The Most Exciting Pinot of the Year

The most exciting Willamette Valley Pinot noir I've tasted this year: Terrence David Filament Vineyard 2017.

Nothing subtle about that but excitement's not supposed to be subtle. I was nearly sure the first time I tasted it but I don’t make proclamations like this lightly, so I tried it again. And was even more impressed. It's utterly beautiful. 

The wine and label are new but the winemaker is one of the best: Ben Casteel, the second-generation head of the Bethel Heights winemaking family. Terrence David is the personal label of Ben and his brother, Jon, named for their father, Bethel Heights' founding winemaker. It's Ben's opportunity to channel his expertise through vineyards outside of the family estate and to fully express a place that has always been home.

$74.95 in any 12 bottle or Build a Case order ($79.95 regular)

I’ve spent the last several weeks working to put the excitement of tasting this into words. Translating taste and smell is tough enough; the language of enthusiasm is tougher. I can give you words like purity and elegance, which I wrote twice each in my handwritten notes, but they fall short. I can tell you about the magic red velvet carpet this floats on, undulating gently while maintaining focus on the horizon. And maybe that’s too flowery. So I’ll be frank: no matter what comes after it, from now to the end of the year and beyond, this’ll be on our list of the year’s best, of crucial Willamette Valley wines to buy.

Only 4 barrels were made from Filament Vineyard, which was planted in 2001 high on the northeastern flank of the Eola-Amity Hills.

And keep reading, because the other Terrence David Pinot noirs are thrilling, too!

Instead of thinking about a comparison between the Filament and Bjornson, think of a contrast: Bjornson is the wilder side of the Eola-Amity Hills, embracing its glorious savoriness.

$54.95 in any 12 bottle or Build a Case order ($59.95 regular)

Wonderfully showy out of the gate, I immediately noticed the rich feel and movement of the '17 Bjornson. In the 2017 you see cooler tones, a more ethereal Pinot expression with dried herbs, minerals and savory mint accenting the richly elegant array of fruits. -Marcus

"The 2017 Pinot noir from Björnson Vineyard is a much more sleek expression of Pinot noir than the lush 2016 vintage. 2017 gave us the best natural balance we have seen from a warm vintage since 2012; terrific acidity and relatively low alcohol in spite of the heat." - Ben

$54.95 in any 12 bottle or Build a Case order ($59.95 regular)

Decadent and delicious! In the 2016, a greater inner intensity of ripe red and black fruits takes center stage, showing a flash of power which encases Bjornson’s wild elements in a sweet Pinot fruit sphere. -Marcus

"The 2016 Björnson is the first Terrence David wine. Björnson was planted between 2006 and 2012 on the west side of the Eola-Amity Hills AVA, just up the road from Bethel Heights Vineyard. With soil, elevation and aspect very similar to Bethel Heights, it is intriguing to discover how different the expression of Pinot noir can be just on the other side of the road." -Ben

More on Terrence David, from Ben and Jon Casteel: We are the two sons of Terry Casteel and Marilyn Webb, one of the founding families of Bethel Heights Vineyard. Terry was the Winemaker at Bethel Heights from their first vintage in 1984 until 2005 when he finally convinced Ben to step into his shoes. 

We grew up at Bethel Heights Vineyard, eventually spending summers working in the vineyard together alongside our cousins and later working together in the cellar at Rex Hill Vineyards for five years. Career paths diverged when Ben returned to Bethel Heights in 2005 to take over winemaking duties from our father, while Jon started his own venture, Casteel Custom Bottling, which now includes two mobile trucks and a bottling facility. 

For years we tossed around the idea of making our own wine together. We knew it would have to be wine from the Eola-Amity Hills AVA. We shared a fundamental familiarity with the landscape of the Eola-Amity Hills from years of going to school in Amity, riding the school bus through a rural district where everyone knows the relative elevation, soil type, and water table of everyone else’s farm. We watched first-hand the evolution of the Eola-Amity Hills AVA from a group of family friends, fellow winegrowers celebrating Thanksgiving together, to a world class wine region, in the space of time it took us to grow up. We knew the kind of wine we wanted to make would come from here. 

The vague dream became a reality in 2016 when we had the opportunity to purchase a small amount of fruit from the Björnson Vineyard, just up the road from Bethel Heights. We took the plunge and produced the first vintage of Terrence David Pinot noir.