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Beaux Frères 2005 Pinot noirs

Reviews, Tasting Notes, Scores
by Jean Yates, March 2007

Happy days! The 2005 Beaux Frères Pinot noirs are out. A larger vintage than the 2004, the wines are, none the less, quite limited, especially the 2005 Upper Terrace, made from a single block of the Beaux Frères Estate Vineyard.

It's been quite a wait. A very small 2004 vintage came and went in a blink. From June of 2006 until March 2007, Beaux Frères was sold out of wine.


Changes, and Not-Changed

Change: Belles Soeurs is now Beaux Freres. Beaux Frères' "Companion" label, reserved for wines made from "purchased fruit and selected barrels", has been retired. The wine previously called "Belles Soeurs" is now called Beaux Frères The Willamette Valley Pinot noir. Other previous Belles Soeurs wines such as the Belles Soeurs Ana Vineyard, if made in the future will, we assume, remain under the Beaux Frères label, with the vineyard designated.

Not changed: the prices, which remain the same as the last two vintages. While no bargain brand, we respect Beaux Frères' maintaining prices in the face of small vintages and remarkably high scores from Wine Spectator and other publications.

Changing gradually are the generations, as the cycle of life makes it inexorable progress. A second generation of Etzels is headed towards a career in winemaking, and perhaps at Beaux Frères itself. Mike Etzel's eldest son, Jared, is firmly in the grip of the wine bug, and is completing a degree at Oregon State University in Enology and Viticulture. Middle brother Mikey is also at OSU, and seems to be headed in the same direction. Youngest brother Nathan, a freshman at OSU, is still deciding where life will take him, but Jared is enthusiastic that he might join his older brothers in their winemaking pursuits.

Read more in Avalon's exclusive feature article here: Beaux Frères: Introducing the Next Generation.


The 2005 Vintage - Difficult Year Leads to Unique Vintage Character

Beaux Frères Winery - 2004

Maybe it's not so bad if the weather conditions of a vintage are less than perfect. In 2005 Beaux Frères created "good out of adversity" says Kurt Johnson, National Sales Manager.

The 2005 growing season brought Willamette Valley growers a limited fruit set, heat spikes, rain during harvest, and rain that didn't stop. In some years, an early rain has little effect, as the water in the grapes is drawn out and flavors re-intensify over a week or two of warm days. Not so in 2005. When it started raining, that was it. Oregon's famous winter rainy season came on with unrelenting moisture.

Perhaps difficulties in a growing season contribute qualities that add up to a unique character for the vintage. In 2005, limited fruit set meant a limited crop, and fewer clusters of grapes per vine intensified what was left.


The Wines

2005 brings three wines from Beaux Frères: Estate, Upper Terrace, and Willamette Valley. Mike also made Ana Vineyard's 2005 Pinot noir, not yet released.

Beaux Frères "Estate" Pinot noir 2005

$67.50/$75.00

The Pinot noir vines of Beaux Frères' 22 acre Estate Vineyard were planted between 1987 and 1990, and at 17 to 20 some years of age, are in their prime. The vineyard is a mix of Pommard and Wadenswil clones, for the most part planted on their own roots (versus phyloxera resistant root stock).

In his Estate Vineyard, Mike is harvesting the rewards of his long commitment to careful, meticulous vineyard management, including increasing use of biodynamic methods. The 2005 Estate Pinot noir's complex layering of scents and flavors differentiates the Beaux Frères wines from simpler Pinots. Consistently the highest rated Pinot noir in Oregon, (even without co-owner Robert Parker rating the wine for his famed Wine Advocate), Beaux Frères' 2005 Estate Pinot noir continues to hold its position.

Wine Spectator reviewed the Beaux Frères Estate 05 in early March, 2007, and gave it 93 points.

We wonder if Wine Spectator tasted the wine before it was showing at its best. As you know, young Pinot noir goes through "dumb phases", when the fickle Pinot grape seems determined to hide its charms. Tasting the wine in January 2007, we found the wine big and balanced, but changing rapidly with aeration, that is, the scents and flavors kept shifting, and it took awhile after decanting for the complex, layered and intricate flavors to show themselves to the full. And that "je ne se quois" that raises Beaux Frères's Pinots to the highest scores was, perhaps, not as completely present as it might be in a few months.

Here's what Harvey Steiman said on March 7, 2007: "Although 2005 was a difficult vintage, Beaux Frères made a beauty out of its own vineyard. Firm at first, it then blossoms into a panorama of flavors, fanning out its raspberry cream flavors, hinting at floral, mineral, green tea and Asian spice notes as the finish picks up steam. Not a big wine, but it has many layers to explore. Best from 2009 through 2015. From Oregon. - H.S. 93 points.

Here's what Mike Etzel says about the 2005 Estate Pinot noir: After 16 vintages it would seem easy to compare the newborn 2005 with a previous year, but it is actually quite difficult. We have had vintages where, because of growing conditions, the wines are delicate, light, and feminine. And other years where, because of low yields and climatic circumstances, the wines are powerful, rich, and dense. 2005 appears to be a blend of both styles.

