Elizabeth Chambers Winemaker's Cuvee Pinot Noir 2011
Critical AcclaimAll Vintages
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.
Home of some of the planet’s most amazingly elegant and expressive Pinot noir, the Willamette Valley is a pastoral, mixed landscape of green, bucolic rolling hills, dramatic forestlands and small, independent, friendly wine growers. As a leader in environmental stewardship, the valley has some of the nation’s most protective land use policies, with two-thirds of its vineyards farmed sustainably and over half, organically. While the valley claims a cool, continental climate, and is heavily influenced by the cold, moist winds of the Pacific Ocean, its warm and dry summers allow for the steady, even ripening of Pinot noir.
The potential of Willamette Valley Pinot noir continues to attract the investment of serious growers and winemakers both locally and from abroad, as naturally the finished wines bring accolades from professionals and enthusiasts. With a range of styles from delicate dried cherry, raspberry and hibiscus to stronger notes of truffle, mocha, plum and spice, a fine Willamette Valley Pinot noir is a perfect expression of both character and grace.