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Elk Cove, Pinot Noir "La Bohème"
Oregon / Willamette Valley,
The past couple of decades have witnessed a meteoric rise in the success of the Oregon wine industry. But back in 1974, when Elk Cove planted their first vines, there were just eight wineries in the whole state. Today, Willamette Valley Pinot Noir is a global smash hit, and the quality of these wines seems to improve with every vintage. Although exciting new wineries and labels pop up seemingly every year, Elk Cove continues to be among the very best, standard-bearer producers, and their exquisite single-vineyard bottling “La Bohème” exemplifies their commitment to the highest quality, terroir true wines. If you love supremely elegant yet richly seductive Pinot that explodes with flowers and fruit, then this is a must-buy. Bonus: Put six or more bottles in your cart and you’ll automatically get best-in-nation pricing!
Joe and Pat Campbell were key players in Willamette’s historic first decade of winegrowers with the installation of the first vines for their Elk Cove estate in 1974 (now a part of the Yamhill-Carton AVA). The ambitious, hard-working couple purchased an abandoned fruit orchard, had it cleared, and began to install the original vineyard while living on the property in a trailer with their small children. The existing homestead barn was converted into their first winery and a family home was eventually built from reclaimed wood. Joe, an ER physician, continued working nights while Pat managed the day-to-day business and they both logged long hours in the vineyards and making the early wines. At the time, there were fewer than 10 wineries in Oregon.
One of those “trailer” kids was Adam Campbell. Since climbing aboard and eventually taking over the winemaking duties in the late ’90s, he’s guided Elk Cove’s emergence as one of Willamette’s iconic estates. Currently, he oversees six sprawling vineyard sites, all sustainably farmed and rigorously maintained. As of 2017, all Elk Cove wines are fully estate grown. Today’s wine comes from their “La Bohème” vineyard, planted in 1985 to grafted selections of the best Pommard clone cuttings from the original estate vineyard. The picturesque, 20-acre site is steep, faces west, and overlooks the winery and the coast range mountains, sitting at 800 feet—one of the highest vineyards in the valley. It’s planted in “Willakenzie” soils composed of heavy marine sediment with shallow sandstone topsoil that’s well-drained and yields barely two tons per acre of compact, tiny-berry clusters. All the fruit is hand-harvested and sorted before it lands at the gravity-flow winery, then fermented in small, temperature-controlled, open-top steel tanks. The grape must is punched down by hand twice daily then aged for 10 months in French oak, just 10% of which is new. Only the very best barrels are selected for the final blend in order to exemplify the lush, silky profile of “La Bohème.”
2021 was an excellent vintage in the Willamette Valley, bringing a much needed respite from wildfires and extreme heat. The resulting wines are perfectly balanced, and among the best in recent memory. As usual, “La Bohème” is at the top of the class. In the glass, it displays a dark ruby red with magenta emerging as it moves toward the rim. Alluring scents of black cherry, violets, blueberry, plum, cinnamon, espresso, and warm earth dominate the bouquet. The supple palate is silky smooth, holding vivid flavors of sweet cherries, blueberries, black tea, and spicy mocha. A smoky mineral note echoes throughout the vibrant mouthfeel and the impressive, long finish is marked with welcomed, gently woven tannins and bursting acidity. Served at 60 degrees in Burgundy stems, its striking similarity to a young, powerful, Côte de Nuits red is truly remarkable, but the special Willakenzie minerality also shines through. Extremely pleasurable now after a good decant it will also age gracefully for 10 plus years. This superb vintage of “La Bohème” exemplifies Elk Cove’s decades-long command and capture of Yamhill-Carlton’s terroir. If you love Pinot Noir, this is a must have!
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