In 1971 the wine industry in the entire Pacific Northwest consisted of (maybe) two dozen wineries, most of which have long since disappeared. Planting a vineyard was, to say the least, a grand adventure. What to plant, where to plant, when to plant and how to plant were open questions. California provided the model, which was all there was to go on, and it turned out to be not very helpful given that conditions further north were not comparable. Washington was considered to be too hot and dry in the summer, too cold in the winter to grow anything but (maybe) a bit of Riesling. Oregon, the experts said, was simply too cold and too wet to grow wine grapes profitably.
Nonetheless a few stubborn pioneers in both states saw better prospects coming, understood that new wineries would provide customers for their grapes, and forged ahead. Hyland vineyard, first planted in ’71 under the guidance of Dick Erath and Charles Coury, was one. Starting with about 15 acres of Pinot Noir, Riesling and Gewürztraminer, the vineyard quickly became an essential provider of grapes to such wineries as Adelsheim, Knudsen-Erath and Sokol Blosser.
It remained under the same management from the late 1970s until 2007, when Laurent Montalieu’s NW Wine Company purchased Hyland and began an ambitious program of growth. The vineyard now comprises 185 planted acres, most of it Pinot Noir, including the rare and legendary Coury clone. The Hyland Estates brand was introduced shortly after the purchase.
About 500 cases of Coury Clone Pinot Noir are produced annually, from vines dating back to the early 1970s. Other old vine releases from Hyland Estates include Gewürztraminer from 1970s blocks, Riesling from 1972 and 1974 plantings and Chardonnay first planted in 1979. The list of wineries making Hyland vineyard designates reads like a who’s who of Oregon’s finest. Along with in-house clients Domaine Divio and Soléna Estate are heavy hitters such as Résonance, Cristom, Penner-Ash, Antica Terra, Beaux Frères, Nicolas Jay, Double O, and Brooks.
In an interview I did with Laurent Montalieu a few years ago he talked about his experience making wine in Oregon.
LM: “As a winemaker you’re always reflecting, you’re always trying to understand how to make the best wines from the vineyards that you work with. My years in Oregon have taught me to be more of a hands-off winemaker. I’ve found not doing something during harvest is often the hardest decision. To me, winemaking style isn’t something that’s reflective of the hand of the winemaker, it is completely reflective of the land that in which vines are rooted.”
PG: How do you compare your Oregon wines to those of your native France?
LM: “To compare wines from Oregon to that of Burgundy and Europe is easy because they are the same varietals, but ultimately the comparison is impossible because the terroir (geology, climate, culture, technology, people) is so different. Ultimately, each wine, whether it’s from Burgundy or Oregon or somewhere else should be judged solely for the fruit harvested from vines rooted in that soil and how they interact with their surroundings.”
PG: At your NW Wine Co. you lead a fantastic team that includes vineyard manager Bruno Corneaux (Domaine Divio) and winemaker Anne Sery. This is home for your own Soléna wines, the Hyland Estates wines, Domaine Divio wines and more than 100 custom crush brands. How do you approach such a mind-boggling task?
LM: “We taste every day during harvest with the mindset of trying to make the wine better every day we can. This style of winemaking puts pressure ultimately on the picking decision. In Oregon, the vintage always comes down to the weather during September and October. We do not ever get to pick with a clear weather forecast in-front of us. As a winemaker, I put my trust into the land and the farming. Let the vineyard tell the story. Getting to know your land through wine is truly an amazing experience.”
PG: I’ve circled back to current and recent tastings of both Hyland Estates and Soléna wines (Soléna is the brand for Laurent Montalieu and his wife Danielle Andrus Montalieu, and is named for their daughter). Here are notes on the current and previous vintages.
