YAMHILL, Ore. — Steve and Karen Lutz relocated to Oregon in 1998 after spending a year living in Karen’s native England, near her parents. They moved to Oregon to be near additional family members and a wine region on the rise that their Lenné Estate would be a part of.
Steve had spent a number of years prior in the Napa Valley, working for well-known Napa Valley icons including the Mondavi family and Bill Harlan, so the Lutzes purchased a property in the Yamhill-Carlton American Viticultural Area – one perfectly suited to grape growing.
In 2001, they planted Lenné Estate vines on their rolling, south facing hillsides at elevations from 420 to 575 feet. The property is named after Karen’s late father, Lenny. On their 21-acre Lenné Estate, 15 1/2 acres are planted to five clones of Pinot Noir – Pommard, 114, 115, 667 and 777.
The soil here is Peavine, an ancient sedimentary soil of silt and sandstone, with clay beneath. Relatively low in organic matter, the soil keeps the vines stressed, resulting in smaller berries. That’s one of the key contributors to the concentration of flavors and fine structure of tannins found in the wines from Lenné Estate.
Last year, Lenné Estate earned an invitation to the International Pinot Noir Celebration for the first time, another testament to the growing reputation for exquisite wines that Steve is crafting. They display his vineyard management knowledge and skills as well as his minimalistic approach to winemaking.
“Let the site shine through in all the wines,” says Steve; and that it surely does.
Among the current releases by Lenné Estate
Lenné Estate 2014 Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, $40: The flagship wine for the Lutzes, an inviting fragrance of earthiness, berries and cherries lifts from the glass with this delectable Pinot Noir. Forest floor notes, olallieberries and bright red cherries are echoed on the palate, accompanied by crushed herbs, mocha and sweet spice. A nice level of acidity and silky tannins pull the package into fine balance, and the finish maintains good lift.
Lenné Estate 2015 Eleanor’s 114 Pinot Noir, $55: Named for Steve’s mother, expressive black fruit and floral aromas wake up the senses. Concentrated Bing cherries, Black Splendor plums, dark chocolate, black raspberries, a touch of smoky minerality, and exotic spice decorate the palate. The refreshing acidity, lush fruit and refined tannins are in meticulous balance, and the finish is memorable.
Lenné Estate 2015 Jill’s 115 Pinot Noir, $55: Named for Karen’s mother, seductive red fruits on the nose give way to a gorgeous burst of flavors on the palate. This stylish gem excites the palate with Sweetheart cherries, strawberries, hints of earth, red currants, cocoa powder, spice and subtle oak nuances. A well-structured, beautifully integrated wine, with a trace of citrus on the lingering finish.
cinq élus 2015 Pinot Noir, $72: Here is a blend of the best barrels of the five clones (Pommard, 114, 115, 667 and 777) planted on their estate. The engaging aroma of this complex wine is captivating. Deeply layered, savory, and bright on the palate with raspberry, black cherry, red currant, mocha, Asian spices, minerality, and a pinch of dried herbs. French oak undertones are well placed, and the texture is velvety smooth. Approachable now and promises many years of enjoyment ahead; your patience will be rewarded.
Steve and Karen also have Dijon clone 76 Chardonnay planted, and their Lenné Estate 2017 Chardonnay will be released in September.
Lenné Estate’s charming tasting room, situated on their hillside vineyard not far from Saffron Fields and WillaKenzie Estate, is open to visitors Wednesday through Sunday, noon to 5 p.m. They also have a three-tiered wine club, with options well-suited for both in-state and out-of-state members.
For additional details, visit their website — www.lenneestate.com.