Posted by Clive on Tuesday, September 7, 2010
I'm always on the lookout for new wines, new wineries, and varietals I've not tried. When one of my most trusted Willamette Valley sources, Jenny gave me the word, I had to go check out Lenne Estates.
Lenne Estates is located along 240 on the way to Yamhill from Newberg. It may not be that well known, but its vineyards lie among a number of the more revered Willamette Valley wineries such as Penner Ash, Willakenzie and Shea. The Lenne site is incredibly steep, and it provided a visual treat as we drove up the hill to the tasting room.
Lenne Estates is owned and operated by Steve Lutz and the winery is named after his father-in-law, Lenny. The label is a striking charcoal rendering of an image of Lenny in his younger days. Steve loves the sketch of Lenny but is a little less certain of the labeling that has been chosen for his second label Lenez, the sketch of a nose in a similar style to that original drawing. Its started to grow on him a bit though and he admits that he may be coming around.
Steve got his start in the wine business in the early 80s in Napa Valley, working harvests and tasting rooms and learning about the wine business as well as the business of wine. He began tinkering with Pinot Noir in 1984 making wine in Carneros. When Steve first came to Oregon he was working with Anne Amie to help develop their brand. The opportunity arose to acquire some acreage in the Willamette Valley and Steve jumped all over it.
Steve planted the Lenne estate vineyards in 2001 with some help from the winemaker from Anne Amie. Given its steep angle and his desire to dry farm the site, Lenne lost a lot of vines those first few years - 35% in the first year.
In 2005 Lenne Estates started selling fruit to Owen Roe and Steve took his winemaking to their location. Steve credits Owen Roe’s David O'Reilly for his aid in getting the results and the wine that Lenne Estates wants to make. In addition to lending production space and winemaking advice, Owen Roe also does a vineyard designate Pinot Noir with Lenne Estates fruit and uses it in their acclaimed Kilroy wine as well.
Steve makes a few Pinots, and also promotes some of the Owen Roe wines in his establishment. His 2008 Jill's 115 was our favorite, a Pinot made from the 115 clone. This is a very nicely balanced Pinot with great structure. Though it hadn't been released, Steve let us pick up a bottle with a promise not to open it for some time to come. Steve sells most of his wine, a full 90%, through his Rootstocks club. His most far-ranging sale has been to a company in Spain. This Spanish restaurant company buys 50 cases of Steve's wine for some of their exclusive eateries, and they shared with him that it's the favorite wine of the Prime Minister's wife.
Even if you're not a head of state I recommend checking out Lenne Estates. Steve is an interesting character, the views are unforgettable and you'll be tasting some Oregon Pinot that is in exclusive company.