Owen Roe’s Union Gap Vineyard – A tour with David O’Reilly

Owen Roe Winery, in Yakima Valley Washington

Glasses were clinking, wines were being poured, great conversations were happening, the weather was perfect and Flavor Camp was about to begin.

Wine Yakima Valley treated those of us who attended the WBC Pre Conference tour to 2 incredible days exploring the Yakima Valley. (You can catch our overview here). This first evening was spent at Owen Roe Winery.  We managed an impromptu winery tour with Co-Owner David O’Reilly and now we were on to Flavor Camp. 

The Yakima Valley is an agricultural region and in addition to grapes for wine, they also produce apples for cider and hops for beer.  We were treated to an in-depth look at these with Flavor Camp.

You will get to hear about the Cider and Hops also, but we are about wine here, so….

David O'Reilly with Owen Roe Vineyard explained that we are about as far West in the Yakima Valley as you can go.
David O’Reilly With Owen Roe Vineyard

Vineyard Tour with David O’Reilly

We are at the Owen Roe Union Gap Vineyard in the Yakima Valley.  As we climb into the back of the all-terrain vehicle with about a dozen wine writers, David explained that we are about as far West in the Yakima Valley as you can go.

“From east to west there is not a big temperature difference.”  David tells us, but Walla Walla, where we would be going the following day, was at 30 degrees the night before, where as Yakima was at 40.  The cold air rushes down the valley.

For a bit of perspective, take a look at this Wine map of Washington State, Courtesy of Washingtonwine.org you can see Yakima about at center east/west in the state, with the cascades to the west, compared to Walla Walla to the east.

Washington AVA Photo Courtesy of washingtonwine.org
Washington AVAs Photo Courtesy of washingtonwine.org

Here on this map of the Yakima Valley courtesy of WineYakimaValley.org you can see the Union Gap Vineyard all the way west.

Map Yakima Valley 2019 courtesy of WineYakimaValley.org
Map Yakima Valley 2019 courtesy of WineYakimaValley.org

This tour would take us through 3 of the distinct soil types on the vineyard and we would taste the flavor profile from each.

Missoula Flood Loess and Bordeaux varieties

We drove up the hill and stepped out at the top, into soft loose dusty soil that immediately covered my shoes. As people walked, little puffs of dust erupted in their footsteps. “Loose soil” is your clue here. This is loess.

Loess soil at Owen Roe's Union Gap Vineyard.
Loess soil at Owen Roe’s Union Gap Vineyard.

David pulls out his altimeter app to check the altitude (we all scrambled to find this app).  We were standing at 1199 feet.

Remember those Missoula Floods?

Now it’s time to talk a little soil history.  If you read our piece on Montinore, you may have some of this history! If not, you can find it here, where Rudy Marchesi explains the Missoula Floods.

This property sits at the convergence of Glacial Lake Missoula.  We would pass the Wallula Gap tomorrow as we headed to Walla Walla.  This is where the Ice dam backed up the water, eventually lifting and flooding the valley, creating the Columbia River Gorge and impacting the land and soil all the way into Oregon.

The water here in Yakima came up to about 1150 feet, so the soil we were standing on was above the glacial flood.  The soil here are silts (really fine). David pointed out the hillside where you could see the sub soils of basalt and ancient rock that are about 22 million years old.

Owen Roe 2014 Bordeaux Blend.
Owen Roe 2014 Bordeaux Blend in the vineyard

Soils here on top are shallow making it good for Bordeaux varieties.  At the top of the hill where we are standing, they grow their Cabernet Sauvignon.  This is clone 47, David tells us, a clone with small berries, this wine retains it’s fruit and has beautiful acid.  We are tasting the 2014 bordeaux Blend with is a Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot & Malbec blend, with Cabernet Sauvignon from this vineyard block.

In the summers, up here, the sun is up at 6 am and the soils tend to stay warm overnight.  They have less of a diurnal (day to night temperature) shift then Red Mountain.  Photosynthesis is maximized when the soil is warm so the grapes here ripen earlier and the wine is less tannic and more textural.

We strolled down the hill, creating little dust storms and ending at the block of Cabernet Franc.

Elevation, terroir and matching varieties

Owen Roe Winery in Yakima Valley Washington
Owen Roe Winery in Yakima Valley Washington

David explained the planting method.   The soils that are most shallow are planted to the latest ripening grape varieties (cabernet sauvignon), the deeper soils toward the bottom of the hill are planted to merlot, which has big clusters that ripen early.  Here in the middle is where the cab franc grows, ripening later than merlot and before the cabernet sauvignon.

Cabernet Franc at Owen Roe

Owen Roe Winery, in Washington State
Owen Roe Winery, in Washington State

Cabernet Franc is a favorite of mine and of David’s it seemed.  He spoke of this ancient grape, father to cabernet sauvignon and how it likes cooler temperatures.  In hotter years it gets finicky.  This end of the Yakima Valley is about 4 degrees cooler than other sites in the valley during the day, but it stays warmer at night.  This gives the cabernet franc “gorgeous texture and keeps that perfume in the grape”.

We taste the 2015 Cabernet Franc.  This year was warmer and the cabernet franc was finicky.  They had to pluck out the green berries by hand from the bunches.  The first major heat will shut photosynthesis down.  The 2014 by comparison was very Bordeaux in style and was chunky and tannic.

Irrigation in the Yakima Valley

We noticed the irrigation drip.  Washington is extremely dry and they must irrigate here to keep the vineyard growing.  The water here comes from wells from the Ellensberg Formation Aquifer.  Due to the soil type, it tends to be slightly acidic.  The soils are basic and low in nitrogen so this is one of the nutrients they will add in the winery.  (We talk about that in our winery tour)

Drip Irrigation, a necessity when growing in the high desert conditions in the Yakima Valley
Drip Irrigation, a necessity when growing in the high desert conditions in the Yakima Valley

In so many wine regions we are trained to think of irrigation as bad and dry farming is good. That would be to stress the vines and keep those roots digging deep.  Here, with the lack of rain fall, it is necessary.

The region gets only 7 to 8 inches of precipitation each year, and the definition of a true desert is anything less than 10.

http://wineyakimavalley.org/climate/

The cherries in the valley, David tells us, use 10 times the amount of water as the vines here.

Into the glacial soils & Rhône varieties

Calcium Carbonate in the rocks at Owen Roe Vineyard.
Calcium Carbonate in the rocks at Owen Roe Vineyard.

Further down the hill we get into the glacial soils where you find calcium carbonate, the white substance we had seen above.  These glacial silts have a little deeper soil and give you rock and minerality, the wines are finer than if they were grown in loess & deeper soils, that present as more aromatic and textural.The Oldest soil type here is the Ellensburg Formation, which is old Columbia Riverbed.  This predates the Yakima River & the basalt activity.  These are actually “anti-clines” that formed through earth movement.  The upthrust that we were standing on at this point was at almost 1200 feet.  This is not glacial.  Anything lower than this was not upthrust, it was just washed away.

Ellensburg is found in high elevations.  In Walla Walla the famous Rocks AVA is all on riverbeds at the Valley Floor.

What makes this great for Grenache is that Grenache is cold sensitive, so you want it high in the vineyard so the cold air rushes down.  Sounds counter intuitive, it’s at one of the highest elevations & yet it ripens early. 

Okay…all this talk about soils and wine, are you thirsty now? Search out a bottle of Washington wine, Owen Roe if you can find it, and enjoy our video tour with David O’Reilly.

Washington Tasting room

Open Daily from 11-4 in the Yakima Valley, they do require reservations for more than 8 guests.

They also offer Barrel Room Tastings on the weekends started each day at noon. You can reserve this for a fee on their reservation page. It includes a tour, private tasting, an expanded flight and a cheese and charcuterie platter.

The Union Gap Vineyard and tasting room can be found at 309 Gangl Rd in Wapato WA 98951. 509-877-0454

Oregon Tasting Room

Again open daily from 11-4 their tasting room off Hwy 219 outside of Newberg requires reservations for more than 6 guests. You can bring snacks, or contact them ahead of time and they can have a snack plate ready.

Here they have a Cellar Table Experience that you can reserve to do a more private tasting geared toward your palate. Contact them ahead of time to set this up.

The Willamette Valley tasting room is located at 2761 E 9th St. Newberg OR 97132. 503-538-7778

More to come!

Watch for more on Yakima Valley Wine, coming out soon!

And visit our Yakima Valley Wine page on our site for more details on this great region.

As always be sure to follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to keep up to date on all of our posts.

Barrel Tasting with Rudy Marchesi at Montinore Estate

Montinore Vineyards, Rudy Marchesi

After a wonderful interview with Rudy Marchesi of Montinore Estate discussing the Missoula Floods, the history of Montinore estate and their wines as well as Biodynamics in the vineyard and garden, Rudy invited us to the cellar for a barrel tasting.

Winemaker Stephen Webber

Montinore_Estate_Stephen_Webber
Montinore_Estate_Stephen_Webber, courtesy of Montinore Estate

On the way, we went through the lab, where we met Montinore Estate winemaker, Stephen Webber. Stephen started with Montinore as Assistant Winemaker over a decade ago in 2006 coming from DiStefano winery in Seattle. He became the Co-Winemaker in 2009 and took over as head winemaker in 2016.

On to the tasting

Rudy Marchesi of Montinore Estate
Rudy Marchesi of Montinore Estate

We stopped briefly in the tank room for a taste of the Red Cap Pinot that was fermenting in tank. Before heading to the cellar with room after room filled with barrels and a few clay amphorae style vessels (which we later found out were on loan from Andrew Beckham).

The original plantings of Pinot Noir in the Montinore Estate Vineyard in 1982 were very typical of the early Oregon plantings and were Pommard and Wadenswil clones.

