What's New in Willamette Valley?

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  • By Amy Mullally
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What's New in Willamette Valley?

Lingua Franca: the stellar new wines from Master Sommelier Larry Stone

Larry Stone is soft spoken, yet with a presence. He is extremely intelligent and meticulous in nature, with a determined air and a hard work ethic. A wine industry icon, Larry was the 9th American to become a Master Sommelier as well as the first to win Best International Sommelier in French Wines competition in Paris. He continued his career as a restaurateur and sommelier at the Four Seasons, Charlie Trotter’s, and Rubicon before embarking on his journey as vineyard and winery founder/owner.


Larry was inspired by the ‘Grand Cru’ Evening Lands’ Seven Springs Vineyard in Eola-Amity Hills in Western Willamette Valley from the first encounter. His keen eye and attention to detail resulted in his purchase and development of the parcel next door, with renowned French consultant, Dominique Lafon, and winemaker, Thomas Savre, both formerly of Evening Land.  His effort is called Lingua Franca, or bridge language, a shared moment in a varied world.


I was fortunate enough to sit with Larry over delicious bites at Lucques recently to chat and taste his inaugural releases. A perfect reflection of Larry, these wines have warmth and presence. Precise and meticulously crafted, with deference to Burgundian technique, these wines are an exciting introduction to what will undoubtedly become one of our iconic Willamette producers. The estate vineyards will soon be ready to go into production, which happily takes place onsite at the beautiful and expertly crafted winery, just completed last year.


Each wine has a story, and is represented by an original work of art. I am thrilled to introduce a few of these gems to you here at the shop. I will be pouring the Mimi’s Mind at my Willamette Valley Pinot tasting later this summer, so keep tuned!


2015 Lingua Franca, Avni Chardonnay, Eola-Amity Hills, Willamette Valley, OR $39.99:



Avni means rock, and there is certainly traces of minerals in this aristocratic Chardonnay. Barrel fermented and utilizing one of Larry’s favorite Burgundian clones, this wine is all about satin texture and creamy golden apple. There’s a salinity and a piquant acidity (think tart yellow apple skin), and reserved but present oak notes driving the long finish. There’s a roundness and weight here without being heavy. This is a fantastic example of what’s so exciting about the Chardonnays coming out of the valley these days.


2015 Lingua Franca, Avni Pinot Noir, Eola-Amity Hills, Willamette Valley, OR $39.99:



Utilizing fruit from the neighbors, grown on Jory (volcanic) soils, this Pinot is concentrated black cherry at the core, with butter bits of graham cracker, rose petal, and blood orange. On the palate, this wine is like crushed velvet, soft yet tactile, with bright tart fruits and a light but firm frame. Generous and bright. Pairs perfectly with game birds, wild mushroom, and ripe soft cheeses.


2015 Lingua Franca, Mimi’s Mind Pinot Noir, Eola-Amity Hills, Willamette Valley, OR $83.99:



Mimi Casteel is the queen of dirt up in the valley. Obsessed in the best way with the health and vibrancy of the soil, Mimi meticulously cares for multiple composts, each designed to foster growth of particular beneficial bacteria and insects. Once Larry learned about Mimi and her efforts in soil management, he had to have her as his vineyard manager and consultant! This Pinot is an homage to Mimi, and the fruit is sourced from biodynamic farmed vineyard and is kept in balance by a beautiful assorted cover crop. Rich, dark fruited and hedonistic, this wine just leaps out of the glass with so much complexity, it’s hard to describe all that’s going on. Heady florals dominate the nose, and the palate is voluptuous and mouth coating. The finish goes on and on, and I expect this wine to get even better as time goes. This is best with a medium rare filet or venison. Dark meat and flavors work magic here.


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