH 2.94, and RS 13.6 g/L ($24).
The oldest vines at Brooks 20-acre estate vineyard are 43 years old and the young vines are a little more than
15 years old. 11 acres of original plantings include Pommard, Riesling and Pinot Gris all on their own rootstock.
The remaining acreage was grafted to Pinot Noir clones 777 and 115 in the late 1990s. The estate vineyard is
Demeter Certified Biodynamic.
Brooks Pinot Noirs all undergo gentle de-stemming followed by a 7 to 10-day cold soak. Lots are fermented in
2.5-ton stainless steel tanks. Fermentations are natural in tank and barrel. Aging is carried out in French oak
barrels, usually for 18 months or longer and the wines are typically aged an additional 6 months after bottling.
Interestingly, Brooks has consciously kept their wine prices the same since 2004. Jimi set out to make wines
that locals could afford to drink, and Brooks has maintained that ethos with distribution across the country and
at home in the tasting room. For more information, visit www.brookswine.com. The winery’s expansive tasting
room in Amity is open daily (see location below). If you go, look for local vineyard owners who are likely to be in
the tasting room.
2014 Brooks Temperance Hill Vineyard Eola-Amity Hills Oregon Pinot Noir
13.3% alc., pH 3.69, TA 0.51,
250 cases, $48. 100% de-stemmed. 40% 777, 31% Pommard, 29% Wädenswil. Vineyard farmed by Dai
Crisp. Nekia soil - well-drained, volcanic basalt from ancient lava flows. Dry farmed, certified organic vineyard
planted in 1981 at 675 feet elevation. Native yeast fermentation, aged 18 months in French oak barrels.
Moderate garnet color in the glass. A rather fruity nose featuring dusty cherry aroma flanked by ground savory
spice. Both earthy and fruity, featuring mid weight flavors of black cherry and blackberry supported by
integrated oak and well-honed fruit tannins. There is a noticeable charge of fruit on entry with a pleasing finish
(but not quite up to the Crannell Vineyard bottling).
2014 Brooks Crannell Vineyard Eola-Amity Hills Oregon Pinot Noir
13.5% alc., pH 3.45, TA 0.60,
300 cases, $48. Vineyard farmed by Richard Crannell. Jory and Nekia soils - well-drained, volcanic
basalt from ancient lava flows. Vineyard planted in 1984 at 550 feet elevation. Native yeast
fermentation, aged 18 months in French oak barrels.
Moderately light garnet color in the glass.
Engaging aromas of cherry, dusty earth, ground savory and white pepper. Delicious pie cherry core
wrapped around suave tannins and accented with a kiss of oak. The flavor of this wine really hits home
and the glorious cherry-driven finish seems to last a minute.
2014 Brooks Rastaban Eola-Amity Hills Willamette Valley Pinot Noir
13.8% alc., pH 3.70, TA 0.51, 500
cases, $55. Pommard, 115 and 777. Native yeast fermentation,
aged 18 months in French oak barrels. The most intense and
complex barrels in the cellar. The best effort for the vintage.
Moderately light garnet color in the glass. The intoxicating nose
offers aromas of black cherry, cigar box and exotic spices. Very
classy and impeccably balanced, with mid weight flavors of black cherry
and ripe strawberry underlain with a pleasing earthiness. Impressive
polish and verve, with enough structure for aging, although it is hard to
keep your hands off it now.
DANCIN Vineyards, Medford
DANCIN Vineyards is the sincere passion of Dan and Cindy Marca. The name, DANCIN, reflects the annual
dance in harmony with nature and humanity, with vines and wines. The wines are named primarily after
movements within ballet, a form of dance where dedication, discipline and balance lead to the grace and
beauty of the final performance. The name, DANCIN, also is formed from the first three letters of the Marca’s
The estate property is located in the Rogue Valley of Southern Oregon. The site is uniquely positioned for Pinot
Noir. It is shaded for up to two hours a day at the hottest time of the day, and is situated at elevations of
between 1,700 and nearly 2,000 feet. There are over 19 acres planted to Pinot Noir (two-thirds) and
Chardonnay (one-third), and an adjacent Tuscan-styled tasting room, wine cave and winery.
