AWG Correspondent

Rob Boss

Solena and Grand Cru Estates Tasting Room Photos

Solena and Grand Cru Estates Tasting Room Review

Regions: Willamette Valley AVA, Yamhill-Carlton AVA, Oregon

Reviewed: February 23, 2017 by Rob Boss
Published: June 29, 2017

(Photos by Jai Soots)

Just entering Soléna Estate’s sumptuous tasting room is to be reminded of the old saying, “Wine is made in the vineyard.” The very handles of the big oak doors are made from old, cured, Pinot Noir vines. The other saying might be, “Go big or go home,” because it’s easily one of the most spacious tasting rooms I’ve ever seen.

In keeping with the first old saying, our tasting room maven, Dylan, got his start in the vineyard. That background brought a unique and engaging perspective to the tasting experience that’s usually reserved for running into the winemaker or vineyard manager. While pouring the opening taste of 2013 Chardonnay, he explained that the vines on the door were some of the first vines planted in the valley (exactly whose, I agreed not to disclose) that had been savaged by phylloxera and had to be ripped up. Tragic, but if there was ever beauty to be found in sadness, it has to be those lovely artifacts.

Soléna’s Chardonnay spends 14 months in French Oak, 20% of it new. When thinking of California brands, 20% isn’t that much but in the neutral oak world of Oregon Chardonnay, that’s quite a lot. The results speak for themselves, with peach and butterscotch on the nose (not heavy butter or popcorn, like the over-oaked counterparts), and fresh nectarine and peach on the palate.

If Winemaker Laurent Montalieu isn’t already legendary, he’s certainly a powerhouse winemaker in the Willamette Valley. A native of Bordeaux, he’s responsible for almost 125,000 cases of wine, mostly produced for big name clients. But Soléna was named after his first child and remains his baby, and production of these estate wines are his vision alone. That vision includes terroir, in this case the Yamhill-Carlton AVA.

The first Pinot Noir was the 2011 Wilakia; interesting in its seeming familiarity. Young fruit flavors have been, maybe not typical, but frequent in the vintage. Black fruit flavors are prevalent in the Yamhill-Carlton AVA, so the blackberry and currant notes were to be expected, as well. But there was a bright raspberry note that was a welcome surprise.

From here, we went to the 2013 Danielle Laurent Pinot Noir. There was a musky, spicy, earthy nose. Once again, I got what I thought was a different take on the Yamhill-Carlton AVA: black fruit, but not the ripe fruit flavors I’d come to expect. I found the experience challenging, interesting, and thoroughly enjoyable.

I’d reviewed Ken Wright’s Guadalupe Vineyard Pinot Noir a couple years ago, so I was curious to taste Soléna’s take on the famous vines. Guadalupe is Dundee Hills AVA, but it’s less than a stone’s throw away from the Yamhill-Carlton doorstep. There are some similarities. Dundee usually shows a very red fruit profile and this was true to form. But this wine still seemed… darker. The ripe, crushed cherry & raspberry nose was as tantalizing as anything I’ve ever put my nose to, and there was something deeper underneath that was compelling. The red plum and raspberry flavors were yummy now, but there’s a beautiful balance of tannins and acid that’s both age-worthy and elegant. This was an entrancing wine.

It’s gorgeous, really. All of it. From the first step into the tasting room to the last sip, Soléna is all the grace and elegance one might hope for when visiting a high-end winery. It's a world-class wine experience made even better by Soléna's neighbors on the Laughlin Loop, any of which is worth the trip. Targeting this cluster of excellent wineries is a great way to plan a Willamette Valley tasting. We highly recommend it.

Address & Contact Information: 17096 NE Woodland Loop Rd Yamhill, Oregon 97148. Telephone: 503-662-3700, website: Tasting Hours: 11:00-5:00.

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