Virtuous Willamette Valley Pinot Noir
The North and South Willamette Valley continue to lead in tons of Pinot Noir crushed in 2016 with the North
Willamette Valley demanding the highest average price for ton of Pinot Noir grapes.
Guillén Family Wines, Dayton
Guillén Family Wines is a remarkable success story for a Mexican family that immigrated to Oregon. Jesús
Guillén, Sr., arrived in Oregon in 2000 from Chihuahua, Mexico, encouraged by another Mexican immigrant
working as a winegrower. He became the vineyard manager at White Rose Estate in the Dundee Hills. His son,
also named Jesús, graduated from the University of Chihuahua in 2001 with a degree in computer systems
engineering. A year later, he traveled to Oregon to visit his father, fell in love with the Willamette Valley, and
stayed to learn English at a local community college. His mother, brother and sister also immigrated to Oregon.
Jesús, Jr., soon acclimated to the Oregon lifestyle and became intrigued by Oregon Pinot Noir. He read
extensively about viticulture and winemaking, as he developed a keen palate for the local wines. He became a
vineyard worker for Patricia Green Winery in 2002 and worked alongside his father at Laurel Ridge Winery
where Jesús, Sr., was helping Greg Sanders, the new proprietor and winemaker at White Rose Estate, make
his wines. Upon completion of the winery at White Rose Estate, Jesús, Jr., began working in the White Rose
cellar and learned many winemaking skills from Mark Vlossak of St. Innocent Winery, who was the consulting
winemaker. He also received some mentoring from Gary Andrew. Because Jesús, Jr., showed such talent, he
was promoted to winemaker at White Rose Estate in 2008, working closely with Greg Sanders.
Jesús, Jr., launched his own small label, Guillén Family Wines, in 2009 with the 2007 vintage, sourcing fruit
from Vista Hills Vineyard (near White Rose Estate in the Dundee Hills). The Guillén Pinot Noir wines are vinified
in a similar fashion to those of White Rose Estate, using 100% whole cluster (since 2010), native yeast
fermentations, and aging sur lie in either neutral (Damian bottling) or 100% new (Adrian bottling) French oak
barrels. The Guillén Family Pinot Noir wines tend to be more extracted than the White Rose Estate Pinot Noir
wines so they have their own character.
Over time, Jesús, Jr., has expanded his vineyard sources and total production to include both cuvées named
after his sons (Esteban, Damien and Adrian) and vineyard-designates. One of the newer fruit sources is the
Domingo Vineyard, named after his grandfather that Jesus, Sr., planted at the foot of the Dundee Hills.
The Damian bottling is based on harmony and complexity. The Adrián is designed more for the long term, and
even though it has a high level of harmony when bottled, it requires some time to show its full potential.
Guillén Family Wines are poured for tasting at Vintner’s Cellar PDX in Portland on weekends. The wines are
sold primarily through a mailing list, wine club and fine wine retailers in the Portland, Oregon area. Futures
pricing is available. Visit www.guillenfamily.com. Future plans call for the winery to move into its own production
facility with a place for regular tasting.
The 2014 wines reviewed here were previously reviewed with Jesús in December 2015. There is low inventory
of the 2014 Adrián and Damian, all others sold out. The 2015 vintage wines were bottled with Diam corks and
will begin release this month.
2014 Guillén Esteban Willamette Valley Pinot Noir
13.5% alc.,154 cases, $25. 56% Domingo,
42% Vista Hills and 2% Meredith Mitchell vineyards. A selection of the most approachable barrels
in the cellar. 100% whole cluster, native fermentation. Basket pressed and aged on the lees for 11
months in 100% neutral French oak barrels.
Moderately light garnet color in the glass. Really nice
perfume of cherry, rose petal, and sweet pipe smoke. Light to mid weight flavors of black cherry,
raspberry, tobacco and rose water, Noticeable but complimentary whole cluster input. Easy to like,
with polished, fine-grain tannins and a bright finish.
