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Willakenzie Estate 'Kiana' Pinot Noir Willamette Valley 2009
- Varietal: Pinot Noir
- Country: USA
- Region: Willamette Valley
- Unit Size: 750 ml
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Wine Spectator 91 Points
($48) A lithe red distinctive for its red berry, cherry and delicate spice flavors on a focused, elegant frame. Needs time to polish the tannins. Best from 2013 through 2017. 580 cases made.
Wine Advocate 90 Points
($49) From a vineyard section favoring just two Dijon clones, and aged for 15 months in 40% new barrels, the WillaKenzie 2009 Pinot Noir Kiana projects the overt blueberry and boysenberry I associate with one of those, the popular clone 777. Fortunately, suggestions of charred grilled red meats and crushed stone serve for interest and berry skin tartness for a sense of invigoration to a sweetly lingering finish. Slightly superficial and more marked by its clonal origins and toasty oak than some of the other cuvees in this collection, it nevertheless is admirably polished and harmoniously ripe, likely to serve well for at least a half dozen years.
Former high-tech exec Bernard Lacroute acquired his dramatically sprawling 420 acres east of Yamhill in 1991; named it for the unique local marine sedimentary soil type; and began planting vines that would eventually reach 105 acres (two-thirds of them Pinot Noir), supplemented in 2000 by 25 prime acres five miles distant in the Dundee Hills that feature the Willamette’s other major soil type suited to viticulture, the basalt-based Jory, for which Lacroute duly named his second vineyard. Trained in organic chemistry, Auvergne-born winemaker and now co-owner Thibaud Mandet arrived at WillaKenzie in 2000 by way of stints in Champagne, Corsica, and Texas. Michael Rogers took over five years ago but was assistant vineyard manager for some years previous. This is one of those sure-footed, long-standing Willamette Valley wine growing teams whose consistency is admirable but doesn’t preclude an open and experimental attitude. Pinot is (thus far) always destemmed here, and there is a chamber in which, as Mandet puts it “we can get the cold, dry north wind of Burgundy” – famous for saving many a vintage – “at the flip of a switch.” Lacroute and Mandet feel strongly that acidification is not only undesirable but should never be necessary if the soil has been properly cared-for; enough canopy left to protect against possible over-exposure (“we learned from ‘03 and ‘06,” says Lacroute); and provided one picks at the right moment. Chaptalization, too, is eschewed, but musts are sometimes concentrated with an on-site vacuum evaporator. Having learned that, I was surprised when Mandet said he was totally adverse to adding water, “but then,” he added, “perhaps it’s because I’m French. In extreme circumstances, I would rather de-alc.” Fermentation is by inoculation, but the team here has high hopes for a culture of yeasts derived from their oldest vineyard, which was isolated and propagated for them in 2010, and which has already been subjected to an analysis that demonstrated both its efficacy and the hitherto unknown identity of two of its four strains. Fermentation in tanks and wooden uprights segregates parcels and clonal blocks because, as Lacroute puts it (without sarcasm), “In fifty years, we’re going to find out which vines work best where.” Punch-downs are mechanical but sparingly-applied, supplemented by occasional pump-overs and with limited post-fermentative maceration. Pinots are released only after a year or more after bottling, which normally takes place at 14-17 months and without filtration. (All WillaKenzie wines, by the way, are labeled with only the Willamette Valley appellation.)
The aromatics are mostly of red fruits persisting with tart cherries, and floral tones such as rose petal. There’s a beautiful balance to this wine with bright acidity, upfront sweetness, and soft, round tannins that add viscosity and creaminess to the rich mouth feel. The wine will benefit from 2-3 years in the cellar and age well for 8 to 10 years from its release date. We recommend that you open the wine an hour before serving.
The 2009 vintage was a classic Oregon nail-biting, nerve-wracking exercise with a win on the finish line. Beginning with a cold late winter, 2009 continued into a very cool spring with March and April temperatures about 3 degrees below average. The 50% bud break mark was not reached until the 2nd of May, and 50% veraison, when roughly half of the berries have changed color, did not occur until September 5th. For a while it looked like we would have a disaster on our hands, but Mother Nature took mercy on us by delivering less than 1.5” of rain in September and 2.4” in October, with sunny days and cool nights in both months. The result is excellent ripeness due to prolonged hang time, good acidity and lower levels of alcohol. A winemaker’s dream! We started harvest on October 1st, with the Terres Basses vineyard as usual, finishing on October 30th just before the downpour began. We are extremely pleased with the 2009 wines, which show finesse, concentration and great balance.
Last Year's Vintage (2008)
Wine Spectator 91 Points
"Lithe and distinctive for the meaty, toasty undertones to the red berry and spice flavors, lilting on the long, light-textured finish."
-Harvey Steiman, June 30, 2011
Burghound 91 Points
“Here the cool, elegant and airy nose…seems derived almost entirely from the essence of red berry liqueur, particularly cherry. The silky and gorgeously refined middle weight flavors are delicious and notably complex…” -Allen Meadows, October 2011
Wine Advocate 90+ Points
“The 2008 Pinot Noir Kiana spent 14 months in 40% new French oak. Aromas of cedar, game, clove, black cherry, and blueberry lead to a smooth-textured, structured, savory wine that, like its siblings, wil benefit from another 2-3 years of aging."
-Jay Miller, October 2011
Stephen Tanzer's International Wine Cellar 90 Points
"Dark berries, cherry pit and musky herbs on the nose, with a smoky quality gaining strength with air. Chewy and precise, with sappy black raspberry and bitter cherry flavors given spine by zesty acidity…lively finish…."
-Josh Raynolds, July/August 2011
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