WillaKenzie Estate

A Saturday afternoon in Oregon Wine Country

Last weekend my wife and I enjoyed a trip into the Yamhill-Carlton AVA in order to pick-up a wine club shipment. We first visited WillaKenzie Estate last summer (2014) on one of our regular sojourns out into our glorious wine country.  We were revved up to try a new place.

WillaKenzie Estate’s primary focus is Pinot Noir, as is the majority of our area.  Oregon is very similar in climate to the Burgundy region of France.  As you may know, wines in Europe are not typically designated by their grape varietals but by the area or region in which they are grown. Burgundy wines in France are primarily made from Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Gamay Noir grapes. WillaKenzie Estate is really our own little version of Burgundian production, because the owners and the winemaker are originally from France.

During our first visit, we were enthralled by the luscious notes of the Pinots, the earthy and supple nature of the Gamay and Pinot Meunier.  We decided to join their club.

A couple months later, we attended a special tasting/ pick-up party at the vineyard.  During the tastings, I kept noticing an unpleasant mineral quality to the wines I had not noticed during our first visit.  Strangely enough, my wife was getting the same notes. . sort of like licking limestone.*Some tasters attribute it to the smell or taste of wet stones, crushed rocks, salinity, a flintiness, or even a a savory earthiness.*We began to wonder to ourselves, why in the world did we like this so much before.  We continued to enjoy the rest of the event, all the while thinking that we had made a mistake.  Because this was such a disappointing tasting, wedecidedto cancel this club membership once we fulfilled our obligation.

Fast forward to our most recent visit.  On the way over, we decided to enjoy the tasting with an open mind – perhaps our palates had been “polluted” by something we had eaten. We walked into the lovely tasting room and encountered a considerable crowd gathered about, reveling in the sumptuous tastes set before them.  We opted to try both the Regular flight of 5 2012 wines as well as the Reserve flight of 3 2011 wines.  To our amazement, these wines were all wonderful!  That mineral taste that had so put us off the previous time was no where to be found.  But then that presented us with another issue.  We still belong to 4 wine clubs.

The following are some of the wineries notes mixed in with our own observations about the wines we tasted.

2013 Pinot Blanc – My wife’s assessment of this wine was “Yummy”!  She is not normally a dry, tart wine fan.  But this white is really good.  I agree with the winery notes that it *offers crisp and refreshing acidity with flavors of coconut, pineapple, lime and granny smith apples. There is an elegant and long finish.*

2012 Gisele Pinot Noir – This was the only one of the many wines we tried that I didn’t particularly love.  It was a bit sharp on acidity and did have the high minerality aspect I don’t appreciate.  However, I know that many folks love that aspect.  Like a “hoppy” IPA beer, it doesn’t hit me where I live.  Decanting an hour before drinking might help release some of the minerality and sharpness.

2012 Aliette Pinot Noir – This pinot seemed to me to be a bit young and had really tight tannins.  I’ve gotten used to pinots that have a velvet nature to how the tannins cascade across the palate.  This wine didn’t do that. . .yet.  I believe that after a few more years in bottle it will open up and will be much more amenable to my palate at least.  Their notes were *This ruby colored Pinot Noir offers bright aromatics of cherry, strawberry and raspberry. These flavors continue on the palate with a sweet approach and a bit of toastiness. The 2012 Aliette is refreshing with great acidity and well integrated tannins that linger through a long finish. We suggest opening an hour before drinking or decanting.*  Decanting would definitely help this little gem.

2012 Pierre Leon Pinot Noir – This one was, without doubt, my favorite of the day.  The bouquet on this guy was so full of fruit and flowers, it was difficult for me to pull my nose out the glass long enough to take a sip.  I was mesmerized.  Conversely to the previous wine, the tannins in this wine were velvety soft and well integrated into the whole.  This wine is *deep ruby in color with vibrant and fresh aromas of blackberries, vanilla, lavender and cherry. This wine is jammy, smooth and dark with good acidity and a big structure. There is a hint of pepper in the lingering finish.*

2012 Emery Pinot Noir – The Emery is sort of the Big Brother of these Pinot Noirs.  This wine has a complex structure to it, more like a big red like Syrah or Grenache.  As their notes attest, *This dark garnet wine carries hints of blackberry, cassis (Black Currants), toast and a sense of earthiness on the nose. On the palate, the 2012 Emery Pinot Noir shows a big structure, well-integrated tannins, and a round, luscious finish.*  The acidity on this wine seemed much lower than the others, even though it is’t.  It has a nice fruity nature about it.

2011 Aliette Pinot Noir – This wine is very similar to the 2012, but has mellowed a bit due to time spent in bottle.  The tannins were still a bit too tight for my tastes and I would leave it to mellow for at least another year.

2011 Triple Black Slopes Pinot Noir – We found this one quite well balanced, though a bit higher acid than Pierre Leon or Emery.  I found it to be quite “peppery” like you might find in a Malbec. *It reveals a breathtaking perfume of red fruit, white peppers, and chocolate cherries. The overall sense of this wine was elegance.

2011 Terres Basses Pinot Noir – *Eggplant in color, this Pinot Noir offers aromas of forest floor, cassis, spice and orange peel. The mouthfeel is lush with pepper, oolong tea, licorice and herbal notes on the palate. The 2011 Terres Basses is extremely well-balanced and structured, with good acidity and concentration from beginning to end.*

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