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George Heritier's Tasting Notes:

1997 Belle Pente Willamette Valley Pinot Gris
$12: This pale straw received a long cool fermentation for 4-6 months in a tank outside the winery during the winter of ‘97-’98. Lees contact gave a creamy quality to the ripe green apple flavors; these also showed some nice spicy nuances. Crisp and tasty, this checks in at over 13 % alcohol.

1998 Belle Pente Willamette Valley Riesling barrel sample: A pale straw, this shows lovely floral tones that pretty up the green apple bouquet, but the slightly spicy, floral green apple/mineral flavors are drier than the nose seemed to indicate. The fruit for this crisp refreshing white came from 20-year-old vines at Yamhill Vineyards. Lots of promise here.

1997 Belle Pente Chardonnay Whistling Ridge $14: This pale-medium straw features pretty toasty oak/pear/mineral/clove/cardamom flavors and aromas that show rich concentration and good acidity. Kim mentioned a note of canned peas. It saw 40 % new oak (1/2 French and 1/2 Oregonian), and came from the old 108 clone. Good value with this one.

1997 Belle Pente Chardonnay Whistling Ridge barrel sample: This pale-medium straw is getting 100 % new oak treatment; a yeasty note on top dominates now, but there’s plenty of pretty Chardonnay fruit underneath.

1997 Belle Pente Chardonnay Maresh Vineyard: Only 2 barrels of this medium straw were produced, resulting in about 50 cases. It comes from 8-year-old vines of the new Dijon clone, and spent 10 months in 100 % new oak. The pretty vanilla/spice/pear bouquet follows through nicely on the palate. It has a creamy quality and less acidity than the Whispering Ridge, but Brian thinks it’ll age well. Very nice.

1997 Belle Pente Willamette Valley Pinot Noir $16: 60 % of the fruit in this ruby garnet comes from younger Murto Vineyard vines; the remainder is from Wahle Vineyard. It has a nice spicy smoky black cherry nose with lavender overtones, but the flavors don’t quite deliver what the aromas promise. Still, it’s a nice Pinot, and Brian says the fruit peeks out a little more with each tasting, so this may get better with some bottle age. He added that his wines never see a pump or filter, being produced by gravity process.

1997 Belle Pente Pinot Noir Maresh Vineyard $20: Brian described this smoky ruby garnet’s flavors as "nice spicy raspberry liqueur/cherry/earth," adding that the "delicate pretty fruit ages well." (And he’s absolutely right if the delicious ’94 that we so enjoyed the night previous at Bob Wood’s offline is any indication.) It shows a nice smoky note as well, and the flavors improve on the aromas.

1998 Belle Pente Pinot Noir Maresh Vineyard barrel sample: A blend from 3 different lots and 3 different clones, this ruby garnet shows an immediate note of toast out of the toaster or what Bree described as "burnt popcorn." Brian says this comes from the hydrogen sulfite produced by fermentation, and will dissipate. It has sweet smoky black cherry fruit and a nice mouthfeel, which bodes well for its future. Brian said that ’98 Pinot Noir production was down 25 % across the board; they produced 15 barrels of the ’97 Maresh, but only 8 or 9 of the ’98.

1998 Belle Pente Pinot Noir Wahle Vineyard barrel sample: A smoky ruby dark garnet, this has a rather reticent nose at this point. Brian says it’s pushing 14 % alcohol, adding "Boy, this is pretty big!" Bree commented on the "nice focused fruit flavors;" here’s another one with a bright future.

1997 Belle Pente Pinot Noir Murto Reserve $25: From a 4 acre block of 20 year old vines, this ruby garnet saw 16-18 months in barrel. It features intense spicy black cherry fruit, and Brian added a note of "sandlewood," saying that’s a typical characteristic of the vineyard. It shows nice rich fruit on the palate. It was bottled on May 15th, and will be released in September.

1997 Belle Pente Pinot Noir Murto barrel sample: Brian pulled and blended this for us from 3 new barrels (2 French, 1 Oregonian), saying each contained fruit from different parts of the vineyard. A ruby garnet, this shows more toast from the toaster on the nose, with rich toasty oak/black cherry flavors that show lots of promise. Brian hopes to produce 400 cases of this.

1997 Belle Pente Pinot Noir Estate Reserve: A lone barrel produced 22 cases of the luscious ruby dark garnet. Rich and intense, with beautiful black cherry/plum flavors and aromas, Brian was correct when he said it "has all the right stuff, with tannins, acid and deep fruit to age a long time.

1998 Belle Pente Pinot Noir Estate Reserve barrel sample: 15 % alcohol. A very yeasty, almost licorice quality on the nose reminded Bree of Good ‘n’ Plenty candy; Jeff got a little mint as well. Brian was candid, saying, "This one got away from us a little; we’ll move it to an older barrel and let it hang for a year or so and see what happens."

(From Bob Wood's Off Line)  1994 Belle Pente Willamette Valley Pinot Noir Murto Vineyard: As soon Brian walked in with this and the following selection, I made a point of trying them, and Wow! I was impressed! Dark garnet with BIG black cherry/plum/blackberry perfume explodes from the glass, and follows through on the palate with excellent extraction. It’s dense in the mouth, with soft tannins and good acidity, a hint of herb peeks out from time to time, and the finish is long and delicious.

1994 Belle Pente Willamette Valley Pinot Noir Maresh Vineyard: As dark as the previous wine, but just a little less dense, rich and extracted, this has smooth black cherry/raspberry flavors and aromas. While it may be a step down in intensity from the Murto, it’s of the same quality. It has another long finish, and some maple syrup aromatics develop with air. The density gives both of these a certain syrah-like feel, which is all the more remarkable when one considers that these were made before Brian "turned pro."

Allan Bree's Tasting Notes:

1997 Belle Pente Pinot Gris - pale brassy color - pleasing mineral-like notes in the nose - interesting and delicious combination of minerals and sweet fruit flavors - mostly pear and peach - a very smooth and broad mouthfeel.

1997 Belle Pente Chardonnay Whistling Ridge Vineyard - mostly oak in the nose of this wine - unfortunately, I think, not much else - a little fruit climbs up through the wood. Too much oak, too much.

1997 Belle Pente Pinot Noir Willamette Valley - pretty floral aromatics - sweet cherry fruit on the palate with a touch of cough drop -

1997 Belle Pente Pinot Noir Maresh Vineyard - very pleasing sweet cherry with some dusty Pinot spice on the nose - light medium weight in the mouth - the fruit flavors follow through - a little hollow, and not quite as intense or rich as I would like, but very pleasant to drink.

1998 Belle Pente Pinot Noir Wahle - is actually quite delicious - very focused ripe cherry Pinot flavors - has a very solid core, and is a very cleanly made wine - nice length - not monumental, but should be very nice with food - we urged Brian to bottle it as a vineyard designate.

1997 Belle Pente Pinot Noir Estate Reserve - interesting spicy aromatics - correctly identified by a previous visitor as sandlewood.

1998 Belle Pente Pinot Noir Murto Vineyard - from 3 sections of the vineyard, and received a variety of oak treatments - shows good concentration and depth, but still tends to be a bit on the elegant side, and a wine of finesse, rather than a wine of power (as many of the 98s have been). Definitely has good flavors and a solid core of clean fruit.



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