Hyland 2022 Old Vine Single Vineyard Riesling –
Though it was a major part of the original plantings back in the 1970s, Riesling is now a minor player in the Hyland vineyard. These own-rooted vines are between 45 and 50 years old, and bring the special density and detail that simply cannot be expressed in younger fruit. Tart, fresh, sassy citrus fruit flavors are streaked with veins of wet rock. The long, lip-licking finish brings subtle hints of honeysuckle and orange liqueur. 800 cases; 12.5%; $28 (McMinnville) 94/100
Hyland Estates 2021 Old Vine Single Vineyard Riesling –
Quite dry yet retaining some touches of fruit sweetness, this exceptional old vine Riesling is a masterful mix of lemon, lime, grapefruit, green apple and lemongrass, buoyed by tart acids and softening up just enough to trail out gently through a long finish. The palate is juicy and refreshing, the acids perfectly balanced against the fruit, with appealing touches of underlying minerality. 475 cases; 13.5%; $28 (McMinnville) 93/100
Hyland Estates 2022 Old Vine Single Vineyard Gewürztraminer –
Own-rooted and half a century old, these vines reliably craft an expressive, detailed and downright delicious dry Gewürztraminer – certainly one of the best in the country. Even for those who may be ambivalent about the grape this is a must-taste wine. The perfumy aromatics are de-emphasized, replaced with layer upon layer of citrus fruits, stone fruits, lemon meringue, pineapple, white peach and candied ginger. 1000 cases; 13.7%; $28 (McMinnville) 94/100
Hyland Estates 2021 Old Vine Single Vineyard Gewürztraminer –
This is a very special wine, as it’s sourced from own-rooted 50-year-old vines. Add to that a great vintage and a fine winemaking team and you have this treasure – rich, fragrant, true to variety and bursting with sweet citrus, pineapple, peach and pear fruit. The floral highlights are sensual without turning too perfumy, and the lingering finish brings hints of ginger and crushed rose petals. Whether you are familiar with this grape or not, this is a wine that should be experienced. 475 cases; 14.2%; $25 (McMinnville) 94/100
Hyland Estates 2021 Single Vineyard Chardonnay –
These own-rooted vines date back to the late 1970s. The aromatics are exceptional, with the depth and layering of a fine Burgundy. Once you taste it that first impression is confirmed – this is a spectacular Chardonnay. It’s densely packed with lemon, pink grapefruit, Cosmic Crisp apple, cantaloupe melon and green papaya fruit. Aging in 30% new French oak brings a lush toastiness to the creamy finish, which resolves languidly down through the palate, seemingly lasting for several minutes. 300 cases; 13.2%; $45 (McMinnville) 97/100
Hyland Estates 2020 Single Vineyard Chardonnay –
This showcases grapes planted in 1979 on their own roots. The wine is lush and broad, with lime and apple fruit accented with clove and hints of chalky stone. The depth and precision are spectacular, and once again this smoke-impacted vintage has produced an exceptional Chardonnay. Delicious already, this should drink quite nicely through the rest of this decade. 250 cases; 13.1%, $45 (McMinnville) 94/100
Hyland Estates 2021 Single Vineyard Petit Estate Pinot Noir –
Petit references the younger vines that go into this cuvée, but there’s nothing diminutive about the flavors. With a burst of wild berry, savory herbs, hints of mint and tomato leaves, along with barrel highlights of cinnamon spice, this young wine has already melded its components nicely. It’s penetrating and sharp, good now but with more bottle age should be even better. 1500 cases; 13.4%; $28 (McMinnville) 92/100
Hyland Estates 2021 Old Vine Pinot Noir –
It’s a gift to consumers that old vine wines such as this from Hyland are priced within reach of many wine lovers. A lovely garnet shade, this is bright with cranberry, plum and cherry fruit. A subtle mineral note and a whiff of earth contribute depth and detail. The mouthfeel is textured and the finish long and clean. One quarter of the barrels were new, and aging was kept to just nine months prior to bottling, so the fruit and acid hold court while the barrels sing harmonies. Give this one some good decanting for maximum pleasure. Tasted over three full days it showed continued improvement. 4000 cases; 13.5%; $45 (McMinnville) 94/100
