2018 Hundred Suns, Pinot Noir, Breaker Vineyard, Eola-Amity AVA, Willamette Valley, Oregon.
One of my my favorite wineries and one of the stars in Oregon, is without question Hundred Suns and Monterey raised winemaker Grant Coulter who’s Pinots are just spectacular, like this fabulously complex and opulent old vine Breaker Vineyard Pinot Noir from the 2018 vintage. I held on to this one as one as I could before I impatiently popped the cork, excitedly and expectantly, getting all the rewards, even though it still has another decade at least to develop! The concentrated medium bodied palate has lost the carbonic effect at this point and is pure Pinot hedonism in the glass with a dark ruby/garnet color and deeply floral nose, which adds spice and mineral notes to an array of red fruits before leading to a luxuriously silken core of black cherry, forest berry, plum and red currant fruits. This wine is exceptionally lovely and even got better with food and time out of the bottle adding snappy cinnamon, savory elements, grilled herbs and a delicate, but sultry, earthiness that perfectly lifted up the ripe/supple fruit here and providing some fine tension as well, which great wine have. Coming from about 550 feet up in the Eola-Amity area and with perfect Southeast exposure these grapes saw good hang time and made for an outstanding effort from Coulter. Made uniquely with an all native yeast fermentation in three distinct lots and then aged for 10 months in neutral, 5 year, air-dried French Burgundy style 228L barrels. These vines are dry farmed and organic, yielding, according to Grant, just over one ton per acre, hence the fruit density and depth here. One portion of the grapes was de-stemmed into a small, open-top fermenter, as a base in traditional fashion, while the second portion was placed 100% whole bunch in a 500-liter amphora and left untouched for 19 days, giving a carbonic and expressive fruit forward quality, with the last portion was left 100% whole bunch and foot crushed only for that umami and crunchy edginess.
As mentioned here in my prior reviews, winemaker, Grant Coulter, the ex Beaux Freres star, who along with his wife Renée Saint-Amour started their own label Hundred Suns in 2015, with a focus on small lot Pinots, like this one, of which, along with the Shea Vineyard, the Bednarik Vineyard, and the Sequitur Vineyard are some of their signature wines. The Pinots are all handcrafted to show transparency, lush fruit and terroir influence and Coulter has been experimenting with the use of Amphora, as seen here on the Breaker Pinot and always uses a significant amount of whole cluster. The wines are exceptional in their youth, having an almost Cru Beaujolais like personality, but cellaring looks like a good idea, especially if you want the flavors to fold more into traditional Pinot in profile, as this one has to near perfection. So I myself have, as mentioned, put a few bottles away for the long term, or semi, in this case, and with the natural acidity and backbone they have, they should provide rewarding drinking pleasure well into the future, though such patience is hard. I love how they taste young, especially with the right cuisine pairings, though I do look forward to holding on to my other bottles now.The Breaker Vineyard is where Coulter and Saint-Amour live and it was originally planted back in 1972 on its own roots, as Coulter notes, and it occupies a windswept rocky hill on the northern tip of the Eola-Amity Hills. The original cuttings came from Dick Erath and were farmed by Rich Zielinski for four decades, as he goes on to say, and saw some of the first Dijon clones in the area. To the north of the vineyard the soils are predominantly Nekia, moderately deep silty clay soils on top of basalt bedrock, while the southern portion is predominantly Gelderman soil series which has much thinner topsoils with rocks and cobbles strewn throughout the rows, which I believe adds loads of character here. The organic farming, was, in hope, to coax more years out of these old vines, but sadly, Coulter continues, that Phylloxera and viruses have taken hold in the vineyard, resulting in diminished yields and the 2019 vintage was the last year they produced a wine from the original vines, so cherish any you find!
($50 Est.) 96 Points, grapelive