2019 Beaux Freres, Pinot Noir “Les Cousins” Willamette Valley, Oregon.
The Les Cousins Pinot by Oregon’s legendary Beaux Freres is an ultra small production bargain, with just 50 cases made in this vintage, and while 2019 was a difficult year, it is a lovely wine with dark berry and black cherry fruit, heady aromatics, mineral notes and silky texture along with spice and subtle toasty/smoky oak tones. I’ve been a fan of Beaux Freres for ages and have even made a pilgrimage to winery as ways back, an experience that provided insight and joy to this wine traveler, so any new bottles from them is a treat for me, with this budget priced Les Cousins being a rewarding go to wine. Beaux Freres’ story begins in the 1980s when Mike Etzel visited the Willamette Valley after getting excited about what he was hearing about Oregon Pinot Noir and discovered an ex pig farm in the Ribbon Ridge district, set on marine sediment soils and a picturesque hillside setting, that caught his imagination and would later become one of America’s greatest vineyards and wineries. Now the new generation of Etzels are running the show here with Mike the younger now making the wines and taking his dad’s estate to the next level after taking over in 2016, but carrying on with the traditions that took this label to the pinnacle of new world Pinot Noir. The smooth and generous Les Cousins, chosen from eclectic barrels, just 2 in 2019, in the cellar has pure Pinot fruit and can be enjoyed young, best to be paired with food to enhance the depth and delicate earthy complexity.
Beaux Freres, founded by Mike Etzel back in 1986, though their first bottling was released in 1991, is one of Oregon’s most admired wineries that is focused mainly on terroir driven Pinot Noirs made in traditional Burgundian methods and, like Brick House Vineyard just down the road here in Ribbon Ridge, is committed to following biodynamic principles in the vines and in the cellar. The fermentation is allowed to occur spontaneously, relying on “wild” indigenous yeast, and as the winery notes, the must is tended to the old-fashioned way with punch downs and pump overs by hand throughout the day and night in small lots with lengthy maceration(s) before being pressed to barrel. Every vintage dictates the oak regime here at Beaux Freres and the wines see a percentage of new oak depending on the strength and concentration of the year with most of the Pinots getting a good dose of neutral wood and get 30% to 50% new in the best selections. The wines resting in barrel see no racking and Beaux Freres believes in reductive winemaking throughout the process to save freshness and purity of aromatics in their beautiful Pinots which typically mature in the barriques 12 months with secondary fermentation happening naturally. Beaux Freres says the aging on lees in their cold cellar with moving the wine acts as a natural preservative and gives them the ability to use far less sulphur (sulfites) in the wines, which they thinks adds to terroir nuances, quality and vintage character of their bottlings, such as this one. While not in the league of the top estate offerings here at Beaux Freres, this Les Cousins provides a very peasant tease.
($36 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive