If you go to your local wine shop and look through the domestic Pinot Noir the Benton-Lane Winery label is sure to get your attention. The postage stamp image is eye catching and has a classic look. I recall it grabbing my eye years ago. After reading a bit about the wine I ended up picking up a bottle the next time I ran across it. Benton-Lane Winery is a Willamette Valley Oregon producer that makes mostly Pinot Noir. There were founded by Steve and Carol Girard in 1988 and their first vintage was 1992. They have 138 acres under vine which are sustainably farmed. Benton-Lane Winery produces around 30,000 cases per year. Today during The 12 Days of Pinot Noir I’ll look at one of their small production Pinot Noirs. The 2006 Benton-Lane Pinot Noir - First Class is made only in vintages where a particular lot of wine stands out. This offering is of course 100% Pinot Noir with 4 clones represented (Pommard, 114, 115, and 777). All the fruit is from the Benton-Lane Estate Vineyard. Barrel aging was accomplished over 16 months in French oak. This offering also spent 6 months in bottle prior to release. 684 6 bottle cases of this selection were produced and the suggested retail price is $60.
Cherry, plum, and hints of earthy, meaty mushroom fill the generous nose of this Pinot Noir. Wild Strawberry, rhubarb, cherry, raspberry and blackberry are all prominent parts of the palate along with subtle dark plum and leather notes. Dusty cocoa and sour cherry lead the finish followed by tremendous earth, chicory notes and an absolutely terrific (gloriously so) mineral component. The finish is impressively lengthy and echoes on your taste buds long enough to make it seem like it never wants to let go. This wine has terrific overall structure and bracing acidity.
First Class is a great name for what amounts to a reserve style Pinot Noir. This is an excellent wine that drinks quite well now, particularly after an hour in the decanter, and will evolve nicely over the next 3-4 years and drink well for at least 5 after that. This offering is well worth making an extra effort to acquire.