2015 Prince Hill Estate Reserve
If you call the Willamette Valley home, or if you’ve visited before, you’ve probably noticed Prince Hill vineyard. The towering site overlooking Worden Hill Road is the centerpiece of Dundee Hills, the AVA responsible for putting Oregon wine on the map. While you sat in traffic on highway 99, you may have noticed a home half way up the hill surrounded by a small stand of evergreen trees. That home belongs to the only person whose fame may hold a candle to the vineyard itself, its proprietor, Dick Erath.
Perhaps the best quality a winemaker can possess is a unquenchable curiosity. Elite winemakers not only make unbelievable wine, they strive to improve every vintage, try new things and push the envelope. Dick Erath’s curiosity is off the charts. Over 50 years ago, Dick began experimenting with winemaking in his garage in California. A former engineer, Dick’s passion for wine quickly consumed him. After months of tweaking, Dick decided to make his garage side-project his focus and took his experiment to Oregon, with the plan to plant viniferous grapes. When he got here, he planted 23 different varietals in the Dundee Hills to see which would work best in the cooler, soggy climate of the Pacific Northwest.
Even after Dick settled on Pinot Noir as the ideal fit, he spent countless hours scouting locations and planting across the valley, hoping to uncover a diamond in the rough location to make wine. After a few years of mixed results planting in low laying areas such as down by the Willamette River, Dick had the idea to plant at a higher elevation. With Erath Winery beginning to thrive after Oregon’s first extraordinary harvest in 1982, Dick finally found his spot—the crème de la crème, Prince Hill.
Prince Hill vineyard is Dick Erath’s sandbox. For the last 35 years, he has grafted and re-grafted countless times. He has tinkered with clones, experimented with various conditions and changed the layout more times than most people change socks. From a vinicultural standpoint, the vineyard is a complete jigsaw puzzle. But from a winemaking standpoint, these iterations make the vineyard nothing short of a field of dreams. The results of his efforts speak volumes. Prince Hill vineyard was the first single-vineyard pinot noir that Erath made, and today yields wines more interesting than any that come off a typical vineyard. But as time rolls on, Dick’s thirst for “what’s next?” led him to enlist the help of one of the state’s foremost enologists, Laurent Montalieu.
Together, over an impromptu phone call and later a game of Texas Hold ‘Em, they formulated a plan. It wouldn’t take very long: Laurent made it really easy. “I’ve walked that vineyard with you before, Dick. It’s unbelievable. You send down any fruit you want, and with those grapes, I can make a beautiful cuvee.
What happens when you take two mad scientists, one in the lab and the other in the vineyard and you put them together? You get nearly 80 years of winemaking experience and a cuvee unlike any in the country. You get a bouquet of sophistication in a bottle. A wine which will continue to evolve and grow, backed by its structure and elegance. Made from the tinkered rows of Prince Hill vineyard and carefully crafted by a winemaker who is used to seeing his cuvees in Wine Spectator’s Top 100, we bring you Prince Hill Reserve Pinot Noir. Like the titans who created it, the wine is built to stand the test of time. IF there is any problem, it’s that a mere 8 barrels were made of this wine, a wine every bit as age worthy as a Burgundy or Napa Cab. $80 a bottle for a wine that is merely scratching the surface on what it will become.