We recently tasted two Lenné Estate Vineyard barrel-selection Pinot Noirs, which were simply lovely and unlike any others we have tasted. More about the wines shortly, but first here is some information about the vineyard, and why the wines are unique.
In 2000, Steve and Karen Lutz purchased a 21-acre property near Yamhill, Oregon in the Willamette Valley. One year later, they began planting Pinot Noir on 15 acres in their new Lenné Estate Vineyard. The vineyard name pays tribute to Karen’s father Lenny, who helped with the downpayment but sadly passed away in 1999.
Lenné Estate Vineyard Soil
The vineyard soil is mostly peavine, comprised of silt, sandstone and clay. This rocky soil gives Lenné grapes a unique character when compared to others in the Willamette Valley.
What sets Lenné apart from other Oregon Pinot Noirs? According to Steve, “Location, location, location. Our steep, south-facing slope is at the perfect elevation and has some of the poorest soil in Yamhill County, resulting in concentrated Pinot Noir.” He says this poor peavine soil produces wines with density because of the small cluster and berry size.
“At Lenné, we can vouch for the fact that this soil is about as bad as they come. It’s mostly peavine and when you dig into it you wonder how anything grows. … The site started to reveal why you grow Pinot Noir in difficult places; to produce delicious wines totally reflective of one specific place.”
The vineyard is also dry-farmed and sustainable, with minimal use of non-organic chemicals.
Lenné produces Pinot Noir under three labels, each with Steve’s minimalist winemaking approach that showcases the vineyard’s special terroir. Firstly, the LeNez label (French for “the nose”) represents the entire vineyard and each of the vineyard’s five clones. Secondly, Lenné Estate is a barrel selection of the best wine in each vintage. Finally, in great vintages, Steve produces their finest wine called cinq élus, a blend of the best barrel from each of their five clonal blocks. As of the 2016 vintage, Lenné also produces Chardonnay.
We received samples of two barrel-selection wines — 2017 Lenné Estate South Slope Pinot Noir and the flagship 2017 Lenné Estate Pinot Noir.
2017 Lenné Estate South Slope Pinot Noir ($55)
The South Slope designation started in 2015, and Steve says it represents some of the best barrels from the Pommard (80%) and 115 clone (20%). We adored this Pinot Noir, which is elegant, full-bodied and balanced with beautifully defined fruit. It features aromatics and flavors of mocha, cherries and dense, dark fruit. The flavors are so luscious that we drank it without food. But you could cellar it for a decade, and it would continue to reveal even more beauty.
2017 Lenné Estate Pinot Noir ($40)
Steve says the poor soil creates two of the estate’s terroir signatures: mid-palate grip and a distinct mocha-chocolate aroma. These are evident in Lenné’s flagship Pinot Noir, with layered flavors of red cherries, red berries and pomegranate, and hints of earth, cassis and herbs. While it is definitely drinkable now, particularly when paired with salmon or turkey, we recommend putting it in your cellar for a few more years.
Of note, Lenné wines are primarily sold through their tasting room and online. Once we start traveling again, we will definitely stop by the winery and taste more of these lovely Pinots. Meanwhile, we thank Lenné for the samples.
Margot and Dave