Our Willamette Valley Collection

Bell's Willamette Valley project was developed in conjunction with our California market, to fill a niche in both of our wine portfolios.

Pinot noir and Pinot gris (Pinot grigio) are two varietals enjoying success and Oregon has really defined these two varietals.

In today's wine market, consumers are seeking value, and we believe that we can leverage our experience with our Lake Country Sauvignon blanc, and Sierra Foothills Syrah to produce value-driven Pinot noir and pinot gris.

We believe we can produce these wines at a style and price that will consistently over-deliver to your customers.

Our Willamette Valley Collection was developed to be incremental to our existing portfolio of wines.

WHY OREGON AND NOT CALIFORNIA?

Whether it's Cabernet from Rutherford, Sauvignon blanc from Lake County or Syrah from the Sierra Foothills, our winemaking philosophy has consistently been terroir driven:

Find where the grape grows best, search out the vineyards producing fruit that matches our style, and use non-intrusive winemaking to produce wines that reflect the varietal and have a sense of place.

When we decided to produce Pinot gris and Pinot noir, it only made sense to go to the Willamette Valley in Oregon, an area that has established a great reputation for these varietals. It has taken two years to find vineyards and fruit we like at the quality level and price required for us to be successful. Under the stewardship of John Vowell, we have identified the southern Willamette Valley around Corvallis, on both the east and west sides of the valley, as the general area for our wines. As with the Sauvignon blanc project, it may take several years before we identify a reliable collection of vineyards that will consistently produce the quality and style that we want - at a price that will allow the wines to over-deliver.

WILLAMETTE VALLEY VITICULTURE:

Williamette

Willamette Valley is Eden for all things Pinot, sharing the same latitude as its ancestral home of Burgundy, France. This ancient river valley is 5 times as big as Napa Valley, approx 150 miles long and as much as 60 miles wide, and running roughly north-south from Portland to Eugene. Bounded by mountain ranges east, west and south, the valley floor basin was once part of an enormous inland lake, connected by the Columbia River to the cold Pacific Ocean and the maritime breeze that still cools the area. Gigantic 200 ton boulders dotting the valley landscape give little clue to the catastrophic flooding of Glacial Lake Missoula that carried them there, beginning about 15,000 years ago. During the last ice age, a glacial dam at least 2,500 feet high contained a body of water larger than Lakes Ontario and Erie combined. When the water, over 2,000 feet deep, finally floated the glacier enough to begin leaking out the bottom, the cataclysm began. The trickle eventually weakened the ice until it gave way and a torrent of water burst through at a rate 60 times stronger than the Amazon, racing across northern Idaho and scouring eastern Washington on its way to the Columbia Gorge several hundred miles away. The Willamette Valley was the final backwash before emptying into the Pacific, and it was thoroughly flooded hundreds of feet deep many times over a period of several thousand years. Those floods both brought and removed many different types of soils that today figure prominently in agriculture and Oregon's Pinot production today.

The huge geographic area of Willamette Valley makes the decision of vineyard source location even more challenging and critical than in the minute confines of Napa Valley. Our vineyard choices are situated above the ancient flood levels and feature signature red volcanic Jory soil, which is particularly quick draining, and can only be found at the ideal level for vineyards - above the valley fog but below the summit wind line.Their southerly aspect guarantees excellent sun exposure and their location at the southern end of the valley positions them in a "banana belt", where temperatures are warmer and fruit naturally develops more ripeness than the chillier northwest corner of Willamette.

WINEMAKING:

We believe that grapes should always be crushed as close to the vineyard source as possible to retain the highest fruit quality.In addition, it would be both counterproductive and costly to truck the grapes to our winery in Yountville. At this time, we are sourcing wines from the numerous smaller growers in the southern Willamette Valley, and assembling the blends at a state-of-the-art winemaking facility outside Eugene, before trucking the wines to Yountville for finishing and bottling. As we identify vineyards that provide consistent quality wines for our program, we will have the wines custom produced for us, using our guidelines.

Since Anthony's focus and time are occupied completely, we've tapped Bell enologist and winemaker, John Vowell, to oversee this project. John admits his first sip of wine as a youngster was a watered down version of Gallo's Hearty Burgundy; he's been on the Pinot trail ever since. In a previous life he was in charge of Castle Rock's Pinot production and developed an intimate understanding and appreciation for the wines of Willamette Valley. His contacts and enthusiasm for the varietal are a major reason why we decided to go ahead with this project as a fit for Bell. John will be in charge of sourcing the fruit, visiting the vineyards, meeting the growers, managing our custom crush producer, crafting the wines and ultimately creating a blended wine following our house style.

SELLING POINTS:

  • Pinot noir and Pinot gris have become two very popular categories.
  • Oregon has established a strong reputation for these varietals.
  • Oregon's winemaking community generally follows sustainable farming practices, shunning pesticides as harsh and destructive. A high percentage of vineyards are certified as sustainable, organic or biodynamic. Over time, as we identify consistent vineyard sources, we may migrate our wine labeling to reflect this.
  • Oregon's labeling laws are much stricter than California's, demanding higher percentages for labeling recognition. In California, there must be 85% fruit from a particular place to use an appellation. In Oregon, its 95%. In California, one must have 75% of any particular varietal to include it on the label. In Oregon, its 90%.
  • The wines possess the Bell house style of elegance and balance, and deliver great quality at competitive prices.
  • Both wines are below 14% alcohol - an added plus in today's alcohol sensitive world.
  • Going into the Summer, both wines are delightful choices, and present great BTG opportunities.
  • With the evolving economy and cooler weather in the Fall, placement of these wines during the summer offers you an opportunity to upsell these customers to the Cabernet's.

COMPETITIVE CLUSTER:

Cardwell Hill Cellars - 5,000+ case producer; similar profile; $23.00-$30.00.
Cristom Vineyards - 10,000+ case producer; they source fruit from similar places as Bell; similar profile; $30.00-$40.00.
Eola Hills Wine Cellars - 20,000+ case producer; comparable reserve wines; $25.00-$40.00.
Willamette Valley Vineyards - 20,000+ case producer; much lighter and less complex. Same pricing as Bell.
King Estate Signature Series - 100,000+ case producer; 20,000 case production of this wine. Blended like Bell; lighter in style and not typically Willamette designated; $35.00.
Archery Summit Premiere Cuvee - 9,500 case production. Started by Gary Andrus of Pine Ridge Napa Valley, they also blend; their wines are lighter in style and not as complex; $48.00.

WINE STYLE:

Pinot gris:

  • Crisp and refreshing, with mid-palate texture and balanced acidity.
  • The warmer growing conditions provide riper fruit delivering lush texture.
  • 100% Stainless steel fermented.
  • Slightly off-dry, with excellent fruit, acid and residual sugar balance.
  • 12.5% alcohol.
  • A wonderful accompaniment to shellfish, Pan-Asian cuisine, and lighter fare.

Pinot noir:

  • Somewhat atypical, a rich, full-bodied wine, with deep color.
  • Displays Oregon roots in its acidity; but balanced by fruit and oak.
  • Warmer, southerly vineyard locations deliver grapes with rich, dark fruit character.
  • Blend of several clones - Pommard, Dijon clones 114, 115 and 777.
  • 10 Months in French oak, 40% new.
  • Blended to reflect our house style of balance, lush texture and appealingly robust color, with a varietal note of raw earth, wrapped in restrained elegance.
  • 13.5% alcohol.
  • Well suited to braised or grilled meats.

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