High density vineyards

Looking down the rows at Montinore

The vineyard we tasted from next were some of the first high density vineyards in the area, planted 2500 vines to the acre. Rudy feels high density works better here. With high density vineyards, each vine is asked to do less work. Here, instead of each vine needing to produce 6 lbs of fruit, they are only asked to produce 2 lbs per vine.

I remember speaking with Jason Haas about high density vineyards. He was very much against them in Paso Robles. But here is where perspective comes in. High density planting in Central California during a drought is much different from high density planting in Oregon, where moisture is much more abundant. So much of vineyard practice is determined by location and climate and available natural resources.

Soils and their affect on the taste of a wine

We moved on to taste from another barrel that came from a block about 100 yards from the first. The difference was immediately apparent in nose and color. This was the same elevation. The soil is Missoula Flood loess over basalt. Rudy conjectured that these 35 year old vines had worked their roots into the basalt and this was where the differences came from. This pinot had more earth with herbal and cherry notes. Basalt, Rudy explained, often had this cherry note. The first block we tasted from had deeper loess. He noted that the basalt in Dundee was different, but still had these cherry notes.

Courtesy of Montinore Estate Vineyards

The Red Cap Pinot Noir is a blend of all of their Pinots. Everything is barrelled separately, then they pull reserves from each vineyard and block and the remaining blends into the Red Cap. The very best blocks make up the estate reserve. They then make several vineyard designate wines. They make 200 cases of a single vineyard Pinot Noir from Parsons Ridge. Which we tasted next.

We tasted again, from a block in Helvetia soil. This is a different soil series but still part of the Missoula flood loess and is known as Cornelius. The slope on this block is a little different. The color in this wine was more purple, which they seem to get from the southern part of the property. You could taste a bit more wood (the barrel this was in was newer oak) on this wine. There was more floral, and the fruit on the nose was more boysenberry than blackberry. This is the soil on Rudy and his wife’s 1 1/4 acre property

The next wine was from the Tidalstar vineyard which has marine sediment soils. This vineyard is located in the Yamhill-Carlton AVA on it’s western edge. This wine will be part of the Red Cap, as well as all 3 tiers of single vineyard wines. They are thinking of creating a new brand exclusively from this vineyard.

Michael commented on this being the perfect way to taste wines. Comparing blocks and soils in the cellar and seeing and smelling the differences, guided by someone who knows the vineyard.

This is the beauty of Pinot Noir, it is so expressive.

Rudy Marchesi (our interview in July 2018)

More than just Pinot Noir

As Rudy searched for the right varieties for his early vineyards on the East Coast, he set up a research project to go to Northern Italy and explore indigenous varieties. His father was born there, so he had some people he could contact. They went to 5 different cultural research stations. He learned quite a bit, but didn’t put it into practice until he arrived in Oregon.

Lagrein

We tasted the Lagrein. (disclosure – a varietal I love and find all too rarely). Lagrein’s parentage is Pinot Noir and Dureza (which is also a parent of Syrah). In the glass it is very Syrah like.

You can really see in the glass, something syrah like going on. This has been doing well. We just bottled the 2016. I planted these in 2010-2012, so they are just starting to come in stride.

Rudy Marchesi (our interview in July 2018)

Teroldego

We moved on to Teroldego a grape related to Pinot Noir, Lagrein & Syrah.

Elisabetta Foradori, she inherited her family winery at 19 or so, they grew Teroldego, at the time it was meh.  She went through and selected the best vines and clusters and bred for quality….I got material from her.  We only have 2 acres of it, like the Lagrien.  But I think it needs warmer sites, this might be our global warming hedge.

Rudy Marchesi (our interview in July 2018)

Different Vessels

At this point we came to the beautiful clay fermentation tanks.

Andrew Beckham created “Novum”

Clay breathes more than concrete, you can feel it. That’s what we want. I want that evaporation of water through clay just like barrel. In amphorae you get alot more fruit. Pinot producers worry, they get so much fruit…would it have the ageing ability without the tannins from the wood? As a blending component it could be very exciting.

Rudy Marchesi (our interview in July 2018)

Unfortunately, the Clay tanks have no sampling valves. So there was no tasting to be done there. Andrew Beckham is making him several of these clay vessels which Andrew calls “novum”. (these clay vessels are rounded like amphorae but do not have the conical bottom). You will get to hear all about the “novum” soon, as we spent a morning at Beckham and some time with Andrew on this trip also.

This was the end of our joyous trip to the cellar with Rudy. He was off to lunch with the grand kids and led us back to the tasting room for a tasting of their wines already in bottle.

Person of the Year 2018 – Oregon Wine Press

Montinore Vineyards, Rudy Marchesi
Montinore Vineyards, Rudy Marchesi

What an amazing visit. Rudy Marchesi has such expansive knowledge and a drive to keep learning. He was so generous with us sharing his time and his knowledge. He was just named Person of the Year 2018 by the Oregon Wine Press

For his work in Biodynamics and its advocacy, and, more importantly, for his generosity of spirit, OWP is pleased to honor him.

Oregon Wine Press, January 8, 2019 by Jade Helm

I knew of his work in Biodynamics. We spoke with him during our interview about it. But I truly had no idea of what a true leader in this field he is.

Most recently, Marchesi was one of nine growers — and the only American — asked to join the International Biodynamic Viticulture Group. This new committee will endeavor to integrate more viticulture into the annual Biodynamic Agriculture Conference held in Dornach, Switzerland, and to create a web-based forum for exchange of information among the world’s Biodynamic winegrowers.

Oregon Wine Press, January 8, 2019 by Jade Helm

Here, here Oregon Wine Press! Well done! And well done Rudy. I am humbled at the time and knowledge you so graciously shared with us.

More on Montinore

We documented all the time he spent with us that morning. The fascinating information fills 4 posts in addition to this one. There are links below as well as a pairing we did over the holidays that Rudy’s daughter Kristin (President of Montinor Estate), so graciously shared with us:

Visit them! Montinore Estate

Montinore Vineyards Entrance
Montinore Vineyards Entrance

The Estate is beautiful. You will find it in the Northwest corner of the Willamette Valley in Forest Grove.

3663 SW Dilley Road Forest Grove, OR 97116

503.359.5012
[email protected]

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Day 9 of the 12 Days of Wine with Beckham Estate AD “Creta” Pinot Noir & bacon wrapped dates

Chehalem Mountains AVA from Beckham Vineyards

Andrew Beckham has merged his two loves, ceramics and wine.  The bottle for this wine lists it as “Creta A.D. Beckham MMXVI Amphora Pinot Noir”.  This wine was made in a terra cotta vessel.  A vessel made right here in his studio on the vineyard. 

There is a long story to go with this.  A beautiful and very real story, patiently told to me by Andrew’s wife Annedria, when we visited them at the Beckham Estate Vineyard this summer.  That story will have to wait for another day.  Soon, I promise.  Today,  we are going to talk about this wine.

A.D. Beckham 2016 “Creta” Amphora Pinot Noir

Ad Beckham 2016 Amphora Pinot Noir
A.D. Beckham 2016 “Creta” Amphora Pinot Noir

“Creta”  is latin for clay and this wine was fermented and aged in terra cotta and bottled un-fined, un-filtered.

From Beckham Estate Vineyard http://beckhamestatevineyard.orderport.net/product-details/0076/2016-AD-Beckham-Creta-Pinot-Noir
Beckham Vineyard the view from the tasting room
Beckham Vineyard the view from the tasting room

The vineyard and winery sit in the Chehalem Mountain AVA on Parrett Mountain, where the vineyard elevation lands at 412 to 568 feet.  Soils here are Jory and Saum. This wine, of which there were only 100 cases made, is unfined and unfiltered, and if you want to get all geeky, the Pinot clones are Pommard, Wädenswil, and Dijon 115 and 777.  This is 30% whole cluster.

Beckham Vineyard, The view West
Beckham Vineyard, The view West from Parrett Mountain

What to pair?

Annedria Beckham got back to me with a beautiful recipe that she had just paired with the Creta Amphora Pinot Noir.

Hello Robin,

As we just had our 3 pigs butchered we have a wealth of pork in our freezer. I made this recipe the other evening and it went beautifully with the AD Beckham Creta Pinot noir’s  bright cherry and cranberry notes. You could substitute duck breast for the pork for an equally delicious meal.
 
Spiced Pork Tenderloin with Cherry-Thyme Pan Sauce
modified from Epicurious
INGREDIENTS
·         1 teaspoon ground coriander
·         Kosher salt, freshly ground black pepper
·         2 pork tenderloins (about 2 pounds total)
·         2 tablespoons olive oil
·         1 large shallot, thinly sliced 1/4 cup
·         10 sprigs thyme
·         1 1/4 cups dry red wine
·         1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
·         1 tablespoon sugar
·         1 (10-ounce) package frozen dark sweet cherries, thawed, halved (about 2 cups)
·         1-2 tablespoon cold unsalted butter 
PREPARATION
1.       Combine coriander, 1 tsp. salt, and 1/4 tsp. pepper in a small bowl. Rub pork with spice mixture.
2.       Heat oil in a 12″ heavy skillet over medium-high until hot but not smoking. Reduce heat to medium and cook pork, turning occasionally, until meat is browned on all sides and an instant-read thermometer inserted diagonally into the center of each tenderloin registers 145°F, 20–25 minutes. Transfer pork with tongs to a cutting board (do not wipe out skillet) and let stand 10 minutes.
3.       Meanwhile, cook shallot and thyme in skillet, stirring, until softened and lightly golden, about 2 minutes. Add wine, vinegar, and sugar. Bring to simmer and cook, scraping up any browned bits and stirring frequently, until liquid is reduced by about half and shallots are tender, about 4 minutes. Stir in cherries, any accumulated juices, and 3/4 tsp. salt and cook 1 minute. Remove from heat, add butter, and swirl skillet to combine. Pluck out thyme sprigs,  taste, then season with salt and pepper as needed. Slice pork and serve with sauce.
Cheers!

