Two prominent Oregon winemakers are involved with big new projects that will be debuting this fall. I got the first taste of these important new wines from Tony Soter and Josh Bergström this week, the first time either wine was shown to a journalist.
Tony Soter, who has moved to Oregon permanently after splitting his time between there and California, poured me the first wine from Mineral Springs, his new property there. Since 1998, he has been making wine from Beacon Hill vineyard, which he planted up the road from WillaKenzie's property. Mineral Springs is on a low ridge looking across to Lemelson's home vineyard and winery. He shares the hill with Ken Wright, who calls his vineyard there Abbot Claim.
Both Beacon Hill and Mineral Springs are within the Yamhill-Carlton AVA, but the differences are remarkable. Soter likes to talk about the supple textures and gentle nature of Pinot Noir, but the wines from Beacon Hill wanted to be firm and upright with gritty tannins. The Mineral Springs property, however, in its first vintage, 2005, is fleshy, open-textured, generous with its black fruit flavors and silky—exactly what Soter has been trying to make at Beacon Hill.
Although Soter had already built a house at Beacon Hill, last year he divested himself of the entire property and put everything into his 30-acre vineyard at Mineral Springs. After tasting the wine, I told him that I could understand why he would walk away from Beacon Hill, even though he had made some terrific wines there. "You don't have to fight the vineyard to make what you want, right?" I asked him. His wife, Michelle, laughed. Tony smiled. "Exactly," they said in unison.
2006 will be the last vintage from Beacon Hill for Soter, so for a couple of a vintages he will sell both, and we can all compare and contrast. I will review Soter Pinot Noir Willamette Valley Mineral Springs 2005 in a few weeks, when it's officially released. But stylistically, it's a perfect fit with what he wants to make.
Bergström's new venture is with a new project called Trisaetum, owned by the Frey family. They planted a 24-acre vineyard in 2004 on rocky soil on the coast range of the Yamhill-Carlton District, near McMinnville, and currently are planting a 30-acre vineyard on WillaKenzie soil on Ribbon Ridge. That property abuts Beaux Frères.
They also built a state-of-the-art winery to Bergström's specifications, using innovative technology to sort, cool, dry and handle the fruit so that, as Bergström puts it, "nothing goes into the tank that we don't want, no leaves, no bugs, not even the little spurs that are left after de-stemming." The first wines will be made in this winery this year.
The first wine, 100 cases of a 2005, will be released later this fall at about $75. The grapes came from Bergström's vineyards in Dundee Hills and Chehalem Mountains, selected to emulate the same soil conditions as the Freys' vineyards. The 2006, made from the first crop off of the coast range vineyard, comes next year. Both wines, which were made at Bergström, show rich flavors and delicate textures. The 2006, from the new vineyard, shows distinctive cherry and white pepper flavors. Both have impressive length.
Plans are to make one single wine that blends the two vineyards into a distinctive, high-end wine. There will be no regional blends or single vineyard designations to confuse matters. I can't think of another winery based on this kind of a model. The closest is Domaine Drouhin Oregon, which makes everything from a single estate vineyard in Dundee Hills. But their best wines are small lots of separate selections.
Ultimately, Trisaetum could make as much as 5,000 cases a year of a single red wine, a blend of two vineyards in two different AVAs. It will drive the terroir-istes nuts, but it will be fascinating to see how this whole thing evolves, especially with a talented winemaker like Bergström guiding the style and quality.