Lenné Estate: 2008s are Best Ever
After this year’s IPNC, I made my annual trip to the Yamhill-Carlton District of the Willamette Valley and met up
with winegrower Steve Lutz at Lenné Estate. Steve has a special south-facing site on low vigor sedimentary
and volcanic soils in a good neighborhood just east of the town of Yamhill that also includes WillaKenzie
Estate, Shea Vineyard, Soléna and Grand Cru Estates, Soter and Beaux Freres. I discovered Steve’s
excellent Pinot Noirs beginning with the 2006 vintage and have been a fan ever since.
Steve and a group of investors began dense planting of Pinot Noir clones 115 and 777 and Pommard in their
20.9-acre vineyard in 2001 and launched Lenné Estate wines in 2002. Establishing the vineyard presented
many challenges in part due to the steepness of the site and Steve’s insistence on dry farming, but he has
persevered. Clones 114 and 667 were added in 2004-2005.
The name, Lenné, pronounced “Lenay,” is a French adaptation of the name of Steve’s father-in-law, Len, who
raised his family, including Steve’s spouse, Karen, on a chicken farm west of London, England. Len passed
away in 1999, but he contributed part of the down payment on the vineyard, so it seemed only right to honor
him. The Lenné Estate value bottling, Le Nez, features a side portrait of Len’s schnoz on the label and a
silhouette of him appears on the Lenné Estate label. The first two vintages of Pinot Noir were released under
the Le Nez label and the Lenné Estate label was added in 2006. The wines under the Lenné Estate label
represent the best barrels from the vineyard in each vintage. Some clones stand out in certain vintages and
they are bottled as clone-designated Lenné Estate Pinot Noirs.
Lenné Estate wines are produced in collaboration with noted Oregon vintner, David O’Reilly. Some grapes are
sold to O’Reilly’s own label, Owen Roe, but more are being retained for the Lenné estate wines. Production in
2008 was 1,300 cases. The wines are largely sold through a mailing list and at the quaint hilltop tasting room
which is open on weekends or by appointment (503-956-2256). I tasted through the 2008 Lenné Pinot Noirs
while sitting on the scenic tasting room deck (see photo below), as well as a few weeks later at my home.
Steve told me the wines will not be drinking well until mid to late fall which is typical of many 2008 Oregon Pinot
Noirs. The 2008 growing season was ideal at Lenné Estate, with perfect fruit set resulting in small, thick skinned
berries. Cool weather prevailed with no rain. The resulting alcohols are all 14.0% at most. Steve
finds consistent flavors of wild cherries, pomegranate, and mocha from his vineyard. The 2009 vintage will be
more approachable early but will not be as long lived. I enjoyed tasting the wines now, but agree that the
aromas and flavors are slow to come around, the impressive tannin structures need time to mellow, and the
wines are best left in the cellar for another 6 to 12 months. All wines are unfined and unfiltered.
The 2008 Le Nez Pinot Noir and 2008 Lenné Estate Sad Jack have been released and the remainder of the
lineup will be offered by September 1, 2010.
2008 Le Nez Willamette Valley Pinot Noir
14.0% alc., $30. All
clones in the vineyard but primarily 777. The “infant” wine of Lenné
Estate that is the most accessible wine in the 2008 lineup.
aromas of black cherries, berries and herbal tea. Tasty core of cherry
and berry fruit of moderate intensity with a lovely touch of spice. Soft
and elegant with pillowy tannins. Can drink now but will be even better
in a year. Very good (-).
2008 Lenné Estate Yamhill-Carlton District Willamette Valley Pinot Noir
14.0% alc., 496
cases, $45. The best barrels of clones 115 and Pommard.
A panoply of
different red and black fruit aromas including cherries, strawberries, and
red currants with an underpinning of smoky oak. Flat out delicious array
of pristine fruit including black raspberries and cherries. Lovely accents of
loamy earth and mocha. Highly persistent aromatic finish. A seamless
wine that is pure class in the glass.
2008 Lenné Estate Jill’s 115 Yamhill-Carlton District Willamette Valley Pinot Noir
49 cases, $55. This wine has been very popular with tasters.
Shy but pleasing
scents of red berries, cherries, pine pitch, wildflowers and mocha. Soft and
smooth on the palate with notes of raspberries, strawberries, edible flowers and
mocha java. A feminine Pinot that seduces with elegance. Doesn’t make a big
flavor impression now but will improve with more time in the cellar. Very good.
2008 Lenné Estate Karen’s Pommard Yamhill-Carlton District Willamette Valley Pinot Noir
14.0% alc., 49 cases, $55.
The nose really grabs your attention
with aromas of pie cherries, wild berries, wooded forest, oak and cut
flowers. Vivid black cherry fruit which is soft and luscious on the palate,
persisting on the amazingly lengthy finish leaving a refreshing impression
from lively acidity. Still has tannin to shed and the big gulp of fruit is
reticent and linear at this stage, but this is a very polished wine that will be
spectacular down the line.
2008 Lenné Estate Sad Jack 777 Yamhill-Carlton District Willamette Valley Pinot Noir
alc., 49 cases, $55. Clone 777 does best in cool sites and 2008 was a very cool
vintage so this clone really shined and some was bottled separately. Named
after the two winery dogs, Sadie and Jack.
Restrained aromas of berry jam,
rhubarb and rose petals. Similar in flavor profile to the Le Nez with more
dazzling cherry, pomegranate and anise notes. Juicy and delicious, but not
particularly expressive now, showing plenty of sinewy ripe tannins that need to
integrate. Very good (+).