I have been trying to spend a bit more time in the Willamette Valley region of Oregon, given my regular travel to the Portland area. I was fortunate enough to spend a half day touring again last month as part of a Pre WBC (Wine Bloggers Conference) Tour, before driving up to Walla Walla. Lynette Shaw of Soléna, organized an entire afternoon for 15 wine bloggers. The highlight of the day was the incredible hospitality we received by the Soléna team, as well as fabulous food pairing and lunch. with their Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Pinot Gris.
About Solena Estates
Soléna Estates is owned by the husband and wife team of Laurent Montalieu and Danielle Andrus Montalieu. Laurent brings a French heritage, Bordeaux, not Burgundy, interestingly enough. Laurent took his first steps in the vineyard in Medoc owned by his great grandfather, Joseph Montalieu. His interest in viticulture led him to the Institute of Oenology of Bordeaux, where he studied viticulture and oenology. (Growing wine grapes and making wine.) After graduating in 1987 he worked for Chateau La Tour Blanche near Sauternes, and Domaine Mumm in California’s Napa Valley before moving to Oregon. After seven years at Bridgeview Vineyards in Cave Junction, Laurent joined WillaKenzie Estate in 1995 as partner and winemaker.
In May of 2000 Laurent and Danielle purchased an 80 acre estate as their wedding gift to each other, and with an interesting twist, registered with vineyard nurseries for six different clones of Pinot Noir grafts that guests could by as wedding gifts. (Hmmm maybe marrying again has some benefits.)
In 2009, they opened a new tasting room, located on their estate property in Yamhill, now home to the new Soléna and Grand Cru Estates winery.
The Soléna 2009 Pinot Gris is very interesting, and a standout amongst the many fine Pinot Gris releases in Willamette Valley. I opened two different Pinot Gris’ as the time of tasting, the second being from another from a Willamette winery I respect, and the differences were remarkable.
At the time I did the review; the 2009 was about to be released, and specs weren’t published, so I wrote to Lynette with questions. I though I recalled they used no oak or malolactic fermentation (ML) but the texture, density, mouth feel, made me scratch my head and question if (neutral) oak or ML were used during vinification.
Lynette advised neither was used, nor was I the first to be confused. As the illustrious Wine Spectator aptly described:
Silky, with an almond edge to the apricot and apple flavors, lingering gently.
This balance is achieved by the fruit, that is sourced from several vineyards: Stone Ridge in the Chehalem Mountains, ElvenGlade in the Yamhill-Carlton District and Del Rio from the Rogue Valley. The variations are purposefully chosen and blended to offer flavor and structure. Grapes of higher acidity from cooler climate, blended with riper fruit from warm climates, and little manipulation, provide the complexity and differentiation.
Region/AVA: The grapes for this release of Pinot Gris are selected by design from multiple Oregon vineyards, thus no AVA designation.
Color: Pale straw color
Wine Geek Info:
- Harvest Date: Sept 24 – Oct 30, 2008
- Yield 2.1 tons/acre
- Brix 23.3º
- Alcohol 13.7%
- pH 3.56
- Production 1,500 cases
- Release Date June 2010
- Vinification: Fermented in stainless steel. Primary fermentation was held at a maximum of 60ºF with selected aromatic yeasts. Whole cluster press. No malolactic fermentation.
- Winemaker: Laurent Montalieu