2019 Beaux Freres, Pinot Noir “The Second Cousin” Willamette Valley, Oregon.
The entry set of wines at the famed Beaux Freres in the Willamette Valley’s Ribbon Ridge AVA are their Les Cousins Pinot Noir sourced from a wide selection of vineyards throughout the Valley and this unique The Second Cousin bottling that was produced solely from barrels (of Les Cousins) that showed a touch of Brettanomyces, a very curious and brave experiment from such a revered property, considering how evil “Brett” can be perceived, and as someone that is non to fond of it and flaws, I was surprised by how pure and enjoyable this elegant Pinot Noir is! Beaux Freres, like their awesome neighbor, Brick House, focus on biodynamics and were inspired by the wines of Domaine de la Romanee-Conti, Domaine Leflaive and Domaine Leroy in Burgundy and usually produce some of the greatest Pinots in Oregon, so it was interesting to see a winery like Beaux Freres take this kind of risk, but the results were exactly (with some luck for sure) what they had hoped, with the tiny amount of Brett adding some complexity and character without the aggressive almost roadkill like animal or overt barnyard flavors. This 2019 is silky smooth and vibrantly fresh with pretty floral notes, a kiss of sweet smoky toast, racy and youthful layers of black cherry, plum and raspberry fruits that are nicely accented by tea spices, blood orange, cinnamon, mocha, wild herbs and a lingering, underbrush and earthy mulberry note. This lighter framed and delicately perfumed Beaux Freres The Second Cousin is drinking well and round in its youth, maybe hiding the potential Brett nuances at this stage, but I am happy as it is more subtle and the expressive fruit is deeply pleasing as is the wines beautiful dark ruby color, which invites you into the glass.
With Beaux Freres founder Mike Etzel now concentrating on his own label and vineyard, Sequitur, the Beaux Freres winemaking team is now led by the second-generation here with Mikey Etzel and assistant winemaker Aaron Kendall, who have continued the tradition of hand crafting stunning wines, recognized, as they put it, a unique detail marking six of the barrels in the Les Cousins selections, which turned out to be, upon close inspection, a hint of Brettanomyces, or “Brett” as us wine geeks call it, peeking through the aromatics and the thought experiment started. As a yeast strain, Etzel adds, often considered a fault in wines, Brett can be a controversial topic, adding that, on one hand, in large quantities it can be quite unpleasant and distract from other features such as fruitiness, but when present in tiny amounts, as is the case here in 2019 The Second Cousin Pinot, Brett can add a fascinating element (their words, not mine usually, though I can agree in some cases) — a beauty mark of sorts, like on Marylin Monroe (my thought), they hope — that makes a wine distinct. For this reason, wine aficionados, sommeliers, and those who enjoy wines of unique character are often quite intrigued (or frustrated) by wines that show a bit of Brett. So Etzel and Kendall separated the lightly affected “Brett” barrels and bottled it, labeling it as The Second Cousin and released recently with the idea that you might be best served to enjoy it as soon as possible, rather than cellar it as you’d do with most of the other wines from this winery. I actually didn’t know about the Brett when I ordered this one, and being somewhat skeptical, I was very happy with the results and really like this Second Cousin a lot, it got better and better as it opened up and it was lovely with food. Now, if you wanted to really see Brett get funky, you might buy a couple bottles and save one for 3 to 5 years and then try it, as Brett usually grows or flourishes in the bottle, though I would be hard pressed to do that myself.
($35 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive