Colene Clemens
Oregon wine country revisited, part 8

Joe Stark, the owner of Colene Clemens, grew up in these parts. He went to Gaston High School. He began working in his father’s cabinet shop, and started his own business, a wood products company called DMH, in 1980, making doors for manufactured housing. It prospered, and in 2005 he and his wife Vicki were able to buy the property that is now Colene Clemens.

It’s a very rocky site, and others had tried to farm it before without much success. So they pulled out all the rocks they couldn’t live with, and invested in machinery that could cope with these soils. It’s almost exclusively Pinot Noir here (40 acres that are currently producing), but there are 2.5 acres of Chardonnay (which will rise to 4 soon). The site could take 55-60 acres of vines, out of a total property area of 120 acres, but that’s all.

I met with winemaker Stephen Goff (above), who had previously been at Beaux Frères, and who joined Colene Clemens in 2008 for the first vintage. He also runs the vineyards. ‘When I came here I looked at the soil surveys and the young vines in sedimentary soils, and I was thinking of the upper terraces at Beaux Frères,’ he says. ‘We made some muscular, brooding, black fruited wines from these, so I was expecting this. But we got elegantly structured red fruit wines that tasted more like the Dundee Hills.’

The first vintages produced less than one ton an acre, and are now up to 2 tons/acre at eighth leaf. ‘I have seen some very successful wines off young vines,’ says Steve. ‘Young vines can make really good wine: just don’t ask them to make a lot of it.’

Steve explains just how different the growing seasons can be here. ‘2012 drinks like a warm year, but I wouldn’t classify it as a hot year.’ He explains that it was dry in May and June was cool and wet. Then from 5 July it was dry as a bone until picking in October. In contrast, 2011 was a cold vintage. He thinks that wines from cooler vintages take time to show their best, but that the cooler vintages often end up being the better ones.

Winemaking is gentle, with punchdowns twice a day by hand. ‘I try to be gentle, to just get the cap down,’ he says. ‘If a wine wants to show power and intensity, I want it to come from the vineyard, not from working it too hard.’


Colene Clemens Chardonnay 2010 Dundee Hills, Oregon
Taut, fresh and spicy with some toasty nutty richness and nice lemony notes. Very fresh with nice contrast between the nutty richness and the lemony acid. 92/100

Colene Clemens Margo Pinot Noir 2011 Chehalem Mountains, Oregon
Supple, expressive and pretty with fresh cherry fruit. Nice freshness and a hint of sappiness. Open, generous and seductive in a fresh style. 94/100

Colene Clemens Victoria Pinot Noir 2011  Chehalem Mountains, Oregon
777 and Pommard clones. Sleek, pure red cherry and black cherry fruit. Supple, bright and pure with some fine-grained chalky tannins. Silky and showing real finesse. 94/100

Colene Clemens Adriane Pinot Noir 2011 Chehalem Mountains, Oregon
Supple, juicy and sweet with ripe berry and cherry fruits. Some warm spiciness, with herbs and ginger notes. Has some riper notes. 92/100

Colene Clemens Margo Pinot Noir 2012 Chehalem Mountains, Oregon
Sweet, berryish, supple and very pretty with rounded cherry fruit and a bit of elegance alongside the sweet fruit. There’s an attractive freshness and delicacy here. 93/100

Colene Clemens Adriane Pinot Noir 2012 Chehalem Mountains, Oregon
Rounded, ripe and berryish with good concentration and some sweet texture. Sweet primary raspberry and cherry fruit. Nicely proportioned. 92/100

Colene Clemens Victoria Pinot Noir 2012 Chehalem Mountains, Oregon
Hint of chocolate and spice on the nose. Sweet, supple, fruity palate with lively spicy notes and nice weight. Smooth and sweet, with potential for development. 92/100

Colene Clemens Reserve Pinot Noir 2010 Chehalem Mountains, Oregon
This has been the Adriane since 2011. Sweet elegant cherry fruit nose is supple and expressive. Elegant showing lovely purity. The palate has an appealing chalkiness and some fine mint and thyme notes, with pepper detail. So distinctive, with a herby, savoury twist and a hint of fennel. Lovely wine. 94/100

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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