It’s easy to dismiss wines that are hyped, expensive, and/or have a cult following, and Oregon Pinot Noir producer Beaux Freres definitely falls into several of those categories. A partnership between winemaker Mike Etzel and his brother in law, superstar critic Robert Parker, Beaux Freres (which means brother in law in French) has always gotten a lot of attention for their premium Pinot Noir from Oregon’s Willamette Valley. This past Thursday director of sales for the winery Kurt Johnson treated us to a vertical that spanned every vintage from 2006 to 2011, and it was pretty clear that no one in the room had trouble understanding what all the fuss was about.
We started with the 2011 Willamette Valley, made from a blend of vineyard sites that reads like a who’s who of famous Oregon Pinot Noir vineyards. The only wine Beaux Freres makes that isn’t made from all estate fruit, it is ready to drink right out of the gate, and shows the transparency and prettiness too often missing in New World Pinot.
Then we moved on to the 2010 vintage, and got to compare the Upper Terrace vineyard with the Beaux Freres vineyard. Both were delicious, and Kurt took the opportunity to explain why decanting is recommended for young vintages of Beaux Freres Pinot. Rather than use a lot of sulfur, Beaux Freres handles the wine as little as possible and lets CO2, a natural byproduct of the winemaking process, protect it instead. This means that there can be a little foaming action in the wine, which goes away after the wine is exposed to air. So while these bubbles look a little alarming, rest assured that it’s not secondary fermentation – it’s protecting the wine!
Once we got to the 2006, 2007 and 2008 vintages of Beaux Freres vineyard, the spirited debate was flowing. The 2008 was all elegance and sophistication, while the 2006 was full of fruit and vibrancy. The 2007, a maligned vintage on release, also showed beautifully, and had a few passionate fans.
We tasted the wines in flights of two, and after every one asked for a show of hands to find out which was the favorite. Doing this is one of the best parts of having these classes and tastings for us, because it reminds us that almost every wine we show at a tasting will be someone’s favorite, and it gives us feedback from our most important source: you!
Special thanks to Kurt Johnson of Beaux Freres winery, and Kirk Evans of Roanoke Valley Wine Company for all their support in making this such a wonderful evening.