Oregon wine country revisited, part 5


Janie Brooks-Heuck and Jessica Pierce

Brooks is one of those wineries that you can't help but like. The story behind the current 12 000 case winery is a moving one. It was started by Jimi Brooks in 1998. He'd spent four years working in Beaujolais, and returned to the USA to work at Willakenzie Estate. His focus was on Riesling and Pinot Noir, and he began building up Brooks alongside his day job at Willakenzie and later at Maysara. From 2002 onwards, all the grapes he sourced for Brooks were farmed organically. But tragedy struck: In 2004, just as harvest was beginning, Jimi died at the age of 38, leaving behind an 8 year old son Pascal.

The Oregon wine community stepped in to help out. 'All the winemakers gathered together on 4th September, just before the harvest,' recalls his sister Janie Brooks Heuck. 'He was so coveted for being such a unique person, and people wanted to see it continue.' Jimi's assistant winemaker at Maysara, Chris Williams, did the blends, and he has been here ever since.'


Janie also stepped in. She has a family of her own in California, but began commuting in order to act as general manager. Coming from a background in competitive healthcare, she initially couldn't understand why everyone wanted to help. Staying true to Jimi's vision of making great Pinot Noir and Riesling from organically/biodynamically farmed vineyards, the winery has continued under the guiding hand of Chris Williams. A new winery has recently been opened.


I visited on a sunny July morning with Janie Brooks Heuck and Jessica Pierce to taste through the range of wines. 80% of the volume is in five or six labels, but there's an extended range with many bottlings in small quantities. Pricing is very reasonable for the quality. 'My brother wanted his wines to be accessible,' says Janie. 'The recession was good for us as a lot of buyers were looking for less expensive wines. You want people pouring stuff by the glass. We are committed to keeping prices reasonable.'


Brooks Willamette Valley Pinot Noir 2012 Oregon
Sweet aromatics of cherries and plums. Nice sweetness to the fruit. Rounded, juicy and supple, with some fine spiciness. 90/100

Brooks Janus Pinot Noir 2011 Oregon
This is the flagship Pinot, first made in 1998, and it defines the house style. Lifted, sweetly aromatic nose of red cherries and raspberries. The palate is fresh and detailed with raspberries, cherries and warm spiciness. Some elegance here, and a nice savoury side. 93/100

Brooks Rastaban Pinot Noir 2010 Oregon
First made in 2003, just 300 cases. A cellar selection. Aromatic, spicy and warm with notes of chocolate, tar and black cherries. There’s richness in the mouth but also a subtle elegance and a warm, fleshy personality. 93/100

Brooks Rastaban Pinot Noir 2007 Oregon
Sweet black cherry nose. Herby with some dark chocolate notes as well as fine spices and tar. The palate has a stern, savoury, dark side. This is a dark Pinot with with a sleek personality and some generosity. Stylish and balanced. 95/100

Brooks Temperance Hill Pinot Noir 2010 Eola-Amity Hills, Oregon
Fresh, detailed and aromatic red cherry fruit with some fine sappy notes and a hint of earth. Very subtle fine, fresh, elegant red fruits. Detailed and pure. 94/100

Brooks Muska Pinot Noir 2011 Oregon
Slightly lifted fresh nose of red cherries and herbs. Lively palate with crisp, fresh red cherries and some herbiness. Nice definition here, with a juicy personality. 93/100

Brooks Sunny Mountain Pinot Noir 2011 Oregon
This is from a warm site just north of Eugene. Lively, slightly lifted black cherry fruit. Fresh and lively with good acidity and nice direct fruit, showing some structure and admirable purity. 93/100

Brooks Janus Pinot Noir 2004 Oregon
This was the collaborative wine. Sweetly aromatic with warm cherries, herbs and spices, and just a hint of soy. Lovely aromatics. The palate is textured and fine with lovely warm spicy red fruits. Silky and pure with nice depth. A lovely wine. 94/100

Brooks Red Letter Pinot Noir 2008 Oregon
This was the 10th year anniversary wine, made from all the farms that Jimi farmed. Lovely pure, fresh red cherry fruit with nice precision and elegance, as well as a bit of grip. Tensile with fine herbs and fresh, expressive fruit. 94/100

Brooks Willamette Valley Riesling 2011 Oregon
Warm, rounded, nutty nose with baked apples and herbs. Keen, lively palate with high acidity, lemons and herbs. Really distinctive. 90/100

Brooks Willamette Valley Riesling 2005 Oregon
Full yellow colour. Ripe with notes of baked apple, spice and citrus. Warm toast, pear and peach too. Lovely precision. 93/100

Brooks Ara Riesling 2011 Oregon
So lively and bright with fresh lemon and grapefruit characters, as well as some stone fruit richness. Very fresh and dry. 92/100

Brooks Ara Riesling 2007 Oregon
Fresh limey nose with hints of toast and petrol. Lovely weight in the mouth: some herb and toast as well as finely laced citrus fruits. Lovely stuff. 93/100

Brooks Yamhill Vineyard Riesling 2012 Oregon
Fresh, fine and expressive with bright grapefruit and tangerine notes. Delicate, fine and really nicely balanced. Pure. 92/100

Brooks Estate Riesling 2012 Oregon
Very fresh and bright with citrus, fine herbs and pure lemony fruitiness. Well balanced and precise. 90/100

Brooks Bois Joli Vineyard 2012 Eola-Amity Hills, Oregon
Planted in 1984. Fresh, herby, grassy citrus fruit nose. The palate is citrussy and grassy with lively fruit and some sweetness. Distinctive. 88/100

Johan Vineyards
J Christopher
Big Table Farm
Walter Scott
Antica Terra

See also:

Visiting Oregon, July 2008 (series)

Wines tasted 07/14  
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