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Belle Pente Wines

Belle Pente Wines

Here at Avalon Wine, Belle Pente wines hold a special place in our thoughts. Since owners Jill and Brian O'Donnell sold their first wines in 1996, we've enjoyed their combination of reasonably priced, carefully crafted Pinot noirs and white wines, made with Brian's unique vision. Now that their Estate vineyard (Belle Pente Vineyard) is producing great fruit, the wines are even more satisfying.

With little fanfare, Brian makes delicious and intricately nuanced, Burgundy inspired Pinot noirs. His white wines provide the clean, fresh scents and flavors of Alsacian and German wines. Each year, Belle Pente's reasonably priced wines get better, with increasing depth of scents and flavors.

Brian and Jill O'Donnell were Silicon Valley executives when the Loma Prieta Earthquake (1989) provoked a resolution to transition from high tech to wine. They moved to the Willamette Valley in 1992 and planted their vineyard in 1994. First wines were produced in 1996.

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Belle Pente Willamette Valley Pinot noir 2012

Fresh-picked blackberry, tart raspberry, earth and truffle. The low-key nature of Belle Pente reflects the personalities o...


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$24.98

$27.75 Regular

Belle Pente Estate Reserve Pinot noir 2010

2010 vintage new for September 2013.

2009 Vintage

Boy do I spend a lot of time writing about wine...


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$39.55

$43.95 Regular

Belle Pente Estate Reserve Pinot noir 2009

Both 2009 and 2010 are available.

Boy do I spend a lot of time writing about wines that need to be cellared. So it...


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$39.55

$43.95 Regular

Belle Pente Murto Vineyard Pinot noir 2011

Previous vintage tasting notes:

Tanzer 93 Points Bright ruby-red. Heady, exotically perfumed aromas ...


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$31.46

$34.95 Regular

Belle Pente Belle Pente Vineyard Pinot noir 09

This is the eighth vintage of Belle Pente's flagship wine. It is intensely aromatic, a virtual herb garden of lavender, r...


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$31.46

$34.95 Regular

Belle Pente Pinot Gris 2011

Belle Pente winemaker Brian O'Donnell has a knack for creating fresh, lively, Alsacian-styled white wines. A combination ...


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$14.35

$15.95 Regular

Belle Pente Chardonnay Belle Pente Vineyard 2010

An Avalon favorite, Brian O'Donnell balances ripe fruit flavors of pear, apple, and white peach with a brilliant crisp m...


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$26.95

$29.95 Regular

Belle Pente Willamette Valley Muscat 2010

Belle Pente Muscat is made in tiny amounts. It is an Alsatian styled dry Muscat, crisply refreshing, with an intense flor...


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$16.16

$17.95 Regular

Belle Pente Cuvee Contraire Rose 09

The richest of the roses for this season that I've had in spring of 2011. A hint of rose petals in the nose, tons of fres...


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$16.16

$17.95 Regular

Belle Pente Yamhill-Carlton Pinot noir 2010

This is a killer value, absolutely packed with flavor. Loaded with dark berries and plums, finishing with pure fruit and s...


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$25.16

$27.95 Regular

Belle Pente Dundee Hills Pinot noir 09

The Dundee Hills has a plumper core of fruit, showing bright pie cherries up front with a thread of dark currant that hel...


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$21.96

$24.40 Regular

Belle Pente Estate Reserve Pinot noir 2006

-...

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$39.55

$43.95 Regular

Belle Pente Estate Reserve Pinot noir 2007

My favorite kind of Pinot - it's different with each sip and it just gets better and better until the bottle is gone. Of ...


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$40.46

$44.95 Regular

Belle Pente Estate Reserve Pinot noir 2008

-...

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$39.55

$43.95 Regular

-Belle Pente Estate Reserve 4 Vintage Vertical

The "best of the best" from Belle Pente's Estate vineyard, showcasing the purest...


Qty.

$160.00

More About Belle Pente Wines

Belle Pente's 70 acre property is on one of the oldest farms in Yamhill County.  The vineyard site rises from 240' to 500' with south, south-east, and south-west exposures. The first vineyard was planted in 1994, and now includes 16 acres of Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, and Chardonnay. They also lease seven acres of old vine Pinot Noir at Murto Vineyard (est. 1978) in the Red Hills of Dundee.  A wine made from Wahle Vineyard fruit is also made.

"We're trying to make the best limited production, family-domaine scale wines in Oregon," explains Brian (pictured at right.) "We don't want to be big, we like being small. We're almost at our capacity, and now we're going to focus like crazy on quality."

The O'Donnells' inspiration is clearly Old World-down to the ambiance implicit in their name. "Since everyone who has ever visited our place comments on how beautiful it is, the 'Belle' part was easy," explains Brian. "We discovered 'Pente' during a visit to Alsace, where we found the word was often used to describe the steep slopes of some of the Grand Cru vineyards. Since parts of our hillside are quite steep, it seemed like a natural fit."

Brian started as a home winemaker in the 1970s, and by the end of the 1980s had decided to elevate his craft from hobby to vocation. In the early 1990s Brian had a job opportunity in the Portland area, and after visiting the Willamette Valley wine country and tasting the wines "we said 'This is it!'"

