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Beaux Freres' Very Limited 2004 Vintage

by Jean Yates

2004 was a difficult, if ultimately rewarding vintage for many top Pinot noir producers. Beaux Freres ended up with a miniscule number of cases of their highly rated Pinot noirs. The wines are exceptional, just very, very limited.

We were offered a small portion of our usual allocation of Beaux Freres wines, too little to send to our Wine Club. To help the winery, who requested that we sell twice as much Belles Soeurs to customers as Beaux Freres, we're offering the wines in a mixed six or twelve pack, discounted a few dollars from retail. We're sorry that we have so little. You can know that if you order, you'll have a small stash of two of Oregon's very best 2004 vintage Pinot noirs.

How are the wines? In a word, smashing. As many of our very knowledgeable customers know, when there are very few grapes per vine, those that make it to maturity achieve an extra level of intensity and complexity of flavors. In 2004, this complexity was further heightened by a long, cool fall, filled with terrifying bouts of rain, but ultimately producing beautiful fruit that hung on the vine through enough cool days and cold nights to optimize intensity and add layers of nuanced flavors to the few grapes on each vine.


Beaux Freres Pinot noir Estate 04

Avalon Tasting Notes

Immediately upon popping the cork and pouring, the nose is intense, with a complex perfume of forest floor, white flowers, blackberry fruit, fresh turned earth, cocoa, cassis, red plum, sweet cherries, and hints of underlying dark spice. Flavors reiterate the scents, and the texture, while lush, is pure essence of Pinot, as the flavors echo over and over in the mouth.

Wow! Even young and just opened, this is just extraordinary Pinot. Mind boggling, sophisticated, nuanced, restrained opulence, seamless, reminiscent of a top flight Cote de Nuit. Should get at least as good scores as the 2003, this wine shows all the characteristics of a long lasting cellar selection, to be brought out for the grandest occasions and best cuisine.

Iam hard pressed to find words to get across the pleasure this wine offers, albeit within a true-to-the varietal, pure Pinot noir flavor profile. You'll just have to try this one and send me some of your words -- it's really indescribably beautiful.

Here's what Mike Etzel says about the 2004 Estate:

This wine is made from fruit grown on the original Beaux Freres estate vineyard. It primarily consists of Pommard & WŠdenswil clones on their own roots planted between 1988 and 1995. Mike farms organically, does not irrigate, and is beginning to follow the path of Biodynamic farming. Made from the smallest yields since 1994, it is not surprising that this is an extremely concentrated effort.

Beaux Freres says this about the wine: "The sweet tannins and velvety texture in this wine have been obvious from the first barrel tasting. The deep ruby color is accompanied by an emerging bouquet of sweet black currants, raspberries, plums, and forest floor scents. This opulent, concentrated Pinot is well proportioned with perfect acidity, and a long finish displaying seamless integration of fruit, acid, tannin, alcohol, and wood. It is rare to produce a wine of such richness and intensity that also possesses such smooth tannin and sexy up-front appeal."


Beaux Freres Belles Soeurs Pinot noir 04

Here are our Belles Soeurs tasting notes, March 15, 2006:

A tad more restrained nose than the 2004 Estate, focused around scents of ripe jammy fruit, white pepper, dried herbs, and spice. The explosive flavors are of sweet, silky raspberry and blackberry, violet perfume, intense notes of sweet black plum and red cherry, appealing hints of thyme, sage, and marjoram, spicy cinnamon and clove, and a long finish with hints of white pepper, forest floor, violets, mint, and more raspberry fruit.

The Belles Soeurs is a more forward wine than the Estate 04, with words like "lush" and "sultry" coming to mind. A tad more decadent than sophisticated, the wine is beautifully balanced, true to the varietal character in every way, yet so big and sexy. The "Shea" influence is clear in the spice and violet qualities... perhaps that silky yet rich, melt in the mouth finish will remind the taster of the Shea Homer.

Here's what Mike had to say about the wine:

Belles Soeurs wines feature fruit grown on select vineyard sites in Yamhill County. The wines benefit from the same integrity in the winemaking process as Beaux Frres. The sites are non-irrigated and managed to very low yields. The wines are not manipulated or filtered. Beaux Freres ages the wines in the same French oak barrels used in their estate bottling, however the percentage of new oak is intentionally lower.

