Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Our Oregon trip: The Beaux Frères Vineyard

In 1986 while on vacation from Colorado, Michael Etzel found an 88-acre pig farm for sale in Yamhill County, Oregon. The place looked like a promising vineyard site so he decided to purchase it with the help of his brother-in-law, Robert Parker, Jr. The following summer, he moved to the farm with his family and became a vineyard manager, planting Pinot Noir and slowly converting the old pig and dairy farm into a prime vineyard property. Eventually, The Beaux Frères Vineyard (which means brothers-in-law in French) was established in 1991 thanks to the addition of a third partner, Robert Roy.

Michael Etzel's winemaking philosophy is to follow a minimal intervention approach using small yields and healthy fruit. The vineyard is planted with tightly spaced vines to keep yields low. The grapes are harvested when they have reached physiological maturity. The fermentation occurs with indigenous yeasts. The wines are aged in French oak for 10 to 12 months and the percentage of new oak utilized is based on the strength and concentration of the vintage.

The Beaux Frères Winery

Replanting in the vineyard due to Phylloxera damage

When we arrived at Beaux Frères, we were welcomed by Rebekah Bellingham in charge of the tasting room and the winery tours. It was very nice of her to take us on such short notice. Here is what she had available for tasting:

Rebekah Bellingham at Beaux Frères

The wines we tasted

2007 Beaux Frères Pinot Noir Willamette Valley: formerly known as the Beaux Frères Belles Soeurs Pinot Noir, this is a blend of fruit from different vineyards. Less new oak is used than for the Estate Cuvées. My notes: light red color, fragrant nose with notes of citrus, medium-bodied and round on the palate, well-balanced.

2008 Beaux Frères Pinot Noir Willamette Valley: while the 2007 vintage was characterized by moderate temperatures during the summer and rain storms during the last few weeks of the vintage, 2008 was on average warmer, with a cool summer followed by hot days and cold nights in September. My notes: more sweet cherry aromas, fuller with more power but less refined than the 2007.

2007 Beaux Frères Pinot Noir The Beaux Frères Vineyard: the vines of the 22 acre Beaux Frères Estate Vineyard were planted between 1987 and 1990. The vineyard is a mix of Pommard and Wadenswil clones. Although it is not certified as either organic or biodynamic, it is being farmed using biodynamic principles. My notes: medium red color, a hint of fruit but mostly spices, black pepper, rich and full on the palate, young.

2007 Beaux Frères Pinot Noir The Upper Terrace Vineyard: the Upper Terrace is made from a ten acre vineyard purchased in the late 90's. The site is similar to the Beaux Frères Vineyard in elevation and its sedimentary soils. It is surrounded on all sides by a forest of old fir trees. Eight of the ten acres are currently planted to Dijon clones, as compared to the Estate Vineyard, which is planted to Pommard and Wadenswil clones. It is farmed using the same sustainable principles as the Beaux Frères Vineyard. My notes: still tight and young, concentrated, earthy, licorice aromas, very long finish. This is a wine that should age beautifully.

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