THE WINE ADVOCATE, OCTOBER 2013
2011 Bethel Heights Vineyard Pinot Noir Estate – 90
The Bethel Heights 2011 Pinot Noir Estate displays tart-edged dark plum and cherry with a glowingly cyanic enhancement from their pits. Infusions of fresh ginger, black tea, iris root and citrus oils are as vintage-typical as the wine’s brightness of fruit. Firm yet polished at mid-palate, this finishes with zesty invigoration and interactive complexity, benefiting from the levity and prominent acidity that are likewise vintage hallmarks. In short: a quintessential and delightful 2011 Willamette Pinot that offers fine value and ought to delight through at least 2018.
2011 Bethel Heights Vineyard Pinot Noir Willamette Valley – 90
From a combination of Vita Springs and estate fruit, Bethel Height’s basic, Willamette Valley appellation 2011 Pinot Noir projects vintage typically juicy, tart cherry and red currant that contrast yet compliment fascinatingly and deliciously a saliva-inducing undertone of marrow-rich veal stock. There is a striking and exhilarating buoyancy here borne at least in part of the mere 12.0% alcohol. A berry seed crunch lends invigoration to a mouthwateringly sustained finish, capping an excellent value that should drink beautifully through at least 2017, though quite possibly well beyond.
2011 Bethel Heights Vineyard Pinot Noir Carter Vineyard – 91
Sage, saliva-drawing charred meat, dark cherry, blackberry and chard are the prominent components that make Bethel Heights 2011 Pinot Noir Carter Vineyard pungently, piquantly, and mouthwateringly impressive, as well as surprisingly complete and complex considering it originates with a single Dijon clone (#115). Firm but polished in feel and palpably extract-rich, it finishes with almost startling grip. While not as elegant or vibrant as this year’s SoutheastBlock, we have here a dense ball of energy that should be worth following through at least 2022.
2011 Bethel Heights Vineyard Pinot Noir Illahe Vineyard – 91
Believing the quality of fruit from this vineyard in 2011 to be too good to just blend into their generic Pinot, the Casteels have bottled a dedicated 2011 Pinot Noir Illahe Vineyard. Deep ferrous and beef blood low-tones here could almost be mistaken for those of a Syrah, but the vivacity and levity as well as the exuberantly juicy brightness of tart dark plum and blackberry are all-Pinot, as is the sense of melting-away tannins, which as the Casteels point out is a special tribute to this vintage and how they handled it, since this site – like neighboring Freedom Hill – has an, in their view, well-earned reputation for tough tannins. Earthy, stony and otherwise “mineral” nuances abound. And speaking of Syrah-like traits, there is a bite of black pepper adding to the invigoration of this Pinot’s vibrant finish. It ought to merit following through at least 2020.
2011 Bethel Heights Vineyard Pinot Noir Southeast Block – 92
The Bethel Heights’ 2011 Pinot Noir Southeast Block – from one of several 1979 Pommard blocks on their estate – has an exposure that, in collaboration with relatively deep and water retentive soil – you might think would prove a handicap in largely rainy, ripeness-challenged 2011. Instead, the first things I notice here are the mouthwatering sense of salinity allied to deeply savory, marrow- and bone-rich meat stock. These mingle with juicy, crunchy seed and piquantly pit-inflected elderberry and sour cherry on a firm, unapologetically but finely tannic palate, leading to a finish of near vibratory grip and invigoration, to which black pepper and crushed stone add emphasis and intrigue. This unusually forceful yet somehow elegant expression of 2011 energy also illustrates this vintage’s paradoxical potential for metaphoric darkness allied to acid-driven brightness. It will, I strongly suspect, be worth following through 2022, and quite possibly beyond.