Beaux Freres says this about the wine: "This wine is assembled primarily with fruit from the Shea Vineyard as well as Medici, Pelos-Sandberg, Weber, and a bit of Beaux Frres. The deep plum/ruby hued wine exhibits a nose of sweet, ripe cherry jam intermixed with spice, underbrush and dried herbs de Provence characteristics. Full bodied, fleshy, and undeniably appealing, it is a full throttle Pinot with no hard edges. A stunning premier cru from Beaune meets a gorgeous Pinot Noir from the Willamette Valley, and viola Ð 2004 Belles Soeurs."


Beaux Freres Upper Terrace Pinot noir 04

Here's what Mike had to say about the wine:

Beaux Freres' Upper Terrace Vineyard is planted on a steep Southeast facing slope to Pinot Noir Dijon clones 113, 114, 115, 667,777 on three different root stocks. The site has sedimentary soils and a slightly higher elevation than the original Beaux Frres Vineyard.

The 2004 Upper Terrace is the richest, potentially most complex and densest of the Beaux Freres offerings this vintage. It is much sexier out of the gate than the blockbuster 2002, and is more evolved aromatically than the large scaled 2003. The bouquet is a combination of black raspberry, blackberry, and deep, dark, broodingly smoky black cherries. As it sits in the glass subtle hints of mountain flowers emerge. In the mouth striking richness, intensity as well as suppleness make it the most accessible Upper Terrace yet produced.


Beaux Freres Winery - Challenging, Unusual, and Tiny: The 2004 Vintage

by Mike Etzel, Beaux Freres Winery

In 2004 we waited.

We waited through a freakish fall-like storm system that arrived in early September and dumped rain for over a solid week. With five consecutive rain-free harvests behind us perhaps it was time for Oregon to get clobbered. As the winery sat still, equipment at the ready, and the sound of rain drops on the barn roof, we waited. When the storms finally passed, leaving the berries swollen and water logged we waited some more. We could have rushed out to pick before the rains or at the first break in the clouds. Instead we continued to wait.

Finally after what seemed like an eternity, with sunny skies and a warm Indian summer settling in, the water slowly began working its way out of the clusters and the fruit managed to turn that final corner in the ripening process. At last the harvest was on.

We were able to pick our vineyards slowly and methodically, bringing in some of the tiniest fully mature Pinot Noir fruit in memory. When we describe this fruit as being tiny we refer not only to cluster size and weight but the overall quantity as well. A cool-wet spring had given us one of the poorest flowerings and fruit set in a decade. With yields averaging a paltry 0.89 tons per acre at the Beaux Frres Vineyard, and a measly 0.6 tons per acre off of the Upper Terrace, Mother Nature had just handed us our lowest crop yields to date, even lower than the 1994 vintage.

As winegrowers 2004 taught us a number of lessons. It provided insight into how much weather variance and rain volume our plants are really capable of handling in one season. It preached patience, and the pitfalls of jumping the gun and picking too soon. Lastly it reminded us of how quickly a vintage can change direction, and the fragility of a "good year." What had initially looked to be a very short, hot growing season that had us anticipating big wines with elevated tannins, turned out to be one of the most drawn out vintages on record giving us wines with tremendous ripeness and some of the sweetest and most supple tannins we can recall.

Despite the low yields and the intense concentration, the 2004's show remarkably true Pinot Noir typicity. For you Pinot purists out there that look skeptically at super ripe concentrated vintages for fear they might not be true to their varietal character, these wines will defy your expectations. Concentrated and powerful, yet sweet and nuanced, 2004 has given us the best of both worlds. From these descriptions you can see that this vintage defies easy categorization. An outlier, full of contradictions, this vintage somehow managed to deliver the unexpected and for that it is all the more unique.


Beaux Freres 2004 Vintage - Just the Facts

4/1/04 Bud Break
6/15/04 Bloom 100%

Harvest Dates: 9/10/04 - 10/14/04

Yields
Upper Terrace - 0.6 tons/acre
Beaux Freres - 0.94 tons/acre
Shea Vineyard - 1.60 tons/acre
Ana Vineyard - 0.84 tons/acre
Medici Vineyard - 1.10 tons/acre
Elysian Vineyard - 1.0 tons/acre



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