Joseph Wagner’s New Projects: Böen and Elouan
Joseph Wagner grew up in a Napa Valley family legend in-the-making, Caymus Vineyards. In establishing his own brands, he has impressively translated his understanding of “what the consumer wants” into a series of “must haves” that have largely been based on Pinot Noir rather than Caymus’ Cabernet Sauvignon. Staking out on his own, Joseph previously created the much-loved Belle Glos Pinot Noir line-up as well as Meiomi, the latter now under the ownership of Constellation Brands.)
He now has two relatively recently launched new labels: Böen from California and Elouan from Oregon. Every wine in each portfolio is based on Pinot Noir, and all of them follow the first half of Elouan’s tag line, “The Opulence of California.” The second half of Elouan’s motto is “The Elegance of Oregon.” I can’t see that in any of these wines, but I think that there will be a considerable consumer following for them all. This is not only because Joseph Wagner knows how to create a brand but also because knows how to build an aroma and palate profile that consumers genuinely adore.
Böen 2016 Pinot Noir Russian River Valley 14.3% $31
Mulberries, black cherry jam and mulling spices shoot from the glass when poured. You could decant this, but its youth is so tightly coiled that it didn’t make much difference for me. It’s a chunky Pinot Noir with a full body, broad tannin and a meaty mouthful of dark fruits. If finishes briskly with toast and chocolate tones. The good mid-palate sap keeps the imbiber coming back to the glass.
Böen 2016 Pinot Noir Santa Lucia Highlands 14.8% $31
Mulberry and blueberry in flavor, this wine has a heady concentration, a somewhat thick body and plenty of finish in its exuberantly ripe, young fruit. It’s svelte, despite being fruit-flavor-dominant. Not a crevice of your palate will yearn for more fruit! There are mulberries, wild black cherries and swathes of mocha and oak. It’s more red wine than it is Pinot Noir, but it is well-balanced for the wine it is.
Böen 2016 Pinot Noir Santa Maria Valley 14.8% $31
A bit vainglorious, this is an unctuous, exaggerated representation of Pinot Noir. It’s almost heavy it is so concentrated and treacle sweet in über-ripe fruits on the palate. It’s also pumped up with mocha and sweet spice, leaving little room for the black fruits to shine through. At least the tannins are silky and suave!
Elouan 2016 Rosé Oregon 13.2% $22
I love this wine’s packaging. It’s clean and clear, and there’s something about the lines radiating from its vertically written name imprinted directly on the bottle that feels freeing and dazzling yet empowered.
Moving onto the wine! It’s looks bright and shines with baby girl pink intensity in the glass. It smells as fresh as summer peaches, too. The palate turns to rose petals for flavors, and it really notches up the vinosity. You could sip this by the pool, but with its considerable mid-palate weight, pristine-clean fruit and medium finish, this works just as well – if not better – at the table. It’s a “year-round” rosé given its bloomy, rounded mouthfeel (rather than a sheer and chiseled one). One of the reasons it has “oomph” is its fruit from Southern Oregon’s Umpqua and Rogue Valleys. Its Willamette fruit gives it the ballerina-like structural definition.
Drink: Through 2018
Elouan 2016 Pinot Noir Oregon 13.6% $24
Hello, ripe fruit! In this wine, the winery’s motto holds absolutely true: “The Opulence of ….”. There’s shiny, snazzy, Rubenesque fruit displaying lots of ripeness on the palate, but on its flip side there’s nicely reined-in alcohol. The balance between the sustaining acidity and medium extraction works nicely, too. It’s truly an “Oregon” wine as you can’t pinpoint where it comes from in terms of a specific terroir. However, its friendly approachability will ensure this will be siphoned down by many with glee!
Elouan 2016 Pinot Noir Missoulan Wash Oregon Reserve 14.2% $48
Again – what awesome packaging! I also love the name of this wine, referring to the Missoula floods that eons ago had their way with the terroir that today gives us so much delectable juice from the Pacific Northwest. While not tasting or looking (in color) at alllike a Pinot Noir, this is a fun and bone dry red with lots of nice flesh. Its stew-y black raisin, blackcurrant, dried black plum character would match tremendously well with confit duck leg and blue cheese. There is a bit of bite on the back palate, so beware if that’s not your thing. Otherwise, this is an unctuous – and ambitious – one!
Elouan 2016 Pinot Noir Klamath’s Kettle Oregon Reserve 14.4% $48
Dark and sultry, this Southern Oregon, Rogue Valley Pinot Noir tastes and feels a bit like a bombshell Merlot with its rounded textures, sappy mid-palate and crystal clear, exuberantly berried tones. It’s a caressing wine with velvety curves and a hint of heat on the moderate finish. Following the theme of the family style, this is hardly Pinot Noir in its more classic definition, but it’s a very attractive “red wine” when one doesn’t care about the variety attached to the label. This – between its reputation and its winemaking pedigree – should sell an astonishing volume of red wine from this lesser known part of Oregon (despite being made in the heart of Napa Valley in Rutherford).