Location, location, location!
Why not join us for a guided vineyard tour?
From the onset we felt that Lenné Estate was destined to be a great vineyard site. In the Northern Willamette Valley, great sites are characterized by well drained, low vigor sedimentary and volcanic soils. They also tend to be steep hillsides between 300 and 600 feet elevation, with a south or south-eastern orientation. Great wine can come from other sites in certain years, but consistently great Pinot Noir in this part of the world comes from steep sites with shallow soils at the right elevation and a sun-facing orientation.
We really didn’t really choose Lenné; it chose us. After eight months of looking for properties, a friend told Lenne's founder, Steve Lutz, about a hillside plot that might soon be available. The owners were descendants of the Laughlins, one of the original Yamhill county families, and the property was a sparsely-grassed hillside that had once been part of the Laughlin's fifteen-hundred acre dairy farm.
The site was ideal for a vineyard, and less than an hour after we set foot on the property in April of 2000, Steve knew that his vineyard search had ended. This steep, south-facing slope perfectly fit our criteria for making great wine. He also liked the neighborhood; sharing a ridge with Willakenzie Estate, Deux Vert, Shea, Solena, Roots, and Penner-Ash. Soter and Beaux Freres are also close by, and many other great vineyard have been planted on the area in the years since our founding.
After purchasing the property in the spring of 2000, Steve began the initial ground work, and in the spring of 2001 he laid out the first eleven acres, planting blocks of Pommard, as well as the Dijon 777 and the Dijon 115 clones. Steve knew the exceptionally poor, rocky soil would limit vigor, so he planted a very tightly-spaced vineyard, with seven foot rows and three feet between plants, and no irrigation at all. The site proved difficult from the beginning, and the poor soil stressed the young vines, producing a high mortality rate. Nearly 35% of the young vines died the first year. The steep slope also proved difficult to work safely, and destruction from deer impeded young vine growth.
Most vineyard begin producing a good quantity of fruit in their third year, but it took longer to achieve a hearty yield at Lenne. In our third year, the young vines were still struggling to push their roots down through the rocky ground, and with such limited nutrients, the greenery scarcely reached the "fruiting wire" of the supporting trellis. Despite the very slow growth, we planted another 2.5 acres of Pommard in 2003, then added an 2.5 acre block of the 667 and 114 clones on the northeastern corner in 2004. Both additions struggled, with nearly all the new vines dying in the hot, dry spring of 2004, giving rise to the "Kill Hill" nickname for that slope. (The wine sourced from that tough terrain has become one of our most popular and distinctive.)
In 2004 the vineyard produced a minuscule amount of fruit, but the quality was good. The harvest increased further in 2005 and the grapes were excellent, but it wasn’t until 2006 that we had a large enough fruit set to to start vinifying each clone separately. In 2007, we produced our first normal fruit set, seven years after planting, and finally in 2008 we had enough grapes of exceptional quality to begin bottling our signature "single clones."
Now that the vineyard has matured, the vines have sent roots deeply into the subsoil, where they pull water and nutrients from a layer of clay and bedrock deep below the surface. The vineyard is healthy but the poor soil does its work in limiting canopy growth and produces exceptionally small clusters. The benefit of the soil is intensely concentrated flavor, and a unique mocha aromatic and distinct mid-palate texture which are the two signatures of Lenné's terroir.
We diversified with chardonnay in 2015, grafting twelve rows of Dijon 777 near the front gate. Our first chardonnay release was in 2016, and we annually produce around 120 cases of exceptional white wine.
The vineyard was first planted in 2001, and covers 20.9 acres, 15.5 of which are under vine. Lenné enjoys an ideal southern exposure, and an ideal elevation between 370-600 feet.