Annedria Beckham of Beckham Estate Vineyard

This recipe had my mouth watering. Sadly, this was a late night pairing and the recipe arrived too late for us to gather all the ingredients.  I look forward to them releasing the 2017 Creta Pinot, so I can get a bottle and try it with this amazing recipe. The cherries, the balsamic, the thyme, the pork…all would be perfect with this wine. And actually, Annedria’s suggestion of duck, is really what I may try! But for tonight, we will have to do without.

Michael made do with gourmet sliders and bacon wrapped dates waiting to pair with this wine.  Michael wrapped the dates in a maple bacon, so we had that sweet and savory combo and found that it went brilliantly with the wine.  With the sliders, I have to admit, I slathered one bun with lobster pate and the other with tomato marmalade, the sweet, the savory, the rich…all played perfectly against this wine

Beckham 2016 Creta Amphora Pinot Noir
Beckham 2016 Creta Amphora Pinot Noir

The Wine

So what does it mean to the wine to have the wine fermented and aged in clay rather than wood? 

Maybe it was just my brain making the association, but I felt like I could smell the clay on this wine.  On the nose, it starts with baking spices and deep red fruit (that is the cherry and cranberry Annedria mentioned).  It is medium bodied, but flavorful, so it feels bigger in your mouth.  The tannins are smooth, but lively and long lasting.  As it opened up I got more mocha/cocoa on the nose, and it felt darker in my mouth and more savory.  Later as I tasted I got wilted rose petals and a little salinity.  Going back to the clay, the nose always hit me as very fine particles (like clay and cocoa powder), which gave the wine a smoothness that I found really appealing.

I was really enchanted by this wine.

Need some?

I will apologize for taunting you with this beautiful wine.  This vintage is sold out.  But…new vintages lay ahead ( I think they are bottling the 2017 Estate Pinot Noirs currently) and you can purchase their wines from their site.

Want to Visit?

The entrance to Beckham Vineyards from SW Heater Road
The entrance to Beckham Vineyards from SW Heater Road

They are typically open Fridays and Saturdays from 11-5. They are closed from December 17th, 2018 -February 1st, 2019 except by appointment. (So schedule an appointment or plan your trip after Feb 1st)

To schedule an appointment email them at [email protected]

Want more?  Click through to all of our 12 Days of Wine posts!

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On A Cheerful Note with Ariel Eberle

A cheerful Note 2013 Pinot Noir Bottle Label

Ariel Eberle is a native Oregonian, and the founder/winemaker for A Cheerful Note.  She spends her days as the winemaker for Yamhill Valley Vineyards, so you would think she would have been a shoe in to the wine industry, but she came the long way around to wine making.

Ariel Eberle

a Cheerful Note, Ariel Eberle

a Cheerful Note, Ariel Eberle

Ariel’s background is in biology and chemistry from Oregon State, where she was Pre-med, and working at a hospital and a clinic.  It wasn’t clicking.  Looking for adventure she ended up in Korea teaching English.  They say absence makes the heart grow fonder, and so it was for her.  She found herself missing and appreciating Oregon. Having always been drawn to vineyards, where the wild bits of nature are set into an organized fashion, she looked that direction.  The aesthetics appealed to her.  She applied at Yamhill Valley Vineyards and did a harvest with them.

“I didn’t have any wine making experience at that time. But I met with their then winemaker, Stephen Cary and I said, I’m a quick study and I’m interested in this and I’ll work hard.  He hired me on and I am now going to be celebrating 10 years with them in October.  I’m now their head winemaker.  So that’s how it happened and the rest is history.”

The Lakeview Vineyard Block

Ariel started at Yamhill in 2008 for harvest and the next year it was decided to plant the last plantable place on the site.  Te area was a really high slope at the top of the vineyard.  So right at the top of her time with Yamhill, she helped to plant this vineyard.

“There’s a huge sentimental connection, when you crawl around on the ground and you’re with your crew.  We put those babies in the ground together and 2013 was the first year that came off of that.  I could have worked with different fruit from our site, we are all estate there, but I wanted to work with that site because the one thing that I was lacking with my experience at Yamhill was the ability to grow with a vineyard, because the rest of our vineyard is so well established. So, this was my opportunity to kind of see a vineyard come from it’s infancy and go through the same stages that people go through, that awkwardness through their adolescence and learn those lessons along the way.”

The 2013 A Cheerful Note Pinot Noir

 

A Cheerful Note Cellars, 2013 Pinot Noir

A Cheerful Note Cellars, 2013 Pinot Noir

Lucky for us, it was the 2013 vintage that she was pouring, because it is her favorite.

