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Lenné Estate: Hard Work Pays Off

Steve and Karen Lutz, along with a group of investors (HLC Wines LLC) launched Lenné Estate in 2002, dedicated to producing ultra premium Pinot Noir from a 20.9-acre vineyard near the town of Yamhill, Oregon. The site is on low vigor sedimentary and volcanic soils and has many famous neighboring estates such as WillaKenzie, Shea Wine Cellars & Vineyard, Soléna, Soter and Beaux Fréres. Steve and another partner, Scott Huffman, had worked together at Anne Amie and searched for the perfect site since 1999. Together they laid out the vineyard and planted the first 10 acres of Pinot Noir (Dijon 115, 777 and Pommard) in 2001.

Establishing the vineyard presented several challenges. The soils are "crappy" according to Steve. When you dig into the soil, you encounter shale and sandstone at about one foot. In places Steve had to break up the topsoil with a rock bar to give the roots a better chance to reach the clay beneath. The vines were dry-farmed from the start. The steepness of the site made farming difficult. 35% of the vines were lost in the first year and in 2003, an additional 2.5-acre block of Pommard succumbed to the record heat of that year. In 2004 and 2005, the Pommard block was replanted along with an additional 2.5-acre block of Dijon 114 and 667. As we walked the vineyard together, I could sense in Steve the dedication and hard work that had driven him to create this magnificent site for Pinot Noir. The payoff for Steve and his partners has come with the Pinot Noir wines springing from Lenné Estate, which are among the finest I have had from the Yamhill-Carlton district.

The name, Lenné, sounds French, but is derived from Steve’s father-in-law, Len, who raised his family, including Steve’s spouse Karen, on a chicken farm west of London, England. Len passed away in 1999, but he contributed part of the down payment on the vineyard so it seemed only natural to honor him. The first two vintages of Lenné Estate Pinot Noir were released under the LeNez label (also pronounced “Lenay”), and in 2006, the Lenné Estate label was added. The wines under the Lenné Estate label represent the best barrels from the vineyard in each vintage.

Steve struck up a relationship with noted Oregon vintner, David O’Reilly, and the Lenné Estate wines are produced in collaboration with O’Reilly at Owen Roe. At some point, Steve hopes to have a winery on site where the current tasting room sits (pictured above). Winemaking proceeds with as little oxidation as possible. At most, 30% new French oak is used (20%-25% in 2007). Certain special barrels, chosen for their mid-palate and finish are used for the Lenné Estate Pinot Noirs. Some clones stand out in certain vintages and they are bottled as clone-designated Pinot Noirs. The wines are unfined and unfiltered as a rule. A saigneé Rosé was made in 2008 (55 cases).

Some grapes are sold to Owen Roe but more are being retained for the Lenné Estate wines with each vintage. Production in 2008 was 1,300 cases and in 09 is projected to be 1,500 cases. Projected maximum production from the estate will be 2,000 cases annually.

When I visited Steve before the 2009 IPNC, we tasted through the lineup of 2007 Lenné Estate Pinot Noirs which were released in January 2009. I previously reviewed these wines and the 2006 vintage wines in the PinotFile, but will include my tasting notes below from July 2009 as well. 2007 was a challenging vintage that forced Steve to ride out some rain before picking, but the steep, windy and warm sites like Lenné Estate performed well in 2007. I also tasted the 2008 Lenné Estate Pommard Pinot Noir. Steve is thrilled with the 2008 vintage wines which sport “mouthwatering acidity, deep color, and well-developed skin and seed tannins.” He said that yields were generous in 2008 leading to well-structured, long-lived wines.

2008 Lenné Estate Pommard Clone Yamhill-Carlton District Willamette Valley Pinot Noir

Still brooding with a prodigious tannic core surrounding layers of bright Pinot fruit. Not as appealing as the 2007 wines at this stage, but this will be a profound wine in a few years.

2007 LeNez Willamette Valley Pinot Noir

14.0% alc., $30. Contains each of the five clones of Pinot Noir grown on the estate vineyard. · Charming and highly approachable red-fruited wine that is fresh and vibrant with supple tannins.

2007 Lenné Estate Yamhill-Carlton District Willamette Valley Pinot Noir

14.0% alc., $45. · Nicely scented nose featuring well-spiced cherries and violets. Mid-palate fruit intensity and tenacious persistence on the finish stand out in this lovely wine. Outstanding.

2007 Lenné Estate Karen’s Pommard Yamhill-Carlton District Willamette Valley Pinot Noir

14.0% alc., 73 cases, $55. · Darkly colored and flavored, sporting red plums, black cherries and an appealing earthiness. Ripe tannins indicate age ability. A dancing Pinot with a creamy, sexy quality.

2007 Lenné Estate Jill’s 115 Yamhill-Carlton District Willamette Valley Pinot Noir

14.0% alc., 49 cases, $68. The two best barrels in the cellar of 115 clone. · Dreamy aromatics that keep on coming over time in the glass. Berry, cherry, and currant scents echoed on the palate with added hints of cola, mocha and brown spice. The tannins are supple, the texture is silky and everything is working in harmony. Potent for a 2007 Oregon Pinot Noir. I am not usually a fan of single clone Pinot Noirs but this one is a complete wine.

Lenné Estate is an exemplary producer of fine Yamhill-Carlton District Pinot Noir. You can taste the heart and sole of Steve and his crew in every bottle. The wines from this special vineyard seem to speak to me and I have quickly become a fan. Get on board through the mailing list, or buy the wines offered on the website ( and through the quaint tasting room (pictured below with Steve) at 18760 NE Laughlin Road in Yamhill. The tasting room is open from 12:00 to 5:00 on weekends or by appointment (503-956-2256). There may be an investment opportunity at Lenné Estate which would allow the investor-partner to enjoy the property and participate closely in brand development (contact Steve at

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