Posts Tagged ‘pinot noir’

When we planted it in 1979, the Southeast Block looked just like the other two Pinot blocks planted that year on the newly cleared east side of our vineyard, with cuttings from Dick Erath’s Pommard clone Pinot noir stuck directly into the ground without benefit of phylloxera-resistant rootstock.

But soon after these three look-alike Pinot blocks started producing fruit, differences in their soil depth began to assert themselves. The South Block was always a bit overly vigorous; the Flat Block was always a bit weak.  The Southeast Block was always Just Right, and was clearly destined to be Goldilocks’ favorite.

To top it off, in 1998 the famous French geologist Yves Herody, consultant to many of Burgundy’s biodynamic vignerons, declared that our Southeast Block was created by a different geological event than the blocks next to it, giving its parent rock a Unique Mineral Content.  By then it had already become our glory hog.

During the ‘80’s, when we were still selling most of our fruit to other wineries, the Southeast Block was the Chosen Block of Domaine Drouhin Oregon.  After 1991, when we started bottling our own Southeast Block designated wine, it regularly got the highest score of all our Pinots.  It was almost always our Featured Wine at the International Pinot Noir Celebration.  It usually provided our Chosen Barrel for the ¡Salud! auction.

Always a prima donna, unwilling to share the spotlight, the SEB has never been a component in our Casteel Reserve.

In 2006 the Southeast Block was the Chosen Block for the Cellar Crawl Collection, a “best block” fruit trade experiment between Bethel Heights, Penner-Ash, Ken Wright, Cristom and Solena.

This year the 2008 Southeast Block was selected as the only Oregon Pinot for the inspiring wine list at Boston’s new Legal Harborside Restaurant, a collection of only 50 wines from around the world “whose personality originates from an individual place, wine whose identity reflects a single family’s connection to the particular parcel of earth that it tends.”

As Ben described it for the Harborside Collection, “The roots of these own-rooted vines have grown down and explored our rocky volcanic soil for over thirty years, and in doing so have produced wines that are defined far more by their place, than by vintage or by the hand of the winemaker.  Since my father first started bottling wines from the Southeast Block as single-block designates in 1991, this block has given us wines with a firm backbone combined with robust savory fruit and a deep minerality that is unique to this place.”

The Southeast Block is thirty-two years old this year. There are signs that phylloxera has finally discovered its unprotected roots, but Mimi’s worm tea is being liberally applied to boost its immune system, and we believe its best years may still be ahead.  Certainly the 2007 and 2008 Southeast Block Pinots are two of the most glorious and ageworthy wines we have ever produced.

If the Southeast Block were a person, who would it be?

Ted:  Spencer Tracy or Humphrey Bogart  (a bit rough on the outside, but solid intellect and sweet heart on the inside)

Mimi:  Robert Redford (good when young, great when old)

Ben:  Paul Newman (better than Redford, same reasons)

Kate:  Katherine Hepburn

Mimi:  SEB can’t be a woman, but if it were, it would be Katherine Hepburn

Pat:  Sean Connery (tough but smooth, becoming more interesting with age)

Mimi:  Not Sean Connery.  SEB can’t have an accent.

Terry:  Jamie Tombaugh (because if the SEB has anything, it has character)

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Terry was recognized as Legacy Winemaker of the year at the ¡Salud! Pinot Noir Auction on Saturday, for his many contributions to the work of ¡Salud! and to Oregon wine over the years. He received a standing ovation for the thoughts he shared when he stood up to acknowledge the honor.

“As Oregon Pinot noir has grown in stature and reputation, it has been built by growers and winemakers who trust this place to be the right place; who have learned from the land how it needs to be farmed; and from the grape how it needs to be treated and respected in the winery so when it finally goes to bottle, it is an honest reflection of vintage and place.  Pinot noir is a creature of place.  It teaches us lessons, lessons about respecting differences, about putting differences at the very center of our values, of not giving in to the late night temptation to bury our mistakes in the big tank around the corner, and standing strong against the temptation to lose the unique and special offering of the land in “essence of oak” or over-extraction. The winemakers who follow that broader path are not trusting the wine to tell its own story.  It is a uniquely Oregon story, rooted here, not transferable to any other place.

“My hope for my sons’ generation is that they will continue to celebrate the differences, take heart in each other’s triumphs and support each other when they inevitably fall short of the mark; that they will continue to relish a healthy competition that forces us all to get better, but never forget that it was the spirit of cooperation and shared vision and purpose that won us a place at the world’s wine table.”


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Seeking more sustainable packaging, Mimi came up with kegs!  3 Doors Down in Portland, a pioneer of kegged wine-by-the-glass, is now pouring Bethel Heights 2009 Estate Grown Pinot Noir (our Black Label Pinot) from a 5-gallon keg instead of from bottles, saving everyone a whole lot of money and a whole lot of carbon footprint.

But, how do you “bottle” wine in a keg?  Not something we’ve done before at Bethel Heights.  Fortunately, Mimi’s husband, Ciderman Nick Gunn, has plenty of kegging experience, with his Anthem Cider on tap in pubs around the country these days.  No problem!

When you’re in Portland, drop into 3 Doors Down and check it out – a preview of our beautiful and bountiful 2009 vintage, and a preview of the wine packaging of the future, perhaps.

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It was a long day yesterday!  28 tons of Pinot noir picked by early afternoon; sorting and destemming went on until long after sunset.  Back at it at daybreak today.  Ted wants to get all the Pinot picked this week, with rain on the horizon for Friday.  The fruit looks lovely and tastes great, with brix coming in around 22 average on all the lots picked yesterday.

Marilyn’s traditional first lunch of the crush:  Mulligatawny Soup!

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Nice 5-star send-off yesterday from Nick Passmore for our 2008 “black label” Estate Pinot Noir – currently shipping to our distributors around the country.  May be our first time featured on a “podcast,” what a kick.

Meanwhile seriously enjoying this wine at home – with beautiful sunsets and the sounds of crickets and grapes ripening on the vines…

Come and join us for a taste at the winery while this gorgeous Indian Summer lingers on!

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Our good friend Steve and his brother-in-law Steve enjoyed a leisurely afternoon on our deck yesterday with a bottle of the 2008 West Block Pinot Noir and  our new snack plate.

Good idea to decant that West Block – it’s a big wine anxious to escape confinement!

Hmm, escape confinement….

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