Willamette Valley

Range and Refinement: Pinot Noir from Eyrie, Montinore and Teutonic
Willamette Valley

Pristine Pinot is the appetiser for a series of irresistible US offers covering West Coast trailblazers from Santa Barbara in the Central Coast up through Napa and Sonoma and into today's star: Oregon.

The Eyrie Vineyards is the alpha and omega of Oregon, the pioneer that put Willamette Valley on the map and continues to set the pace. The torch lit by David Lett almost 60 years ago burned bright enough to draw Burgundy vignerons to the area—and, naturally, fired the imagination of his compatriots, too. The Willamette continues to be a beacon of structured, nuanced Pinot Noir—and, as this offering proves, this region has range as well as refinement.

Astute, adept and utterly attuned to his vines, Jason Lett has made following in his father’s footsteps look like a walk in the park. From 2021, we offer the estate Pinot Noir that unites Eyrie’s suite of five sites. Alongside this are single-site wines ripened in the Burgundy-like autumn of 2019. These come from the foundational Eyrie Vineyard and the family’s highest site, Daphne. All three of these Eyrie Pinots are limited, so don't delay if you're interested.

Montinore Estate is a biodynamic pioneer firing on all cylinders. Rudy Marchesi planted the original estate vineyard in 1982 in what is now known as the Tualatin Hills, a relatively young AVA nestled in the east-facing foothills of Oregon’s Coast Range. In 2001, Marchesi bought another vineyard on marine origin soils on the western edge of the Yamhill-Carlton AVA. His gut feeling that this slope would grow brilliant Pinot Noir has proved spot-on—not a year after the purchase, Burgundy giant Louis Jadot moved in next door. The vibrant, brooding 2020 Red Cap brings together both sites, while the 2019 Estate wine expresses the best Tualatin Hills fruit and a cool, classic Oregon season.

The third piece of the puzzle comes at Pinot from a different angle. Teutonic’s Barnaby and Olga Tuttle draw inspiration not from Eyrie, nor even Gevrey, but from the lively, mineral wines of the Mosel and Alsace. The Tuttles planted their first vines on Alsea Vineyard in 2005, just outside the Willamette Valley AVA. Situated on the western flank of the Coast Range just 30 kilometres from the ocean, Alsea sets the tone for the Teutonic experience. The wines are crafted from old, dry-farmed vineyards in Oregon’s coolest and highest places. The other wine here, Bergspitze (meaning mountain top), was grown atop Bald Peak—Willamette’s highest at 381 metres—where slow-ripening and longer hang time provide the intense fruit with high acidity that forms the blueprint of Teutonic’s taut, pure, crystalline style.

The Wines

Montinore Estate Red Cap Pinot Noir 2020
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Montinore Estate Red Cap Pinot Noir 2020

Certified sustainable by LIVE. The 2020 season at Montinore was a game of two halves: at times challenging, at others ideal. After 18 years at the estate, winemaker Stephen Webber is well placed to roll with the punches and navigated the vagaries of the vintage (dry weather, meagre yields and a warm summer) with relative ease, turning out concentrated, complex and delicious wines.

The lion’s share (75%) of Montinore’s entry-level Pinot is drawn from their dry-farmed estate vines, with the balance coming from their sustainably farmed Tidalstar vineyard in the Yamhill-Carlton AVA to the south. Tidalstar, with its warmer microclimate and volcanic soils, brings juicy fruit weight to the perfumed, bright, silky Pinot from the home site. It’s a blend to enjoy from the word go. In the cellar, the fruit is destemmed and fermented in small, open-top steel vessels and matured in a mixture of stainless steel and French and Hungarian oak (20% new) for 10 months before bottling.

It's a bright, fruit-forward Pinot Noir, with the signature Montinore structure and brooding depth found throughout. Bursting with flavour, structure and energy, it’s an absolute cracker when considering the price.

“Notes of ripe cherries and dried cranberries with hints of toasted cloves and chocolate. Some ashes, too. Medium-bodied with juicy crunchiness and chalky tannin structure. Vivid acidity with fresh sour cherries at the end. Drink now. Screw cap.”
92 points, James Suckling, jamessuckling.com
Montinore Estate Red Cap Pinot Noir 2020
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Montinore Estate Reserve Pinot Noir 2019
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Montinore Estate Reserve Pinot Noir 2019

The Reserve Pinot Noir is one of the estate’s flagship wines: an expression of the season and its best Pinot fruit. In 2019, three clones (Dijon, Pommard and Wadenswil) from four of the vineyard’s most prized blocks made the cut. Each block was destemmed and fermented separately in small open-top steel vessels to ensure full expression of clone and terroir. The final blend was assembled after maturation, which took place in French barriques (38% new) for 10 months.

