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Two Hot Years for Shea Wine Cellars

Shea Vineyard dates to 1989, one of the first vineyards planted to Pinot Noir in the now esteemed viticultural area known as the Yamhill-Carlton District AVA of the Willamette Valley. Shea Vineyard is now surrounded by many premier Pinot Noir plantings including those of Willakenzie, Patricia Green, Penner-Ash and Beaux Freres. The vineyard today consists of 200 hillside acres of which 135 acres are planted to Pinot Noir and 5 acres to Chardonnay. The vineyard faces south and is divided into two hills, named East and West, separated by a valley containing native plants and trees. The soil found at Shea Vineyard is characterized by shallow sedimentary Willakenzie topsoil with underlying fractured sandstone subsoil. The Pinot Noir plantings are divided into 33 blocks, consisting of numbered blocks 2 to 14, 19 to 27, 30 to 33 and named blocks North, South, Oak Lane, Back, Dierdre’s (formerly 28 and 29), Michael’s (formerly 16) and The Terrace. See the map below for reference.

The original plantings of Pommard and Wädenswil clones were on their own roots and inevitably, phylloxera afflicted the vines and planned replanting progressed through 2005. The newer plantings include Dijon clones 114, 115, 777 and 828. Grapes from this distinguished site are highly sought after by many of Oregon’s top wineries. Since 1996, Dick Shea has had his own label, Shea Wine Cellars. There have been several different winemakers to date, but the wines have been consistently excellent displaying a dark red and black fruit character, earthiness and a substantial structure now recognized as typical for the Yamhill-Carlton district. The Shea Wine Cellars Pinot Noirs are designated as Estate ( a blend of several blocks), block-designates which vary from year to year, and a special reserve wine labeled “Homer.” Dick Shea is a baseball fan but in no way connected to Shea Stadium in New York. Dick’s spouse, Deirdre, often compares Dick to Homer Simpson so the name “Homer” has a dual meaning. This cuvée us from the best barrels in the cellar and is the most voluptuous of the lineup, needing several years to reach its prime drinking window.

I recently sampled Shea Wine Cellars Pinot Noirs from two very warm recent vintages in Oregon: 2003 and 2006. My reviews are very flattering and deservedly so. The 2003 vintage Pinot Noirs are not for the timid. They are all big wines, darkly colored and intensely flavored. Some wines show overripe fruit with port and prune features. The 2006 vintage is more appealing to me with better acidity and less roasted fruit flavors.

Shea Wine Cellars Pinot Noirs and Chardonnay are sold to an enthusiastic mailing list at www.sheawinecellars.com and a limited number of retailers including Avalon Wine in Corvallis (www.avalonwine.com). The winery and vineyard are not open to public. 503-241-6527.

2006 Shea Wine Cellars Shea Vineyard Willamette Valley Chardonnay

14.5% alc., 381 cases, $35. Shea Vineyard blocks 4, 21, and 31. Cropped at 2.19 tons per acre. Dijon 76, 548 and 95 clones. 100% barrel fermented, 100% MLF. Aged 10 months in 13% new and 87% previously filled Burgundian oak barrels. · This Chardonnay has the charm of a barrel fermented Chardonnay without the over-the-top oak and butter treatment. Delicate yellow color. Fresh and lively flavors of citrus fruits, pears and vanilla with an undercurrent of minerality and a refreshing finish that makes you want to reach for another sip.

2006 Shea Wine Cellars Estate Shea Vineyard Willamette Valley Pinot Noir

14.25% alc., 2,500 cases, $45. Fruit for this wine is sourced from the entire vineyard (blocks 5,7,13,19,20,21,22,23,24,25,28,29,32 and Oak) and includes several Dijon clones and Pommard and Wädenwsil clones. Cropped at 2.21 tons per acre. 4% whole cluster. Aged 10 months in 49% new and 51% previously filled Burgundian barrels. · A dark fruited wine showing black cherries and black raspberries with a subtle vein of oak, dry herbs and toast running through. Firm in structure, soft in texture with supple tannins. Not as interesting as the other 2006 Pinot Noirs but still very decent.

2006 Shea Wine Cellars East Hill Shea Vineyard Willamette Valley Pinot Noir

14.5% alc., 320 cases, $52. From block 7, , 13 and Oak. Cropped at 2.33 tons per acre. Clones are Wädenswil (25%)and Dijon 114, 115 and 777 (75%). 2% whole cluster with a high amount of whole berries. Aged 10 months in 63% new and 37% previously filled Burgundian oak barrels. · Assertive scents of red and black berries, spice, oak and a little good barnyard. Mouth-coating red and black fruits which fill the mid palate with pleasure. Thoroughly refreshing due to bright acidity and a touch of citrus zest on the persistent finish. Vivid, elegant and perfectly harmonious.

