The story of Beckham Estate Vineyards is perhaps best told in a straightforward fashion. Two people from non-wine backgrounds came together several years ago and begun a lifelong journey. In 2004, they located a site that would properly express pinot noir and perhaps more importantly, allow pinot noir to express the site. Planting began soon after, in 2005. Sitting between 412 and 568 feet above sea level, Beckham Estate Vineyard is planted with four clones on 6.5 acres. Next year, one acre of pinot blanc is scheduled, so around 2018 we might get to taste it. As of now, the Beckhams can make around 900 cases per year.
I tasted three wines, the 2011 rosé, and both the 2009 and 2010 Chehalem Mountains pinot noirs. Andrew makes the wines at Union Wine Company, close to Sherwood. The reds see about between 35% and 40% new French oak with the remainder in neutral barrels.
A 100% pinot noir rosé, this spent one year in neutral French oak barrels. It didn't undergo malo-lactic fermentation, leaving the acid profile skewed towards the drier malic (think green apples) versus the creamier lactic (think buttered popcorn). The bouquet is full of strawberries, summer melon, hints of wood, and a nice stemmy quality. On the palate it's clean and refreshing, the way a rosé should be. The acidity is lively, creating a deliciously crisp texture to balance the red fruit flavors. Overall an impressive display of complexity and balance. Andrew and Annedria's rosé finishes clean and soft, and very satisfying. $16 srp.
This was the first commercial release from the Estate and is comprised of three clones of pinot noir. About 250 cases were made. The nose is all Oregon funk, peppery spice, sweet red fruit, and oak. One of the more enticing, interesting 2009's I've yet had. I like the balance that is present in the bouquet,and it primes your palate for a wonderful experience. The flavors here are precise; blackberry, earth, wild raspberries, and black tea. Hints of oak weave throughout the fine-grained tannin and importantly, there is a lot of acidity. On the finish, bittersweet chocolate and a stemmy flavor linger for an impressive length of time. I'd love to taste this wine in 10 years. 14.9% abv. $32 srp.
2010 Beckham Estate Chehalem Mountains Pinot Noir:
The bouquet opens with fresh pine needles, raspberries, cherries, and then segues into a sutble, meaty/woodsy aroma. Amazing complexity and near-perfect balance, perhaps a testament to great fruit and the restrained use (11 months) of oak. I could sniff this pinot noir for days it's of the best most aromatically beautiful 2010 pinot noirs I've yet to taste. On the palate I was impressed with the high-toned red fruit flavors (wild strawberry mixed with blackberries galore!), dusty earth notes, and restrained stemmy flavor on the finish. As with the bouquet, the mouthfeel is well balanced and the tannin acts to restrain the pure fruit. In my opinion, this is how Oregon pinot noir should taste. 13.3% abv. $32 srp.
The more I talked with the Beckhams, the more I was impressed with how humble they are. Simply tasting the wines will show that they compare favorably to Oregon's best, yet Andrew took the time to answer all my questions honestly and I'm just a little wine blogger.
During my interview, I found out that the future for Beckham Estate is equally exciting. Plans call for a reserve program, and indeed there is one lot of pinot noir already destined to become a reserve selection. Production is minuscule, 46 cases. Of those, 20 are pre-sold. That wine will be released in September, or as Annedria said, when it's ready. Other plans include the aforementioned pinot blanc, and a series of single clone bottlings.
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Here in Oregon, the wines are available at The Heathman, The Allison, Marche in Eugene, 23rd & Hoyt, Sweet Basil in Cannon Beach, and Red Hills Market.
I hope you have a chance to taste these wines and support small producers, because they represent so much of the passion, hard work, integrity, and even the romance of wine.