A couple of years ago we made our way to the Beckham Estate Vineyard. It sits at the east end of the Chehalem Mountains AVA on what is known as Parrett Mountain. We spent the morning with Annedria Beckham tasting through their wines and hearing the story of the winery first hand on their patio, their dog Ruby Tuesday curled up to keep us company.
They have a fascinating story, which you can read in our post here.
One of the things that drew me to Beckham was their Amphorae program, called AD Beckham. You see, Andrew Beckham is a ceramics artist. Annedria had come across an article on Elizabetta Foradori in Italy where she was making wine in terra cotta vessels.
I thought about it 3 different times before I decided to show the article to Andrew…I said “you know I’ve heard of this winemaker and I’ve heard of her wines, we should see if we can get some in Oregon.” And he flipped through and said, “I can make those”. Annedria Beckham
The die was cast, he ordered clay the next day.
Andrew Beckham’s Novum Ceramics is the first commercial producer of terra cotta Amphorae for winemaking in North America. As we continued to visit the valley we met other winemakers who were either using or waiting anxiously to receive one of his beautiful amphorae.
The day we were there, his very proud father took us up to the studio to watch the process.
Andrew has worked to create these vessels so that they do not impart flavor to the wine. The early creations he found had too much impact on his wines. I have to say, that I enjoy the characters the clay imparts.
A.D Beckham MMXVI Amphora Pinot Gris
This 2016 Pinot Gris was made from fruit sourced from Antiquum Farm in the Willamette Valley AVA. 70% did skin ferment for 40 days in amphora and then was aged in acacia. The other 30% was fermented and aged on the skins in the amphora. This wine is unfined and unfiltered.
13.7% abv, SRP $40
This wine was a deep rosy salmon-orange color. Like the color of roasted salmon. It is the perfect match for the rich color of fall leaves. This is not white wine, it is not red wine, but more of a deep orange in style, with the skin contact then amplified by the clay vessel.
There were berry notes, like macerated strawberry and tart almost pomegranate notes. At one point it brought to mind cooked plums with herbs. There were savory notes in the back. I got bright red berries and spice, some dusty notes, rhubarb, and then as it opened more umami notes, white pepper, anise, and notes of tarragon.
Amphora Pinot Gris and flavors of Afghanistan
We paired this with a Sun Basket dinner of Afghan butternut squash stew with yogurt. This stew is rich with butternut squash, chickpeas, onion, and a turmeric spice blend that includes ginger, coriander, and cumin and is served over farro. Those orange notes and spice notes played beautifully with the dish.
Strawberry Mascarpone Crepes
For dessert, we went with something lighter, crepes filled with mascarpone crème, orange zest, and strawberries, served with a trio of strawberry sauces to see which went best with the wine. One sauce had cardamom, one fresh tarragon, and one basil. I enjoyed all 3 but the basil was my favorite with the pairing.
Finding Amphorae wines from Oregon
I find that I really enjoy wines made in amphorae. Find some of the AD Beckham, or check Montinore, or Maloof…or any number of the other wineries that now have one of Andrews Novum to work with! When you can travel, schedule an appointment to taste a Beckham. The drive to the property is beautiful and the views from the ridge are stunning.
Currently, due to the cold weather and the COVID restrictions, they will not have tastings through the end of December. As we get into the New Year and things start to open up you will want to head to the Beckham Website to schedule an appointment.
Of course, right now, you can just curl up at home and order some of their wines online and have them shipped right to your door. That seems like a great option these days!
You might check out their 2019 AD Beckham “Aequalis” Pinot Gris-Pinot Noir, it sounds delicious.
More from Crushed Grape Chronicles on Beckham Estate Vineyard
Robin Renken is a wine writer and Certified Specialist of Wine. She and her husband Michael travel to wine regions interviewing vineyard owners and winemakers and learning the stories behind the glass.
When not traveling they indulge in cooking and pairing wines with food at home in Las Vegas.