The winemaker since 2010 has been Brian Denner, a veteran who has worked at Williams Selyem in
Healdsburg, Denner Vineyards in Paso Robles, and Kingston Family Vineyards in Chile.
Visit the website at www.dancinvineyards.com.
2015 DANCIN Pas de Trois Oregon Pinot Noir
13.3% alc., 162 cases, $37. Sourced from
DANCIN estate vineyard in Southern Oregon, and Hyland Vineyard and Aegrina Vineyard, both in
the McMinnville AVA. Clone 777. After de-stemming, the grapes underwent a cold soak of up to 7
days. Native yeast fermentation, and aged 11 months on the lees in French oak barrels, 37.25%
Moderately light garnet color in the glass. Seductive aromas of fresh cherry, blueberry and
toast. Light to mid weight flavors of red cherry and warm spices with a hint of oak and savory herbs.
Smoothly textured, with gentle tannins, and a modest but pleasing finish.
2015 DANCIN Écarté Oregon Pinot Noir
14.6% alc., 132
cases, $37. Sourced from Aegrina Vineyard in the McMinnville
AVA. Average harvest Brix 24.1º Pommard clone. After destemming,
the grapes underwent a cold soak for up to 7 days.
Native yeast fermentation, aged 11 months in French oak
barrels, 12.86% new.
Moderately light garnet color in the
glass. Plenty to like in this middleweight wine with aromas of
blackberry jam, spice box, beef jerky and warm brioche leading to flavors
of sappy black cherry, dark chocolate and black tea. Impressive mouth
presence and finish, with complimentary tannins and tucked in alcohol.
2015 DANCIN Septette Southern Oregon Pinot Noir
13.5% alc., 94 cases, $37. Sourced from the
seven original blocks and seven originally planted clones: 114, 115, 667, 777, “828,” Pommard and
Wädenswil 2A. After de-stemming the grapes were cold soaked for up to 7 days. Native yeast
fermentation, aged on lees for 11 months in French oak barrels, 38.61% new.
garnet color in the glass. The nose offers a pleasant combination of fruit (dark red cherry) and
savory (herbs, underbrush) aromas. This wine has a prominent savory edge along with a mid weight
core of vivid black cherry fruit. Noticeable tannins ply the background and show up modestly on the
2015 DANCIN Plié Southern Oregon Pinot Noir
13.7% alc., 138 cases, $37. Sourced from three
of the seven original estate blocks. Clones 115 (7% whole cluster) and Pommard. After destemming,
the fruit underwent a 7-day cold soak. Native yeast fermentation. Aged 11 months on lees
in French oak barrels, 39.17% new.
Light ruby red color in the glass. Shy, but comfortable aromas of
red cherry and red berry. Lighter styled and primarily red-fruited. Easygoing and rather simple with a
silky mouthfeel. The tannins stick out a bit on the bright finish. The wine does perform better over
time in the glass.
2016 DANCIN Capriccio Southern Oregon Chardonnay
14.0% alc., 90 cases, $32. Robert Young 17, Dijon
76 and Wente 72 clones. Average harvest Brix 23.5º. Whole cluster pressed into French oak, native yeast
fermentation. No malolactic fermentation. Aged in French oak barrels on lees with weekly stirring, 20% new,
80% neutral. Gently filtered and bottled after 6 months.
Moderately light golden yellow color in the glass.
Aromas of lemon creme, yeast, chalk and oak cask lead off. Modest richness of citrus-driven flavor, slightly
creamy in texture, finishing with good brightness, but with a hint of alcoholic warmth.
2016 DANCIN Mélange Southern Oregon Chardonnay
13.5% alc., 135 cases, $32. Robert Young
17, Dijon 76, 15 and 809. Average harvest Brix 23.7º. Whole cluster pressed into French oak and
stainless steel. Native yeast fermentation. No malolactic fermentation. Aged on lees with weekly
stirring in 30% French oak barrels (17% new and 13% neutral) and 70% stainless steel for 6 months
before gentle filtering and bottling.
Moderate golden yellow color in the glass. The nose leads with
scents of lemon curd, white peach and straw. Vibrant, with richly flavored notes of grilled lemon, pear
and white peach. Nicely balanced and easy to cozy up to.
de Lancellotti Family Vineyards, McMinnville
Paul de Lancellotti told me his family was not a winemaking family, but “mornings turned into evening and days
out in the vineyards season through season,” led them to become one. The family built from the ground up.
