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Elizabeth Chambers Shea Vineyard Pinot Noir 2011

Pinot Noir from Yamhill-Carlton District, Willamette Valley, Oregon
    13.3% ABV
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    13.3% ABV

    Winemaker Notes

    Shea Vineyard is located in the hilly country at the north end of the Willamette Valley. The wine has a distinctive sweet soy character, with ripe red cherries, blackberries and plums in the nose and mouth.

    Critical Acclaim

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    Elizabeth Chambers

    Elizabeth Chambers Cellar

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    Elizabeth Chambers Cellar, Yamhill-Carlton District, Willamette Valley, Oregon
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    Elizabeth Chambers Cellar is a quintessential Oregon winery, founded in 2013 by Liz Chambers, a 3rd generation Oregonian from Eugene. Local civic and business leaders, the Chambers family has been in the wine business since 1991, a journey which began when Liz’s mother, Carolyn Chambers, acquired Hinman Vineyards, which became Silvan Ridge Winery. Two years later, Liz, a finance professional who previously managed risks and benefits for another family business, the Chambers Communications Corporation, joined the winery side. Initially, Liz recalls feeling deeply divided about the decision, but her mother’s entrepreneurial vision and creative spirit soon took hold. Oregon wine was in a nascent period of trial and discovery, with the first families in the region working to build a reputation for their winemaking to world-class stature. Within five years of joining Liz helped build Silvan Ridge into one of the largest wineries in the state. As Liz recalls it was a turning point in her life, which would culminate in the emergence of her passion to make her own signature Pinot Noir.

    In 2005, the Chambers family acquired Panther Creek Cellars in McMinnville, the heart of the northern Willamette Valley, and Liz started to forge a relationship with winemaker Michael Stevenson to develop exceptional Pinot Noir. In 2013 the Chambers family sold the Panther Creek brand. Liz Chambers retained ownership of the former winery and tasting room in the town’s old power station, paving the way for the first releases from Elizabeth Chambers Cellar. The blue butterfly on every label is a tribute to her mother, who collected them, and who inspired Liz’s deep ties to Oregon wine country.

    Michael Stevenson, the winemaker for Elizabeth Chambers Cellar, has worked with the top growers in the Willamette Valley for over 20 years. Widely recognized as one of America’s foremost regions, the Willamette climate is ideal for a Pinot Noir specialist like Elizabeth Chambers. Set in a corridor between the Cascade Mountains and the coast, warm days encourage extended ripening and flavor while cool nights retain acidity and balance. The balance is what Michael and Liz strive for with their Pinot Noir, an approach that favors a more delicate style over big oak and alcohol. And to find what they need they rely on close relationships with growers, people they count on as friends who grow Pinot Noir to exacting standards and deliver quality grapes even when Oregon’s temperamental climate takes hold.

    Elizabeth Chambers Cellar produces 3,500 cases of wine, primarily focused on top quality Pinot Noir. Like the Burgundy micro-négociant model, the winery continually evaluates and sources grapes from the leading Willamette growers such as Freedom Hill, Shea Vineyard, Falcon Glen Vineyard, Lazy River Vineyard and Temperance Hill. Building on relationships throughout the Willamette Valley, Michael also mentors emerging growers and evaluates new sites for the winery’s signature blend and single vineyard program on an ongoing basis.

    Michael and Liz believe in working with what nature gives them. The best Willamette vineyards are planted on sloping hillsides above the valley floor where Oregon’s famed volcanic soils with depths of minerality are protected from frost and vigorous growth. This is cool-climate winemaking, which supports an elegant style of Pinot Noir. And while he trusts the expertise of his growers, Michael makes the final decision as to how much to crop back every year and when to harvest, keys to getting the ripeness and balance required for world-class Pinot Noir.

    Michael believes that “90% of what is in the bottle is determined by what we pick in the vineyard.” Elizabeth Chambers Cellar strives for a natural integration of flavors, derived through restraint in winemaking that respects the distinct character of each vintage without excessive manipulation. The goal is not to add flavors beyond what comes from the vineyard. As such, the use of new wood is strictly limited, and Michael favors some whole cluster fermentation to yield wines that are ultimately more subtle, revealing layers that deepen in complexity with age but are soft and balanced upon release. It’s a style which he characterizes as “feminine,” true to the legacy Liz Chambers inherited from her mother.

    Yamhill-Carlton District

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    Yamhill-Carlton, characterized by pastoral, rolling hills composed of shallow, quick-draining, ancient marine soil, is ideal for Pinot noir and other cool-climate-loving varieties. It is in the rain shadow of the Coastal Range to its west, whose highest point climbs to an altitude of 3,500 feet. Yamhill-Carlton is actually surrounded by mountains on three sides: Chehalem Mountains to the north, the Dundee Hills to the east and the western Coastal Range to its west, which, when it lets Pacific air through, serves to cool the region.

    Vineyards grow on the ridges surrounding the two small communities of Yamhill and Carlton and cover about 1,200 acres of this 60,000 acre region, which roughly makes a horse-shoe shape on a map.

    Pinot Noir

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    One of the most finicky yet rewarding grapes to grow, Pinot Noir is a labor of love for many. However, the greatest red wines of Burgundy prove that it is unquestionably worth the effort. In fact, it is the only red variety permitted in Burgundy. Highly reflective of its terroir, Pinot Noir prefers calcareous soils and a cool climate, requires low yields to achieve high quality and demands a lot of attention in the vineyard and winery. It retains even more glory as an important component of Champagne as well as on its own in France’s Loire Valley and Alsace regions. This sensational grape enjoys immense international success, most notably growing in Oregon, California and New Zealand with smaller amounts in Chile, Germany (as Spätburgunder) and Italy (as Pinot Nero).

    In the Glass

    Pinot Noir is all about red fruit—strawberry, raspberry and cherry with some heftier styles delving into the red or purple plum and in the other direction, red or orange citrus. It is relatively pale in color with soft tannins and a lively acidity. With age (of which the best examples can handle an astounding amount) it can develop hauntingly alluring characteristics of fresh earth, savory spice, dried fruit and truffles.

    Perfect Pairings

    Pinot’s healthy acidity cuts through the oiliness of pink-fleshed fish like salmon and tuna but its mild mannered tannins give it enough structure to pair with all sorts of poultry: chicken, quail and especially duck. As the namesake wine of Boeuf Bourguignon, Pinot noir has proven it isn’t afraid of beef. California examples work splendidly well with barbecue and Pinot Noir is also vegetarian-friendly—most notably with any dish that features mushrooms.

    Sommelier Secret

    For administrative purposes, the region of Beaujolais is often included in Burgundy. But it is extremely different in terms of topography, soil and climate, and the important red grape here is ultimately Gamay. Truth be told, there is a tiny amount of Gamay sprinkled around the outlying parts of Burgundy (mainly in Maconnais) but it isn’t allowed with any great significance and certainly not in any Villages or Cru level wines.

    AIWECCSVPN_2011 Item# 137225