January 22, 2010

2007 Horsetail Pinot Noir Willamette Valley

Talking with yet another retailer the other day, we spoke about how the 2007 Oregon pinot noir vintage is overlooked and misunderstood. Yes, there are some weak, underripe and otherwise lacking wines. You are missing out if that's all you think about the vintage. Add in some dramatic discounting and there are not only terrific wines for enjoying and cellaring. There are some terrific deals out there, too.

Tonight I opened the 2007 Horsetail Pinot Noir Willamette Valley. This wine comes from Mike and Jared Etzel, sons of Mike Etzel of Beaux Freres and wife, the sadly, recently late Jackie Etzel. The grapes come from the Broadley vineyard, far south in the Willamette Valley near Eugene, and the Wahle vineyard in the Yamhill-Carlton District up here close to Portland. Readers will remember that I got some Wahle fruit in 2006 for my homemade wine. I was in line to get fruit in 2007 but got shut out. Same thing in 2008, at the last minute actually, so unfortunately this terrific site is now off my radar. It shouldn't be off yours though, and this wine shows why.

Thanks to information from the Avalon site, the wine is a blend of Dijon clones from Broadley and Coury clone from Wahle (pronounced Wall). Dijon clones typically give lots of fruit, and in a cool year like 2007 they were pretty successful. This wine shows it, with nicely ripe berry fruit right in the center of the aroma and flavor. The Coury clone is known as UC Davis 22, an upright "pinot droit" that has a reputation for productivity but not distinction. Turns out experienced producers from this site, including Belle Pente, prize the old vine Coury - planted in 1974 - for its aroma and acidic spine.

When I worked with this vineyard in 2006, the Coury saved the blend of fruit I got. While the Pommard and 777 (grafted on old chardonnay roots) were pretty ripe, the Coury picked at the same time was fresh and bright, a few weeks behind in ripeness but already ripe enough. It added great lift and freshness to the finished wine. Old man Coury himself is an Oregon wine legend. He got the Wahles to plant their site in the first place and supplied them and many others with plant material. We all owe him a debt, though I hear he was a rascal. Seems fitting.

So this 2007 Horsetail. What do the sons of the famous Beaux Freres maker produce? To my taste, one of the best 2007s I've tried. This wine has it all, including value at a $25 price tag. The color is translucent medium ruby with a fresh sweet berry and earthy, soil and spice aroma that lacks no ripeness, offers lots of fruit, but also conveys terrific finesse and delicacy. In the mouth, the Dijon clone fruit is obvious, with lots of cherry and spicy raspberry notes. But it's not sweet and candied. There's great acidic freshness that carries the flavors a long way and refreshes the palate for food or another sip. I don't pick up too much oak in this wine, and the finish turns mineral rather than sweet and caramel. In sum, this is excellent Oregon pinot noir and something I think will last in the cellar for several years, gaining aged sweetness and fat to hang on the nervy acid structure.

I've been on record saying that 2007s typically are so pretty and delicate, they drink well now and probably for another 4-5 years. I don't see this as a long aging vintage, exceptions notwithstanding. This wine could easily be at $40 -- in a better economy anyway -- and live up to the expectations of ageability that you might have for a wine at that price. Well done fellas. Nice package and cork too. This one is all class, and a nice buy if you hunt for it.


Paul said...

We were just saying the other day: 25 (dollars) is the new 45...

Dudley said...

Where did you purchase this wine Vincent? Never heard of it. On a side note, if you are out and about today (Sat), stop by Horse Brass after noon and I'll buy you a draft!

Vincent Fritzsche said...

Paul, good way to put it. Some of the $25 wines are actually worth $45. Get 'em while you can.

Dudley, Michael had it and maybe still does. Liner and Elsen too. I'd love to stop by the Brass and will if I can, but I really should be heading to the winery for some work. Maybe on my way though. Not doing anything too serious.

Dudley said...

Sounds good Vincent. I think you have my cell. Hope to catch you later today.

JaredEtzel@gmail.com said...


Thanks for expanding on the Coury history and writing a nice review on our wine. As I am writing this from my hotel in Paris I now appreciate a good value:) Our 2008 will be released in April or May as it has the luxury of 17 months in barrel. As the 2008 is a fleshier and opulent vintage it fits our criteria for our inaugural release of our first label "Coattails" (150cases). Horsetail will also be released in 2008 in a small quantity.

Jared Etzel

Vincent Fritzsche said...


Interesting to hear that this is not your main label. I like what I assume to be humor in the name Coattails. If you're going for a more opulent style, I understand how this doesn't make that cut. For my taste, this '07 is excellent and plenty opulent. Or at least, well fruited but with structure to develop even more richness with age. Either way, good job. Oh to be in Paris. Enjoy.