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Belles Soeurs (Beaux Freres) Pinot Noir Shea Vineyard 2000 and Late Night with Bob Dylan

September 6, 2011 Leave a comment

After the reasonably exquisite Domaine Serene Pinot Noir Evenstad Reserve 2003 (tasting notes in previous post), a Belles Soeurs Pinot Noir Shea Vineyard 2000 was poured. In general, across most vintages, I find their wines mades from outsourced grapes from Shea Vineyard to be more complete ventures than Beaux Freres’ Estate-specific cuvées (Beaux Freres Vineyard, Upper Terrace), though I have yet to encounter an uninteresting wine that bears the name. I have read about, but have yet to taste their tiny production Upper Terrace Grenache, and I would be more than happy to accept tasting samples, to be discussed here on WineGeist, judiciously and impartially.

I’m listening to “Mr. Tambourine Man” as performed by its composer, Bob Dylan, at the Hollywood Bowl, September 2, 1965. I know Dylan gets a lot of air time here, but that was the track that came up on the full library shuffle, just then, as I started the sentence; it’s still playing now. It’s true that I’ve been staring at the incomplete line, “I’m listening to…” for a couple of dozen songs, but that’s neither here nor there and Dylan is inspiring. And that song in particular, “Mr. Tambourine Man” is a big one in an unparalleled body of work, not to mention being the second part of the Good Doctor‘s dedication preceding Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas: “-and to Bob Dylan, for Mister Tambourine Man“. Dylan wrote that one in ’65 and in the same year it was recorded by The Byrds and released as their first single for Columbia Records, which reached #1 on US and UK charts. Unrelated, I was told, not that long ago, “It takes a lot of Dylan to make a nice Syrah.” But today, we’re discussing Oregon Pinot.

The Belles Soeurs Pinot Noir Shea Vineyard 2000 wafts immediately of cedar and raw meat, and is dark in the glass, knocking on the door of deep purple. Visually, it’s almost unreasonably concentrated for the varietal and most definitely for the vintage. The vast majority of 2000 OR Pinot Noir, even the very good ones are a little thin in the middle, as if too much water was interjected at a major stage of growth, and the grapes partied like it was 1999, resulting in flimsier fruit. Ironically enough, the grapes of 1999 were far more studious and the wines released from that vintage continue to age well. Even the normally highly concentrated Beaux Freres wines are a little soft, a little light on character, in 2000, including this one whose palate is not so brooding as the color. The only recently tasted examples to the contrary for 2000 OR Pinot are Ken Wright Pinot Noir, Shea and McCrone Vineyard bottles. But back to the ’00 Belles Soeurs Shea: the palate displays cool damp earth, ash, as well as some vegetal characterists and green pepper. There’s a nice mid-palate dryness, but the body seems to drop off there, making for a shorter experience. That being said, there exist notes of espresso bean, anise, and prune as well as overripe raspberry and a dusty, silty finish. The Belles Soeurs Pinot Noir Shea Vineyard 2000 is a highly palatable wine, but it’s a little thin for its pedigree, and is likely at the back end of its drinking plateau. Remaining bottles will be enjoyed in the near future, rather than returned to the cellar.

Domaine Serene Pinot Noir Evenstad Reserve 2003 and The Black Crowes’ Former Glory

September 4, 2011 1 comment

Back at St Anselm for the butcher’s steak, again braving the $25 corkage fee and bringing some properly aged Pinot: Domaine Serene Pinot Noir Evanstad Reserve 2003 and Belles Soeurs Pinot Noir Shea Vineyard 2000. I had originally planned to taste the ’03 Evanstad along side a 2004 Jayer Gilles Echezeaux du Dessus, as both have exhibited similar traits in the past. However the wrong bottle was packed that evening and the rare Echezeaux in question ended up preceding a youthfully clumsy Domain Serene Pinot Noir Willamette 2004 (a vintage that should prove to be long lived).

I’m listening to “Seeing Things” from the Black Crowes’ debut 1990 LP, Shake Your Money Maker. Early in high school, it was something of a revelation that a bunch of young guys could deliberately make new music that fit in with much of the classic rock hits of ‘60s and ‘70s. And it was no surprise that it was through Classic Rock radio, not pop, that the Crowes were first heard by so many. This was also when I first became aware of a thing called critics and that they largely did not like the Black Crowes, nor did pop radio, which wanted nothing to do with them, until their cover of Otis Redding’s “Hard to Handle” became a hit too big to be ignored. Sure, they were just another bunch of pretty(ish) white kids playing the blues, a time honored formula since Elvis, but at that time I didn’t know the history, and the Crowes were really good at it. Because of that, and an impressive body of work, up to and including the Amorica LP, for a certain segment of Gen Pop, the Black Crowes will always embody Rock & Roll.

The Domaine Serene Pinot Noir Evenstad Reserve 2003 has a component of damp leaves, but displays little if any of that mossy, wet earth, swampiness, on the palate, that is so typical of much of the ’03 vintage for OR Pinot Noir (as well as of scattered varietals and sub-regions of northern CA, of the same year). Instead there’s an unexpected sweet roundness to this reserve Pinot, led by dry raspberry and black cherry, with subtler notes of cocoa powder and chalkdust. After 40+ minutes of breathing the ’03 Evenstad shows deep cherry sweetness and a long vein of vanillin, sprinkled with baking spices and white pepper. This is a wine of excellent concentration without sacrificing the purity of the fruit; it maintains a broad mouthfeel and seamless integration. Domaine Serene Pinot Noir Evenstad Reserve 2003 seems right at its peak drinking window now and should drink nicely for at least another 5 years.