“A funny thing that happens with the vines so far, is that in their infancy they show really well and then they kind of go through that awkward phase.  So I would say that probably the 15 vintage is the one that I struggled with more, just because there were some heat spikes during that year so a little more acidity, kinda let it age a little bit longer, and I decided to bring the 13, it’s just showing really well it’s a very acid driven site, so it’s benefited from the bottle age and I’m really happy with the direction that it’s gone.”

If you have tasted Yamhill Valley Vineyard wines, you will note that these are made in a different style.  Her gratitude for Yamhill indulging her in this side project, and allowing her to make this wine at the winery is evident and she chooses to make this wine differently so as not to directly compete or imitate the Yamhill wines.

To keep this wine different, she does 10 to 30% whole cluster, a different yeast selection and pump overs instead of punch downs.

“It’s it’s own little bin that sits in a sea of Yamhill bins and the things that I do differently are I do whole cluster, depending on the year, it will be between 10 to 30% whole cluster,  This 2013 was 20% whole cluster because it was a little bit of a cooler year so we didn’t want to get too much extraction of stems that are not lignified,  so it was really careful selection of what was going in as the whole cluster component.  But those lignified stems really contribute a very woody character, almost like a barrel would contribute with some of the same spicy characteristics that a barrel can contribute, but I’m actually aging it in neutral oak barrels.  So, a lot of people get vanilla and different unique characteristics that are associated with barrel, but it’s a neutral oak barrel.  That was intentional, because I didn’t want to overwhelm that fruit and just see what that fruit was that first year. 

I also use a different yeast selection, so I’m using a 3001 yeast and that really highlights the fruit characteristics.  You get a lot more of the red fruit and the brightness, than what we use at Yamhill, which tends to be what I refer to as more masculine flavors, a lot more spice, earth those kind of components, whereas this tends to be more fruit forward. 

And then we are also doing pump overs instead of punch downs.  So really gentle on the fermentation, good at extracting color but not over extracting  the skins and the seeds and just being gentle, getting it mixed up but letting it do it’s thing and tasting every day and deciding, where’s that sweet spot.”

As I stuck my nose into the glass, I mentioned how you really do get that cinnamon on the nose, and she gave me some great insights into on the crazy things we smell in wines and the difference stem inclusion can make.

“Yeah it’s interesting that all those flavors come from the grape itself and I just find that so fascinating.  Especially with the invent or the application of high pressure liquid chromatography (HPLC) they can actually go in and sample the fruit or sample the wine, measure different chemical components and constituents that are actually that blackberry flavor or that cinnamon flavor and it’s this graph. So it’s not just in our heads, it’s there and it’s from the skin of the grape. 

I love that you can utilize the stem and get those cinnamon and other flavors without having to add that through the barrel aging.  It’s a whole different component.  And then it also offers you some whole berry clusters and what that does for you is it gives you that carbonic masceration, which gives you that nice, lifted, bright, juicy confectionary kind of style.  But it really helps to give you that complexity.”

 

The stories behind the label

A Cheerful Note’s wine label is filled with stories.  The name itself comes from an adorable love story…

The name “A Cheerful Note”

“The name “A Cheerful Note” was inspired by a fortune cookie. My partner and I started dating 2013 and he lived in The Dalles and I was here.  I was actually living in Tigard at the time.  He opened a fortune cookie and it said “A Cheerful Note is on it’s way to you.” I was going to visit him that weekend.  He took a picture of it and sent it to me. We had bottled our Pinot Gris at Yamhill Valley without labels, we were going to label it later. So I took one of those bottles to give to him and I put a little sticky note on it that said “A Cheerful Note” to make the fortune come true and the name just stuck.”

The beautiful handwritten font

The font that is used for “a cheerful note” is based on her mother’s actual handwriting.  She dedicated this wine to her mother who passed away in 2012 to melanoma (she reminded me to wear my sunscreen as I was pink from being sunscreen free the night before watching sunset).

A cheerful Note

A cheerful Note

“I wanted to dedicate it to her and have it be a reminder of her, because she was always so supportive and told me I could do anything. Even when making wine back in 2008 was really a challenge, she was really supportive.  So that’s her handwriting.  She actually did write this, because I told her about the idea, but I couldn’t find the paper, so I had a graphic artist take her journal and piece together her handwriting from the journal and was able to make this in her perfect handwriting which her handwriting is just beautiful.”

The girl on the label

Yep there’s more, artwork of the girl on the label was done by Tracy Hayes, an artist and graphic artist in McMinnville.

a cheerful note image

a cheerful note image

“We worked together, she drew this and what it represents, is what’s in the bottle.  So I talked a little bit about masculine verses feminine flavors in wine and if you were to anthropomorphize the wine and give it human traits, this is the girl, this is the wine itself, very elegant, very classic So that’s what she is, she is the embodiment of the wine.”

The back label, a way to give back

The last story on the label is on the back.  The logos there represent the way Ariel gives back.

