Belle Vallee Cellars 2005 Pinot Noir Port $4.99

Produced/Bottled by: Belle Vallee Cellars, Corvallis, OR
Purchased on: 6-10-2015 Lebanon OR G.O.
ABV: 18% SRV $38
Handcrafted. Only 6 barrels were produced.

{note: I am not a person who prefers sweet wine, I picked this up because of its unique varietal and will do my best to describe it accurately. A Port connoisseur may have an entirely different opinion altogether; I hope someone who knows/loves Port will find this, taste it and report back.}

 Because of my lack of familiarity with Port, I needed to educate myself. Here is a quick rundown:
Normally only wine originating from Portugal, more specifically, the Douro Valley (according to the European Union Protected Designation of Origin guidelines) is designated as Port. All other wines from various countries or producers are listed as fortified wine, except for the U.S., who allows wine from anywhere in the world to be labeled “Port”.

Typical Port grapes: Touriga Franca, Touriga Nacional, Tempranillo, Tinta Barroca and Tinta Cão

So the particular reason this Belle Vallee Cellars Port caused me to step outside my comfort zone…the wine is made from Pinot Noir; one of the most fragile and temperamental members of the wine grape family. I couldn’t imagine a hearty Port-like wine evolving from Pinot Noir and tasting good. I was wrong.

The only reference I could find online was regarding their 2003 vintage: “The Pinot Noir is picked very ripe and fortified with Willamette Valley Pinot Noir brandy that has been barrel-aged for three years. A labor-intensive wine requiring a lot of skill. Pinot Noir shows well in this style of spirit with its fruity character complementing the brandy.” 

The top of the bottle is capped with a heavy wax. Very well sealed.
The cork was red/black at the bottom. No evident seepage.

Color: Dark ruby-red. I took it outside in the evening sun, to check for debris or cloudiness. Saw neither.
Fragrance: Rich. Heady. Cocoa, blackberries, raspberries, spices.
Taste: Dark chocolate, caramel, cinnamon & nutmeg, figs or raisin type fruit…and dark chocolate covered cherries.

There is serious alcohol heat on this one (no surprise there) but it balances the sweetness of the wine. My perception when I tasted it was a non-cloying spicy sweet, somewhere between a Red Port and a Tawny Port. It opened up over the evening (I poured myself 2 oz and it took a few hours to finish it) and was a little more lush. The flavors remained constant.  I think it’s excellent. This is the highest praise I could give a wine in general, and this is not at all my standard preference for a wine. I called the Lebanon store and asked them to hold a case (6) for me…first time I’ve ever done that with a sweet wine.

It was worth stepping outside the box.

The website for Belle Vallee Cellars has expired. Their Facebook page has closed. Their phone numbers are disconnected. I am drawing the conclusion that they are no longer in business and that G.O. received these as a closeout buy. If anyone has any information regarding this, please do post.

Based on this wine and JWC’s review of the Belle Vallee Merlot (which I have not yet tried), I would say, if you see a wine from Belle Vallee Cellars at G.O. buy it! If you don’t like it, take it back, but these wines appear to be extremely good wines at good prices…best we’ve seen in a while here in Oregon.


6 thoughts on “Belle Vallee Cellars 2005 Pinot Noir Port $4.99

  1. Darrell

    I was amazed from PW’s tasting that she tasted PN flavors because when fermentation is arrested at some point by addition of what’s called high proof brandy, I just don’t think there is much PN character. On reading the evaluation again, I think the PN that PW tastes could be from the PN high proof. I haven’t seen the bottle down here, but I would like to taste this one.

    1. permiesworld Post author

      Darrell, don’t mistake me, I don’t think it tastes anything like Pinot Noir. I just don’t think it tastes like traditional Port. It’s lighter. I don’t know that I said in my review that it tastes like PN, actually. I just listed the flavors I tasted. (I usually associate black tea, pine, tobacco, cinnamon, cherry, earth, sometimes vegetation…to PN…not the rich cocoa etc that I listed above.)

      The brandy that they are using to fortify it is a Pinot Noir brandy so…who knows?

      I’m not qualified to offer an official opinion on Port since it is not my area at all. I just liked it (which was a huge shock to me).

      And Lim13, I think we have to blame America’s wine regulations regarding listing this as Port. Everywhere else in the world, they give Port the same recognition as we give Champagne. But here…not so.

  2. Lembano

    Their wines were high quality. Mid priced. Most distribution, I recall, was back East.
    So. I bought mine for $5.99 at GO. It is an absolute steal. this will compete with Oregon Port wines that are 5x the price. The body is light and not syrupy sweet. The first couple sips have an expected 18% alcohol bite. After that is just gets smoother and smoother while the Pinot Noir fruit comes forward to and continuously builds deliciously. I went back and bought 6 more bottles. it’s 10yrs old but Port wines can typically last decades based on their high alcohol content. plus this one’s cork seems well sealed by the thick wax.
    If you can find it you won’t be disappointed.

    1. lim13

      There is far more to ageability of wines, including “ports”, Lembano. I’d suggest you read this link. I will try a bottle of this should it ever reach a GO in my area of WA, but I am not a lover of dessert wines labeled as port (when they share little in common with true Port other than sugar and high alcohol). This is really a Pinot Noir dessert wine, not a port. Nonetheless, I’m glad you and PW enjoyed it so much.

  3. JWC

    This sounds excellent, similiar to the merlot I reviewed as far as quality is concerned. I’ll be on the lookout for this. Guessing its extremely limited, even here in Oregon. Sorry to hear that they are no longer in business, just another example of a producer who makes an excellent product, but is challenged on the distribution/business side of the equation. Which brings up the old adage, how do you wind up with a million dollars in the wine industry? Start with two million…thanks PW, it’s a tough business, many with a superior product don’t make it, such as this.

    1. permiesworld Post author

      I remember you mentioning that old saying…that or your boss did, when we met. lol
      I cannot find out anything about the Belle Vallee Cellars. There’s just an absence of an online presence. Even their FB page only had a few posts…so I’m guessing you are correct…perhaps it was a fall down on the marketing side. Sad though. There are many small vineyards & wineries around here that really deserve to be known.


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