2014 Guillén Damian Winemaker’s Cuvée Willamette Valley Pinot Noir
13.5% alc., 140 cases, $40. A meticulous
selection of the best barrels in the cellar that offer harmony,
complexity and mouth feel. 40% Vista Hills (667), 20%
Meredith Mitchell (Pommard) and 40% Saikkonen
(Pommard) vineyards. No cold soak. 100% whole cluster,
native yeast fermentation. Basket pressed, aged on the lees
11 months in French oak barrels, 20% new. Filtered at
Moderate garnet color in the glass. enticing aromas of black
cherry, pine sap and spice lead to a middleweight, cherry-driven wine
that is succulent yet refined. Elegantly composed, with filigree tannins,
an adroit finish and impressive harmony. The winemaker went for
harmony rather than boldness and it shows.
2014 Guillén Adrián Reserve Cuvée Willamette Valley Pinot Noir
13.6% alc., 125 cases, $60. 100%
Pommard clone from Vista Hills (40%), Saikkonen (20%) and Meredith Mitchell (40%) vineyards. 100% whole
cluster, native fermentation. Basket pressed and aged on the lees for 11 months in 100% light toast new
French oak barrels. Filtered at bottling. Jesús’s attempt to mimic DRC.
Moderate garnet color in the glass. The
nose is replete with dark red cherry and berry aromas. Highly structured in a mid weight plus style with a strong
physique. Gutsy flavors of dark red and black berries, black tea, tobacco and spice. Aggressive on the attack,
finishing with a lengthy sweet cherry kiss.
2014 Guillén Meredith Mitchell Single Vineyard McMinnville Pinot Noir
13.2% alc., $45. Self-rooted
Pommard clone planted in 1996. 100% whole cluster, native fermentation, Aged 11 months on the lees in
neutral French oak barrels.
Moderately dark garnet color in the glass. The aromas arrive grudgingly over time
in the glass showing a mix of earthy and dark fruit tones. Mid weight plus in style, with concentrated flavors of
blueberry, pomegranate and black raspberry framed by rather brutish tannins. Fruit-driven, with an intensely
2014 Guillén Vista Hills Single Vineyard Dundee Hills Pinot Noir
13.2% alc., $45. Pommard clone planted
in 2006. 100% whole cluster, native fermentation. Aged on the lees for 11 months in neutral French oak barrels.
Moderate garnet color in the glass. Whole cluster infused nose offering scents of dried rose petal, pipe smoke,
burnt tobacco and cherry. Silky in the mouth with good energy in a mid weight styled wine offering a tobaccolaced
cherry core, balanced tannins and some finishing depth.
2014 Guillén Saikkonen Single Vineyard Ribbon Ridge Pinot Noir
14.1% alc., $45. Pommard clone planted
in 2003. 100% whole cluster, native fermentation. Aged on the lees for 11 months in neutral French oak barrels.
Moderate garnet color in the glass. Shy but pleasant aromas of wet woodland, fertile earth, mulch and dark
cherry. Light to mid weight essence of ripe, dark red fruits that enter with more power than they exit. Muscular
tannins dominate making for a dry finish. Not enough joy for my taste.
2015 Guillén Esteban Willamette Valley Pinot Noir
13.5% alc., 495 cases, $25. A four
vineyard blend (Vista Hills, Meredith Mitchell, La Dolce Vita and Domingo) 52% Pommard, 18%
667 and 30% 115. 100% whole cluster, native fermentation. Aged 11 months on lees in French
oak barrels, 5% new. A selection of the most approachable barrels in the cellar.
Light garnet color
in the glass. Aromas of cherry, burnt tobacco, rose petal and grains arrive immediately upon
opening. Like able, with a straightforward core of light to mid weight cherry fruit accented with
subtle spice and cola notes. Lacy tannins and welcome acidity with a modest finish. Instantly
2015 Guillén Damian Winemaker’s Cuvée Willamette Valley Pinot Noir
13.8% alc., 73 cases, $40.
A meticulous selection of the best barrels in the cellar based on harmony, complexity and mouth
feel. A three vineyard blend (33% Vista Hills, 33% FlËnerie, and 33% Meredith Mitchell). 66.6%
Pommard, 33.3% Dijon 667. 100% whole cluster, native fermentation. Aged on the lees for 12
months in French oak barrels, 20% new.