The color is dark ruby with plenty of purple highlights. The nose is very extroverted and shows no intention of shutting down. At present (January 2007) the wine reveals pure blue and black fruits, (primarily black cherries, raspberries, and a hint of blackberries) along with tell-tale beet root, earth and herb notes. In the mouth the wine is rich and full bodied, yet displays a lighter, more delicate finish.

It is somewhat of a paradox that such an intense wine could also be light on its feet, but that is the style of this vintage. We believe that this season's unique growing conditions leading up to harvest gave us the ideal grapes to produce a wine with impeccable balance in acidity, alcohol, tannin, and depth of fruit. This wine should be relatively approachable in its youth, but because of its balance evolve for 10-12 more years. Over the last sixteen years, we have seen how well our wines have evolved. They have done what we have always hoped, improving in the bottle, which is no easy task.

Here's our (Avalon Wine) tasting notes: Tasted in January 2007, the nose of the Estate was restrained at first, then showing a perfume of violets, red and black berries, toast, and sweet earth. Hints of spice, herbs, and dried flowers mingle with the fruit scents.

The wine shows an immediate intense sweet fruit quality in the mouth. Blackberry, black raspberry, blueberry, and lush black cherry fruit flavors prevail. Subtle notes of sweet wild mushroom, sweet earth, and forest floor are occasionally noted, but come and go, just a gentle undercurrent to the dominant fruit flavors. There's also a sense of perfume on the palate, with hints of Asian spice, dried field flowers and herbs. The tannins are silky and present, adding structure, restraining and balancing the fruit. In January 2007, the tannins are the slightest bit drying in the mouth, although after decanting and air, that quality disappeared quickly.

The Estate is aged on its lees in 75-85% new Francois Frères oak barrels, and the wine has a creamy quality in the midpalate that comes from exposure to the lees. The lees also contribute a silkiness to the mouth feel.

Every time we put our noses in the glass, this wine was changing (January 2007). With time, red fruit, primarily red raspberry, started appearing along with the blackberry and cherry flavors. Marcus noted that this wine seems much more red fruit driven than the Upper Terrace, which has been perceived by us as a much more black and blue fruit dominant wine. This 2005 Estate Pinot noir was changing so rapidly with aeration, we could not help but wonder what it would be like in a few months or a year. We'd love to see what Harvey Steiman (Wine Spectator) would say about this wine in six months to a year.


Beaux Frères Pinot noir 2005, The Upper Terrace

$81.00/$90.00

The Upper Terrace is made from a ten acre vineyard purchased in the late 90's. The Upper Terrace is quite close to the Estate Vineyard, located on the crest of the next hill north. The 'Upper Terrace' vineyard is ten plantable acres of southeast-facing hillsides of Willakenzie soils at elevations similar to those of the Estate Vineyard. Eight of the ten acres are currently planted to various of the new Dijon clones of Pinot Noir, as compared to the Estate Vineyard, which is planted to Pommard and Wadenswil Clones.

In early March, 2007, Wine Spectator published their review of this wine. Harvey Steiman said: ": "More recent plantings of Dijon clones at the top of the estate vineyard produce this Pinot with a plush feel, despite its open, velvety texture. It offers black cherry, raspberry and subtle spice flavors, finishing with a fleshiness that makes it seductive. More up-front than the Beaux Frères vineyard bottling, but it should hum well for quite a few years. Drink now through 2015. Wine Spectator rating 92 points" - H.S.

Here's our (Avalon Wine) tasting notes: A big bruiser of a Pinot, this is co-owner Robert Parker's favorite of the Pinots made by Beaux Frères. It was also the most closed of the three 2005 wines when tasted in January 2007. The darkest, meatiest, most intensely flavored of the Beaux Frères wines, this wine may have the longest potential life in the cellar. It's a wine for serious collectors who don't mind laying a wine down for ten years or more.

The nose of the Upper Terrace 05 is restrained, with a hint of black fruit and rich, creamy toast. Flavors begin with a gush of sweet black fruit, toast, and silky tannins with a bit of a grip. An Avalon employee said at the tasting "there's just the most there there". It's intense, and very different from the Estate, which seems more sweet red fruit driven in comparison to this massive Pinot. The Upper Terrace is aged on lees in 80-90% new Francois Frères new oak barrels, with medium to heavy toast and some toasted heads.

Marcus says: The Darth Vader of Oregon Pinot. Dark and powerful from first sight, the Upper Terrace exudes intense, black fruit aromas with barrel spice that hints at incense and black pepper. Big, juicy flavors of black cherry, blackberry, and ribbons of black and red raspberry. Great alate density. Give the Upper Terrace a year or two to fully integrate and you'll find an awesomely rich Pinot.

Here's what Mike Etzel says about the Upper Terrace 05: The 2005 Upper Terrace has much of the Beaux Frères Vineyard's character, but exhibits a deeper color, more depth, and even more color and richness. Unmistakable floral and forest floor components clearly suggest a grand cru red Burgundy from the Cotes de Nuits, notably Vosne-Romanee or Flagey-Echezeaux.

