Willamette Valley, as I wrote a few weeks back, is a happening place. There are new projects and players and a sense of renewed energy in Oregon's lead region for Pinot Noir, and I returned from a recent trip to Willamette with a better understanding of three new ventures that exemplify what I'm talking about.
There's the impressive Résonance undertaking, owned by France's Maison Louis Jadot, in the Yamhill-Carlton AVA. Lingua Franca is a new winery and vineyard in Eola-Amity Hills with Larry Stone at the helm. And there's Rose & Arrow, the latest project from Mark Tarlov, who founded the Evening Land and Chapter 24 wineries. All three projects have interesting backstories.
The wines—mostly Pinot Noirs along with a Chardonnay—have been increasingly impressive since the debut 2013 vintage. Stylistically, the wines tip their hat to Burgundy but are distinctly Oregon. Overseeing winemaking is Jacques Lardière, the highly regarded lead winemaker for Louis Jadot who retired in 2012, and Guillaume Large, who takes care of the day-to-day operations in Oregon.
What's more, Large is busy managing an extensive expansion of the vineyard and finishing a new winery and visitors center. When the 30 acres of of hillside vines come online in a few years, expect even better things from Résonance.
Lingua Franca is a personal statement for Larry Stone. Stone is one of the best-known sommeliers in the country, but he shifted to managing wineries in 2006, most notably Rubicon in Napa Valley and Evening Land in Oregon. Stone was negotiating for Evening Land to buy an adjacent farm when he left the winery. After that deal fell through, Stone gathered investors and bought the property himself. It's in an impressive wine neighborhood. Besides Evening Land and its Seven Springs Vineyard, nearby are Domaine Serene's Jerusalem Hill and Argyle's Lone Star vineyards.
In 2013, Stone planted the 66-acre LS Vineyard on the hillside above the newly finished winery. I recently took a walk through the vineyard. It started to rain, but Stone hardly noticed, so strong was his enthusiasm and attention to the details of the vines. With us was winemaker Thomas Savre, who is ably backed by French consultant Dominique Lafon.
Lingua Franca's first few releases were made with purchased fruit, and earned outstanding scores (90 points or more on Wine Spectator's 100-point scale). Keep an eye on Lingua Franca as the estate vines come into production.
Mark Tarlov has a track record to envy. A former Hollywood producer, he scored hits in the 1990s before turning to wine. Even after Evening Land and Chapter 24 he wasn't satisfied, so he's taking it up a notch with Rose & Arrow.
As Tarlov sees it, great Pinot Noir is all about rock—volcanic rock, specifically. He set about searching for vineyards in Willamette that have the soil profile he was after and released seven 2016s from vineyards through the valley.
Consulting winemaker Louis Michel Liger-Belair sets the program, while Felipe Ramirez is the winemaker based in Oregon and Chile's Pedro Parra is the terroir consultant. All of the lots are small production but the early results are outstanding, particularly Rose & Arrow Pinot Noir Chehalem Mountains 1st The Point 2016 and Pinot Noir Eola-Amity Hills Gathered Stones 2016.
It's worth noting that while all these wines are full of flavor, structure and personality, none are over 14 percent alcohol. I look forward to tasting all the wines from these three new notable producers.