EROBERTPARKER.COM, MARCH 2015
Bethel Heights Vineyard is one of the most coveted wineries in Oregon with a long track record of producing Pinot Noir from the top drawer. Established back in 1977, the winery was and still is, a family affair. Originally founded by brothers Ted and Terry Casteel and their wives, Bethel Heights is now managed by cousins Mimi and Ben Casteel, Mimi mainly out among the vines and Ben weaving everything together in the winery.
Bethel Heights was one of the wineries that I was expecting great things from – and thankfully the wines did not disappoint. Walking round the vineyard after my tasting it was clear to see that they are blessed with prime vineyard location. The oak here is prudently used and the wines have their own personalities – something to say. Cuvées such as the 2012 West Block Pinot Noir and 2012 Flat Block Pinot Noir demonstrate that these cousins can make some of the best Oregon Pinot Noir. -Neal Martin
2012 Pinot Noir Casteel – 93
The 2012 Pinot Noir Casteel is a selection of the best barrels from the Dijon 114 and 115 clones planted in 1996 and 1994 respectively. This vintage was picked October 6-7 at 23.5 Brix and sees 14 months in French oak, 40 percent new barrels. It has a genteel bouquet at first: pure red cherries, bergamot and strawberry that unfolds to reveal motes of chalk dust and flint. The palate is medium-bodied with supple tannin, soft and rounded in the mouth, but not plush or luxuriant. It is very harmonious with overtly red fruit rather than black, a light pinch of cracked black pepper on the finish. Lovely.
2012 Pinot Noir Aeolian – 90
The maiden 2012 Aeolian Pinot Noir is named after the wind and comes from vines planted 1994-1999 on the estate. Apparently, the wind causes a bifurcation in quality, especially on the west side of the property. It was picked October 5-14 at 23.9 Brix and aged for 11 months in French oak, 40% new barrel. The bouquet is very appealing and in my mind, superior to the Pinot Noir Estate, better defined and demonstrating more mineralité. The palate is medium-bodied with tensile tannins. There is a pleasant prickle of spice, salted licorice and black truffle toward the finish. This is an understated Pinot Noir but one that is full of class.
2012 Pinot Noir Flat Block – 92
The 2012 Pinot Noir Estate Flat Block comes from a 3.3-acre block of Pommard vines that were planted in 1979 on shallow soils between 6 and 12 inches deep. It was picked October 8 at 23.9 Brix and aged for 17 months in 50 percent new French oak. It has a more expressive and outgoing bouquet compared to the West Block with exuberant raspberry and blueberry scents interspersed with quite strong mineral/cold wet stone scents. The palate is medium-bodied with supple, very lithe tannin that caress the mouth. This is designed to seduce from several paces: silky and poised with just a slight tinny reduction coming toward the finish. I would give this a year in bottle and you will then have a seriously fine Pinot Noir.
2012 Pinot Noir Justice Vineyard – 91
The 2012 Pinot Noir Justice Vineyard comes from a four-acre block planted in 1999 (Dijon 114 clone). Picked October 8 at 24.3 Brix and aged for 14 months in French oak (40% new oak), it has a refined, quite reserved bouquet that prioritizes mineralité over fruit intensity: red cherries, bergamot, sea spray and a touch of chalk. The palate is medium-bodied with a smooth, quite harmonious entry, whereby the fruit errs more toward the black side of the spectrum: blackcurrant and bilberry laced with cold stone and a pinch of white pepper. Slightly more masculine in style, it should be afforded 2-3 years in bottle.
2012 Pinot Noir West Block – 93
The 2012 Pinot Noir West Block comes from the oldest vines on the estate, planted in 1977. It was picked October 14 at 23.5 Brix and aged in French oak for 17 months in 50 percent new wood. It has a more open and expressive bouquet than the Justice Vineyard ’12: the veneer of red cherries and strawberry infused with sea spray and oyster shells. The palate is medium- bodied with supple tannin, very well-judged acidity and a harmonious, poised finish that is very feminine. What a beautiful Oregon Pinot Noir.
2012 Pinot Noir Southeast Block – 90+
The 2012 Pinot Noir Southeast Block comes from a six-acre parcel of Pommard clone vines, the “sister” of the Flat Block planted in the same year of 1979. It was picked October 10 at 22.5 Brix and aged for 17 months in French oak, half of them new. It has an understated bouquet at first, with slightly more savory red berry fruit, tertiary/damp undergrowth notes emerging with time. The palate is medium-bodied with darker fruit than the Flat Block: harmonious in the mouth with good backbone, but personality wise, broodier and more saturnine. Allow this a couple of years to come out of its shell.