Moderately dark garnet color in the glass. Really nice
perfume of wild boysenberry, wilted rose, exotic spice and tobacco. Very streamlined in style with
impressive balance and elegance. Vivid mid weight flavors of purple and black berries with a
healthy tannic backbone that is supportive and not intrusive. The wine finishes with a gentle grip of acidity and
2015 Guillén Adrián Reserve Cuvée Willamette Valley Pinot Noir
13.8% alc., 72 cases, $60. A three
vineyard blend (33% Vista Hills, 33% FlËnerie, and 33% Meredith Mitchell). Pommard clone. 100% whole
cluster, native fermentation. Aged 12 months on the lees in 100% new French oak barrels. Filtered at bottling.
Moderate garnet color in the glass. Nice perfume of boysenberry, wood spice, and wassail spice. A little less
extraction than the 2014 version, but just as satisfying, with a tasty core of spiced black cherry fruit. Sleek in the
mouth, with congenial tannins that elevate the fruit. The wine ends on a high note with fresh dark cherry good
will. Needs more cellar time for full expression.
Tyee Wine Cellars, Corvallis
This winery and vineyard is located on the Buchanan Family Century Farm founded over 120 years ago in the
southern Willamette Valley. Five family generations have grown crops here in a sustainable manner. The oldest
vines date to 1974, with subsequent plantings throughout the 1980s. The old, self-rooted vines make up more
than half of the estate vineyard. In 2000, Dijon clones 115 and 777 and Pommard were planted on phylloxera-resistant
The current winemaker and general manager is Merrilee Buchanan Benson who grew up at thee Wine Cellars
and has worked intimately with her family in the winery and vineyard her entire life. She took over as winemaker
with the 2006 vintage, coinciding with tree’s production of Estate wines made from grapes grown exclusively in
the family’s Estate Vineyard adjacent the winery.
Tyee is an early Northwest word meaning “chief” or “best” and symbolizes the winery’s commitment to
producing excellent estate wines to compliment the local cuisine.
The wines are of exceptional quality and offered at extremely reasonable prices. To purchase, visit
2015 Tyee Estate Williamette Valley Pinot Noir
13.5% alc., 600 cases, $28. Released
November 2017. A blend of all grapes grown in the Estate Vineyard with vines from 15 to 41 years
Moderately light garnet color in the glass. Highly nuanced nose, featuring aromas of cherry,
strawberry, rose petal, dried herbs and sandalwood. Lighter weighted but quite flavorful, with tastes
of cherry, red berry, spice and cola. Refined and sleek, with fine-grained tannins, deft oak input and
a juicy finish.
2014 Tyee Estate Barrel Select Willamette Valley Pinot Noir
13.5% alc., 200 cases, $35. Released May 2017. A
winemaker’s barrel selection.
Moderate garnet color in the
glass. More brooding, with slowly emerging aromas of
darker red cherries and berries, earthy flora and rose petal.
More sap, more tannic backbone, more finish and more
age worthy than the regular Estate bottling. Black cherry
fruit driven with compliments of spice, savory herbs and seasoned.
Needs more time to reach full potential.
Winter’s Hill Estate, Dayton
Winter’s Hill sits in the Golden Reach of the Dundee Hills, bordered to the East by Domaine Serene, to the
south by Stoller Vineyards and to the North by Vista Hill Vineyards. South-facing, at an elevation of 525-730
feet, the site has Jory soils. The original plantings of own-rooted Pinot Noir date to 1990. Newer plantings of
Pinot Noir in 1997 have brought the total to 21 acres. Clones are Pommard, Wädenswil, and Dijon 114 and
115. All Pinot Noir wines are sourced from the Estate Vineyard that is LIVE Certified Sustainable and
SalmonSafe since 1999.
Delphine Gladhart joined the Gladhart family winery in 2004 and has been the winemaker ever since. I have
been privileged to taste the winery’s Pinot Noir wines dating back to 2004. The labels have been updated for
the 2015 vintage reviewed below. Visit www.wintershillwine.com to check for visiting room hours and tasting
2015 Winter’s Hill Dundee Hills Pinot Noir
13.75% alc., 485 cases, $39. The winery’s flagship
Moderately light ruby red color in the glass. The nose expands over time in the glass to
reveal hi-tone aromas of cherry, red berry and fertile earth. Light to mid weight in style, featuring
red cherry and berry flavors woven through with a savory thread. Fresh and expressive, and
forward drinking with a gentle but adequate tannic backbone. A reliable daily drinker.
