This Week’s Wines: King Estate and Brittan Vineyards


King Estate was established in 1991 with a firm focus on Pinot Gris – a bold step at a time when Oregon was searching for a white wine standard bearer to go with its Pinot Noirs. Over three decades the winery has reached a number of milestone moments – becoming the largest certified Biodynamic vineyard in North America, extending the legal boundaries of the Willamette Valley AVA, creating a destination restaurant on-site and expanding their winemaking portfolio to include almost two dozen different varietal and blended red, white and sparkling wines – while remaining firmly in third generation family control.

As good as many of the wines are, for me Pinot Gris remains a cornerstone of the brand. That said, these are all wines well worth your attention, often widely available and attractively priced.

King Estate 2023 Pinot Gris – This is the most widely-distributed Pinot Gris from King Estate, and blends grapes from numerous sites along with 50% estate-grown fruit. No winery has done more to improve and evangelize this varietal wine, and I believe King Estate makes more than any winery in the country. The standard of quality is excellent vintage to vintage. Pear, apple, citrus zest and a touch of white pepper keep this lively and refreshing. 114000 cases; 13.1%; $20 (Willamette Valley) 91/100

King Estate 2023 Artisan Series Pinot Gris – An estate-grown, biodynamic, limited-production wine sporting a colorful hummingbird label. It’s what you’d expect from this Pinot Gris specialist – fresh, balanced, fruity and zesty with a delicious, lingering back palate. The finish has a juicy, sappy quality that sets you up for the next sip. A splendid value and a delicious wine with a truly luscious finish. 3000 cases; 13.2%; $20 (Willamette Valley) 93/100

King Estate 2022 Domaine Pinot Gris – All estate-grown, biodynamic fruit goes into this top tier bottling. Some years ago I spoke to a group of Pinot Gris producers who were lamenting the ‘fact’ that they couldn’t get more than $10 or $12 a bottle for the wine, so they couldn’t make a better version. I strongly suggested that was self-defeating and they needed to at least do some reserves at a higher price. King Estate was the first to jump in and take the bull by the horns by making single vineyard and reserve-level PG. It’s no longer a wild notion that Pinot Gris can achieve a unique profile with as much quality and detail and overall excellence as any other white wine. The Domaine is all-stainless fermented, aged on the lees, and gets a little extra bottle age prior to release. It’s a clean, crisp, well-defined wine with lemon, lime, citrus zest, a touch of grapefruit and carefully balanced acids. 2400 cases; 13%; $29 (Willamette Valley) 92/100

King Estate 2022 Inscription Pinot Noir – This big production, low cost Pinot is tart and racy with raspberry fruit. It’s stainless steel fermented and aged in apparently neutral oak. It’s one of a very small number of Willamette Valley Pinots that offer clear varietal character at this price point. 50000 cases; 13.1%; $20 (Willamette Valley) 89/100

King Estate 2022 Pinot Noir – A nice bump up in concentration and quality from the Inscription, this is one quarter estate grapes and the rest a mix of numerous sites. Black cherry fruit with a touch of sassafras, good mid-palate concentration and a clean fade. 24000 cases; 13.4%; $28 (Willamette Valley) 90/100

King Estate 2021 Domaine Pinot Noir – This is a block selection of estate grapes, reserve level. That said, it’s unusual for a reserve wine to be finished at such low alcohol. It’s light, elegant, with raspberry fruit and plenty of backing acids. 400 cases; 12.6%; $70 (Willamette Valley) 90/100

King Estate 2019 The Soldier Cabernet Sauvignon – This high value Cab blend draws almost half of its grapes from Walla Walla’s Seven Hills and Red Mountain’s Quintessence vineyards. It’s a classic Bordeaux blend – three quarters Cab and the rest shared between Merlot and Cabernet Franc. You might not expect to find such a well-balanced, solid expression of Washington Cabernet coming from an Oregon winery, but here it is and most welcome. Cassis, black cherry, mocha and sandalwood flavors combine in a medium-bodied, balanced and flavorful wine. 3000 cases; 14.4%; $23 (Columbia Valley) 91/100

Brittan Vineyards

Robert Brittan is among a handful of Napa Valley émigrés whose knowledge and experience are transforming the way in which Willamette Valley wines are grown and made. When he first saw his 128-acre site in the heart of the McMinnville AVA, he felt that he could make at least five different Pinot Noirs from this single location, based on its diversity of elevation, facings, soil types and underlying geology. Since his first vintage in 2006 his prediction has been proven to be true.  Brittan Vineyards now produces up to six different and distinctive Pinot Noirs in a single vintage, along with an Estate Chardonnay and an Estate Syrah. These three new releases are allocated to wine club members only. Details here.

