We really only had one full day in Willamette and hadn’t planned appropriately by calling ahead and reserving tastings. So, when we pulled up in front of the venerable Beaux Frères vineyard, I curled up in embarrassment in the front seat when Brian insisted on calling up, egged on by Michelle and Holly in the back seat to “Try, try, try!”
The three of them are so ‘half full’ – yin to my yang. And it’s a good thing they are because we got in. Not a recommended tactic for those like me who are faint of heart and wish to be respectful by calling ahead when a winery advertises itself as ‘by appointment only’. But it sure worked out this time.
What a great experience. Our Wine Guide, Anna was well spoken, well read, well versed and an absolute delight. Complemented by Earl the Dog and John-Lennon-lyric-singing Michael Etzel, winemaker and yes, brother-in-law (get it? Beaux Frères !) to US wine guru Robert Parker, the visit was as close to Oregon Pinot perfection as could have been aspired to.
The property, originally a pig farm, was purchased by Michael while on vacation in 1987 for a song for only $129,000. Down-to-earth, cool and funky, it has ended up producing world-renowned Pinot Noirs made in the Burgundian tradition. Great Anna quote, ‘There are no insipid wines here.’
Their first vintage was in 1992 and they currently make anywhere between 4-6000 cases a year on their biodynamically farmed land. Non-interventionist wines, unfined and unfiltered – all the chewy bits left in – the results are hailed around the world.
Yet for all this worldliness, they remain friendly and completely accessible. We enjoyed the house speciality- Pinot Noir.
We tasted the 2011 Willamette Valley Pinot Noir, the 2010 Beaux Frères Vineyard Pinot Noir (sour cherry and pine forest floor on this one made with the fruit from 25 yr old+ vines) as well as the 2009 version of the latter. Slightly savoury and herbal (dill and rosemary), this was full of earthy, red raspberries and silky tannins.
The 2008 vintage followed and we also tried the 2007. An austere vintage, no one expected much from this dark horse. But the high acid helped it age so well and it’s certainly showing now. Beautifully balanced with ‘unobtrusive’ tannins it showed raspberry, leaves, mushroom – and that was just on the nose.
Highly recommended. Make an appointment – go to Newberg, see the winery, meet Earl, Anna and Michael.
Enjoy the wine – and don’t spit.