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Coeur de Terre Vineyard: 2015 Vintage Pinot Noirs Are My Favorites

Scott and Lisa Neal established the Coeur de Terre Vineyard from 1999 to 2007 in the Coast Range foothills of the McMinnville appellation west of the town of McMinnville. Coeur de Terre, which is French for “Heart of the Earth,” was inspired by a large heart-shaped rock found during planting of the vineyard. The 50-acre property includes a winery, tasting room and 23 acres planted primarily to Pinot Noir in both sedimentary and volcanic soils.

This is a winery to be admired for the Neals planted the vineyard themselves and have farmed the vineyard using organic and sustainable methods since its inception. Over 80,000 vines were hand grafted at the estate’s nursery and have been the parent material for all the vines after the initial Renelle’s Block planting. The clonal mix includes Dijon 115, 667, and 777, and Pommard, Wädenswil and field blend selections.

Scott’s focus is on Pinot Noir and produces a Willamette Valley Pinot Noir, and an Estate and four blockdesignated Estate Pinot Noirs from the home vineyard. Winemaking is traditional using small open-top fermenters, manual punch downs, using both indigenous and cultured yeast strains for fermentations. Aging is carried out in French oak barrels (about 40% for the Estate wines) for up to 18 months.

The block-designated Pinot Noirs all have distinct character due to differences in soil type, clones, elevation, exposure, and age of vines. The wines are all vinified the same to bring out the unique character of each block.

Pinot Gris, Riesling and a Rosé are also produced at attractive prices.

Tasting is available at the winery in McMinnville daily from 11 am to 5 pm. Many enthusiasts belong to one of the three Wine Clubs and receive special pricing, access to limited release wines and invitation to club only events. Jacques Rendu has been the long-time sales manager and tasting room host. Visit the website at

The 2015 vintage at Coeur de Terre was one of the hottest and driest on record, with warm days and cool nights. Bud break was early by about 2 weeks and the growing season preceded quickly. The warmth required the judicious use of irrigation, and combined with proper canopy management, harvest commenced at the end of September, early for this vineyard but only by 2 weeks.

The 2015 Pinot Noirs are my favorites over the ten years I have been tasting wines from Coeur de Terre. Winemaking is experienced and impeccable and the wines truly reflect McMinnville terroir. The wines have an earthy, brambly quality, with supportive tannins. I find then akin to “Burgundy” but possessing more flamboyant fruit. All the wines are approachable now but have the balance and structure to age beautifully. Each of the block bottlings have subtle differences.

2015 Coeur de Terre Willamette Valley Pinot Noir

13.8% alc., pH 3.64, TA 0.61, 2,588 cases, $22. Harvest Brix 22.8º-24.2º. 60% Estate Vineyard with the remaining mostly from the McMinnville AVA. Pommard, Wädenswil, 113, 114, 1215, 667, 777 and Coury clones. Both sedimentary and volcanic soils. · Moderately light garnet color in the glass. Spiced cherry and fertile earth aromas lead to a middleweight styled wine offering cherry, plum and spice flavors backed by spirited acidity. The lip-smacking finish has good length. Score: 89

2015 Coeur de Terre The Heritage Reserve Estate McMinnville Willamette Valley Pinot Noir

13.8% alc., pH 3.54, TA 0.68, 932 cases, $36. A barrel selection from the entire Estate Vineyard. Harvest Brix 23.6º. · Moderately dark garnet color in the glass Aromas of black cherry, blackberry jam, forest and woodpile lead off. Husky and lush, offering plenty of purple and black fruit goodness back by firm but not aggressive tannins. Striking length to the finish. This wine’s profile is true to its McMinnville AVA origin. Score: 92

2015 Coeur de Terre Renelle’s Block Reserve McMinnville Willamette Valley Pinot Noir

13.8% alc., pH 3.64, 109 cases, $65. Original vineyard block planted in 1999, farmed organically from inception. Harvest Brix 23.8º, 2.6 tons per acre. · Dark garnet color in the glass. A solid wine with nicely expressive aromas of dark cherry, wooded path and vanilla. The mid weight plus core of blackberry and black grape fruit flavors have a touch of spice and black tea. There is a little more barrel contribution in this wine that offers a deep persistence of black raspberry and blackberry fruit on the intense finish. Score: 92

2015 Coeur de Terre Tallulah’s Run Reserve McMinnville Willamette Valley Pinot Noir

13.7% alc., pH 3.69, 114 cases, $65. Harvest Brix 23.2º, 2.6 tons per acre. A South portion consists of clone 115 planted in sedimentary soils and a North section contains mainly clones 667 and 777 in both volcanic and sedimentary soils. Planted in 2004 at 1,778 vines per acre. · A complex nose offers aromas of black cherry, black raspberry, earth, pipe smoke, old leather and oak spice. The black cherry fruit fills the mouth with overreaching intensity. Hints of earth, pine needle and citrus contribute complexity. Integrated tannins and some finishing presence complete the pleasure. Score: 93

2015 Coeur de Terre Sarah Jane’s Block Reserve McMinnville Willamette Valley Pinot Noir

13.9% alc., pH 3.67, 91 cases, $65. Six clones planted in 2000 in Willakenzie sedimentary soils and farmed organically since inception. Harvest Brix 23.7º, 2.4 tons per acre. · Moderately dark garnet color in the glass. Tenacious aromas of blackberry, black cherry, wet soil and char. A big boy wine in a mid weight plus style, offering a flood of intense and succulent black fruits with striking presence in the mouth and with uncommon finishing generosity. The tannins are perfectly matched to the fruit load, contributing a slight astringency to the finish. I love the fruit in this wine! Score: 94

2015 Coeur de Terre Abby’s Block Reserve McMinnville Willamette Valley Pinot Noir

13.8% alc., pH 3.67, 98 cases, $65. Clones are from a selection of vines in the Estate Vineyard and farmed organically since inception. Complex sedimentary based soils. Harvest Brix 22.9º, 2.5 tons per acre. · Moderately dark garnet color in the glass. A nuanced nose offers aromas of darker cherry, Asian spices, mushroom, underbrush and earth. The best nose in the 2015 lineup. A little lighter in weight with redder fruit compared to the Sarah Jane’s Block, featuring cherry and raspberry fruit flavors. This wine does not have quite the finish of the Sarah Jane’s Block, but has more elegance and charm. Different, but in a good way. Score: 94

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