Hyland Estates 2021 Old Vine Single Clone Dijon 115 Pinot Noir –
This is a laser-focused wine which drills down with pomegranate, white raspberry, green herb and barrel spices front and center. The flavors lengthen through the finish, buoyed with citrus-tinged acids. Some 20% of the barrels were new. Tasted on the second day it’s holding up well, fattening just slightly with a touch of buttery lactic flavor in the resolving finish. 250 cases; 13.5%; $60 (McMinnville) 93/100
Hyland Estates 2021 Old Vine Single Clone Pommard Pinot Noir –
If you like a more fruit forward style of Pinot, the Pommard clone is your best bet. It mixes berries and citrus with savory highlights and even a touch of chicken stock. There’s a light whiff of compost under many of these Hyland Pinots, a nod to both biodynamic (half the vineyard) and organic (the other half) farming. This complex, young wine will reward more time in the bottle and/or aggressive decanting. 250 cases; 13.5%; $60 (McMinnville) 93/100
Hyland Estates 2021 Old Vine Single Clone Wädenswil Pinot Noir –
This punches through with tannins, barrel toast (25% new) and a focused attack that speaks to power. Dark highlights of roasted coffee beans, charred wood and a hint of smoke add to the impression of darker fruits. All of the single clone expressions from Hyland are very well differentiated. I’d drink this with your heavier meat dishes. 200 cases; 13.6%; $64 (McMinnville) 94/100
Hyland Estates 2021 Old Vine Single Clone Coury Pinot Noir –
The Coury clone acknowledges Oregon wine pioneer Charles Coury, who along with Dick Erath was an advisor on the original planting at Hyland in 1971. There’s a long, partly mythical story about the actual clone, but these vines – the oldest in the vineyard – produce an elegant wine with lovely aromatics, light color and persuasive length. Rose petals, strawberries, watermelon and the depth of the vineyard terroir make this a complex yet delicate wine; one that I expect will develop in fascinating ways over time. 400 cases; 13.5%; $60 (McMinnville) 94/100
Hyland Estates 2021 Founders’ Selection Pinot Noir –
This is a reserve-level wine that (presumably) blends the various clones featured in Hyland’s single clone old vine bottlings. I’m a believer in blends,, which take the best of the different components and meld them together in whatever proportions exemplify the best of them all. That’s easier said than done, and I’ve participated in a lot of blending trials over the years. This vintage cuts back on the new oak (now just 25%) which hits the mark perfectly. The fruit marries ripe cherries with the terroir-driven frame of organic, earthy highlights. It’s full and long, with a lingering richness, yet in no way over the top. 120 cases; 13.6%; $110 (McMinnville) 94/100
Hyland Estates 2021 50th Anniversaire Pinot Noir –
I’m struck by the depth and detailed layering of this special wine. It’s being released to celebrate the vineyard’s first half century. The aromas are a sensual drift of rose petals, pastry, chocolate, candied orange peel and truffle, with flavors following and compounding. The mouthfeel is warm and smooth, the flavors accessible and abundant, the finish long and lingering. Almond paste and butter brickle notes come up, and the wine never flags. This is a marvelous tribute to a special site and spectacular history. 50 cases; 13.8%; $95 (McMinnville) 96/100
Soléna 2021 Domaine Danielle Laurent Chardonnay –
This continues a string of exceptional Chardonnays under the DDL imprint. It’s a sappy, sexy, full-palate wine, loaded with front-loaded flavors of butterscotch, apple, white peach, pear and citrus. The balance of fruit, barrel and acid is spot on, and the wine packs some real power all the way through the finish. Drink now through the rest of this decade. 150 cases; 13.3%; $65 (Yamhill-Carlton) 94/100
Soléna 2020 Domaine Danielle Laurent Chardonnay –
This is a stick-to-your-palate wine, with top notes of butterscotch, lemon curd and cut pineapple. The fruit gathers mid-palate focus and holds firm into a lip-smacking finish. Nectarine, Meyer lemon, pineapple and more are in the mix, with the juicy acidity to pair effortlessly with a variety of lemony entrées. 150 cases; 13.7%; $58 (Yamhill-Carlton) 93/100
