AWG Correspondent

Rob Boss

Lange Estate Winery Photos

Lange Estate Winery Review

Regions: Willamette Valley AVA, Dundee Hills AVA, Oregon

Reviewed: June 11, 2014 by Rob Boss
Published: November 14, 2014

(Photos by Jai Soots)

We were busted.

After years of visiting Oregon wineries incognito, it was bound to happen. It was Don Lange who smiled and said, "I notice you've been taking a lot of notes, and you're spitting. Are you a wine writer?" Well, yes, I admitted, and then we all laughed. I assured him his staff had taken good care of us. Such was the tone of our visit to Lange Estate.

The winery has been around since 1987 and has grown to a roughly 20,000 case production (the landscaping effectively conceals its size). It's a family enterprise with founders Don and Wendy Lange at the helm and son Jesse acting as winemaker since 2004. The tasting room presents a spacious but intimate feel—like a kitchen, not a living room.

We kicked off our tasting session with Lange's 2013 Reserve Pinot Gris. The wine had summer and autumn food-friendly acidity, with apple and pear aromatics and flavors. Next, the 2012 Freedom Hill Chardonnay brought a nose with Granny Smith apples and green banana notes. Apples, star fruit, just a touch of butter and popcorn followed.

There has always been something special about their Pinot Noirs that is not reflected in tasting notes. There's a rich, ripe fruit profile that, while on paper is "cherry cherry cherry cherry," is extremely subtle and complex. Think of a bowl of several varieties of cherries. But Lange wines have a luscious, silky texture that's unmatched by anyone in the valley. And, since I had Mr. Lange in front of me, I asked him about it. Expecting a lengthy, in-depth explanation, I was a little surprised when he simply and frankly said, "Balance, structure, texture. Jesse's grown up hearing that most of his life." This delivered with a warm chuckle.

After my initial surprise, he went on to explain that a winemaker—every winemaker—makes decisions regarding the character of their wine. What are they going for? Fruit flavors? Complexity? Every decision made is frequently at the expense of something else—complexity often at the expense of texture. And that's just one decision made in the pursuit of balance.

All this was in mind with the first taste of 2012 Reserve Pinot Noir, which is a vintner's blend of ten vineyards. The nose was spicy, with briars and white pepper and plenty of crushed fruit. But in the mouth were cherries. Lots of cherries, and Lange's signature silky cherry texture. There was a lot going on underneath, like ripe raspberry. The finish was as thoughtful and lingering as it promised. The next taste was the 2012 Estate, from the oldest block of vines. Bright, fresh, crushed cherries this time—darker, riper, black fruit flavors.

Balance, structure, texture…

Now things got particularly interesting, with the 2012 Soil Series. Each of these three wines is from a designated American Viticultural Area. Jesse Lange has been giving presentations on the aromatics and flavor profiles of the four Willamette Valley soil types for several years now, so making wines seems the next natural step from the lecture. (Since we can't drink a book, after all.)

The first one I tried, Windborne, is Chehalem Mountains AVA. There's a bright "Chehalem Cherry" flavor that distinguishes wines from the area from other parts in the valley, and this was a good example. Up next was Magnum Opus from the Dundee Hills. This was not as tart as expected—Dundee Hills is noted for young fruit flavors—but there was a nice pie spice on the nose. Last in the series was Ancient Sea Bed, a Yamhill Carlton wine that showed the typical black and blue fruit character of that area. All three wines were perfectly true to their respective viticultural areas and soil types. It's a fascinating experiment, from which we all reap benefits by pouring a glass.

Lange is a little out of the way, at the end of a long dirt road, but don't let that stop you from enjoying some of the best wine being made in Oregon. They've got the fruit, experience, and track record to produce masterpieces. These wines are lovely and well worth every minute and dollar you spend.

Address & Contact Information: 18380 NE Buena Vista Dundee, Oregon 97115. Telephone: 503-538-6476, email:, website: Tasting Hours: 11:00-5:00.

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