Beaux Freres is one of the first places I think of when Oregon wine comes up in the conversation. Meeting Mike Etzel in 1993 was a touchstone, a marker in time. Watching his development as a winemaker and grapegrower has educated and inspired me.
Since 1988 Mike Etzel has walked his land and grown his vines on such a personal level it’s hard to separate the man from the place in my mind. His wine is an intensely individual expression of Pinot noir. He’ll say it’s what the grapes give him, that he just stays out of the way, but that’s not entirely true. I think there’s an additional factor – his deep, deep connection to that particular place above his house, that 20+ acres of land that he lives on, raised his family on, often walks several times a day, and nurtures like a child. He knows it like the back of his hand.
Mike makes three Pinot noirs, a Willamette Valley blend using fruit from his vineyard and fruit purchased from nearby sources; his flagship Beaux Freres Beaux Freres Vineyard; and Upper Terrace, made from a higher elevation block of his vineyard, where the grapes are arguably his best. He also makes a Rose in some years and a Chardonnay in tiny amounts.
So an under $30 Beaux Freres wine? With the intense levels of care and attention Mike brings to his three wines, where does this new Les Cousins wine fit in?
First and most importantly, he makes it himself, along with his other wines. BIG plus. Second the fruit is from the estate vineyard as well as from purchased fruit. BIG plus for quality. Third, it is made for his loyal customers, who have bought his wines for years because of its exceptional style. BIG BIG plus. What it’s not is a quick fix for cash, or a one-off to get rid of not so great juice.
Marcus says it best – Les Cousins is a Beaux Freres “daily drinker” for those who drink good wine.
People ask us for daily drinkers constantly – “something good, that I can just open without worrying about what I’m going to serve with it, that isn’t going to break the bank and dig into my precious cellar of treasures.”
You could say that Les Cousins is Mike’s gift to his customers, an aid to keeping their wine glasses out of the cellar while their Beaux Freres Pinots are aging. To be able to enjoy Beaux Freres on an everyday basis, it’s a new experience.
So what is the wine like? The 2011 Beaux Freres Les Cousins Pinot noir is a ready to drink, simpler version of Mike’s style. It is like putting your nose into a fresh, juicy handful of raspberries, with a hint of buttery crusted berry pie. Tasting it, the light color belies big flavors – berries, cherries, cinnamon and sweet pie spices, and an undercurrent of toast and bacon fat. Just perceptible to me is the scent of his vineyard at harvest time – dried herbs and the red dust of Jory soil. From start to finish, a Mike Etzel wine made for drinking today.
Beaux Freres Les Cousins Pinot noir 2011
$24.98 in any 12 bottle order or Build A Case* ($27.75 retail)
Fragrant and spicy aromas lead into a fresh handful of red berries, mixing with earth and sweet blackberries on the sneaky-long finish. Drinking well with decanting, Les Cousins will age for 2-4 years. – Marcus
From the winery: This cuvee represents an eclectic selection of barrels from our cellar. This is not a wine based on a place but rather on a style. The 2011 Les Cousins reflects the more ephemeral side of the vintage. Light in color it begins to darken in the glass with air. Aromatically it begins with a whiff of cinnamon, pie crust, and bacon fat. The palate starts with crisp, juicy, red fruits – raspberry and cranberry, perhaps rhubarb jam. It moves through a core reflecting earth and dried herbs into a slightly drying, light – bright finish.
PS – Mike declassified the Upper Terrace wine in 2011 – might there be a touch of it in the Les Cousins?
Below, Mike Etzel and eldest son Jared Etzel holding their Pinot noirs
Below, Beaux Freres Vineyard, Mike Etzel, Kurt Johnson
author: Jean Yates