Steven Westby, whose winemaking day-job is for Witness Tree, crafts small lots of wine under his own label, Elemental. What he makes depends entirely on vintage; he has a tough time turning down grapes when they are particularly good. His Walnut Hill 2014 impressed us with its dark intensity of fruit balanced by its easy-going style and approachable texture.
Steven’s notes: “Very dark in color, the 2014 Walnut Hill Cuvee Pinot Noir is packed with aromas black fruits, vanilla and exotic spices. On the palate, the dense fruit flavors are balanced by a contribution of French oak, tannin, and acidity. You will enjoy this wine with traditional beef and lamb dishes as well as smoked salmon, pork, and cheese. Given the depth, concentration, complexity and structure of the wine, it will be tempting to drink it in its youth, but will continue to develop in the bottle for many years to come.
The 2014 vintage in the Willamette Valley was quite remarkable. An early budbreak was followed by an early bloom, which set up one of the earliest harvest in recent history. A very warm summer allowed for fruit to ripen to it’s fullest by mid-September in many parts of the valley. The fruit for this bottling came from two vineyards located in a section of the Eola-Amity Hills known as Walnut Hill. The vineyards, Jessie James Vineyard and Farrar Vineyard are adjacent to each other and both are southeast facing with very ancient, weathered volcanic soils. They are quite high in elevation and as a result had the advantage of ripening a bit more slowly than some vineyards located at lower elevations. Both are composed entirely from the Pommard clone of Pinot Noir. In 2014, the vineyards were harvested on October 4th, and 5th. We harvested only fully ripened, healthy fruit, allowing us to make this incredible wine. In the winery, the fruit was de-stemmed, fermented, pressed, allowed to settle, and then transferred to French oak barrels—twelve in all--where the wine aged for thirteen months. It was bottled on November 23rd, 2015. 303 cases were produced.”