In the June 15th issue of the Wine Spectator long-time reviewer of Oregon wines, Harvey Steiman, returned to the great 2008 vintage of Oregon Pinot Noir and concluded ten years on that the wines are even better than he thought when he originally reviewed the vintage. Among the boosts in ratings Mr. Steiman raised his rating of the 2008 Et Fille Kalita Vineyard Pinot Noir from a spectacular 92 to a stupendous 94. He also extended the drinking window to 2023. If you can find the 2008 Et Fille Kalita Pinot Noir put a few bottles away for 3-4 years.
On May 12th I had the pleasure of joining Jessica Mozeico of Et Fille Wines for a vertical tasting of Et Fille Kalita Vineyard Pinot Noir ranging from the 2004 to the 2014 vintage with Et Fille Wine Club members. The tasting was on the second anniversary of the Et Fille Tasting Room in Newberg where my wife and daughter’s design firm Common Bond Design assisted Jessica in the Room’s design.
It was fascinating to see and taste the evolution of the wines in both warm and cool vintages. It was hard to pick a favorite I was most pleasantly surprised with the 2007 Kalita, a vintage that has been overshadowed by the iconic 2008 vintage in Oregon. This is what Jessica had to say about the 2007 Et Fille Kalita when the wine was released.
"This year’s Kalita brings Clint Eastwood to mind…. You see its boldness at first, but it reveals complex depth over time. The dark blackberry color leads to a multi-dimensional flavor profile. The front palate is dominated by bright red fruit, while a depth follows of chocolate and caramel.”
As noted in the Wine Spectator Retrospective on the great 2008 vintage the Oregon Pinots are showing their “ageability.”The 2007 Et Fille Kalita Pinot still has a few years of life left.
The Willamette Valley Wineries Association held its third annual Pinot Noir Auction on April 6-7, 2018. Bruno Corneaux, Winemaker for Domaine Divio in the Ribbon Ridge AVA in Newberg, Oregon blended a special 2016 cuvee with whole cluster fermentation of 50% Pinot Noir from Kalita Vineyard and 50% from Hirshy Vineyard, a neighbor in the Yamhill-Carlton AVA. The fruit was harvested on September 17, 2016. Bruno selected small whole clusters (petits morillons) from each vineyard and blended them in a single French oak barrel for 16 months. The five cases of wine sold for $5,500, a very strong result for the first time that Domaine Divio has participated in the auction. Overall the 2018 Willamette Valley Auction raised a record $800,000.
Bruno Corneaux has worked for several years making wine with Pinot Noir from Kalita and Hirshy Vineyards at the Northwest Wine Company. In 2012 he created his own winery, Domaine Divio, in Ribbon Ridge. Divio refers to the ancient name of the town of Dijon, the capital of Burgundy where Bruno grew up. Bruno, a fourth generation Burgundian vintner, fell in love with Oregon while working in an internship at Domaine Drouhin in 1996.
This is not the first appearance by Kalita Vineyard Pinot Noir in the Willamette Valley Auction. In the 2016 event Big Table Farm, one of our clients since the 2014 vintage, made 5 cases of a special cuvee of 2014 Pinot Noir with fruit from Kalita, Bieze and Wirtz Vineyards. Kalita Vineyard fruit comprises 50% of the 2015 Big Table Farm Yamhill-Carlton Pinot Noir. Available now in the marketplace.
The trade-only auction honors the pioneering spirit of the Willamette Valley and, for two days, offers industry influencers a series of special tastings and gatherings, culminating in a live auction. All proceeds from the event support the marketing, branding and education efforts of the WILLAMETTE VALLEY WINERIES ASSOCIATION.
I had the opportunity over a two week period to taste a wide variety of Oregon Pinot Noir vintages. First up was the Northwest Wine Encounter at the Semiahmoo Resort in Washington State just over the border from Canada. It was a focused wine event with 80 or so enthusiasts in attendance and a small number of winemakers from Oregon, Washington and British Columbia pouring. I went because Consulting Winemaker Tony Rynders was pouring the 2014 Panther Creek Cellars Kalita Vineyard Pinot Noir. Since 2013 when the Bacchus Wine Fund acquired the iconic winery founded by Ken Wright in 1986 and Tony Rynders took over the winemaking duties, the Kalita Pinot Noir has become one of the featured single vineyard wines in the Panther Creek lineup.
The Northwest Wine Encounter was a real treat because we were joined by a few noted Washington winemakers pouring their wines made with Bourdeaux grape varietals – Chris Figgins of Leonetti Cellars, Chris Upchurch of De Lille Cellars and David Merfeld of Northstar Winery. The food and service at Semiahmoo were noteworthy as well.
During the next week I was able to stay at Kalita Vineyard where Bud Break had just occurred perhaps a week earlier. After three consecutive warm and early vintages, the 2017 vintage at this stage is tracking the glorious 2008 vintage. I was able to barrel taste the 2016 Kalita Vineyard Pinot Noir with several of our winemaker clients. These wines will be wonderful when bottled, approachable in their youth as well as age-worthy.
I also had the opportunity to taste for the first time since bottling the recently released 2013 Et Fille Kalita Vineyard Pinot Noir and the 2014 Van Duzer Kalita Vineyard Pinot Noir, each evocative of their vintages with the 2013 showing complex flavors and the 2014 bursting with the dark fruit flavors typical of the Kalita Vineyard Pinots in a warm vintage.
Sherry and Alex joined me in Oregon on May 7th. Just a year ago their New York firm Common Bond Design collaborated with Jessica Mozeico in the design of the new Et Fille Tasting Room in downtown Newberg. This May Sherry and Alex brought in a local photographer to shoot the Tasting Room for their portfolio prior to our trip to the Et Fille Vintner’s Weekend at the Triple Creek Ranch in Darby, Montana. And what a weekend we had. The Triple Creek Ranch was recently ranked #22 in the Travel + Leisure magazine’s list of the Top 100 hotels and resorts in the World.
Et Fille has been doing an annual Vintner’s Weekend at Triple Creek Ranch for many years and since this was our first opportunity to participate Jessica and Jeremy White, the TCR Sommelier, featured Et Fille Kalita Vineyard Pinot Noir from the 2005, 2010, 2011 and 2012 vintages along with several othert Et FillePinots from the 2012 and 2013 vintages. All beautifully complemented the meals turned out by the Triple Creek kitchen and Dining Room teams. The famed Bitterroot River, fueled by the mountain runoff, was too high for fly fishing but we did experience snowfall in the middle of May on two evenings.
During our travels we were in and out of Portland a few times, taking the opportunity to have some spectacular meals at Afuri, the first international outpost of the renowned Tokyo ramen house of the same name, Spanish restaurant Chesa - go there and have any dish done in the Josper charcoal oven - and old standby Tasty n Alder, which never fails to please with friendly service and the only secreto Iberico I have had in the USA.
In sum, we had quite sybaritic week of fine food and wine, sharing tastings and meals with good friends in the wine business, meeting interesting new people, celebrating Sherry’s birthday and Mother’s Day along the way.