Willamette, Dammit! Wine & Dinner with Brian O’Donnell of Belle Pente

 

One of the many cozy lounge areas at Gedney Farm.

I have been fortunate to meet many of my fellow wine lovers in person after getting to know them on Twitter and Instagram. Sommelier Peter Miscikoski and I share a love of organic, biodynamic, character driven wines from small producers and a love of post-punk and goth music. [Follow him here peterm_99 ] In addition to his usual duties as sommelier, Peter hosts a “Sommelier Series” of winemaker dinners and events at Gedney Farm in the Berkshire mountains in Massachusetts. Two restored Normandy style barns crafted for the finest stallions and Jersey cattle during the Berkshire’s “Gilded Age” are the backbone of Gedney Farm. Surrounded by 200 acres of rolling pastures, the barns [one a 16 room boutique hotel, the other a restaurant and event space] are both exceptionally preserved and strikingly modern. Check out their innovative and extensive amenities here.

I was super excited when Peter invited my husband and I out to Gedney Farm for a winemaker dinner with Brian O’Donnell, owner/winemaker at Belle Pente in the Willamette Valley, Oregon. Accompanying the selection of Belle Pente wines was a specially curated tasting menu from Executive Chef Rob Burnell. Chef Burnell expertly crafted a menu reflecting the notes of Spring, yet with a hearty richness as the temperatures are unseasonably cold. He particularly included root vegetables to compliment the earthy character in the wines. A true farm to table menu, all ingredients are organic, sustainably sourced and local.

Brian is incredibly knowledgeable and down to earth, he happily chronicled the story behind each wine, along with his 20+ year journey in winemaking, answering all questions along the way. The title stems from this East Coast/Western Europe girl being enlightened to the correct pronunciation of Willamette. Brian, himself originally from New York, was informed immediately upon his arrival in Oregon that it is pronounced “Will-AM-it, dammit”.

Owner and winemaker Brian O’Donnell of Belle Pente.

Estate: Passionate about crafting high quality wines with respect for the environment, Brian O’Donnell, along with his wife Jill, founded Belle Pente in 1992. They purchased a 70-acre farm in what is now the heart of the Yamhill-Carlton AVA in the Willamette Valley, Oregon. Belle Pente [bell-pont’] means “beautiful slope” and refers to the estate’s hillside vineyards, along with reflecting “the inspiration that we draw from the exquisite wines of Burgundy and Alsace”. The 16 acres of vineyards are 240-500 feet in elevation, planted with Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, and Chardonnay. For more information on the estate vines, terroir and the dedicated, neighboring vineyards that additional fruit is sourced from, click here.

Winemaking: Both organic and biodynamic viticulture is used, along with dry farming and intensive canopy management. Sheep, goats and cows roam the property, providing natural weed control and compost. Cover crops are rotated, grasses planted for biodiversity, and forest left for buffer. Almost everything they use is generated on the farm.

All grapes are hand harvested. The winery has a 3 level gravity-flow facility “designed for gentle, natural winemaking in small lots, with minimal handling and manipulation, to preserve varietal integrity and the unique attributes of the time and place in which the wines were grown”.

Philosophy: “Great wine is made in the vineyard and merely nurtured in the winery.”

Belle Pente Muscat Willamette Valley 2015

Tasting Notes: Super aromatic, with lush peach, apricot, candied ginger and white flowers. Juicy apricot and pear with a squeeze of lemon accented by a floral hint and balancing acidity. Finishing dry and fruity, keeping you reaching for more. Dry and refreshing, a perfect companion to hot summer days.
100% Muscat
11.8% Alcohol

Winemaker’s Note: Brian recommends this as an aperitif, or with first courses, and that it is fantastic with asparagus!

Belle Pente Pinot Gris Willamette Valley 2014


Tasting Notes: Enticing aromas of marzipan, golden fruit, wildflowers and a drizzle of honey. Fresh acidity frames yellow apple, apricot and a trace of ginger spice, finishing dry and fruity. Easy drinking and fantastic on its own or at the table.
100% Pinot Gris
14.1% Alcohol
$18

Winemaker’s Note: Aged half in neutral wood barrels [a combination of oval barrels that are 4 years in age, and larger barrels 10 years old], half in stainless steel for about 10 months. This combination allows for richness and weight but retains freshness. Can be paired with everything, a terrific food wine.

Paired with avocado toast & spicy buttermilk cress salad.

Belle Pente Chardonnay Willamette Valley 2012 Continue reading

Gérard Bertrand ‘Cote des Roses’ Rosé Languedoc 2017

Estate: Gérard Bertrand grew up assisting his father on the family’s estate in the sub-appellation of Corbiѐres in the Languedoc Roussillon. He took over the domaine upon his father’s death in 1987, and today presides over nearly 1000 acres of vineyards across the varying Languedoc Roussillon terroirs. He also heads a négociant business that partners with local growers and co-ops. A well-known proponent of sustainable farming, he is one of the largest producers of organic wine in Southern France. His flagship estate Château l’Hospitalet is carbon neutral, and many of his vineyards follow biodynamic practices and are certified by DEMETER. In addition to being recognized for his fantastic wines at excellent prices, Wine Enthusiast bestowed him with the European Winery of the Year award in 2011, stating “He fully understands the movement toward expressive, well-balanced and elegant wines that remain accessible and affordable.” Cote des Roses is the name of the coastal area near the village of Gruissan.