The 2019 season was a challenging but classic Oregon vintage: cool, fresh and long, with mild spring conditions followed by a warm summer that finished quite crisp. This resulted in intensely concentrated Pinot Noir berries with lovely natural acidity and structural frame. In the words of winemaker Stephen Webber: “¬The 2019 Reserve Pinot Noir is a great representation of the best of the vineyard and a reflection of a delightful vintage.” As with the previous release, this gets better with air, so don’t be afraid to decant and allow this deep, brooding and complex Pinot Noir to unfurl in the glass.

“Dark plums, blueberries, crushed stones, cloves and chocolate orange on the nose. Tangy and chewy, with a medium body and tight, slightly dry tannins. Spicy finish. From biodynamically grown grapes with Demeter certification.”
91 points, James Suckling, jamessuckling.com
“A handsome Pinot, with generous cherry and cranberry flavors that mingle with green tea and savory spices. Ends with refined tannins. Drink now through 2029.”
91 points, Tim Fish, Wine Spectator
Montinore Estate Reserve Pinot Noir 2019
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Teutonic Bergspitze Pinot Noir 2021
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Teutonic Bergspitze Pinot Noir 2021

Bald Peak in the Chehalem Mountains sub-AVA is the Willamette Valley’s highest point. The Laurel Vineyard sits atop Bald Peak at a lofty 381 metres and was originally planted to Pinot Noir in 1981 by owner John Albin for use in his sparkling and rosé programme. When Barnaby Tuttle first approached John to purchase fruit to make the first Bergspitze (mountaintop in German) Pinot Noir in 2009, many considered it a foolish endeavour. Surely the site was too cool and the fruit too lean? Again, Barnaby proved his detractors wrong, crafting an elegant and ethereal Pinot Noir that instantly made waves in the restaurant scene and quickly sold out. In Barney’s words: “It went viral”.

It wasn’t just the lofty elevation that drew Barnaby to the Laurel vineyard. The Pinot Noir clone is the Alsatian Coury, brought to the region from Alsace in a suitcase by Charles Coury in 1965. The soils are loamy and volcanic, rich in nutrients and with a unique ability to regulate temperature. The site is dry-farmed and managed organically.

As is the norm at Teutonic, the fruit was left on the vine for as long as possible before being handpicked, sorted, destemmed and fermented in open-top vessels using a pied de cuve started in the vineyard. After three weeks with daily punch-downs, the wine was pressed and settled before going to old barrels for maturation. Sitting at a subtle and restrained 12%, the 2021 bursts with bright fruits and elegant, ageworthy structure.

Teutonic Bergspitze Pinot Noir 2021
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Teutonic Alsea Vineyard Pinot Noir 2016
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Teutonic Alsea Vineyard Pinot Noir 2016

The Alsea Vineyard is the only coastal vineyard in the northern Willamette Valley. When Barnaby and Olga Tuttle first planted the site in 2005 on their friend's farm, it was met with a good deal of scepticism. Unlike most vineyards in the nearby Willamette Valley (this vineyard lies just outside the AVA’s border), Alsea is on the western flank of the Coast Mountain Range, just 30 kilometres from the ocean. Consequently, it is cooler and wetter than those sites on the eastern side of the range, and for those reasons, most thought it unsuitable for growing grapes. The Tuttles succeeded and have been crafting cool, refined, complex Pinot Noir from this site for 15 years.

Alsea is home to Bellpine soils—a variant of the famous Jory soils found in the Willamette Valley— which, coupled with the rainfall levels, facilitate dry farming. No chemicals are used; farming is organic, and the Tuttles use cover crops and seed balls that act as natural fertilisers for the soil. They also keep bees but don’t harvest the honey.

The 2016 vintage saw a return to more classic conditions after the three preceding warm years. As is the norm at Teutonic, the fruit was left on the vine for as long as possible before being handpicked, sorted, mostly destemmed and fermented in open-top vessels using a pied de cuve started in the vineyard. After three weeks, the wine is pressed and settled before going to old barrels for maturation.

As with all the Teutonic wines, Alsea Pinot Noir is built to last, and we’re pleased to be able to offer some bottle-aged examples from this unique spot. Perhaps Neal Martin summed it up best: “The Pinot Noir from the Alsea Vineyard is certainly great terroir, and a vertical demonstrated its propensity to hit a sweet spot 5-6 years after bottling.” 

Teutonic Alsea Vineyard Pinot Noir 2016
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The Eyrie Vineyards Pinot Noir 2021
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The Eyrie Vineyards Pinot Noir 2021

The estate Pinot Noir combines fruit from Eyrie’s five estate vineyards: Sisters, Outcrop, Roland Green, The Eyrie and Daphne. All five sites are in the Dundee Hills AVA at various elevations, ranging from Sisters at 67 metres to Daphne at 260 metres. As you go higher, three things change: the soils get less sedimentary and more volcanic; it gets colder; and it gets windier. So, the Estate Pinot Noir from Eyrie is a great representation of the Dundee Hills AVA through the delicate, perfumed Eyrie lens.

