One of the most historic vineyards that King Estate has pulled from is Hyland, the oldest commercial planting in the McMinnville American Viticultural Area.
For some reason, Hyland — established in 1971 — hasn’t received the widespread acclaim it deserves, yet Brent Stone casts a worthy spotlight here with the King Estate Winery 2015 Hyland Vineyard Pinot Noir, an $86 bottle that carries the Willamette Valley AVA on the label.
“It’s certainly got a great reputation among winemakers, and it’s one of the team favorites,” says winemaker Brent Stone. “McMinnville has been known for some rustic Pinot Noir, but from Hyland it’s been one of the more elegant, Burgundian-style of Pinots we would make — and we loved it for that. You could always pick out the Hyland in the lineup.”
Hyland Vineyard raised the profile of what would become the McMinnville AVA through the showing of Oregon wines at the 1985 Burgundy Challenge in Paris.
A Pinot Noir from the 1983 vintage by upstart Yamhill Valley Vineyards finished first out of 17 entries. Sokol Blosser Winery in Dundee was No. 2. Both used fruit from Hyland to impress the New York-area judges. Fortunately, a group led by longtime Oregon winemaker Laurent Montalieu and his NW Wine Co., purchased Hyland in 2007 and continues its stewardship of the 185-acre site that’s rather unique in the McMinnville AVA because of its uniformly volcanic soil profile.
Starting with the 2003 vintage, King Estate produced a vineyard-designate Pinot Noir from Hyland for a dozen years. Throughout the Northwest, the 2015 growing season broke records for warmth, ripening much earlier than usual.
“I remember the heat of 2015, similar to 2014,” Stone says. “It was a very hot and dry growing season. A lot different than what Oregon was used to.”
As a result, this bottling from Wädenswil clone and 828 — a “suitcase” clone known unofficially in Oregon as “the Coury clone” — is loaded with dark red fruit akin to black cherry, dark strawberry and boysenberry. A result of the vintage is that this example of Hyland embraces the 14-month program in 25% new French oak barrels.
Warmer vintages often lead to higher ripeness levels, more sugar, increased alcohol levels and reduced acidity. King Estate’s fruit would come from a lower and cooler portion of Hyland, which allowed Stone’s team to better manage the resulting alcohol.
“The 2014 and 2015 vintages were when we had to learn how to make warmer-climate Pinot,” Stone says. “We were getting Pinot that was 25 and 26 Brix, which was unheard of for us. In 2011, our highest Brix for Pinot was probably about 20.”
Tower Club members receive first crack at the vineyard-designate bottlings prior to their arrival at the tasting room and restaurant. The continued growth of Montalieu’s work prompted him to pull back some fruit that his group previously sold to other wineries — including King Estate.
“This (2015) was the last year we made a Hyland Pinot Noir. That makes it an extra-special library release,” Stone said. “It was a great vintage and from a great site.”
- King Estate Winery 2015 Hyland Vineyard Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, $86 (471 cases produced, 14% alc.)