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  • Jancis Robinson
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  • Jancis Robinson
17 Jun 2008

Find the Janus

Brooks is the Oregon winery billed as that with the youngest owner in the world: Pascal (right), the young son of the late Jimi Brooks, who was one of the liveliest, most inspiring young wine producers in that particularly tight-knit community but who suffered a fatal heart attack at the cruelly young age of 38 in 2004.

 

Thanks to the efforts of many a helpful local winemaker, and Jimi’s sister Janie Brooks Heuck, the excellent Brooks label and winery live on making mainly razor-sharp Riesling and seductive Pinot Noir from organically or biodynamically grown grapes. Jimi, who originally learnt how to make wine with the Deschamps family in Beaujolais and thereafter as assistant winemaker at WillaKenzie winery in Oregon, was a strong advocate of making wine as close to the land as possible. I remember him as one of the most passionate speakers at a small get-together with fellow Oregon winemakers I attended where we discussed organic farming and the difficulties of practising it somewhere as damp as Oregon. I’m pretty sure it was him who  pointed out indignantly that if vineyard workers had to wear space suits to spray, there was something amiss. I certainly remember him telling me that with his own and the vineyards used for Maysara where he last worked, he looked after 160 acres of vineyards, 55 of them biodynamic and therefore in need of all those ‘dynamised’ potions and tisanes. “Phew, that’s a lot of stirring,” he assured me.

 

Chris Williams (not the one who makes wine at Meerlust in South Africa) is now in charge of winemaking for the Brooks label and has done a first class job with this 2005 vintage of the top Pinot Noir produced by Brooks, named after the Roman god of balance (no, not the sex magazine). It’s the subtlety of the Brooks, Janus Pinot Noir 2005 Willamette Valley I love – that and the fact that drinking it is pure, silky pleasure, the sort that top quality red burgundy also delivers. This is not simple and jammy, as some American Pinot Noirs can be, but full of hidden, mossy depths as well as being wonderfully fresh and lively. The wine is intended to have a life of at least 10 years. I’m not sure what we are supposed to be waiting for as it is already delicious but if you buy a case, I would urge you to keep two or three bottles back for a few years to test the longevity claim. At 13.5% alcohol, the wine is about as strong as a typical red burgundy.

 

It can be ordered direct from the winery website here and is not too difficult to find in the US but I’m delighted to see that one UK importer also lists it, good old Stone Vine & Sun, who never over-charge and are currently offering it at £18.25 a bottle. Stone Vine & Sun have lots of other lovely wines so you can always make up your order with the bargain and thoroughly artisanal likes of Vignerons d’Estézarges, Terra Vitis 2007 Côtes du Rhône Rouge, a really rich, vibrant southern French red at £6.50, or even the thoroughly funky, natural-yeast-influenced, regular bottling of Brooks Riesling 2006 Willamette Valley at £13.25. Off dry, it is not such good value as the super-pure Janus Pinot, I believe, although I know that Jimi Brooks always believed in offering value.

 

Find the Janus