All five sites are farmed organically. The team practises no-till farming and uses no insecticides, herbicides, fertilisers, cover crops or composts. It has been done this way since David Lett established Eyrie Vineyards in 1965, and little (if anything) has changed. The result is some of the state's healthiest, most diverse and organically rich soils.

The 2021 season was warm, with long, dry periods punctuated by short spells of rain. The summer was warm but brought into balance by a cool close to the season in September and October. Chilly nights preserved acid freshness throughout, something Eyrie values deeply. Handpicked fruit was destemmed and fermented naturally in small fermenters ranging from one-tonne bins to five-tonne wooden cuves. Ferments were hand-plunged twice daily before being lightly pressed and aged in primarily old oak (just 8% was new) for 15 months.

“The medium ruby 2021 Pinot Noir Estate is fresh with aromas of wild strawberries, fresh roses, and beet root. Medium-bodied and elegant, it floats across the palate with fine tannins and a delicately earthy finish. It’s a killer value and a great snapshot of what Eyrie is all about. It is hands down one of the best entry level Pinot Noir with a clear vision of what you can expect further in the range.”
93 points, jebdunnuck.com
The Eyrie Vineyards Pinot Noir 2021
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The Eyrie Vineyards The Eyrie Pinot Noir 2019
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The Eyrie Vineyards The Eyrie Pinot Noir 2019

The Eyrie Vineyard is home to the original Pinot Noir vines planted in the Willamette Valley by Eyrie founder David Lett back in 1965. It is also home to the hawks that inspired the name of the estate—an eyrie is a bird of prey’s nest—and that grace the label of each wine. The seven-acre site is home to three clones (Wadenswil, Pommard and Upright) of own-rooted Pinot Noir vines, planted between 1965 and 1974. The sloping site faces south, rolling east to west and rising to 125 metres at its highest point. Like the other sites in the Eyrie stable, this vineyard is farmed organically and regeneratively to ensure a healthy network of soil organisms to support the wizened vines.

The Eyrie Pinot Noir is one of five identically produced wines from Eyrie’s vineyards. The collection represents a fascinating journey from 67 metres (Sisters Vineyard) to 260 metres’ (Daphne Vineyard) elevation in the Dundee hills, viewed through the Eyrie lens. Jason Lett describes the 2019 autumn as one of the most Burgundian he has ever seen in the Valley, meaning the rain and cooler days that usually occur in the winter arrived earlier and were more evenly spread. It was a moderate season with good acid retention across the board, something Eyrie values deeply. Handpicked fruit was destemmed and fermented naturally in small open-top, 11-hectolitre fermenters. Ferments were hand-plunged twice daily before being lightly pressed and aged in primarily old oak (12% new) barrique and foudre for 23 months.

“The 2019 Pinot Noir The Eyrie, which includes fruit from 54-year-old vines, has alluring aromas of cranberries, blackberries, orange peel, mushroom powder and pipe tobacco with streaks of flint. The medium-bodied palate is soft and juicy yet loaded with detailed, concentrated fruit, and it finishes with a flourish of earthy, spicy accents.”
98 points, Erin Brooks, The Wine Advocate
The Eyrie Vineyards The Eyrie Pinot Noir 2019
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The Eyrie Vineyards Daphne Vineyard Pinot Noir 2019
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The Eyrie Vineyards Daphne Vineyard Pinot Noir 2019

Daphne Vineyard is the Eyrie estate’s highest, located at the top of the hill and reaching 262 metres at its highest point. Planted in 1974 to the Pommard clone, it’s home to just 0.6 hectares of Pinot Noir vines and produces intensely favoured wines from low yields of tiny bunches. Its location at the crest of a hill means its soils are very shallow, averaging less than ten inches of topsoils above large stone boulders.

Daphne Vineyard Pinot Noir is one of five identically produced wines from Eyrie’s vineyards. The collection represents a fascinating journey from 67 metres (Sisters Vineyard) to 260 metres’ (Daphne Vineyard) elevation in the Dundee hills, viewed through the Eyrie lens. Jason Lett describes the 2019 autumn as one of the most Burgundian he has ever seen in the Valley, meaning the rain and cooler days that usually occur in the winter arrived earlier and were more evenly spread. It was a moderate season with good acid retention across the board, something Eyrie values deeply. Handpicked fruit was destemmed and fermented naturally in small open-top, 11-hectolitre fermenters. Ferments were hand-plunged twice daily before being lightly pressed and aged in primarily old oak (12% new) barrique and foudre for 23 months.

“The 2019 Pinot Noir Daphne is juicy, highly aromatic and irresistible! Medium ruby, it has pure scents of raspberry and strawberry preserves, tangerine peel, Earl Grey tea leaves, star anise and tar. Light-bodied with powdery tannins and fireworks of fresh acidity, it features perfumed, crunchy red fruit and detailed floral and spice accents that fan across the finish.”
97 points, Erin Brooks, The Wine Advocate
The Eyrie Vineyards Daphne Vineyard Pinot Noir 2019
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