Steve Lutz didn’t start out planning to be a winemaker. Wine found him.
He grew up in Colorado and planned to be a lawyer. In college at the University of Oregon, he had his first real experience with wine. He applied to law school and worked for a bit for an oil company, but always came back to that wine. Learning about wine was his calling. He packed up and moved to Napa.
He worked at Beringer, Franciscan, Inglenook, and Merryvale in the tasting rooms and cellar for a decade. Needing a change (and likely having that entrepreneurial spirit) he opened a pizza place in Santa Rosa. It was then that he met his wife Karen.
Four years in he sold the pizza place and he and Karen spent a year in England. Then returned to Oregon where Steve went back to work in the wine industry. That entrepreneurial urge was still there, and they started looking for a property where they could build a house and start a vineyard.
The origin of the name Lenné Estate
“People often ask about the French origins of Lenné. Then, I tell them it was born from a chicken farm west of London, England, in the small town of Wokingham.”
The Estate is named, in a fashion after Steve’s father-in-law. Karen’s father Lenny, passed away shortly before they purchased the property. It’s a much more complicated story than it initially sounds.
Originally the winery was to be named Nashgrove Lane, after the Lane that passed by Lenny’s chicken farm. Then one day Steve was looking at a photo of Lenny, it is the profile shot that you see now as a sketch on the label, “Lenny,” he thought, no “Lenné”! As he says he “French-fried” the name. He could not wait to tell Karen when she came home.
Karen was not as enthusiastic as he had anticipated. Her father was a difficult man and they had not had the best of relationships. But, he had stowed away some money that upon his death became an unexpected inheritance for her and her two siblings. It was that inheritance that allowed them to purchase the property in the Yamhill-Carlton AVA. It took some time, but Steve convinced her, and today the bottles of Lenné bear a sketch of Lenny’s likeness.
Lenné Estate 2018 Kill Hill Pinot Noir
This wine is the smallest production wine that they make at Lenné Estate, sourced from the highest elevation block with the poorest of the poor soils on the site. When we talk about poor soils, these are soils that make the vines dig deep to find nutrients. The name Kill Hill is because many vines don’t make it. The mortality rate on this block is the highest on the estate. In the first year, they lost 30% of the vines.
Luckily this mortality rate is only for the vines, although early on there is a story of Steve rolling their tractor on this steep section of vineyard. I guess there are multiple meanings here.
These vines are clones Dijon clones 114 and 667. You’ll find here in Oregon, that Pinot Noir clones are blended to build out the complexity of a wine in the same way that they blend Cabernet and Merlot in Bordeaux. Pinot is a transparent grape that shows off the place it is planted so a variety of Pinot Noir clones allows a winemaker a bit of room to play.
Steve notes that the Dijon 114 is all about red fruit with bright acidity and the 667 is more structured and intense.
The grapes coming from these tortured vines tend to be small, which gives you a greater skin to juice ratio when making wine. They are also very concentrated. You might think of Pinot Noir as a light to medium-bodied wine. Here at Lenné Estate and especially here on Kill Hill, they tend to have a bit more body.
The 2018 Kill Hill Pinot Noir hit my nose with dusty cocoa powder, then black cherry, raspberry, and blackberry. There was a bit of bramble, a whiff of fresh eucalyptus leaves on a tree, wet stone, and a bit of steaming coffee. Behind that was a bit of cedar then savory notes and a bit of tobacco.
In my mouth, I found black cherry and blackberry with more of those mocha notes.
125 Cases Produced – 14.1% abv – $60 SRP
Finding a Pairing for the Lenné Estate Kill Hill Pinot Noir
The winery noted “blackberry, raspberry, and mocha” in the aromas and flavors of the 2018 Kill Hill Pinot Noir, so I ran with that as I composed my recipes.
Pinot Noir is often subjugated to lighter meats, 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 light doing a bacon-wrapped filet, then doing 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, coffee, and coffee grounds (reduce reuse recycle people!).
We finished with a super simple salad of spring greens and sliced almonds that I dressed with olive oil, balsamic reduction, salt, and pepper.
Did the pairings work with the Kill Hill Pinot Noir?
Hell to the Yeah! These were not complicated dishes, but they stayed true to the notes in the wine and the pairing was delicious.
The coffee salt-roasted carrots had this great sweetness that worked with the wine and the coffee notes blended the food and wine seamlessly. The Pinot has enough acid to cut through the fat in the bacon on the filet. The savory notes in the wine elevated the beef and then the berry notes in the sauce bringing it all together
We finished the evening with some store-bought brownies, that also were wonderful with the wine.
We also had an unexpected dinner guest.
Lenné Estate produces between 1500-2000 cases annually. The poor soils give the wine concentrated flavors. The wines see around 35% new French Oak and are filtered before bottling.
Their wines are available primarily through their website and in their tasting room. As you can see these wines are not available in huge quantities. They are special wines and worth seeking out. When you have one, you have something special in your hand.
