by The Traveling Winers
If you’ve ever visited this part of Oregon wine country you know exactly what we mean when we talk about the beauty that is present when driving through the countryside, through the rolling hills scattered with farmland and vineyards, bordered with the towering mountain ranges and the beautiful blue sky placing the finishing touch on the picture of the Yamhill-Carlton AVA. Simply breathtaking.
As we were tooling along NE Laughlin Road taking in the sites of the valley, a cozy little vineyard tucked away off the side of the road, with hills and slopes just begging to be trod upon, appeared. Well, in all actuality it didn’t just appear – we had an appointment. But the scene was romantic all the same. Our host for the morning was Steve Lutz, the owner of this picturesque establishment, Lenné Estate.
The ever-asked question – Why wine?
And Steve answers with a not so uncommon response, “I started drinking wine..[feel in love with it]…moved to Napa…and thought that that was what I wanted to do with the rest of my life”. Seems so simple, doesn’t it? Idealist, dreamy, whimsical, visionary. Isn’t this the decision that anybody would come to? When Miki, our This Is The Life Winer, suggested that it takes guts to follow your dream, Steve replied with “Well, it either takes guts or stupidity!” Touché!
Listen as Steve tells the simple yet “gutsy” story himself as well as how he fell into the Lenné Vineyard property. Talk about a whirlwind!
From poor soil to amazingly complex wine
It really doesn’t make sense, does it? From really poor soil you can actually get some really great wine? How can that be? Well, if you get the chance to come to Lenné and chat with Steve he will keep you entertained with the details. He tells us during our visit that the soil on the Lenné property is just awful, the worst soil ever for farming. And he goes on to tell us that it is, however, the best soil to grow Pinot Noir and that he wouldn’t want to grow his fruit on any other land.
So here’s the scoop. The land that Steve named Lenné Estate is made up of a soil type called Peavine. Now Peavine is basically made up of sandstone, siltstone, basalt, tuffaceous rock, and shale. Does this mean anything to you? Yeah, us neither! But, suffice it to say that this type soil apparently is the wash-off and deposition left behind at the base of a slope after rainwash and downhill drainage and such, leaving behind soil types that have little organic matter, extremely quick drainage and basically not the best soil for growing any crop at all. Steve says that when you dig into it and see its composition you really have to wonder how anything could possibly grow in this environment.
However, as it turns out, this soil composition is actually perfect for Pinot Noir. Once established, the vines thrive in this soil as their roots have to dig deep to find nutrients. In addition, the vines have to conserve their energy in order to survive and so they tend to form smaller, more concentrated berries then would be grown on the same stock in other soils. Steve explains how these smaller, more concentrated berries bring about a more complex structure for his Pinot Noir, intense fruit with an underlying mocha aroma and a long finish. And we are here to tell you that these attributes definitely shine through in Steve’s wines.
A bit of discussion on “dropping fruit”
When we heard for the first time the term “dropping fruit” in the context of managing the vineyard it really didn’t make sense. We mean, you are in the business of growing fruit, right? So why in the world would you go around dropping perfectly good fruit on the ground? It’s a great question actually and one in which Steve shares his knowledge of vineyard management.
So basically to sum it up, the shorter the growing season the less time the vines have to ripen the fruit in the sun. So, if you go through and remove some of the fruit there will be less fruit that has to ripen and the vine can put all its energy into making the remaining berries ripe and rich. Voilà, vineyard management!
Hot damn! She’s learning!
Have you ever picked up a glass of wine, go in for the big sniff only to find that…hmmm….”something be wrong here!” It could be that the glass was washed with a smelly detergent or not rinsed well. It could also be that the wine is tainted, meaning has “gone off” in some way, perhaps with the bottle being “corked” (a cork gone bad with a chemical compound that can smell pretty nasty) or the wine being oxidized. The latter was the case with one of the wines we tasted during our visit. Now, just know that this happens occasionally. It is definitely not desirable and something that winemakers strive to minimize, but it still occurs. It’s just part of the game. The key is to notice it. To identify the unwanted flavor or aroma, diagnose it for a “tainted wine”, open a different bottle and enjoy the true essence of the wine in its perfection. And we’ll be damned if Miki didn’t get halfway there! Watch the video below as Miki uncovers the “something be wrong here!” happening during our tasting.
Oh so yummy! We have to say that these Pinots were right on target. Complex, layered, yet oh so smooth, with bright fruit and yes, that Lenné vineyard characteristic mocha nose. Just delightful.
2014 Kill Hill Pinot Noir – A blend of clones 114 and 667 resulting in a rich and smooth glass of black raspberry and mocha to delight your palate. This wine is named Kill Hill after the particular plot of land on which the fruit was grown. This particular hill was so named because at the very beginning of Lenné Estate Steve lost many plantings off this vineyard site because of the harsh conditions (very steep) and the extremely shallow soil. However, Steve says, that when the vines push through and establish root they thrive on Kill Hill, producing the most concentrated, small, thick-skinned berries sure to be a success in the bottle.
2014 Lenné Estate Pinot Noir – With a blend of the 115 and Pommard clones, this wine delivers a layered combination of earth tones, dark bing cherries, black cherries, black currant and the ever expected chocolate mocha characteristic. The finish is long and the tannins are smooth, bringing a beautiful end to this glass of wine.
The Traveling Winers would like to give a sincere “Thank You!” to Steve for his hospitality during our visit. He put on a delicious spread for us since it was over the lunchtime and took the extra time to chat during lunch.
And for the pièce de résistance, check out this montage video of Steve displaying his talents! Hilarious!
The Winer’s Experience
|AMBIANCE||GROUNDS & SCENERY||TASTING ROOM|
|Cozy and warm, inviting was the feel of the tasting room and patio. The vineyard views gave a feeling of romance and intimacy.||Just beautiful, both Steve’s land and the surrounding countryside. The Lenne vineyard is mainly on sloped land and provides a lovely backdrop for enjoying a glass of wine and a picnic lunch.||Cozy and warm, plenty of space to bring a nice sized group. The bar itself is not that large, but trust us, it is plenty big to host a group as folks mill about and chat and enjoy the day.|
|WINE TASTING EXPERIENCE||CUSTOMER SERVICE||TECHNICAL KNOWLEDGE|
|Very educational as Steve was just full of information and knowledge. His wines were exceptional!||This proprietor makes you feel right at home!||Again, coming from the “man” himself, it couldn’t be much better.|
Vineyard & Winery Information
|Lenné Estate||18760 NE Laughlin Road, Yamhill, OR 97148
|Wed – Sun 12 pm – 5 pm|
|MUSIC||WINE CLUB||TASTING FEE|
|Special events – check calendar||Yes||$15|