A cheerful Note 2013 Pinot Noir Bottle Label

A cheerful Note 2013 Pinot Noir Bottle Label

“So I had an ethical dilemma about 2 years into making wine because I was like “I’m making booze for a living”, what am I doing?  What am I giving back to society?  With Yamhill I had partnered with a non-profit and done some fundraising with them.  I had a great experience and ended up donating 10% of my profit to Boys and Girls Aid Society, so they are right in Portland and they have been around for over 130 years.  They basically help children find their forever homes.  They give them therapy, because a lot of them have been through the foster system, so they help them to be able to have trusting relationships with adults again.  They have an afterschool program, some of them stay at the facility there. I just fell in love with what they do and now it makes me feel better about what I do.”

 

You can find Ariel’s wines on her site A Cheerful Note

And you can find her on social media on facebook, Instagram & twitter.

For more information read our piece on the Uncommon Wine Festival, with our interview with Dave Pettersen the Winemaker and CEO of Vista Hills who founded the event, and check out another interview we did at the festival with Ryan Pickens of Esther Glen Farm and Winery. We look forward to bringing you interviews and discussions with all of the winemakers from this event, as well as details and visits with wineries in each of the Willamette Valley AVAs.  So check back here at Crushed Grape Chronicles  and don’t forget, you can also find us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram

And if you want to dive into details on the Willamette Valley, you can read our recent post Oregon’s Willamette Valley AVAs – a Primer

Oregon’s Willamette Valley AVAs – a Primer

Vista Hills Vineyard in the Dundee Hills AVA

Oregon’s Willamette Valley …You picture green hills, rain and beards, don’t you? Well as we visited in July, we found lots of the first, very little of the second and enough of the third to keep the myth alive.

After flying into Portland, we made the relatively quick drive, over one of the many bridges across the Willamette River and into the Willamette Valley. Our goal with this trip was to visit each of the AVA’s (American Viticulture Areas) and most of the Proposed AVA’s and learn a little about them to give us a better overall understanding of the area. We managed to visit all but one of the Proposed AVA’s. We did not have the time to make the drive to the proposed Lower Long Tom AVA, which is much closer to Eugene than to Portland.

I did a bit of research to prepare for the trip and thought I would share some of that, in case you are not familiar with the region.

Oregon

Everyone we met told us how young the area is as far as vineyards and wine. They just passed 50 years. Humility is a virtue in Oregon. The grapes began in the Willamette Valley, but today you will find 2 other regions, the Columbia Gorge and Southern Oregon, where vineyards and wineries have a definite foothold. The state has 18 AVAs with the new Van Duzer Corridor within the Willamette Valley the possible 19th. Here are a few stats from the Oregon Wine Board. https://industry.oregonwine.org.

72 Grape varieties – 725 Wineries – 30,435 planted vineyard acres

But there is more to it. 47% of the vineyards in Oregon are certified sustainable. And while they only tap into a 1% share of the US wine market, they held 20% of the Wine Spectator 90+ scores in 2015 & 2016. Quality is something they take great pride in.

Willamette Valley

This trip was focused on the Willamette Valley and the Willamette Valley Wineries Association has a gorgeous map of the Valley.

Willamette Valley Map courtesy of Willamette Valley Wine Association

Willamette Valley Map courtesy of Willamette Valley Wine Association Map data by everyvine.com, design by John Fisher, geologic cross section by Timothy A. Cross, special thanks to Patrick Reuter.”

This map shows the current AVAs, soils and even the vineyard blocks. We thank the Willamette Valley Wineries Association for allowing us to use it and pass along their acknowledgements “Map data by everyvine.com, design by John Fisher, geologic cross section by Timothy A. Cross, special thanks to Patrick Reuter.”

The Willamette Valley is 60 miles wide at it’s widest (east to west), but is over 100 miles long (north to south), so you will note that the map is flipped so that as you look at it North is to the left, East is up, South is to the right and West (where you will find the Pacific Ocean over the Coast Range) is down.

The overall valley is the Willamette Valley AVA and within it there are currently 6 sub-appellations.

Willamette Valley AVA

The overall AVA spans the area from the Portland in the North to Eugene Oregon in the South and sits between the Coastal and Cascade Ranges. Plantings began in 1966 and the AVA itself was established in 1983. The base of the valley itself is fertile and great for agriculture, except of course for grapes. Grapes need the struggle to be tasty enough to make wine. As a result, most of the vineyards will be between 200 and 1000 feet in elevation.

Within this large AVA you will find the 6 sub-appellations, one of which is nested inside another. We will work our way from North to South (left to right on the map as you look at it)

Chehalem Mountains AVA

Willamette Valley Map courtesy of Willamette Valley Wine Association

Chehalem Mountains, Ribbon Ridge AVAs (Willamette Valley Map courtesy of Willamette Valley Wine Association)

Furthest north and to the east side of the valley, you will find the Chehalem (Sha-HAY-lum) Mountains AVA. The Chehalem Mountain Range is 20 miles long and 5 miles wide and was established in 2006. Within the Range you will find Ribbon Ridge (which is its own AVA) and Parrett Mountain. The area is home to around 150 small vineyards, most average around 12.5 acres and are family owned.

