I was enjoying the first wine we released from the coolest year ever in Oregon, the 2011 LeNez Pinot Noir and it struck me; single site wines are more important than ever. Yes, I know that is self serving as all of my wine comes from a single site. But in a world of homogenized wines, being distinct is important. And I have said it before, Lenné is a poster child for what you would want from a Pinot Noir site in the Northern Willamette Valley. It has the right elevation-375-575 feet, the right orientation-south facing and a horrible, nasty, why would anything grow in this dirt soil type called peavine. It all makes for distinct terroir.
The 2011 LeNez Pinot Noir is an especially interesting wine because it came from such a remarkable vintage, a vintage that could have been a disaster because of the late onset of bud break and a cool summer. Fortunately Dionysus took pity on us and gave us a week of heat in September and a dry October. We finally picked three weeks late on November 1st at the lowest sugars we have ever experienced. But sugar doesn’t mater, flavor does. The 2011 wines have plenty of flavor and are changing rapidly and will shed their initial lean profile in 6 to 8 months. What we will be left with are delicious wines that remind me of a better version of 2007. If you remember, those wines started out lean and gained so much depth with a little bottle age. The 2011’s will change rapidly because of their low tannin level and should be drinking beautifully by late fall.
But the most interesting thing about the 2011 LeNez is that it has the undeniable personality of Lenné. Their is a certain aromatic that I talk about endlessly that is soil driven and shows up in every wine we have made. But it is more than just that mocha aromatic, it is the mid palate feel and the entirety of the wine. Each new vintage there is a point when I taste the wine and it is like rediscovering an old friend again. It is familiar, warm, satisfying. Each Lenné wine redefines the character of this particular place in a new way changed only by the vintage. The underlying personality is always there, the vintages just dictate the framework of how it is expressed.
That is why single sites are important, they give us a reference point that blended wines just can’t do. In a world where there are many wines that are made without flaws, taste correct if not entirely satisfying, it is good to know that personality does exist in wines, you just have to look in the right places. Becoming intimate with single site wines is a good place to start.