Wine Words & Video Tape

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London Wine Fair 2011: Oregon's inspirational tales

Written by JW. Posted in Oregon

Discussing vibrant attractive Pinot Noir leads me neatly into Oregon’s Willamette Valley. A delightful bunch were on offer last week at the fair. Three estates new to me stood out – Brooks Wine, Anne Amie and Soter Vineyards. All produced lovely Pinots across the board. More on Anne Aie and Soter later as the story behind Brooks deserves a post to itself. I doubt you’ll find a more powerful or inspirational tale in the world of wine.

Jimi Brooks, a native of Portland, got the winemaking bug from his godfather and after college worked for four years in Beaujolais, returned to Oregon in 1996 to work at Willakenzie Vineyard. He established his own Brooks label in 1998 whilst still working as an assistant winemaker at Willakenzie. By all accounts he was a great guy, interested in literature and film, which he had studied as a graduate, a person fascinated by the visceral nature winemaking and organic and bio-dynamic production. He had plans to establish a dedicated Brooks winery of his own but tragedy struck before this dream was realised. Jimi died suddenly aged just 38 from an aneurism in 2004, leaving a son, Pascal, then just eight. It was just a few weeks before vintage.

It’s a reflection of the esteem in which Jimi was held that winemaking friends stepped into the breach to bring in the 2004 harvest and keep the label going on a posthumous basis. Jimi’s younger sister, Janie, with preciously little winemaking experience and an accountancy background, took on the running of the label, which she did partly so the business could survive and be passed on to Jimi’s son Pascal. Six years on and the estate is going strong, makes 9000 cases of wine and now has the dedicated winemaking facility of which Jimi dreamed. Today winemaker Chris Williams, a long-time friend of Jimi’s who worked with him at WillaKenzie, is the full-time winemaker at Brooks. Chris took me through a set of wonderfully appetizing wines – including a racy Riesling and two delicious Pinots. More info can be found at The Brooks story is wonderfully inspirational. It demonstrates the extraordinary co-operative, community spirit that clearly exists amongst the winemakers and grape growers in Oregon.

Brooks, ‘Amycas’, Willamette Valley, Oregon 2008

Floral, some perfume; quite zippy palate; refreshing; nice zip. A quite lengthy blend of Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc, Riesling, Gewurtz, Muscat and Chardonnay. Good. 87+/100

Brooks, Riesling Willamette Valley, Oregon 2008

Pale straw; floral notes with a little honey; nicely austere palate with similar flavours and good zip. This will age well. 88+/100

Brooks, Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, Oregon 2009

Red; spicy forest floor notes with some red fruits; quite structured Pinot on the palate. 100% wild yeast ferment no adjustments with a let it make itself philosophy. Looks very good. 89+/100

Brooks, Janus Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, Oregon 2008

Earthy purple red; again earthy forest floor notes; some red; strawberry fruits; funky; good palate; some bite and nice acid. Wonderfully fresh. Good acid and structure and just the right amount of forest floor funkiness. 80% estate fruit, 20% bought in. 90+/100

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