Soléna 2020 Grande Cuvée Pinot Noir –
Very pretty purple/garnet color. Supple, sweetly tangy red and purple fruits. This is already accessible but with the structure and depth to age well. Light hints of fresh herbs and a vein of licorice add further interest. 4000 cases; 13.5%: $30 (Willamette Valley) 91/100
Soléna 2021 Domaine Danielle Laurent Pinot Noir –
Just released, this elegant, lightly savory, estate-grown wine is a lovely expression of the grape. Brambly raspberry and pie cherry fruit is accented with barrel notes of sandalwood. The supple tannins add a touch of breakfast tea. Already in perfect proportion, this wine should age gracefully for decades. 400 cases; 13.8%; $65 (Yamhill-Carlton) 94/100
Soléna 2020 Domaine Danielle Laurent Pinot Noir –
Bursting with tart blueberry fruit, this estate bottling is backed by moderate tannins and notes of breakfast tea. The acids punch through the finish, leaving a trail of lemon rind. Aged nine months in 28% new oak. Best drinking for this should start around 2025. 500 cases; 13.9%; $58 (Yamhill-Carlton) 92/100
Soléna 2021 Zena Crown Vineyard Pinot Noir –
A lighter style despite the listed abv, this has delicate notes of tea, rose hips, plum jelly and mint. It keeps the tannins in check and holds true through the lingering finish. 130 cases; 14.2%; $60 (Eola-Amity Hills) 92/100
Soléna 2021 Prince Hill Vineyard Pinot Noir –
First planted 40 years ago by the late Dick Erath, Prince Hill offers a well-textured wine with a mix of brambly berry, forest floor, truffle and toast. As with all the Soléna Pinots it’s balanced and the flavors well-integrated. The tannins are ripe and supple, leaving a tea-flavored trail as the wine fades. 130 cases; 14.1%; $60 (Dundee Hills) 93/100
Soléna 2020 Prince Hill Vineyard Pinot Noir –
The Prince Hill cuvée from this historic site gets 50% new oak over a relatively short nine month period. As expected, there’s a fair amount of toast in the nose and the barrel influence needs a bit more time to fully integrate. The underlying material is bright and bold and loaded with pretty fruit flavors of citrus, pomegranate and berry, backed with a wash of chocolate. 125 cases; 13.9%; $55 (Dundee Hills) 92/100
Soléna 2021 Hyland Vineyard Pinot Noir –
Lovely aromatics introduce this single vineyard wine. It’s quintessential Willamette Valley Pinot Noir, with fruit-forward flavors of berries and cherries. Here the fruit is nested in buttery caramel and light toast from the barrel aging. The balancing tannins support a lingering finish, with a touch of clean earth. This is quite accessible and delicious, but can also be cellared for a decade or longer. 300 cases; 13.5%; $65 (McMinnville) 93/100
Soléna 2020 Hyland Vineyard Pinot Noir –
This is the lynchpin estate vineyard, with some vines a half century old. The wine is fragrant and refined, mixing marionberries, huckleberries and blueberries in a lush mid-palate. Aging nine months in 38% new oak frames it with light flavors of toasted coconut. The supporting acids add a hint of citrus. These excellent 2020s from Soléna show that not all the red wines from that smoky harvest were affected by the fires. Drink now and over the next decade. 300 cases; 14.4%; $58 (McMinnville) 93/100
Soléna 2021 Shea Vineyard Pinot Noir –
This iconic vineyard puts a muscular edge on its Pinots, emphasized here by the chewy tannins and robust cherry fruit. Shea delivers big, bold Pinots, all with respect for the stylistic parameters for which we value this special grape. More subtle notes of lemon verbena slip through the palate as the wine winds down along a twisting finish. 150 cases; 13.9%; $60 (Yamhill-Carlton) 93/100
Soléna 2020 Shea Vineyard Pinot Noir –
Wines from this splendid vineyard are always interesting because so many different winemakers play with these grapes. This has an aromatic mix of purple berries and sweet baking spices, leading to a forward palate with blueberry, black cherry and cumin. It seems to stop short but that should resolve with ample aeration. 250 cases; 13.9%; $55 (Yamhill-Carlton) 93/100