The Brooks Winery was not even on my radar on my first trip to the Willamette Valley back in the summer of 2010. I was out in McMinnville, Oregon for the International Pinot Noir Celebration (IPNC) and after the event, I rented a car and drove around to a dozen or so wineries. I based my visits on John Winthrop Haeger’s Pacific Pinot Noir (2008), in which he profiled what he felt were the best Pinot producers on the West Coast.
At the time, I was a self-described Pinot-freak (and I still am, to a certain extent) and I saw this book as my personal Pinot primer and I read it from beginning to end, applying Pot-it tabs to the wineries I had to visit, from the Santa Ynez Valley to the Chehalem Mountains.
And Brooks was not in it.
Jimi Brooks, the late founder and winemaker at his eponymous winery got a mention as the former winemaker at Maysara Winery (owned by Moe Momtazi), but for whatever reason, Brooks Wines is left out of the tome. That is a shame, for had it been included, I would have no doubt stopped in and become acquainted with the Brooks story that much sooner.
My first trip to Brooks was in 2012 after the Wine Bloggers Conference which was held in Portland. Much like I did following IPNC, I rented a car and drove through the Valley, visiting some previous favorites while searching for new ones. Brooks fell into the latter category and has ever since headed my list of top Oregon producers.
My next visit to Brooks came this past year, on my most recent visit to Oregon, right before heading off to IPNC (this time as a journalist) and since then I have kept in touch with Janie Brooks, the Managing Director (and sister of Jimi) of the winery, who recently sent me a few of the winery’s current releases.
2016 Brooks Amycas White Wine Willamette Valley: Retail $20. Essentially an Edelzwicker (an Alsatian white blend) of Riesling (44%), Muscat (21%), Pinot Blanc (18%), Gewurztraminer (10%), and Pinot Gris (7%). 2,000 cases produced. This certainly takes me back to my days studying in Strasbourg as we would order a carafe of Edelzwicker with our tarte flambée at lunch, before heading off to our Modern French Literature class (it is advised to have consumed a bit of wine before discussing Malraux). Crisp, refreshing, just a touch sweet to balance out the brilliant acidity. Even though only a combined 31% of the blend, the Muscat and Gewurztraminer really come through. While it might be tough to find a decent tarte flambée in the states, this wine will be ready for it when I do (although I will likely skip the Malraux after). Outstanding. 90-92 Points.
2015 Brooks Ara Riesling Willamette Valley: Retail $28. Brooks has perhaps a unique relationship with Riesling in the U.S. since founder Jimi was passionate about the variety and played a significant role in assuring its place in Oregon wine. No, it has not equaled the prominence of Pinot Noir in the state (at least not yet), but wines like this prove it soon might: Racy and rich, with peach, tangerine, some white pepper, and petrol. On the palate, wow, this is one of the best domestic Rieslings I have had in a while–laser-like acidity, great fruit, plenty of attitude. Fantastic. OK. Whoa. Outstanding. 92-94 Points.
2015 Brooks Estate Riesling Eola-Amity Hills Willamette Valley: Retail $32. 100 cases made from vines that date back to 1974. Labeled as “Medium Dry on the International Riesling Foundation Scale, it comes off almost completely dry due to the relatively high levels of acidity. Peach and apricot with a hint of petrol. Great fruit and weight with considerable minerality. Lasting finish. Brooks and winemaker Chris Williams take Riesling seriously and this is proof. Outstanding. 90-92 Points.
2014 Brooks Pinot Noir Temperance Hill Eola-Amity Hills Willamette Valley: Retail $48. I first visited Brooks after the Wine Bloggers Conference in Portland in 2012. I have since visited the winery a couple of times and learned that Brooks is much more than great Pinot. But let’s be clear: Pinot put Brooks on the map and it remains its calling card. This wine started off a bit tight, with some cherry, spice, and earth. Nice fruit on the palate, but not overplayed, paired with some earth and pomegranate. This is why I love Oregon Pinot: great fruit and balance. Lovely. Outstanding. 91-93 Points.
2014 Brooks Rastaban Pinot Noir Eola-Amity Hills Willamette Valley: Retail $60. This is the Brooks Estate Vineyard, it was Jimi’s favorite site, and is some of the oldest own-rooted, biodynamically farmed Pinot in the state. It was also the source of The glass of wine I just could not drink. Dark cherry, eucalyptus, menthol, and a bit of flinty goodness. Great fruit, and depth–this wine is pretty darned close to a “Whoa.” Pretty darned close. This is a classic Willamette Pinot. Fantastic. Outstanding. 92-94 Points.