First with the planting of Paul’s father-in-law’s vineyard in 1998, then the creation of Bergström Wines in 1999,
and next, the planting of their own vineyard. The experience gained in the early years led them to create their
own brand, de Lancellotti Family Vineyards in 2005.
The beginning years opened their eyes to biodynamic farming. Paul explains, “Biodynamic farming is a holistic
practice that is largely misunderstood until you have spent a lifetime in vineyards. Attention to detail starts in a
Today, de Lancellotti wines are a result of fruit sourced from some of the finest vineyards in Oregon including
the winery’s home vineyard. The wines are produced in a shared winemaking facility in McMinnville, under
the guidance of winemaking consultant Robert Brittan.
Paul says, “Simply put, farming great vineyards and sourcing the finest Pinot Noir and Chardonnay is our
Tasting is by appointment in Newberg - refer to the website at www.delancellottifamilyvineyards.com.
2015 de Lancellotti La Sorella Willamette Valley Oregon Pinot Noir
14.5% alc., pH 3.50, 400
cases, $25. A three vineyard blend from biodynamically farmed vineyards. Native yeast
fermentation, aged 10 months in French oak barrels, 20% new.
Moderately light garnet color in the
glass. Reserved aromas of muddled black cherry, wine cave and underbrush. Noticeably riper
fruited, with a core of black cherry and purple berry fruits accented by warm spices and a noticeable
overlay of oak. Firm, but integrated tannins, juicy acidity, and a welcome finish.
2015 de Lancellotti Famiglia Willamette Valley Oregon Pinot Noir
14.1% alc., pH 3.40, 200 cases, $40.
sourced from the home estate vineyard in the Chehalem Mountains AVA. 15% whole cluster. Native yeast
fermentation, aged 11 months in French oak barrels, 25% new.
Light ruby red color in the glass. Aromas of
cherry and sawdust arrive over time in the glass. Bright and sleek on the palate, with light to mid weight flavors
of red cherry and red berry, nicely spiced. Forward drinking, with a fortuitous cherry-driven finish. Still excellent
when tasted the following day from a previously opened and re-corked bottle.
2015 de Lancellotti Onelia Willamette Valley Oregon Pinot Noir
14.4% alc., pH 3.40, 60 cases,
$75. Sourced from Formaglini Vineyard. Clone 777. 30% whole
cluster. Native fermentation, aged 11 months in French oak
barrels, 30% new.
Moderately light garnet color in the glass. An
array of aromas arrive over time in the glass including black
cherry, ripe strawberry, spice and pipe smoke. Remarkable attack
of mid weighted cherry, raspberry and strawberry fruits underlain with
baking spices. Seamless, silky and sexy, finishing with charitable red
2015 de Lancellotti Lachini Vineyard Chehalem Mountains Oregon Pinot Noir
14.5% alc., pH
3.50, 220 cases, $60. Sourced from Lachini Vineyard located in the Chehalem Mountains AVA. 60%
Pommard and 40% 115. 15% whole cluster. Native yeast fermentation, aged 11 months in French oak
barrels, 25% new.
Moderately light garnet color in the glass. Aromas of wild strawberry and blueberry
arrive with a bit of oak. A comforting wine with vivid flavors of black cherry and blueberry sporting
impressive mid palate intensity. Satiny in texture, with the right touch of oak and a very generous
finish. When tasted the following day from a previously opened and re-corked bottle, I was enthralled
by the seductively smooth texture of this wine.
2015 de Lancellotti Anderson Vineyard Dundee Hills Oregon Chardonnay
14.6% alc., pH 3.4, 150 cases,
$50. Dijon 96, 26-year-old, own-rooted and organically farmed vines planted in Jory soils. Native yeast
fermentation, aged 11 months in French oak barrels, 10% new.
Light golden yellow color in the glass. Intriguing
aromas of chalky lemon, steel and minerality for want of a better word. Lovely, energetic and bright, with flavors
of lemon and lychee without needless oak encumbrance. Very engaging and satisfying.