The Belle Pente Estate Vineyard
Our Estate vineyard rises from 240 to 500 feet in elevation with south-east, south, and south west exposures. The second wine released from this young vineyard (our 1998 Estate Reserve Pinot Noir) was selected among the top Oregon wines of the vintage by the Wine Spectator, Steve Tanzer (International Wine Cellar), and Clive Coates (The Vine). We now have over 16 acres planted on the property, including 12 acres of Pinot Noir and 2 each of Pinot Gris and Chardonnay, along with almost a half acre of Gamay Noir. All of the vineyard blocks have been dry farmed to organic viticulture standards since 2000, with biodynamic and regenerative techniques adopted over the years.
Since the beginning, we have employed our own vineyard team rather than relying on contract management companies. This is relatively rare for an operation of our size, and allows us to do more precision farming, enabling quick reactions to the quirks of each growing season to take timely, focused action. Marcial Gonzales has been leading our vineyard team for almost 20 years, and he is currently assisted by his brothers Gonzalo and Tomas, along with his sister Maria and her husband Eliseo Flores.
The term terroir is widely used in France to describe the unique characteristics of each vineyard site. It is the magical combination of soil, microclimate, elevation, orientation to the sun, and other natural (and supernatural) factors that distinguish one vineyard from another. The Burgundians have had 600 years or so to sort out the good, great, and mediocre Pinot Noir vineyard sites along their slopes; we in Oregon have had less than 50. So while it will take several generations for us to begin to understand which are truly our “Grand Cru” vineyards, we believe that our Estate vineyard will be among them. Why, you may ask?
- Soil – The shallow willakenzie soils in our area have already begun to be recognized for their ability to produce exceptional wines, with both power and finesse. This is especially significant since most of these vineyards have been planted over the past 20 years, and are just barely coming into their own!
- Microclimate – Belle Pente sits in the middle of the horseshoe shaped Yamhill-Carlton AVA surrounding the valley carved out by the North Yamhill River. The Coast Range mountains to the west provide a “rain shadow” effect, diverting storms north and south of us. This provides a drier, warmer site than many of our neighbors, which helps ripen the grapes earlier and more consistently.
- Elevation – at 240 to 500′, our vineyards are high enough above the valley floor to provide good frost protection, but not so high that the altitude delays ripening. This is a characteristic that we share with the best vineyards of Burgundy.
- Orientation – Our main Pinot Noir vineyard enjoys south, south-east, and southwest exposures to capture both morning and afternoon sun. Our unobstructed exposure to the west provides up to an hour more sunlight on our vineyard than many others in the area.
- History – The Pinot Noir blocks are planted on the site of an old Italian plum orchard which was destroyed during a freak October wind storm in 1962. Old timers remember how especially delicious the plums were from this orchard, and we swear that you can taste the plums in our estate wines!