Oregon wine country revisited, part 2

Steve Lutz (above) is the man behind Lenné, a name which comes from Lenny, the name of his wife’s father. Steve’s background? After spending a couple of years in business, he worked in Napa for 13 years managing tasting rooms, and made his first home made Pinot Noir in 1986 from Carneros. In 1992 he started a gourmet pizza business in Santa Rosa, California, which he ran for five years. He sold it, went to England for a year and came back to Oregon with his English wife Karen. He then worked at Ann Amie, but finding himself in possession of some cash (hence the naming of the winery after his father in law), he bought a 21 acre property just east of Yamhill. He planted 15 acres of Pinot Noir vines here, and in 2005 left Anne Amie, built a tasting room and began to manage the vineyard full time. In 2007 he opened his tasting room and began selling the inaugural 2004 vintage.

The vineyard is south facing, and has very old sedimentary soils. Floods ran through here 10 000 years ago, and Steve claims that these are the worst agricultural soils in the county, with very little organic material. Establishing the vineyard was a real struggle, but the advantage is that there are no problems with excessive vigour. The clones of Pinot are all planted separately, and Steve makes some single clone wines. He says that in the beginning the single clones look better, but the blend of clones has the potential to be better with time. There’s a little bit of Chardonnay planted, and he’s going to graft a bit of the Pinot to Chardonnay, with a view to making an annual production of around 100 cases. The vineyard is managed organically but isn’t certified.  

The wines are currently made at Owen Roe, and Steve cites winemaker David O’Reilly as his mentor. Steve is currently thinking about building a custom crush facility. 60% of the wines are sold through cellar door, but he’s also selling the wine through seven states, the UK, Spain and Canada.

I asked him about recent vintages. 2011 was the coldest ever, and a year ago the wines weren’t tasting nice. The Pinot was harvested on November 1st (the vineyard was picked in a single day). In the late years you run into bird and rain pressure, but the cool vintages often make the best wines: they just don’t show well when they are young. 2012 is interesting: the wines are forward but the definitely have good structure from thicker skins and smaller berries. He says they won’t last as long as the 08s, 10s and 11s but they will be fairly long-lived.  


Lenné Karen’s Vineyard Pinot Noir 2011 Oregon
Fresh bright cherries and plums with nice acidity and some structure. Focused sweet fruit with real elegance. The fruit is sweet but it’s really pure with a hint of chocolate. Lovely wine. 94/100

Lenné ‘Le Nez’ Pinot Noir 2012 Oregon
Very bright, fresh, supple and sweeet with ripe cherries. Open and delicious with nice texture and a hint of chocolate. 90/100

Lenné Pinot Noir 2012 Oregon
Textured and fresh with nice depth, good structure and appealing cherry and plum fruit. Generous texture here but also some structure with good balance. Mainly Pommard and 115 clones. 94/100

Lenné Jill’s 115 Pinot Noir 2012 Oregon
Lovely sweet, floral aromatics here with red cherry and red berries as well as some strawberry. Inviting. The palate is supple and elegant with some sweetness but also lovely purity and structure. Harmonious and silky with lovely finesse. 95/100

Lenné Karen’s Pommard Pinot Noir 2012 Oregon
Structured, fresh and bright with raspberry and cherry fruit. A bit grippy and earthy with nice precision. Good structure with a hint of chocolate, some black cherries and some spice. 93/100

Lenné Kill Hill Pinot Noir 2012 Oregon
This is clone 667. Sweet, rich and concentrated with dense, spicy, ripe black cherry fruit, as well as some chocolatey notes. Dense and tannic, this is a big wine with some potential. 93/100

Lenné Eleanor’s 114 Pinot Noir 2012 Oregon
Lovely texture with some subtle earth and spice notes. Slightly chalky and nicely mineral, this has soft-grained tannins and hints of earth, as well as red cherry and plum fruit. Easy and smooth and drinking well now. 94/100

UK agent: Alliance Wine

Johan Vineyards
J Christopher
Big Table Farm
Walter Scott
Antica Terra

See also:

Visiting Oregon, July 2008 (series)

Wines tasted 07/14  
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