TNs: Two Shea Vineyard Pinots from Willamette Valley

In the five years that I covered Willamette Valley for The Wine Advocate, I couldn’t help but be impressed by the high regard in which Shea Vineyard fruit is held. Shea Vineyard, owned by Dick Shea, is a large property in the Yamhill-Carlton AVA from which at least 20 clients purchase fruit farmed to the buyer’s specifications. Because it sells for a premium, it is no surprise that most of the customers produce a Shea Vineyard-designate among their respective cuvees. I was struck by how often the Shea bottling was the top among a given winery’s portfolio.
2003 Bergstrom Pinot Noir "Shea Vineyard"From an unusually warm harvest, this Bergstrom acknowledges an atypical 15% alcohol on its label. It is still dark ruby red in color with a nose of toasty red fruit, spice box, and floral note sthat leap from the glass. Plush on the palate with layers of opulent fruit, it retains enough structure to continue on at this level for years to come. As pleasure-bent as it gets.My score 93 points
2013 Shea Vineyard "Homer, Yamhill-Carlton
Dick Shea keeps back a relatively small amount of fruit to make wine under his own label. Most of them feature particular clones but the Homer bottling is a blend of his best fruit. The 2013 is in a more typical style featuring a medium ruby color, an expressive, already complex perfume, and medium body. Impeccably balanced with terrific concentration and balance, this superb effort is a baby in need of extended cellaring. My score 94+ points

I frequently bought Shea bottles blindly while I was early on in buying and collecting wines. It was pretty clear that the fruit was well regarded by many…but the more I tasted wines with this fruit the more I struggled to find the elegance I was seeking. Opulent is not a word I really want describing Pinot Noir though…and that’s a really great way to describe my experience with Pinot Noir grown in the Shea vineyard.

I’m amazed that the Bergstrom wine showed well…we did a vertical of the Bergstrom Vineyard (2002 - 2007) a few years back and only the 2002 & 2004 showed well. I’m really glad that you’re enjoying these wines…I would not have expected this wine to show so favorably

Doesn’t bergstrom stylistically go big and heavy, with a lot of oak? From memory, the ones I’ve had were kinda extreme in this regard.

I always associate Shea fruit as more sturdy, structured and concentrated … is that true? If so, maybe it can take more heavy-handed wine making. Any one check in on one of the SQN Shea Pinots lately!?

He’s on the lighter side now, and frequently using 100% whole cluster within individual lots.

+1 Josh still makes stylish Pinot Noirs that can be opened early as well as age but they are more focused on elegance in the winery these days. His 2014 Sigrid Chardonnay is dynamite.

I also don’t like throwing a vineyard under the bus, but, IMO, Shea is “impressive” fruit, rather than what I find personally compelling. While consistently solid and tending to produce bigger wines that grab consumers attention, I generally have found other vineyards that express Pinot Noir in a manner that I find far more compelling than Shea.

Which perhaps is why it’s often the top bottling for wineries that do seek out fruit from the vineyard. Winemakers
Generally do the best job with the fruit that is most compelling to them.

Generally do the best job with the fruit that is most compelling to them.

This is an interesting comment I had never considered. I don’t dispute it and it makes perfect sense but how does one possibly judge that kind of of thing? If a winemaker only produces wine from a single vineyard, it makes perfect sense that the barrels considered the best are going to get the most attention and best treatment, but what about someone like Patty Green who makes wine from a dozen or so sources-and let’s forget the Notorious type of bottling and just focus on the different vineyard designations-do you mean to say that the source she likes best in any particular vintage is likely to become her best wine?

I used “opulent” to describe the 2003 Bergstrom Shea, not to describe Shea wines in general. The 2003 was the product of an unusual, very hot vintage producing ripe flavors. Bergstrom, to its credit, was able to manage these conditions and produce a terrific, if atypical, wine. The 2013 Shea Homer is not a wine that I would describe as opulent.

“Big and heavy” are not words I would use to describe Bergstrom Pinot Noir. They usually make at least 4-5 vineyard designates, each of which has its own personality related to where it came from. They are not shy wines but I’ve never tasted one that was even close to being over the top.

I finished my last 2005 SQN Shea a few years ago. Manfred Krankl named it “Last Call” or something like that because it was the final year in which he purchased this fruit. It ranks as one of the best American Pinots I have ever tasted and regret that I rushed through them so quickly. I’m sure it would be in great shape today. It beautifully combined concentration and elegance.

Shea is a big vineyard which is sold to many different folks. Some are more fortunate in block selection than others.

The last SQN Pinot from Shea Vineyard/Oregon was 2003. The 2004 and 2005 SQN Pinots were California fruit.

Who now has access to the blocks SQN used in 2003?

Beats me, I was never smitten enough to pay attention.

If you could wave a magic wand Todd and get access to anyone’s fruit at, say, 20-30% below market value, whose fruit would it be?

From Oregon of course, I don’t want to talk about Pinot from California.

I know that at one point the SQN pinot fruit went to a Cali producer, Auteur. The only reference I am aware of is that section being called the “Back Block”.

Good questions Mitch. My best answer is that compelling fruit is not limited to a single vineyard. I am basically tied to Whistling Ridge because the wines that come from it are what speak to me. That said, I also really, really love the old vine Pinot Noir and Chardonnay from Durant vineyard as well as the old vine own rooted Wadensville at Fir Crest. Based on tasting Walter Scott’s vineyard designate I would also love to work with the Sojourner vineyard. I would also kill to work with Abbey Ridge. Shea…not so much. I generally experiment with a new fruit source in most vintages, and am always on the look out for something compelling.
Jim Anderson can speak for Patricia Green Cellars, but I know that they work with fruit they really like and have moved on from things that they lose the passion for.

I have plenty of respect for Dr. Jay’s palate, he was the only critic to state that there were very good wines(and some not very good wines) made in the Willamette Valley in 2007. I don’t mean in any way to disempower his posts, but rather to make the point that Pinot Noir is extremely subjective.

Eyrie Scott, that would be amazing.