2006 Shea Wine Cellars Pommard Clone Shea Vineyard Willamette Valley Pinot Noir

14.75% alc., 246 cases, $52. Vineyard blocks 32, 33 and 34. Cropped at 2.04 tons per acre. 4% whole cluster. Aged 10 months in 55% new and 45% previously filled Burgundian oak barrels. · Dark red raspberries, herbs and a little barnyard on the slightly reserved nose. Rich deep red stone fruits are lushly flavored and lifted with oak spice. Velvety in the mouth with moderate wooly tannins and a dry finish. Very tasty.

2006 Shea Wine Cellars Wädenswil Clone Shea Vineyard Willamette Valley Pinot Noir

14.75% alc., 236 cases, $52.Shea Vineyard blocks 25, 28 and 29. Cropped at 1.98 tons per acre. 14% whole cluster. Aged 10 months in 43% new and 57% previously filled Burgundian oak barrels. · Brooding dark fruits on the nose annotated with dark chocolate, herbs and a whiff of heat. A big wine that is still somewhat closed with the fruit submerged in a prodigious structure. Noticeable roundness and a velvety mouth feel from the alcohol. Still has some tannins to shed. Hold on to this one for 3 to 5 years.

2006 Shea Wine Cellars Homer Shea Vineyard Willamette Valley Pinot Noir

14.75% alc., 253 cases, $75. Blocks 7, 32, 25, 28 and 24, Wädenswil and Pommard clones cropped at 2.17 tons per acre. 15% whole cluster with a high amount of whole berries. Aged in 82% new French oak. Ten of the finest barrels in the cellar. · Surprisingly forward for a Homer bottling. Lovely aromas of dark fruits with hints of floral perfume, roasted nuts, and oak. Red plums and dark berries are dense and plush on the palate. Very smooth with polished tannins. Remarkable lift of berry aromas on the lithe and endless finish. A Pinot to envy.

2003 Shea Wine Cellars Estate Shea Vineyard Willamette Valley Pinot Noir

14.8% alc.. · The aromas are ripe and fruity featuring black raspberries, black cherries, black currants with a slightly roasted or cooked profile. Dense and chewy dark fruits are almost Syrah-like. The texture is silky and the fuzzy tannins are soft and unobtrusive. A victim of the warm vintage.

2003 Shea Wine Cellars Block 23 Shea Vineyard Willamette Valley Pinot Noir

14.2% alc., 275 cases, $48. From 3.2 acres planted in 1990. Self-rooted, non-irrigated Pommard clone that is part of the original Shea Vineyard plantings. · The nose shows the typical “Sheaness” aromas of black cherries, violets and earthiness. Generous compliment of dark cherries and strawberries which persist on the endless finish. The texture is pure silk. Still showing plenty of dry tannins and will last several more years. Best wine of the 2003 lineup and much better than a bottle of the same wine tasted last year.

2003 Shea Wine Cellars Block 32 Shea Vineyard Willamette Valley Pinot Noir

14.8% alc., $48. Wädenswil clone from original plantings. · A stylish nose of black cherries, violets, earth, smoke and subtle oak. Tasty and lipsmacking black raspberry and blackberry fruit. Moderate tannins give the wine density.

2003 Shea Wine Cellars Homer Shea Vineyard Willamette Valley Pinot Noir

14.9% alc., 145 cases, $65. Composed of the finest barrels in the cellar. Dijon clone 115 and Wädenswil. · Reserved aromas of cherries and fresh berries with hints of herbs, oak and funk. Meaty fruit flavors are brooding. A touch of smoke and oak adds interest. Moderate tannins and a touch of heat surface at the close.

Just for the heck of it I blended the 2006 Pommard and 2006 Wädenswil Pinot Noirs in a 50/50 proportion. The result was quite appealing. Dark and fruity with some brown sugar notes, very smooth in texture with a clean finish. I preferred this over the Wädenswil clone bottled alone.

The 2007 vintage Shea Wine Cellars Pinot Noirs and Chardonnay have just been released. Autumn rains arrived early in 2007 but the grapes at Shea Vineyard ripen early and most of the fruit was ripe and picked before the onset of rain. In 2007 there are five Pinot Noirs: Estate ($45, 4,075 cases), East Hill ($55, 340 cases), Pommard Clone ($55, 290 cases), Block 33 (a new wine from Shea Wine Cellars, $64, 97 cases) and Homer ($82, 333 cases). The Chardonnay is sensibly priced ($35, 367 cases).

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