Since 2006, the winery has selected two individual barrels from different blocks and bottled them separately to
show the differences among the distinct blocks in the vineyard. For the 2015 vintage, four barrels from four
separate blocks were produced.
2015 Winter’s Hill Block 8 Single Block Series Dundee Hills Pinot Noir
13.6% alc., 98 cases, $49. Block 8
is a warm and steep block planted to Wädenswil clone. Only second time winery has bottled 100% Wädenswil
Moderately light garnet color in the glass. The nose starts out quite savory with aromas of bramble and
dried herbs, transforming over time in the glass to a predominance of black cherry, wild strawberry, spice and
cola aromas. Light to mid weight flavors of spiced red cherry and strawberry with an earthy thread and the right
touch of oak. Nice harmony, with a deep cherry finish. This wine grows on you over time.
2015 Winter’s Hill Block 9 Pommard Single Block Series Dundee Hills Pinot Noir
13.8% all, 98 cases,
$49. From a warm, southwestern-facing block.
Moderate garnet color in the glass. Charming atoms of Bing
cherry, warm spices and herbal oak. Engaging attack of deep cherry flavor accented with a hint of savory
herbs and floral goodness. Silky in the mouth, with plenty of sap to satisfy, backed by polished tannins. The
finish is grand.
2015 Winter’s Hill Block 10 Single Block Series Dundee Hills Pinot Noir
14.2% alc., 98 cases,
$49. Block 10 is the highest elevation block planted to Pinot Noir and receives the most direct
sunlight. 100% de-stemmed.
Moderate garnet color in the glass. Heady aromas of marionberry,
purple grape and baking spices. Aims to please in the mouth, with an attack of vivid black cherry
and spice flavors that demands attention. Remarkable intensity, yet cohesive tannins and acidity
make for seamless drinking. The wine’s remarkable ending offers uncommon vibrancy.
2015 Winter’s Hill Block 10 Single Block Series Whole Cluster Dundee Hills Pinot Noir
14.2% alc., 98 cases,
$49. 100% whole cluster fermented.
Moderate garnet color
in the glass. Dramatic aromatics that excite including
scents of black cherry, black raspberry, rose petal and
exotic spices. My notes say, “Oh-man!” Equally seductive
on the palate, with mid weight unctuous flavors of black
cherry and black raspberry immersed in exotic spices.
Noticeably different texturally from the 100% de-stemmed version of
this wine with meaty, fine-grain tannins that seem to caress and elevate
the fruit. A very long, flavorful and juicy finish completes the picture. A
2015 Winter’s Hill Reserve Dundee Hills Pinot Noir
13.8% alc., 250 cases, $65. A selection of the finest
blocks in the Estate Vineyard. After 12 months of aging, 12 barrels were chose that best represented the 2015
Moderate garnet color in the glass. Deep aromas of dark red cherry and berry with a bit of savory
herbs. An elegant, mid weighted style, offering the essence of well-ripened cherries and berries. Nicely
composed, with gentle tannins and a finish that impresses with its length. Both weight and weightlessness in
this wine that is still somewhat reserved and not as expressive as it probably will be.
2015 Nicolas-Jay Willamette Valley Pinot Noir
13.0% alc., pH 3.63, TA 0.56, 2,400 cases, $65. Released
April 2017. Fruit sourced from almost every AVA in the Willamette Valley. All vineyards are biodynamic, organic
and LIVE certified. Winemakers are Jean-Nicolas Méo and Tracy Kendall. Harvest Brix 22.6º.
color in the glass. A wine of both fruit and savory character offering aromas and flavors of black cherry, dark
red berry, spice and savory herbs. An easy going, mid weight style, that is somewhat expansive in the mouth,
finishing modestly. The tannins are relegated to the background making for a gentle mouth feel.