Oregon wine country revisited, part 14
Andrew and Annedria Beckham are making some of Oregon's most
compelling wines, and they have a great story, too.
I visited their property in Parrett Mountain (in the Chehalem
Mountains AVA) on a gorgeous July afternoon. They have 6.5 acres of
Pinot Noir, plus an acre of Riesling, which they farm organically.
They are planning to move to biodynamics in the near future. Allied
with this transition, winemaking has moved from conventional towards
natural. 'We are just really interested in the holistic approach
because we live here with our family,' says Andrew.
They are best known, though, for the use of clay amphorae. Andrew is
a high-school ceramics teacher (he still teaches), and he has spent
the last few years perfecting the art of producing amphorae suitable
They've just build a new workshop, with a shuttle kiln and a jigger,
to make the manufacturing of these amphorae less labour intensive.
Soon Andrew will be selling them, at a price that undercuts the
Tuscan amphorae that others producers are now importing. He lucked
out recently. A woman who owned a ceramics factory in Washington had
a commercial pottery with custom-built equipment that allowed her to
spin 6 x 8 foot flowerpots. She couldn't compete with Asian
producers and so sold the equipment to Andrew cheaply, allowing him
to automate the process.
The amphora take 72 h to fire. At the time of writing (August 2017),
350 litre amphorae are available commercially, and by
October/November, 700 litre versions will be out. Then, in 2018,
Andrew is planning to have 1000 litre amphorae on the market.
Different sizes and shapes suit different wines: conical bottoms are
best for Pinot Gris, Qvevri for red wine ferments, and Tinajas for
storage (they have smaller openings).
huge dog, a goat and a sheep
They bought their home in December 2004, and it was in the middle of
woods. They cleared the area for planting with vines, and made their
first wine in 2009 (just 250 cases). 2013 was a pivotal year because
it was when they started with organics, started making their own
wine all themselves, and also started making some wine in clay.
They have just planted another 8 acres with rootstock, on more
cleared ground. This rootstock will establish itself, and when they
can get the new vinifera planting material they will graft it over.
The varieties they are planning to plant include Trousseau,
Savignan, Plousard and Chardonnay – spot the Jura influence. They
hire a crew from California to do the in-field grafting and the
success rate is high.
The Beckam Estate wines are made using more conventional elevage,
and the AD Beckham wines are made using clay. Both are fabulous.
We began with the dry Rose 2015, which is pretty and bright with
lovely texture and finesse. Then we looked at the regular Pinot Noir
and the Dow's (a reserve bottling) in 2014, 2013, 2012 and 2011
versions. I really liked these: particular preferences were for the
2014 Dow's, the 2013 Estate and the 2012 Dow's. They are brilliant.
Then: the amphora wines. There are two versions of 2014 amphora
Pinot Noir: Lignum and Creta. Both are fermented in amphora, but
Lignum leaves and spends the rest of its upbringing in oak, while
Creta stays in amphora for its entire elevage. Both are quite
brilliant. The Lignum is probably my favourite, with less impact
from the amphora, but still a lovely elegance and mouthfeel that
sets it apart from the regular conventional elevage Pinot, made from
the same fruit. The Creta is a distinctive wine, and it's lovely.
There’s an impact from the clay in terms of the flavour, but it
works really well.
Pinot Gris is also made in amphora. The 2014 is a complicated,
detailed, edgy wine that spent 40 days on skins in amphora, and it's
remarkable. I'm not sure how it will develop, but it is just so
interesting. Follow-on vintage 2015 is just as interesting.
Beckham Estate Pinot Noir 2014 Chehalem Mountains, Oregon,
13.2% alcohol. This is four clones:
115/Pommard/777/Wadenswil, fermented in two-ton macrobins, mix of
wild and inoculated ferments. Very fine, fresh and supple with some
spiciness (35% whole cluster). Nice bright fruit, grippy and spicy
with a stylish character. 93/100 (07/16)
Beckham Estate Dow's Pinot Noir 2014 Chehalem Mountains,
13.1% alcohol. Pommard and 777 clones, and
sees some more new wood. Detailed, supple, elegant and pure with
fresh, direct, sweet raspberry and cherry fruit, with some grippy
structure. Lovely focus and grip with robust berry fruits. 95/100
Beckham Estate Pinot Noir 2013 Chehalem Mountains, Oregon,
This was a challenging, rain-affected growing
season. Beautifully floral with fine, elegant cherries and plums.