You can visit their website https://www.lenneestate.com/contact to schedule a tasting. They are typically open from Thursday to Monday. They also have vineyard tours and as the world opens up again, they will likely be back to doing some seminars and other events that you can find on their site. You can also reach them in the tasting room at 503.956.2256.
They are located at 18760 NE Laughlin Road, Yamhill, OR 97148
Not too long ago we tasted the Lenné Estate 2018 Scarlett’s Reserve Chardonnay. It was a beautiful wine. You can read more about that at
|Lenné Estate – Poor Soil, Hardworking Grapes and a Beautiful Reserve Chardonnay|
More on Oregon Wines from Crushed Grape Chronicles
- Bells Up – Wine to celebrate Memorial Day
- Lenné Estate – Poor Soil, Hardworking Grapes and a Beautiful Reserve Chardonnay
- Sokol Blosser Celebrating 50 years – an inside peek at the family behind this pioneering winery in Oregon’s Willamette Valley
- Tea smoked tuna and roasted beets with an aromatic plating paired with a Utopia 2017 Pinot Noir
- Oregon’s Utopia – A bit of vineyard perfection in the Ribbon Ridge AVA
- Découverte! Pinot Noir from Oregon’s Dundee Hills and Mediterranean Salmon
- Oregon Wine & Biodynamics with Troon and Winderlea
- The Scenic Route Part 8 – Johan and Quady North
Filet mignon is a decadent meal, but it's worth a splurge. We did a blackberry Pinot Noir pan sauce to drizzle over the filets and make this a perfect pairing with an Oregon Pinot Noir from Lenne Estate.
- 2 tbs oil (neutral or olive)
- 2 bacon wrapped Filet Mignons
- ½ pint of fresh blackberries
- ¼ cup Pinot Noir
- 1 small shallot (finely chopped)
- 2 tbs butter
- Preheat the oven to 425° F
- Put the blackberries in a blender and puree
- Pour the berries into a fine-mesh sieve. Press through to remove the seeds. Discard the seeds and save the juice for your sauce
- Heat a rod iron skillet over high heat.
- Add 2 tbs of oil and swirl to coat
- Sear the filets for 3 minutes per side.
- Do a quick spin to sear the bacon, (think of rolling a tire around your pan)
- Place in the oven for 3 to 4 minutes to finish cooking
- Remove the steaks from the pan and let rest under tented aluminum foil for 5 minutes, while you make the sauce
- Pour all but 1 tbs of the oil from the pan, but keep all the crunchy bits that will add flavor to your sauce.
- Return the pan to medium-high heat
- Add the shallots and the wine to deglaze the pan stirring up the crusty bits in the bottom
- Reduce by half (3 minutes)
- Add the blackberry juice/puree reduce slightly
- Turn the heat to low and whisk in 2 tbs of cold butter
- Serve over the rested filets and garnish with fresh blackberries
Amount Per Serving Calories 463Total Fat 37gSaturated Fat 12gTrans Fat 1gUnsaturated Fat 22gCholesterol 83mgSodium 311mgCarbohydrates 11gFiber 5gSugar 5gProtein 17g
Nutrition information isn’t always accurate.
Roasted carrots get an earthy update, roasted in salt and coffee. This recipe is great for reusing coffee grounds! The carrots are roasted, buried in a combination of coarse salt and coffee grounds. The mixture also makes for a fun presentation, the carrots on top of the coffee and salt, looking as if they were just pulled from the dirt.
These went beautifully with the Lenne Estate 2018 Kill Hill Pinot Noir, which had notes of coffee also.
- 6 carrots, remove the green (use that for pesto)
- 1/3 cup of coffee grounds
- ¼ cup of course salt
- 2 tbs Olive oil
- Preheat the oven to 450°F
- Toss the carrots in olive oil
- Mix the salt and coffee (grounds) in a small bowl
- Place the carrots in a glass dish side by side
- Cover with the salt and coffee mixture
- Roast the carrots for 15 minutes
- Reduce the heat to 275 and continue to roast for another 35 to 45 minutes
- Spoon the coffee mixture onto a dish and plate the carrots on top
I did not save enough coffee grounds for my recipe. No worries, I just added some freshly ground coffee to fill it out.
I also am decaf these days, so my coffee (and grounds) were decaffeinated. It does not affect the flavor.
I happened to have some pink Himalayan salt pebbles that I used. I also added some freshly ground salt and some Pinot Noir salt I happened to have. You can do this with almost any kind of salt, but I do think the coarser, the better.
And don't forget to save those carrot greens! While this is in the oven you have plenty of time to whip up a carrot top pesto!
Amount Per Serving Calories 168Total Fat 14gSaturated Fat 2gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 11gCholesterol 0mgSodium 14228mgCarbohydrates 11gFiber 4gSugar 5gProtein 1g
Nutrition information isn’t always accurate.
Robin Renken is a wine writer and Certified Specialist of Wine. 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.