Anatoli Levine, a wine writer and reviewer who also produces the Talk-A-Vino blog, has been producing the “Stories of Passion and Pinot” series about Oregon winemakers since 2016. His original inspiration, he wrote back then, was as follows…
I don’t know what makes winemakers so passionate about Pinot Noir. For one, it might be grape’s affinity to terroir. Soil almost always shines through in Pinot Noir – it is no wonder that Burgundians treasure their soil like gold, not letting a single rock escape its place. While soil is a foundation of the Pinot Noir wines, the weather would actually define the vintage – Pinot Noir is not a grape easily amended in the winery. But when everything works, the pleasures of a good glass of Pinot might be simply unmatched.
However important, terroir alone can’t be “it”. Maybe some people are simply born to be Pinot Noir winemakers? Or maybe this finicky grape has some special magical powers? Same as you, I can’t answer this. But – maybe we shouldn’t guess and simply ask the winemakers?
Willamette Valley in Oregon is truly a special place when it comes to the Pinot Noir. Similar to the Burgundy, Pinot Noir is “it” – the main grape Oregon is known for. It is all in the terroir; the soil is equally precious, and the weather would make the vintage or break it. And passion runs very strong – many people who make Pinot Noir in Oregon are absolutely certain that Oregon is the only place, and Pinot Noir is the only grape. I’m telling you, it is one wicked grape we are talking about.
As he’s already interviewed some of our favorites, it was an honor to be included for an interview among his latest additions to the series. Discussion topics included the kinds of wines we made back in Cincinnati, why we chose to move to Oregon, what made us decide to plant Seyval Blanc, our preferred farming methods, how we select the wine names and more. The full interview is posted here.
Additionally, Levine reviewed three of our current wine releases. He explains his rating system as being a means to keep personal records for himself, scoring on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the highest, and a + or – to indicate a score “in between.” Here’s what he had to say about 2018 Helios, 2018 Prelude and 2016 Titan:
2018 Bells Up Helios Seyval Blanc Chehalem Mountains AVA (13.1% ABV, $38, 15 cases produced)
- Light golden
- Restrained, minerality-driven, touch of gunflint, a touch of fresh green apples
- Excellent acidity, Granny Smith apples all the way, crisp, fresh, good texture. Has traits of Seyval Blanc (tropical fruit intent, I would say, like a hint of guava without any fruit notes), but put on a different core
- 8-, very interesting, thought-provoking and food friendly wine (acidity lingers on the finish for a good couple of minutes)
2018 Bells Up Prelude Rosé of Pinot Noir Chehalem Mountains (13% ABV, $22, 126 cases produced)
- Light red
- Medium plus intensity, distant hint of the barnyard, underripe cranberries, herbal notes
- Bone dry, crunchy cranberries, excellent acidity, food-friendly wine, fruit showing up a bit later, excellent balance
- 8/8+, delicious and dangerous. I can keep drinking it until the bottle will be empty
2016 Bells Up Titan Pinot Noir Willamette Valley (13.1% ABV, $40, 12 months in French oak (39% new), 131 cases produced)
- Dark ruby
- Plums, a hint of smoke, violets
- Slightly underripe plums, crisp cherries, sage undertones, good acidity, light to medium body,
- 8-, light, easy to drink, food friendly. Should improve with time.