Supple, fine and pretty with fresh red cherry fruit. Such finesse
here. Fragrant with good acid structure. 94/100 (07/16)
Beckham Estate Dow's Pinot Noir 2013 Chehalem, Mountains,
Structured with lovely savoury underpinnings to the
red cherry fruit, with nice grip and fine-grained tannins. Has good
structure and nice juiciness. 94/100 (07/16)
Beckham Estate Pinot Noir 2012 Chehalem Mountains, Oregon,
35% new oak. Fresh, juicy and a bit chalky with nice
grip and sweet red cherries. Some spice and grip, too. Has lots of
savoury character and good structure. 92/100 (07/16)
Beckham Estate Dow's Pinot Noir 2012 Chehalem Mountains,
40% new oak. Fresh fine cherries and a hint
of cedar. Supple with fine red cherry fruit and some floral detail.
Lovely wine. 94/100 (07/16)
Beckham Estate Pinot Noir 2011 Chehalem Mountains, Oregon,
Pale in colour. Supple, fresh and finely detailed
with nice red cherries and spice. So fresh. Has a nice savoury
character with fresh red fruits and a bit of pepper. 93/100 (07/16)
Beckham Estate Dow's Pinot Noir 2011 Chehalem Mountains,
Real finesse. Roses, dried herbs, pepper and
red cherries. Grippy structure and lots of finesse and appealing
weight. Good acidity and fine spices. 93/100 (07/16)
AD Beckham Lignum Amphora Pinot Noir 2014 Oregon, USA
This spends 30 days on its skins in amphora and then is
pressed to neutral wood for ageing. SO2 only added at bottling.
Lovely floral cherry fruit nose is really expressive. Pure, delicate
and fine with a silky texture and lovely fruit purity. Astonishing
detail and freshness. 96/100 (07/16)
AD Beckham Creta Pinot Noir 2014 Oregon, USA
This was fermented and aged in clay. 30% whole cluster. There are
hints of ginger and pepper on the floral, expressive nose. So pretty
with fresh red cherries. The palate has detailed, herb-tinged,
slightly earthy spiciness. This has structure and grip with fine
cherry fruit. Beautiful aromatics and astonishing finesse. 95/100
AD Beckham Amphora Pinot Noir 2013 Oregon, USA
The debut amphora vintage: this wine was just fermented in amphora.
24 cases made. Fine, pretty, juicy and sappy red cherry fruit.
Aromatic, sweet and expressive with a lovely textural quality.
Finely spiced and a bit grippy with some juiciness. 95/100 (07/16)
AD Beckham Lignum Pinot Noir 2015 Oregon, USA
This starts off in clay and then goes to barrel. Very elegant and a
bit stony with fine red cherries and plums. Fine grained and
elegant. Lovely stuff. 95/100 (07/17)
AD Beckham Creta Pinot Noir 2015 Oregon, USA
Stony and detailed with lovely elegance and purity. Very linear with
nice grip and structyre. This is a linear wine of real beauty and
purity. 94/100 (07/17)
AD Beckham Grenache Amphora 2015 Oregon, USA
whole bunch. Very fine and lively with a lovely silkiness. Has some
fruit sweetness and real finesse, with a smooth mouthfeel. Subtle
stony, slightly earthy undercurrents here, and just a hint of mint.
AD Beckham Pinot Gris Amphora 2014 Oregon, USA
Two lots were made, spending 30 and 40 days on skins, and then half
being aged in clay and half in acacia. Pale pink/orange colour.
Supple, fine and expressive with some pepper and nice spiciness.
Fresh and detailed with a hit of mint. Lovely focus with fine
cherries and spices, and nice texture. 94/100 (07/16))
AD Beckham Pinot Gris Amphora 2015 Oregon, USA
40 days skin contact in clay, and then half goes to acacia and half
back to clay for ageing. Slightly cloudy red/orange colour. Stony
and savoury with nice grippy citrus and tangerine notes. Grippy and
a bit tannic on the palate with a stony edge and good acidity.
AD Beckham Vermentino Amphora 2016 Oregon, USA
months in Tinajas, after a day and a half on skins. Then malolactic
in stainless steel. Very fresh tangerine and grape notes with a
lively fruitiness. There's a hint of creaminess here, too. Bright
fruit. Juicy and expressive. 90/100 (07/17)
Oregon, July 2008 (series)
07/16 and 07/17 as
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