Brian and Jill purchased the land that was to become Belle Pente Wine Cellars in 1992. "From a vineyard standpoint, we felt it had great potential," recalls Brian. "The elevation was right, ranging from 200 to 500-ft, with all WillaKenzie soils and great sun exposure-some of the best in the area."

Brian O'Donnell, harvest 2009

In 1994 Brian and Jill planted the first part of Belle Pente's estate vineyard with Pinot noir, Gamay noir, Pinot blanc, Pinot gris, and Chardonnay.

"I believe that what will distinguish Belle Pente is the quality of our site," says Brian. "This site is very special. In 1997 and 1998 we made small quantities of wine from the estate vineyards and they were superb." The Belle Pente Estate Vineyard reached marketable production levels with the 2000 vintage, and today makes about 3000-5000 cases of wine a year.

Belle Pente's first harvest was in 1996, but also makes wine from purchased fruit, primarily from Murto and Wahle vineyards.

View from Belle Pente Vineyard down to winery at bottom of row

The winery's capacity is about 5,000 cases, which is just where Brian wants to be-"We don't want to be big," he says flatly.

Approximately half the production is Pinot noir, 30 percent Pinot gris, and 10 percent each Chardonnay and Riesling.

Brian's approach to his Pinot noir is clearly Burgundy-inspired: "We don't do a whole lot; we basically let them make themselves." While this is certainly true, like any good winemaker, Brian makes many different decisions that affect the final style and quality of his wines.

For instance, his Pinot noir grapes are picked early in the morning so they arrive at the winery cool. The fruit is carefully sorted to remove any rot and mildew, and is 100% destemmed. Long cold soaking, long low temperature fermentations using native yeast, and pressing at dryness directly into barrel, are examples of how Brian tries to preserve the character of the fruit.

Bell Pente's Pinot noirs generally come in two styles, a Willamette Valley blend and single-vineyard Reserves (including Wahle, Murto, and Estate). The Willamette Valley spends a year in oak, 25 percent of which is new. The Reserve spends longer, 18 months, and has a higher proportion of new oak-between 30 and 40 percent.

"We want to make Pinot noir wines that have great length and texture, but a little bit lighter in style and not heavily extracted," says Brian of his stylistic approach. "We're not looking for wines that will keep 20 years. We want our wines to be approachable upon release, and hit their peak within a 5-7 year window, depending upon the vintage."

at right, Jill & Brian O'Donnell at IPNC, July 2003

One aspect that sets Belle Pente apart from the "Pinot pack" is their enthusiasm and focus on white wines.

"A lot of people ask why we make so many white wines," chuckles Brian-"because it's fun!" Besides, adds Jill, "It's not as if you can just start growing another red grape here that is as wonderful as Pinot noir; yet there are a lot of great white varieties that make excellent wines here."

Belle Pente makes Chardonnay, Pinot gris, and Riesling, as well as a new rosé. "With our whites," says Brian, "we're looking to squeeze all the intensity we can; we want them to be big and rich, but with good acidity. Alsace is the stylistic model for our white wines."

For their Chardonnay, Brian approaches things differently than the Pinot noir. "I find the white wines require more intervention," he says. "Stylistically, we're looking for fairly big, rich, and ripe fruit-the best of California-style and Burgundy-style."

at right, "Peanut" the winery dog/house elf

To help achieve that, Brian barrel ferments his Chardonnay and inoculates with selected yeast; "I've had too many white wines get funky with indigenous yeasts," he comments.

He also is not shy about leaving a barely perceptible amount of residual sugar, and having a relatively high alcohol content. "The wines have enough acidity for the sugar to bring out the fruit, and the alcohol gives the wines more body and greater length," he says.

The Chardonnay typically stays in barrel for a full year. The barrels are 50 percent French and 50 percent Oregon oak. "The reserve will have more new oak and be a richer, fuller, more Californian style," says Brian. "Our regular Chardonnay tends to be a little leaner, more of a Mâcon style."

Belle Pente's Estate vineyard contains mixed Dijon Clone vines, and the character of the grapes shows in different ways from vintage to vintage.

Brian is excited about Pinot gris and Riesling, in particular. "I'm really bullish on Pinot gris. We barely knew what it was when we came here, but we made a few carboys in somebody's garage in Portland and became a fan of the varietal overnight."

at right, Belle Pente is very much a working farm - raising Highland Cattle along with sheep, chickens, geese, and goats

Brian wants his Pinot gris to be in an Alsace style, with as much bigness, ripeness, and richness as he can get while still maintaining good acidity. Belle Pente's Pinot gris fruit comes primarily from two vineyards. Brian likes the combination of flavors he gets from the tropical character of Wahle Vineyard fruit complemented by the spiciness from Whistling Ridge Vineyard.

"We'll take what the vintage gives us in terms of dryness or sweetness, and we'll try to get as much ripeness and richness as we can," says Brian.

Belle Pente's Riesling is made in small quantities from 15-year old vines. "I love to make it, I love to drink it, and I love to sell it," enthuses Brian. "Riesling is a noble grape, and Oregon has a lot of it planted, but much of it goes into $6 supermarket wines-We're trying to make a higher quality, serious Oregon wine. "

In fact, that could be Belle Pente's byword: serious. With a distinctive and varied white wine program, an Estate Pinot noir vineyard only beginning to exhibit its character, and a focus on quality, Brian and Jill O'Donnell clearly take their winemaking mission seriously.

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