Ken Wright Cellars ‘Shea Vineyard’ – Pinot Noir; Yamhill-Carlton District, Willamette Valley, Oregon; 2021 

 July 8, 2023

By  rackhouse

Ken Wright has quietly had his hand deeply planted in the Oregon wine scene. After his upbringing in Kentucky, he made his way to learn enology and viticulture, along with making wine in California. He shortly branched out on his own and in 1986 situated himself in Oregon. By the time 2006 rolled around and the six Oregon Willamette Valley Sub-AVA’s were established, Ken was an expert. Ken authored the Yamhill-Carlton AVA portion. Six years later, Ken Wright Cellars Abbott Claim Vineyard Pinot Noir was ranked #1 wine in the world by Wine Enthusiast magazine. And a short 2 years after that, Ken was featured as the first Oregon winemaker on the cover of the Wine Spectator and branded as the “Master of Pinot Noir in Oregon”

Yamhill-Carlton, characterized by pastoral, rolling hills composed of shallow, quick-draining, ancient marine soil, is ideal for Pinot Noir and other cool-climate-loving varieties. It is in the rain shadow of the Coast Range to its west, whose highest point climbs to an altitude of 3,500 feet. Yamhill-Carlton is actually surrounded by mountains on three sides: Chehalem Mountains to the north, the Dundee Hills to the east, and the western Coast Range to its west, which, when it lets Pacific air through, serves to cool the region. Vineyards grow on the ridges surrounding the two small communities of Yamhill and Carlton and cover about 1,200 acres of this 60,000-acre region, which roughly makes a horse-shoe shape on a map.

The crop level averaged right around expectation, especially for the accumulated heat over the growing season. Disease was nonexistent with the dry conditions of the summer months and the fermentations proceeded flawlessly with none going “sideways on us”. The wine is rich, expressive, detailed, and deeply colored after spending 10-11 months in 20% new French oak barrels. The wine is savory, floral, and spice focused. It is bursting with black cherry and bramble berries on the nose. The palate is juicy and supple with savory hints of cola, rose petals, and a touch of milk chocolate.

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