2018 Hundred Suns, Pinot Noir, Shea Vineyard, Yamhill-Carlton AVA, Willamette Valley, Oregon.
Grant Coulter, who has worked with the famed Shea Vineyard for more than a decade, most of that time while he was a winemaker at Beaux Freres, makes a tiny single vineyard bottling from this amazing site and this 2018, which starts slowly, is a gorgeous and dark Pinot Noir with incredible texture and smooth layering that expands in the glass. The Hundred Suns Shea Vineyard Pinot Noir is sourced from a one acre block of Dijon Clone 777 sits at 450 feet on a south/southwest exposure that gets plenty of sunlight and sees cool evenings that allows for deep ripening of the grapes. This warm site, Coulter notes, in the Yamhill-Carlton AVA is planted on sedimentary soil and is one of the most coveted set of vines in the the Willamette Valley and it has produced some legendary wines, including some of Grant’s own, along with Mike Etzel at Beaux Freres and Ken Wright, who was an early admirer of Dick and Deirdre Shea’s beautiful amphitheater like vineyard. This 2018, as mentioned, takes a awhile to really unwind and goes from a brooding and shy wine to a hyper expressive and rock star bottling, it transforms in the glass with air, in fact it was like turning on a light switch after 20 minutes, so patience will be greatly rewarded here! There’s plenty of classic character and flavors that unfold along with exotic elements too with a medium bodied palate of black raspberry, cherry, plum and pomegranate fruits at its core as well as hints of orange tea, rose hips, guava and red peach flesh. The satiny texture that develops is welcomed after a tight first impression and the length is absolute stunning, it lingers with floral and fruit echos, baking spices along with sticky lavender, cinnamon and very little traces of oak.
Coulter, who along with Renée Saint-Amour started their own label Hundred Suns in 2015, says the 2018 vintage gave them lower yields than normal, but the generous sunshine perfectly and evenly ripened their small block of Shea. When the grapes came in they were separated in the cellar into two lots, one 50% whole bunch and the other completely de-stemmed, so Coulter ending up fermenting the 2018 Shea Vineyard Pinot with about 25% whole cluster with 100% indigenous yeasts with both lots done and then blended with the wine being aged for 10 months in well seasoned neutral French oak. Coulter is always very complimentary about the iconic Shea Vineyard which is all dry farmed and meticulously maintained for quality and this vineyard, which I was lucky enough to visit and tour at harvest time back in 2008 is nothing short of a Grand Cru and a wonderfully picturesque place, the view from the upper blocks is spectacular looking down over the whole Willamette Valley. The ancient seabed over sandstone geology here is perfectly suited to growing Pinot Noir and the Hundred Suns version is an exceptional example with its delicious profile, structure and supple mouth feel perfectly captures the essence of the place and is a pure and gracious Oregon Pinot Noir that will seduce even the most difficult to impress. Grant’s wines are always transparent, expressive and distinct, he really focuses on each sites strengths and natural characteristics, using various methods to achieve his aims, he employs an ultra low sulfur process to allow all the freshness of fruit to shine through and his gentle handling of the grapes continues all the way to bottling, which is down with gravity and without any fining or filtering. These last three vintages have been awesome, this small Oregon micro batch winery is crafting some special stuff, I highly recommend getting these 2018s while you can!
($50 Est.) 95 Points, grapelive