We have spent exhaustive hours, with the goal being to maximize the balance between our vineyard site and the vines. There are several ways to arrive at the same point but each vineyard is unique. Quality wine is made in the vineyard and prestige is gained through consistent viticulture practices to achieve perfect plants in relation to their environment. You may go to twenty different vineyards with twenty different methodologies but the endpoint does not change. When you are standing around sipping Pinot at a little soiree, you may be talking about how you should have sold short on WorldCom & AIG. We are standing around talking about things like YANC "yeast assimable nitrogen content" and the latest fermentation techniques involving micro-oxygenation and indigenous yeast. Everyone has an opinion, but one thing we all agree on is that you definitely do not want your wine to turn into a stink bomb or salad dressing. Pouring 2000 gallons of your finest Pinot down the drain is like giving up your firstborn child. We have not done that and do not plan on it. As a result, we keep it simple, practical & technical.
Throughout the year, we get up close and personal with each plant...about twelve times in fact. Whether one wants to or not, you become quite the farmer. Our vineyard is planted with Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, and Marechal Foch. We have a nice variety of personally selected clones and plantings are North-South in orientation forming a crescent around our winery compound. Trellising is the VSP system (vertical shoot position). Spacing is 6 by 9 between plants and our average yields are two tons per acre planted. This combination seems to maximize our potential solar profile and ultimately leads to the quality fruit we desire when we harvest in October. All of our wines are estate grown, produced and bottled. There is all kinds of spin one can place on vine spacing, trellising, clone selections, rootstocks, and orientation. The main axiom is to maximize your site to the plant to achieve balance.
Every once in awhile we have the opportunity of dealing with the guy who took two semesters of French in high school and decides to demonstrate his fluency by rolling out terms like terroir' or veraison "vera sone" for his breathless date.
Terroir "tare wa" is everything that makes up your vineyard site. Some of the nuances are controllable others are not. The main thing one can do is pick an optimum vineyard site from the start. Then "terroir" fits nicely into your marketing plan. When we picked our site, we focused on several key elements, like drainage, slope, soil type and sun exposure. With horses dropping road apples over our soil for 80 years, we have acquired quite the supply of nitrogen in our soil. Our site drains well due to the slope of the hills. Grapes do not like their feet getting too wet and they do not like pockets or valleys where fog and cooler microclimates arise. Our sunlight exposure is to the south, which is perfect for Oregon.This allows maximum sun exposure throughout the day. Oregon has harsher growing conditions and fewer sun days than our neighbors in California or for that matter, Australia, Chile, and Italy. What we do have is a climate and terrain mirroring Burgundy France, the birthplace of the world's finest Pinot Noir. The cat was let out of the bag in the late 60's when someone looked at a map of the world and thought Oregon would be a pretty good place to make wine...........and they were right!
Our winemaking techniques are Burgundian in nature. Most Oregon Pinot’s
are handcrafted…meaning a lot of hand’s on time goes into one’s
finished product. There are wineries throughout the world that produce more
wine than our entire Oregon industry combined. Our niche is quality and craftsmanship.
This goes all the way from winter pruning, to bud break, to bloom, to veraison,
to harvest, to winemaking, to aging, to bottling. We accomplish this goal by
endless hours in the vineyard, harvesting at the last possible second, and
making technical, hands on wine. Each year is new and poses different challenges
to the winemaker. We harvest when the grapes are ready. This does not mean
when the sugar content is at 23 degrees brix. This means when your acid is
in proper relation to your sugar and in turn, the berries have developed the
proper phenolic compounds which will lead to a full-bodied, balanced wine.
A lot of this stuff is determined by taste alone. Do this grapes taste like
they are ready??? Let’s pick. In Oregon, it’s all about “hang-time”.
The longer the fruit stays on the vine, the more desirable it becomes. This
puts us right on the edge when we harvest in October, trying to beat the rains.
Yes, you can pick 6 weeks early in other places we won’t mention, but the fruit has not gained the desirable qualities we like other than sugar content. As a result, your wine will show it.
Once we have harvested, the fruit is hand sorted. (Yes, we get rid of the leaves, sticks, rot, and dead animals) Next, the clusters are destemmed and the berries are gently popped without smashing the seeds. Therefore, to start with, you remove all MOG (material other than grapes), green unripe berries and, do not smash the seeds. This leads to serious funk in your below average wine. After the fruit is destemmed, it goes directly into the fermentors for a nice long “cold soak” of 4-7 days before being inoculated with yeast for the primary fermentation. Remember when we talked about YANC a bit earlier. Well yeast needs a few basic things to survive and reproduce. Nitrogen, oxygen, and sugar are the three food groups for these little guys. Deficiencies in any of them can lead to reduction in your wine or the affectionately stated term “stink bomb” Primary fermentation lasts 14-21 days prior to the wine being pressed and transferred “racked” into oak barrels.
We can write and entire dissertation on oak barrels, so we will just tell you what we do. Our philosophy is to use “new” French oak from a variety of cooperages. We will never use a barrel for more than two to three years, because we believe that new oak is the best for making a balanced, ready to drink Pinot. Wines are aged 10-12 months while they go through malolactic or secondary fermentation. We constantly taste “baby-sit” each barrel. Problems such as SO2 reduction can occur in the barrel as well. Nasty critters like Kloeckera, Brettanomyces and Lactobacilli can rear their ugly heads causing our French-speaking expert to use terms like “ahhh Lamerde or aigre vinaigrier” which translate to barnyard smell and vinegar/acetic acid or “Man your wine sure is skunky!” Keeping an eye on your wine throughout the year is your insurance policy. People will never really remember your top wines from year to year, but they surely remember the bad one’s. After a year of barrel aging, the wines are blended and bottled just in time to get ready for the upcoming harvest again in October. One may ask, with all these potential pitfalls, how does one run the gauntlet to the very end? Well that is why we make wine. Each year is a totally different experience with a unique story.
Every fermentation is different. Each barrel is different. Each bottle is different. Every bottle of wine should have its own little story to tell.
Our vineyard and winery is for our family. It truly is a joy to live and work on a fully functioning farm. We are all involved in some capacity and this involvement will pass on through our lineage. We feel blessed to have this opportunity and when you visit us, we hope you will see that in our actions and attitude.
We love this stuff.