Our first visit with Résonance Wines took place in 2019. It was a fantastic visit and we vowed that we would go back every year. Well, pandemics have a way of changing plans on you. But finally being able to return after 3 years, we were very well-rewarded for our wait. Résonance is going from strength to strength and is asserting itself as making some of the best wines in the Willamette Valley as well as having one of the best tasting rooms to visit.
This year’s visit started at their tasting room which stands atop a hill at a separate location from the winery.Wineries are industrial buildings that don’t really belong at gorgeous locations whereas tasting rooms are all about the experience.
Résonance has created a beautiful room that fits in with its forested surroundings while providing a gorgeous view of vineyards and the Coast Mountains. It’s among the very best in Oregon, and frankly, up there with the best we have been to anywhere.
Guillaume Large is the winemaker at Résonance, hand-picked for the job by the heads of Maison Louis Jadot where Guillaume was previously cellar master.
He moved his family to the Willamette Valley in August of 2017, just before harvest and made the wines for that vintage.
But 2018 was his first “full vintage” where he was there from budbreak to harvest and therefore able to work with the vineyard managers to get the type of fruit from the vineyard that would best express the style of wine he wanted to make. As you will see from the tasting notes that follow, having been there throughout the growing season certainly helped to elevate the quality of the wines.
We have written before how we think Chardonnay is really making leaps forward in the Willamette Valley. And Résonance is at the forefront of that movement.
The new Résonance Vineyard which has been planted just below the tasting room in the Yamhill-Carlton AVA, has been planted to both Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.
Those vines are still too young to yield the quality of fruit for a top-quality wine, so Résonance continues to purchase Chardonnay grapes from the highly esteemed Hyland Vineyard. Guillaume tells us: “Hyland is just 10 miles down the road, in the McMinnville AVA. It was first planted in 1971 to Pinot Noir and then Chardonnay was added to the vineyard in 1979, making it one of the older vineyards in Oregon. Very interesting because with established vines we have a true expression of place.”
As we discuss the Chardonnay, Guillaume tells us about some of the differences and similarities between Oregon and his native Burgundy.
“We started our Chardonnay production in 2015 and made just 3 barrels from Hyland fruit because we wanted to see, before we start a big project, what the expression is of the Chardonnay. It’s a terroir that is very interesting because it is very different than Burgundy. It’s on volcanic soil and at 900 feet elevation”. (Burgundy has limestone soil and less hillsides in the terrain).
“I think Chardonnay works well with volcanic soil. Our goal was, and is, still very simple. The idea is to do exactly the same as in Bourgogne not because we think this is the only way to make Pinot Noir or Chardonnay, but for us to learn about the terroir here that when we arrived we didn’t know. By doing the same technique and approach, it helps us to learn.”
That education is about to increase immensely with the very recent purchase of Koosah Vineyard in the neighbouring Eola-Amity Hills AVA. Guillaume drove us up to the top of the property where we were treated to a breathtaking southeast-facing 270 degree view. Résonance purchased the 82 acre property from Viticulturalist Kevin Chambers who chose the site for its steep slopes and soil composition, then promptly planted both Pinot Noir and Chardonnay on 44 acres of the former Christmas tree farm.
Here the soils are volcanic in comparison to the basaltic bedrock and layers of sediment at the winery. But not just one type of soil, a ‘mosaic of volcanic soil’ as Guillaume describes it.
And just like our visit in 2019, he shows us an exposed clay wall to help demonstrate the local geomorphology: “Here it’s volcanic, basalt & red soil…this piece (pointing to vertical crack), something happened like a big movement maybe an eruption…but you see the difference and it’s vertical as opposed to horizontal like at the winery meaning even if it’s only one kind of soil it’s more complex than we imagine so it’s very promising for the expression of the fruit.” Certainly very promising in the hands of a winemaker as talented as Guillaume.
On the backside of the Koosah Vineyard, there is a section that is more sheltered from the wind and containing a much rockier soil.
This part of the vineyard reminds Guillaume of Corton Charlemagne where the rocks heat up during the day and then release that heat back to the vines in the cool of the evenings, enhancing the ripening process. His excitement is palpable at the idea of a promising new terroir to work with.
In one of the beautiful private rooms at their tasting room, Guillaume brought us up to date about the 2018 and 2019 vintages in Oregon. “2018 was the first vintage at the new winery. It was a very good and very easy vintage from the beginning. The summer was warm and the nights were cold. It was my first summer here and my first vintage and I was shocked by how cold the evenings got even in July and August. But that allowed time for the fruit to be riper and more complex, so we started harvest in the middle of September and everything went well–-the ripeness, quality, and concentration.
