2005-2008 Beaux Freres PN Masterclass - Printable Version

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- TheEngineer - 11-07-2010

I was fortunate enough to be invited to a Beaux Freres masterclass given by Michael Etzel, owner and winemaker at Beaux Freres Vineyards a few nights ago. As many of you might know, Michael is the brother-in-law of Robert Parker who also is also a part owner of this winery. As such, Robert Parker never rates these wines (at least does not put them into Wine Advocate).

I've had Beaux Freres wines over the years, especially early on and did not like the style (bigger pinot) but over the last few years, I have come to rather enjoy them as the style has changed from a large powerful pinot to very much a burgundian style of pinot, especially the 07 (which was not his best wine...).

Michael, while on vacation back in 1986, bought an 88-acre pig farm in what is now know as the Ribbon Ridge in the Northern Willamette Valley, Yamhill County, Oregon. He calls himself a second generation arrival as there were wineries in the region already producing an increasing improving product, but it was still very early on. First gen vineyards generally planted everything from PN to Gwertraminer, and everything in between. He started off as a farmer first, and really stressed how poor he was, pretty much living hand to mouth and bartering firewood for food. His wife started to get tired of this lifestyle and asked him to do the winery. With the help of his brother in law (RP) and a new investor, they sent out a mailing list to see if people would by this $40 a bottle pinot. The day the checks started to arrive was his happiest day every he said! They went from having nothing to $300k USD in cash! They did not turn back.

Michael is a very down to earth guy. I mean so very very humble. Attributes his success to dumb luck. When asked about his greatest mistake, he said there were two, asking his wife to work in the office (which drove her insane,...which it meant that it drove him insane) and listening to Robert Parker's request to plan Grenache in the slopes. He tore this out later.

He was really engaging to speak to and was very open about topics like vintage variation (loves it), expression of his site (loves it), alcohol (does not like too much) and if it is too high, he will fill the fermentors less to give a better juice to air ratio to allow for more evaporation of alcohol (I've not heard of that before so it was interesting to get down to this level of discussion). He does not like extraction for density any more, the 07 vintage was so cool that he was worried about unbalanced wine so he actually just made his PN as if he was making a white wine (and I really liked it). I asked him about his fav wineries and the were all burgundian, (top shelf too), Serrafin, and others I could not catch but they were all highly respected burg winemakers and many other topics.

We tried his 05 to 08 wines (starting youngest first).

the 08 (of which I immediately bought had him sign) was the best bottle in the group. Not the one I like the most right now, but the best stuff in the bottle. It was fresh, light bright red fruit, with great density of aromas and flavors but was not a bruising wine. This had an lightness to it, even though it was dense in flavors, smooth body (did not get the note on Achl. levels), wonderful body and structure and a great persistence. It will need some time (did not start to open up until the end of the class and it has been double decanted).

The 07 was from a "weak" vintage and yet it was my fav of the night. Perhaps more developed than I would have thought, but great balance of fruit, minerals, and wood, medium bodied and good complexity to keep interest up, first one I finished tonight.

The 06 was my least favorite as right at the top, I could sense a high alcohol level. The season was too powerful and he tried to tone it down. Got it mostly right save for the high alcohol levels.

The 05 was the best showing wine of the night. Like the 07 had great balance but had more power and density of the fruit and the minerals. Wood had integrated more. He uses about 70% new wood in each vintage so there is certainly some wood there but it was not overpowering and did not mask the wine.

It was also good to see the consistency in the style of the wine so that the vintage and the site really came through. I enjoyed this class much more than I thought.

- wondersofwine - 11-08-2010

Sounds like fun.

- astroud83 - 11-09-2010

What a great experience! I'm so glad you shared this.


- Kcwhippet - 11-09-2010

I'm jealous, Mike. BTW, where are you living now? Haven't seen you in the shop in ages.

- TheEngineer - 11-09-2010

Hey KC. I've been moving around lately, spending a large portion of my time in Toronto and still about 30% of my time in London. I do get home more nowadays (like this week) but that allows me to catch up really. Business has still not recovered and as such you work harder to pull in the smaller pieces of business that is out there, usually at a lower margin.

I'll make it in one day. What days do you work again?

- winoweenie - 11-10-2010

Between 10 & 11 am on Tuesdays. WW (hehehe)

- TheEngineer - 11-10-2010


It's gotta be more than that now...boating season is over.... at least for the sane.

- Kcwhippet - 11-10-2010

As you know, Mike, the hours are variable. I'm always there on Wed, Fri, and Sat. I work every third Sun and get the following Thurs off (my next Sun working is 11/20). My other day off is either Mon or Tues, and it rotates each week. So, this week, I'm off tomorrow (Thurs) and there the next two days. After the start of 2011, I'm cutting back 25% so I can start sailing again next year (haven't been in over a year). Also, Judy and I would like to have some weekends to do stuff - working every Fri and Sat is getting really old.

- TheEngineer - 11-10-2010

Thanks KC!. I'll definitely drop by soon. Heading to Toronto this weekend and then to London and Paris shortly following that so hope to see you before Christmas [img]/ubb/smile.gif[/img] It would be great to connect up again.

- TheEngineer - 11-21-2010


Will be heading to Scotland instead of coming home this week.. I'll try to pop in in December [img]/ubb/smile.gif[/img]....the quest for business...