Winemaking: Grapes were sourced from varied soils, but predominately hard limestone and schist, “but also gravel transported by the rivers of the Languedoc region”. {The bottle is an original design created by a young designer from the Ecole Boulle.]

Tasting Notes: Light coral pink in colour, highly aromatic with summery, ripe strawberry, raspberry, pink grapefruit, white flowers, candied rose petal and dash of white pepper. The flavours follow the aromas; delicate strawberry, raspberry and pink grapefruit accented by citrus acidity, finishing dry and fruity with a streak of chalky minerality and a zippy kick of citrus zest. Fantastically refreshing on its own or with snacks and light dishes.

Enjoy at 50°F [10°C]

Pairing Suggestions from the Winery: Ideal as an aperitif or with subtly spiced dishes and shellfish.

Blend of Grenache, Cinsault, Syrah
Languedoc
France
Shipped and Bottled by Gérard Bertrand
13% Alcohol
$12
Enjoy now

Santa Julia Malbec Rose Mendoza 2017

Estate: The Zuccardi family has been making wine in Mendoza since 1963, when Alberto Zuccardi planted his first vines. Now in his 90’s, Alberto is known as a pioneering force in both Mendoza and the Uco Valley. Today, the multiple estate vineyards and winery are headed by Alberto’s son, José, along with José’s eldest son, Sebastián, and daughter, Julia [the 3rd generation].

The Santa Julia Winery was established in the 1990’s in honor of Julia, as she is José’s only daughter. The family is committed to achieving the highest quality wines through sustainable practices, working to protect the environment, wildlife preservation and developing the community. Expanding to the Uco Valley, the family opened Valle de Uco Winery last year, where winemakers focus on research and development, while studying the variables that influence wines throughout the Uco Valley.

Philosophy: “To be natural, environmentally friendly and grow in harmony with the community of which we are part.”

Winemaking: Vineyards are farmed sustainably and are certified organic. Hand harvested grapes are from the Santa Rosa and Maipu vineyards in Mendoza.

Tasting Notes: Light coral pink in colour with a savory wisp highlighting aromas of white pepper, chalky minerals and geranium. Silky strawberry and cherry are accented by sea salt minerality and bright acidity. Citrus zest leads to the dry, zippy finish. A subtle, refreshing sip to accompany a wide range of snacks and light dishes. [It was fantastic with soft, fresh pecorino cheese and avocado toast.]

100% Malbec
Mendoza
Argentina
Produced and Bottled by Bodega Santa Julia
14% Alcohol
$11 [average price]
Enjoy now thru 2019

Sample submitted for editorial consideration.

Maison Noir Wines ‘Love Drunk’ Rosé 2016

Winery: Maison Noir Wines was founded by sommelier André Hueston Mack in 2007.  The unique and distinctive wines were initially created for some of the New York’s best restaurants for whom Mack was a sommelier, now they are available for home enjoyment. The Garage Wines [Garage d’Or] focus on specific terroirs in Oregon, sourcing the best fruit possible from the Willamette Valley region, producing wines which express the individuality of their respected sites.

Winemaking: Grapes were sourced from “100% single vineyard from McMinnville AVA Vineyards. The varietal combination and percentage was inspired by the Champagne region in France.

Tasting Notes: Light coral pink in colour with inviting aromas of cherry, strawberry and clean minerals overlaying an herbaceous streak. Tasting similar to the aromas with tart cherry, wild strawberry and light minerality complimented by lively acidity. Silky smooth, finishing dry and fruity. Almost delicate in character, and incredibly easy drinking, just fantastic.

75% Chardonnay, 25% Pinot Noir
Oregon
Bottled by Maison Noir Wines
13.3 % Alcohol
$15
Enjoy now

Soter Vineyards ‘North Valley’ Pinot Noir Rosé 2015

soterrose

Winery: Tony and Michelle Soter founded Soter Vineyards in 1997 with an “uncompromised commitment to quality and an ardent reverence for the environment”. Mineral Springs Ranch is their estate vineyard, consisting of 240 acres of “savanna-like oak woodland and grazing land”. Their vineyards [and those of their growing partners] are certified sustainable.

Philosophy: Committed to protecting the environment, with the “intention to convey place as an essential character in everything we make”.

Winemaking: Grapes were sourced from their growing partners in the rolling hills of the North Valley of Willamette Valley. They view their partner vineyards sites as “satellite estate property”, as their partners mirror their commitment to sustainability and crafting great wines. 52% was aged in “previously filled French oak”, 48% in stainless steel barrels. Certified Salmon Safe and Sustainable.

Tasting Notes: Pale pink-coral in colour with aromas of hibiscus flower, pomegranate and wet slate minerals. A mouth puckering acidity encases fresh cranberry and cherry flavours. A harmonizing, clean fruit finish sustains the refreshing character of each sip.

100% Pinot Noir
Willamette Valley
Oregon
Produced and Bottled by Soter Vineyards
13.4% Alcohol
$20
Enjoy now thru 2020