“Maybe not the vintage with the most finesse as it was warmer so a little more opulent, but a very easy vintage with both the Chardonnay and the Pinot Noir. The key is always to keep a nice level of acidity for the harmony of the Chardonnay. The terroir of Hyland vineyard with high elevation is always one of the late spots to ripen in the Willamette Valley. This is perfect for the Chardonnay giving it enough time to have a good ripeness and acidity.”
As our tasting notes below will confirm, 2018 was a special vintage that produced fully ripened grapes. The top winemakers were able to get extraordinary balance creating wines with texture, aromatic complexity, and good structure. There are still 2018s on the shelves and savvy shoppers will do well to stock up.
Guillaume invited us to dinner that evening to enjoy the 2019s with food. As that was an informal tasting no notes were taken. But what we can tell you is the vintage is truly excellent.
He told us that the 2019 vintage took some time to come around but from the beginning of the vintage he had a very good feeling about it, “I had a great connection with this vintage; a lot of elegance, a lot of delicateness, a lot of fruit and maybe the best expression of Pinot that we can have here. But for almost one year the wines were totally closed. But after the racking and malolactic degradation…the wines opened up beautifully and now for me the 2019 is the best vintage we’ve seen.”
We were blown away by the 2019 wines served that night. Style is in the eye of the beholder and those seeking elements of savoury and structure may be leaning toward the 2019s, while those charmed by texture and dark fruit notes will find plenty to love in the 2018s. What did we do? Before we left Oregon, we filled our car with 2018s and 2019s. And have absolutely no regrets about it!
We here at AdVINEtures have enjoyed more than our fair share of good wines and good winery visits over the almost 8 years we have been writing this blog. But Résonance needs to be singled out as truly extraordinary in having one of the best lineups of wine and best tasting rooms that we have experienced. A must stop for any wine-lover when in Oregon!
2018 Résonance Hyland Vineyard Chardonnay
Green, gold hue. This beautiful Chardonnay presents apple and stone fruit notes with great intensity. The body is medium, but the intensity of the flavours almost fool you to thinking it is fuller than that. With a bit of swirling other stone fruit flavours come forward along with almond hints. The finish is long and tinged with citrus zest that gets additional punctuation from the acidity on the back end. Great balance suggests further development in the cellar.
Excellent (USD$50 at the winery)
2018 Résonance Pinot Noir Les Coteaux
Medium red with just a slight fade at the rim. We get flavours of red cherry and strawberry that are joined by secondary notes of earth and baking spices. There is a wonderful elegance to this wine. Like the Chardonnay, it has intensity without heaviness. Medium body with medium+ tannin and medium acidity. Though approachable now, this wine is on its way up and will no doubt develop more complexity over the coming decade. Black pepper notes infuse the long finish. “Les Coteaux” is a French word meaning hilly upland including the divide between two valleys.
Excellent (USD$55 at the winery)
2018 Résonance Pinot Noir Découverte
Right from the start, we knew this would be a special wine. A bit darker in colour than the Les Coteaux, this wine turns up the dials. Black cherry and blackberry notes greet your nose well above the glass and carry on to the flavour profile. This wine shows the 2018 vintage character well where ripeness was achieved without difficulty. Plenty of complexity is added to the mix from the earth and mineral notes. There is a nice spice note that we pick up on the finish. The balance of this wine does not reveal that it spent 17 months in barrel as the fruit has more than enough depth to carry it. “Découverte” is French for discovery.
Excellent+ (USD$65 at the winery)
2018 Résonance Pinot Noir Résonance Vineyard
From the home estate vineyard in the Yamhill-Carlton AVA, this goes through the same winemaking as the Découverte but shows the difference in the terroirs. Découverte is in the Dundee Hills which is primarily Jory (volcanic) soil whereas Résonance is on Marine Sediment over Basalt. Supremely elegant while quietly powerful this is a seductive Pinot Noir. The black cherry profile is delivered on a medium+ body with medium tannin. The finish is long and smooth.
Excellent+ (USD$70 at the winery)
2018 Résonance Pinot Noir Choix de Couers
Just 4 barrels were selected by Guillaume together with Jacques Lardière from Maison Louis Jadot. This wine showed the deepest colour yet.
Pommard clone shows off its power and full body in this wine. The depth of the fruit is such that it stays an extra 2 months in barrel (19 months) and comes out with a simply gorgeous, mouth-coating texture that is full but stays light on its feet. Black cherry and blueberry flavours dominate the fruit profile. With this wine the earthy sub-tones are more defined and evoke a sense of forest floor. The spice notes add even more complexity. This is their wine that we think will provide the most more reward from ageing, but who will have the strength to not pull out the corks right now?
Extraordinary (USD$90 at the winery)
12050 NW Meadowlake Rd
Carlton, OR 97111
Tasting Room: Open Daily 11am-5pm