We believe that the floral and forest components of the wine come from the Dijon clone Pinot noir planted in the Upper Terrace, which are the best materials from Burgundy, and seem to be best suited for Oregon's cooler climates. With these clones planted in the steeply sloped vineyard, this wine always comes across as meatier, richer, and fuller than the Beaux Frères Estate cuvee, which is largely a blend of Pommard and Wadenswil clones.

The wines from the Upper Terrace exhibit a Burgundian aromatic profile and the vineyard tends to crop lower almost naturally, so the wine seems to have even more density, and richness than the Beaux Frères Estate. This 2005 will benefit from 1-3 years of bottle age, and be drinkable over the following 12-15+ years.


Beaux Frères Pinot noir 2005, The Willamette Valley

$40.50/$45.00

Formerly known as the Beaux Frères Belles Soeurs Willamette Valley Pinot noir, this is Mike Etzel's one Pinot noir made from a blend of fruit from different vineyards. The Beaux Frères Willamette Valley 2005 is made from fruit from vineyards including Carabella, Patton Valley, Emily Robert, and Pelos Sandburg. The wine is aged in 50-60% new French oak from Francois Frères.

Here's our (Avalon Wine) tasting notes: The most approachable and ready to drink of the three wines when tasted in January 2007, the Willamette Valley is succulent and juicy. The nose has a decadent creme brulee quality, with red raspberry and blackberry as well. Hints of sweet toast and pumpkin pie spice add to the mix, with a soft creaminess underlying all. Flavors reiterate the scents, with a sweet, juicy quality to the red cherry and red berry flavors. Sweet cherry hard candy is hinted at in the midpalate. We found the wine uplifting, lithe, and refreshing. The juicy fresh blackberry and raspberry flavors are transmogrified to sweet red cherry with a touch of uplifting sour cherry in the finish. A really wonderful food wine, ready to drink and drink within five years.

Here's what Mike Etzel says about the Willamette Valley 05: This wine is deep ruby to the rim, with sweet black cherry and cassis fruit. Not quite the same degree of nuance of the Upper Terrace, or the earthy terroir-driven character of the Beaux Frères Vineyard. The Willamette Valley Cuvee is an up-front wine with medium to full body, beautifully pure fruit, supple tannin, and a good vibrant acidity giving the wine a freshness to go along with its fullness and palate-pleasing style. It should be consumed during its first 7-8 years of life.


A Challenging Vintage

by Mike Etzel, Beaux Frères

It seems as though every vintage, year in and year out, is the best vintage that anyone at the winery can remember. How is this possible? Has the challenging vintage gone the way of the $2.00 gallon of gas? Have modern viticulture, winemaking, and years of experience rendered the challenging vintage obsolete? Or are our memories too short and jaded by ceaseless marketing clamor? Actually we believe all of these things to be true in varying degrees, but we ask you to consider this thought for a moment.

Does a challenging vintage necessarily equate to a mediocre wine?

While the best things in life may be free they are definitely not always easy.

Could it be that somewhere in the midst of adversity something really good or even great might emerge? If nothing else, perhaps the attributes and qualities that define a vintage as unique are forged.

In our opinion 2005 was a challenging vintage - and yet one of which we are extremely proud.

Things finally settled down after a sometime stressful growing season. The bloom and fruit set was less than perfect, the threat of mildew was high, but we persevered. By the end of August a promising, slightly late harvest seemed to be at hand.

September brought mild daytime temperatures and chilly nights. The weather was excellent for ripening, although very slow. On September 30th, with a mere 10% of our harvest completed we got our first real rain. This was followed by day after day of cool, damp drizzle. Optimistic forecasts of warmer, sunny weather failed to materialize. We waited, spirits began to dim; doubt began to creep in.

As the color of the vineyard canopy changed so did the color of our hair, the leaves to yellow, our hair to gray.

Finally we began to see signs of botrytis - the waiting game was up. The plants had given us all they could and now it was our turn. The chemistry revealed the lowest sugars in 7 years. At this point we cannot say that we did not consider abandoning our naturalistic approach by taking advantage of modern technical procedures. But we stuck to our principles, and we are glad we did. These wines have far surpassed our expectations. Although the sugars were modest, the phenolic maturity of these wines was outstanding, giving them great balance, purity, and presence. These wines are, as always a reflection of a time and place, made all the more unique by the idiosyncrasies of the season. This vintage was a challenge, but we think that all of the effort was worth it. We believe that for the Beaux Frères wines 2005 is one of our finest vintages ever produced. We also believe that ultimately you are the final arbiter. Taste these wines, decide for yourself.


Try Them All

Beaux Frères 2005 Vintage Sampler Case $725

6 "Estate" 05 $75 each
4 "Willamette Valley" 05 $45
2 "Upper Terrace" 05 $90 each

Save $85 from $810 retail



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