Beaux Vin

beaux vyrd pinot 06 Oregon’s Beaux Frères is not only making some of America’s finest pinot noirs, but is also that most rare of things: a winery with courage. Vintage after vintage winemaker Michael Etzel shows the courage of his convictions and produces dramatically distinctive wines with a personality all their own. Some dismiss the success of Beaux Frères as mostly due to the fame of Etzel’s brother-in-law and partner, famed wine critic and publisher of The Wine Advocate, Robert Parker, but considering the stunning quality of these wines I can’t help but believe they would still be sought out by collectors everywhere with or without Parker’s impact.

While a bevy of authors have pilloried Robert Parker for dragging the wine industry down the road of standardized, jammy wines, his own winery is the polar opposite. The Beaux Frères Pinot Noirs are tight, structured wines with a decided spritz from natural CO2 when young. That’s right they’re a little fizzy. These are truly natural wines and the little spritz is a result of the natural, cool slow malolatic fermentation practiced by Etzel.  None of their wines are manipulated to make them ready to drink young and even the precocious 2006 vintage produced wines that need a minimum of several years of bottle age to unfurl their now tightly wound personality. These are wines that do not try to mimic Burgundy, but that set their own unique style, both as Oregonian and an expression of Etzel’s winemaking art.

The current release of 2006 Beaux Frères Pinot Noir, The Beaux Frères Vineyard, Ribbon Ridge is nothing short of exciting. In his notes Etzel describes this wine as, “a beauty and can be drunk young.” However, he must mean in relation to his wines from previous vintages as compared to other 2006 Oregon pinots this wine far from being ready to drink. The nose is already exotic with layers of black truffle, porcini and dense, black wild forest fruits, but it is not yet resolved and you can just sense the greatness that is to come as the components intertwine and integrate. The wine hits your tongue with a thousand tiny little bites from the firm acidity and the slight spritz of the CO2, but then quickly expands dramatically into the voluptuous textures you would expect from this forward vintage. What strikes you as you taste and smell this wine is the endless swirling of exotic characteristics that make the wine change from second-to-second as you savor each sip. If you must drink this wine now, please give it at least an hour in a decanter before serving. However, at $80 a bottle you may want to give it the respect it deserves and wait at least five years before releasing the treasure inside.

Beaux Frères produces wines of great integrity and character because they are made by a winemaker with the same attributes. Mike Etzel makes what he believes. These are wines that must be on anyone’s list of the best American pinot noirs. (Buy online)


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