Brittan 2022 Estate Pinot Noir – This is the first release from 2022, a Club only cuvée that blends estate-grown grapes. Being honest here it’s probably more accessible for many folks than the single block wines (which I love) because it shows more upfront fruit. It’s less austere, more forward, bursting with tangy, brambly blackberries and a dusting of coffee grounds. The tannins are tight and astringent, leaving a resonant finish that trails off a bit more quickly than the single block wines. 525 cases; 12.8%; $50 (McMinnville) 93/100

Brittan 2021 Basalt Block Pinot Noir – I taste a lovely minerality underscoring Robert Brittan’s wines, and he describes this new version of the Basalt Block as offering “an intriguing balance of dark and light characteristics” a description that neatly captures its essence. Elegant, detailed, replete with tangy cranberry, pomegranate, raspberry and wet stone flavors, it plunges into the depths of the palate with hints of seashells and black tea. Flavors linger through a long finish. The wine captures your attention and just won’t let go. 98 cases; 13.2%; $65 (McMinnville) 94/100

Brittan 2021 Cygnus Block Pinot Noir – Note the low alcohol, proof that great Pinot Noir does not need to pound the palate with jammy fruit. This is sleek, stylish, anchored in flavors of rock and sediment, with wild mountain berries for fruit. I’m a fruit-loving guy, but here I bow to the flavor impact of this special terroir in the hands of a truly great winemaker. Amazingly this spent 10 months in one quarter new French oak, yet seems to offer a pristine glimpse of the soil in which the grapes were grown. The barrels are light adornments; the rocky soils are the show. 121 cases; 12.8%; $65 (McMinnville) 95/100

Catching Up – highlights from recent tastings

Chemistry 2022 Sauvignon Blanc – Pungent with classic herbal/kerosene highlights; this is a style that many drinkers will find challenging. It is perfectly sound and varietally on point, but only for those who know their Sauv Blanc and prefer a strikingly savory, herbaceous style. Gooseberry, starfruit, flint and green herbs are here in abundance. This is a Sauv Blanc for hardcore lovers of the grape (and I am one). 4600 cases; 12.5%; $25 (Columbia Valley) 90/100

Eternal Wines 2018 Discovery Cabernet Sauvignon – This is a big wine with classic Washington state Cabernet power and flavors of licorice, plum, cassis, clean earth, charred wood and soy. There is plenty to explore and to enjoy here. The extra bottle age is a bonus and helps to smooth out the finishing tannins. More highlights come up with more air – black tea, tobacco and a touch of molasses. 70 cases; 14.8%; $59 (Horse Heaven Hills) 92/100

Willamette Valley Vineyards 2022 Auxerrois  – The tart Alsatian grape is here underscored with ripe citrus fruits, both flesh and rind. It’s crisp and pure, with mouthfilling flavors that give it enough body to be your principal wine with lemon chicken, light seafood and of course shellfish.  224 cases; 13.3%; $39 (Tualatin Hills) 91/100

Willow Wine Cellars 2023 Inland Desert Vineyards Albariño – Another acid-lovers wine, taking the Spanish grape to its juicy limits. It’s racy and tangy, loaded with Meyer lemon, grapefruit and mandarin orange flavors. 142 cases; 13.3%; $32 (Yakima Valley) 90/100

Willow Wine Cellars 2023 Foxley Estates Vineyard Verdelho – This Portuguese grape is finding a home here in Washington. It’s spicy and sharp, with grassy citrus flavors. Similar to the Spanish Verdejo, though not as rich, this seems to be a good grape to plant in the cool climate Columbia Gorge AVA. 58 cases; 14.1%; $40 (Columbia Gorge) 90/100

Paul Gregutt
Paul Gregutt
Paul Gregutt has been covering the wines and wineries of the Pacific Northwest since the mid-1980s. From 2002 to 2012 he wrote a weekly wine column for the Seattle Times and authored two critically-acclaimed editions of ‘Washington Wines & Wineries – The Essential Guide’ (UC Berkeley Press). He served as the Northwest editor for Wine Enthusiast magazine from 1998 until 2022. Early on he was an original staff member of both the Seattle Weekly and KZAM-FM. He lives with his wife Karen and his rescue dog Cookie in Waitsburg (pop. 1204), a farm community about 20 miles NE of Walla Walla. When not tasting and writing about wine he writes songs, plays guitar and sings in his band the DavePaul5 ( Follow his writing at PaulG on Wine,, and in the Waitsburg Times.


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