93 points Vinous, Josh Raynolds: "Expressive aromas of black raspberry, cola, potpourri and baking spices. Sappy and seamless in texture, offering energetic red berry and cherry preserve, allspice and candied rose flavors that show fine definition and back-end cut. Finishes long and silky, with harmonious tannins folding smoothly into the lingering fruit."
If there's such a thing as a "universally attractive" Willamette Valley Pinot, this has to be it. It has fruit-forwardness, body, and texture plus aromatic complexity and a pure Pinot finish. I absolutely love it! - Marcus
Brian And Jill: This 2017 version of our flagship Pinot noir includes grapes from all 8 blocks of our Yamhill-Carlton estate vineyard, planted between 1994 and 1999. More than half of the blend is from the Oregon “workhorse” Pommard clone of Pinot noir, which was the most widely planted selection in the early days of Willamette Valley viticulture. With the addition of a bit of Wadensvil, the older, “pre-Dijon” plant material makes up over 2/3 of this cuvee.
Although the clonal mix certainly contributes to the “old school” nature of this wine, its sensory character is more a product of the 2017 growing season than anything else. A very cold, wet winter delayed bud break until late April, and cool conditions continued until late May. Flowering occurred during a heat spike right around the summer solstice, setting the stage for a larger than normal crop. A generally gorgeous summer was punctuated by a few intense heat spikes, which were thankfully moderated by hazy air caused by wildfires in other areas of the West that drifted into the valley. This allowed us to delay harvest until mid-to-late September, getting good flavor development with only modest increases in sugars.
The net result is that the 2017 wines are remarkably fresh and vibrant for being the products of a very warm growing season. There is a sense of elegance and finesse in these medium-bodied beauties that is a rare commodity in the string of hotter vintages from 2014 through 2018. Our Belle Pente vineyard bottling has become a reference for Yamhill-Carlton wines, which is immediately apparent with the wafting aromas of fresh herbs and flowers, accenting the ripe black cherry and plum fruit. The tannins are persistent but smooth on the palate, and the wine will take on additional dimensions of body and sweetness with time in the cellar. The wine is certainly approachable now, but would really benefit from a few more years of bottle age. Enjoy over the next dozen years with rich dishes featuring wild mushrooms, big birds, or small mammals.
2015 vintage notes
94 points Vinous: "Powerful aromas of fresh red berries, cherry pit, blood orange and minerals, with a touch of licorice adding depth. Sweet and seamless in the mouth, offering densely packed black raspberry and bitter cherry flavors that put on weight and pick up a spicy topnote with air. Shows very good breadth and seamless texture, finishing with impressive clarity, harmonious tannins and a lingering red fruit preserve quality."
2012 vintage notes
Belle Pente's flagship 2012 Pinot is awesome. Silky, suuuper silky, with a deep palate awash in black raspberry, and black cherry, accented by floral and coffee notes. The finish reminds me of fresh summer blackberries with a splash of cream on top. 2012 marks the 11th vintage of a Belle Pente Vineyard bottling, and the wine is still well under $40. Delicious today, better in 3 years, even better in 6. You get the picture. You can't lose.
Belle Pente epitomizes Oregon wine: speak softly, and let your wines do the talking. Wines grown and made with integrity, priced with modesty. Brian and Jill O'Donnell are the kind of people you want to buy wine from; fortunately, they also make some of our favorite Oregon Pinots. - Marcus