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Elizabeth Chambers Winemaker's Cuvee Pinot Noir 2011

Pinot Noir from Willamette Valley, Oregon
  • WE92
13.3% ABV
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13.3% ABV

Winemaker Notes

This limited production blend represents their terroir focused style for the given vintage. Aromas of raspberry, cola and wild mushroom lead into strawberry notes on the palate, with layers of tobacco and leather.

Critical Acclaim

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WE 92
Wine Enthusiast
An elegant debut for this new Oregon winery, the Winemaker’s Cuvée opens with lovely floral and herbal scents, moving into a detailed, precise and well-configured palate, with pretty raspberry and cherry candy fruit. It’s set in a sturdy frame of acid and tannin, and seems to gain concentration through the long finish.
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Elizabeth Chambers

Elizabeth Chambers Cellar

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Elizabeth Chambers Cellar, 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.

Willamette Valley

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One of Pinot Noir’s most successful New World outposts, the Willamette Valley is the largest and most important AVA in Oregon. With a temperate climate moderated by a Pacific Ocean influence, it is perfect for cool-climate viticulture—warm and dry summers allow for steady, even ripening, and frost is rarely a risk during spring and even winter. Mountain ranges bordering three sides of the valley, particularly the Chehalem Mountains, provide the option for higher-elevation, cooler vineyard sites. The three prominent soil types here create significant differences in wine styles between vineyards and sub-AVAs. The iron-rich, basalt-based Jory volcanic soils found commonly in the Dundee Hills are rich in clay and hold water well; the chalky, sedimentary soils of Ribbon Ridge, Yamhill-Carlton, and McMinnville encourage complex root systems as vines struggle to search for water and minerals. The silty loess found in the Chehalem Mountains, somewhere in between the other two in texture, is fertile and well-draining but erodes easily, creating challenges for growers but necessitating careful vineyard management.

The celebrated Pinot Noir of the Willamette Valley typically offers supple red fruit, especially cranberry, without the powerful punch often packed by its California counterparts. Elegance is paramount here, and fruit flavors are balanced by forest floor, wild mushroom, and dried herbs—much more in line with Burgundian examples of the variety. Chardonnay too takes its inspiration from the French motherland, focusing on tart, crisp fruit and minerality, rarely relying upon heavy new oak. Pinot Gris here is fleshy and bright, and Riesling is dry, aromatic, and citrus-focused.

Pinot Noir

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One of the most difficult yet rewarding grapes to grow, Pinot Noir is commonly referred to by winemakers as the “heartbreak grape.” However, the greatest red wines of Burgundy prove that it is unquestionably worth the effort. More reflective than most varieties of the land on which it is grown, Pinot Noir prefers a cool climate, requires low yields to achieve high quality, and demands care in the vineyard and lots of attention in the winery. It is an important component of Champagne and the only variety permitted in red Burgundy. Pinot Noir enjoys immense popularity internationally, most notably in Oregon, California, and New Zealand.

In the Glass

Pinot Noir Is all about red fruit—strawberry, raspberry, and cherry. It is relatively pale in color with soft tannins and lively acidity. It ranges in body from very light to the heavier side of medium, typically landing somewhere in the middle—giving it extensive possibilities for food pairing. With age (of which the best examples can handle an astounding amount), it can develop hauntingly beautiful characteristics of fresh earth, autumn leaves, and truffles.

Perfect Pairings

Pinot’s healthy acidity cuts through the oiliness of pink-fleshed fish like salmon, ocean trout, and tuna. Its mild mannered tannins don’t fight with spicy food, and give it enough structure to pair with all sorts of poultry—chicken, quail, and especially duck. As the namesake wine of Boeuf Bourguignon, it can even match with heavier fare. Pinot Noir is also very vegetarian-friendly—most notably with any dish that features mushrooms.

Sommelier Secret

Pinot Noir is dangerously drinkable, highly addictive, and has a bad habit of emptying the wallet. Look for affordable but still delicious examples from Germany (as Spätburgunder), Italy (as Pinot Nero), Chile, New Zealand, and France’s Loire Valley and Alsace regions.

AIWECCWCPN_2011 Item# 137221