Today we visit another of the Nested AVAs in Oregon’s Willamette Valley. We are off to Lenné Estate In the Yamhill-Carlton AVA.
The Yamhill-Carlton AVA
The Yamhill-Carlton AVA is a horseshoe-shaped bowl that faces south. The North Yamhill River flows through the region, cutting through this valley filled with orchards, fields of grain, and nurseries.
This area was originally forestry and farming land, but now the hillsides have become the home to vineyards making some of the world’s finest Pinot Noir.
The area is protected from wind and rain by the Coast Range Mountains to the West, Chehalem Mountain to the North, and Dundee to the East.
This protection and the marine sedimentary soils, (that are the oldest in the region,) create some of the darkest, deepest Pinot Noirs in the Willamette Valley.
These wines are silky in your mouth with fruit notes of raspberry, blackberry, and black cherry. You will find enticing notes of tobacco, coffee, and dark chocolate with floral notes, like violet and rose.
The Yamhill-Carlton AVA was founded in 2005 and covers an area of 60 thousand acres. Here you will find 52 wineries, and 110 vineyards over 25 hundred planted acres.
We visited Lenné Estate which is located in the Northeast part of the AVA near the town of Yamhill.
Driving into the property you are transported to the French Countryside. Their tasting room is surrounded by gardens, the lavender was blooming when we visited. The building evokes the feeling of the centuries old stone cottages in France.
It is not ostentatious, it has a welcoming quality like you are being invited into a charming French home in the country. The patio out front has beautiful views of the lower part of the vineyard and the Yamhill-Carlton area.
Walking the Vineyard at Lenné Estate
We began our visit with a vineyard tour with owner and winemaker Steve Lutz.
Steve is immensely proud of his pea vine soils. He brags that his vineyard has the poorest soil in Yamhill County. Vines here must work hard and prove themselves to survive.
The 20 acre vineyard sits between 300 and 600 feet in elevation. You notice that when you walk from halfway up in the vineyard to the top! It is steep.
Those peavine soils?
When Steve planted in 2001 he lost 35% of his newly planted vines in the first year. In addition, the steep slope made working the vineyard difficult. He named this early block Kill Hill.
He persevered and the mature vines have burrowed deep into the subsoil. The roots find water and nutrients, but the poor soil keeps down canopy growth and the vines focus on producing fruit.
The clusters of fruit here are small with small berries. This gives Steve more skin to juice ratio, which imparts concentrated flavor into his wines.
Tasting the wines of Lenné Estate
After our vineyard tour, we sat with Steve to taste some of his wines.
Set up on the patio overlooking the lower vineyard with a beautiful cheese and charcuterie board, Steve told us about the history of Lenné Estate.
Steve’s primary focus is Pinot Noir. This grape has many mutations and can be finicky. Here is a bit of background on this variety.
To accompany that beautiful charcuterie board, Steve poured several of his wines and walked us through a tasting. (Catch all the details in the video)
Pairing a Bottle of Lenné Estate Kill Hill Pinot Noir
At home we opened a bottle of the Lenné Estate 2018 Kill Hill Pinot Noir.
The winery noted “blackberry, raspberry, and mocha” in the aromas and flavors for this vintage, so I ran with that as I composed my recipes.
Pinot Noir is often subjugated to lighter meats, like chicken, pork, and fish. I knew this wine would have more body than a typical Pinot Noir, so we went with beef, but kept it lighter doing a bacon-wrapped filet, and a pan sauce with a bit of the wine and blackberries.
For our side, I wanted to play on the coffee notes in the wine. We roasted carrots in salt and coffee…… Well, actually, coffee grounds. This is a great use for your leftover coffee grounds. Burying the carrots in the grounds and roasting creates a rich flavorful side. The bitter notes of the coffee are balanced by the sweetness of the roasted carrots.
(Here is a link to the recipe)
While this concludes our trip to the Yamhill-Carlton AVA, you can find extras this region and on Lenné Estate by visiting our YouTube Channel.
While you are there take a moment and Subscribe!
Join us on our next episode when we visit Youngberg Hill in the McMinnville AVA and speak with owner Wayne Bailey about his wines and sustainability on The Scenic Route.
More on Lenné Estate on Crushed Grape Chronicles
Lenné Estate – Poor Soil, Hardworking Grapes and a Beautiful Reserve Chardonnay
The Scenic Route 2021 Day10 & 11, L’Ecole, Lenne Estate, Bells Up, Utopia
Robin Renken is a wine writer and Certified Specialist of Wine and WSET 3 Certified. She and her husband Michael travel to wine regions interviewing vineyard owners and winemakers and learning the stories behind the glass.
When not traveling they indulge in cooking and pairing wines with food at home in Las Vegas.
Thank you for bringing back such great memories, we had a great visit there pre-Covid and were duly impressed by their wines. Unfortunately Steve was travelling when we were there but a wonderful visit nonetheless…very much under the radar wines in our humble opinion.
I so love their tasting room. I really was transported. The wines are delicious and he has a very definite style. It was wonderful to be able to sit and taste with him and hear his thoughts on the wines and the vintages.