l’Eté du Vin Guest of Honor

 

Beaux Frères

Michael G. Etzel, Founder

The Beaux Frères story began in 1986 when Michael G. Etzel, then a wine salesman in Colorado Springs, embarked on a road trip to Oregon with his young family after reading an enticing review of an ‘83 Pinot Noir from the Willamette Valley. They took a whimsical detour to check out a foreclosed 88-acre pig farm about 20 minutes from their destination and — upon seeing the idyllic hillside, cute little bungalow, and lush pasture at the top of the dirt road — began to wonder: Could a quiet, wholesome farm life growing grapes for the blossoming local wine scene be possible?

 

With an investment from Michael’s sister Pat and her husband, wine critic Robert Parker Jr., the dream began to take shape. (The name Beaux Frères refers to the French idiom for “brother in law.”)

 

After three decades at the helm of viticulture and winemaking activities, Michael G. Etzel has relinquished the stewardship role to his middle son, Michael D. Etzel (aka “Mikey”), who lives once more on the property where he grew up and now serves as CEO. With the torch having been passed to a second generation, the vision that his parents received on that fateful day thirty-seven years ago remains the same: to listen to the land and adhere to its rhythms, producing a wine of singular pedigree that is uniquely capable of capturing the uncompromised essence of Mother Nature.

 

 

Beaux Frères

 

The Beaux Frères property encompasses three contiguous hillsides in the heart of the Ribbon Ridge AVA, one of the most distinguished winegrowing regions in Oregon’s Willamette Valley. Defined by a powerful marine-sedimentary soil series known as Willakenzie that is consistent across the ridge, at an elevation of 450 feet at its apex, the three estate vineyards exemplify the elements of terroir that make this region distinct. All three sites benefit from a dense and vibrantly forested perimeter, with nearly one hundred acres of stately Douglas fir trees and Oregon white oaks that support a diverse ecosystem and protect the vines from adverse winds.

 

The original 88-acre property was previously a foreclosed pig farm that was discovered under serendipitous circumstances. Whilst traveling on a family road trip in the summer of 1986, a young wine salesman named Michael G. Etzel, alongside his wife Jackie and two small children (with a third child in the womb), encountered a classified advertisement in the local newspaper that spelled out the details of the property. Purely out of intrigue and an adventurous spirit, the young couple visited the farm and set their sights on the pasture at the peak of the property. After sharing the vision for the site with his sister Patricia and his brother-in-law (“beau-frère”), the esteemed and highly consequential wine critic, Robert M. Parker, Jr., the two families ventured to purchase the property and transform its pasture into a world-class vineyard site.

 

At the crest of the property, planting began in 1988 with five acres of vines tightly spaced at a density of about 2,200 plants to the acre. While planting his own vineyard, Michael worked four harvests at Ponzi Winery. In 1990, he harvested his first crop and sold the grapes, except enough to make one barrel, to winemakers Ken Wright and Dick Ponzi. In 1991, renovation of the main barn made way for Beaux Frères winery and the first vintages of The Beaux Frères Vineyard Pinot Noir followed soon after. Nestled in the Willamette Valley’s Ribbon Ridge viticultural area (est. 2005) near Newberg, Oregon, the property remains a perfect fit as a new generation, led by winemaker Mike D. Etzel (Michael’s middle son), takes responsibility for stewarding the land and crafting the wines.

 

Today, the original vineyard has grown to 26 acres of steep, contiguous southeast, south, and southwest-facing hillside on Willakenzie marine sediment from around 400 ft elevation.  The oldest vines (own-rooted Pommard and Wӓdenswil clones) are now a seasoned 35 years of age, and newer blocks added along the way are even more densely planted Dijon clones on phylloxera-resistant rootstocks. The Upper Terrace Vineyard, planted in 2000 atop the next hillside on Ribbon Ridge, added another 10 acres of Pinot Noir to the winery estate, and a third site situated between the two estate vineyards was planted in 2021 with its first harvest expected in 2023.

l’Eté du Vin: Celebrating 45 years with wines from the 45th Parallel

 

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