Chehalem Mountains AVA from Beckham Vineyards

Chehalem Mountains AVA from Beckham Vineyards

Soils here vary. This was after-all an uplift that created the range and you find sedimentary seabed, red soils from lava flows, and glacial sediment. So you find variety in soils and within the AVA there will be both similarities and contrasts. This would be part of the reason for the nested Ribbon Ridge AVA and the proposed nested Laurelwood AVA. http://www.chehalemmountains.org/home

Yamhill-Carlton AVA

Yamhill-Carlton AVA Map

Yamhill-Carlton AVA Map (Willamette Valley Map courtesy of Willamette Valley Wine Association)

West of the Chehalem Mountains and North of McMinnville you will find the Yamhill-Carlton AVA established in 2005. The AVA was named for the two hamlets, Yamhill and Carlton nestled in the center of the horseshoe shaped ridges in the foothills of the Coast Range. The Coast range provides a rain shadow (an area where the rain typically does not fall) over the whole area.

View of Yamhill-Carlton from Fairsing vineyard

View of Yamhill-Carlton from Fairsing vineyard

The soils here are the oldest of the marine sedimentary soils in the overall Willamette Valley. The soils are coarse-grained and drain easily, which is great for making the vines struggle. https://yamhillcarlton.org/

Ribbon Ridge AVA

Willamette Valley Map courtesy of Willamette Valley Wine Association

Chehalem Mountains, Ribbon Ridge AVAs (Willamette Valley Map courtesy of Willamette Valley Wine Association)

This AVA sits within the Chehalem Mountains AVA and was established in 2005. Ribbon Ridge is a spur of ocean sediment uplift that is contained within 5.25 square miles on the northwest end of the Chehalem Mountains.

Trisaetum Vineyard in the Ribbon Ridge AVA

Trisaetum Vineyard in the Ribbon Ridge AVA

The uniform soils of ocean sediment that is high-quartz sandstone and weathered bedrock set this area of the Chehalem Mountains apart. http://ribbonridgeava.org/

Dundee Hills AVA

Dundee Hills AVA

Dundee Hills AVA (Willamette Valley Map Courtesy of Willamette Valley Wine Association)

Here is the place where the first of the grapes in the Willamette Valley were planted. It remains densely planted with around 50 vineyards in one of the busiest areas in the Willamette Valley.

This was the start of Pinot Noir in Oregon. The first Pinot vine was planted here. When we speak about the area being in it’s 50 year of growing grapes, we are talking about this place, the Dundee Hills. Eyrie, Sokol Blosser, Erath…if you know Oregon wine, you know those revered names. It was here that David Lett, Dick Erath and the Sokol Blossers took a chance and planted those first vineyards.

Vista Hills Vineyard in the Dundee Hills AVA

Vista Hills Vineyard in the Dundee Hills AVA

The Dundee Hills AVA was established in 2005. The soils here are almost all basaltic (volcanic) soil deposited by a lava flow 15 million years ago. https://dundeehills.org/about/

McMinnville AVA

McMinnville AVA

McMinnville AVA (Willamette Valley Map Courtesy of Willamette Valley Wine Association)

Also established in 2005, the McMinnville AVA takes it’s name from the city of McMinnville which sits just east of the AVA.

McMinnville AVA

Vineyards in the McMinnville AVA

The vineyards sit on the east and southeast slopes of the Coast Range where the soils are uplifted marine sedimentary over basalt. The soils here are shallow and the Coast Range protects the area from rain. https://mcminnvilleava.org/

Eola-Amity Hills AVA

Eola-Amity Hills AVA

Eola-Amity Hills AVA Map (Willamette Valley Map Courtesy of Willamette Valley Wine Association)

This AVA sits in the Eola Hill’s along the Willamette River and straddles the 45th parallel (just as Burgundy does) and reaches north to the Amity Hills.

Vineyards in the Eola-Amity Hills AVA

Vineyards in the Eola-Amity Hills AVA

Soils here are shallow and mostly volcanic basalt with with marine sedimentary rocks. It’s shallow and rocky (that tends to make small concentrated berries). The Van Duzer corridor causes summer afternoon temps to drop, which is especially helpful in late summer as the grapes are ripening, to keep the acids firm. https://eolaamityhills.com/

Proposed AVAs

There are 5 AVAs that are proposed and in process. While the Van Duzer Corridor AVA is likely to be the next approved, we are going to go North to South again so that you have a better geographical idea of where these AVAs sit. Keep in mind that we are showing you maps of the general area, the boundries are actually much more detailed. We will dive into that as we explore each of these proposed AVAs in a future post.

Tualatin Hills AVA

General Area of the proposed Tualatin Hills AVA

General Area of the proposed Tualatin Hills AVA (Willamette Valley Map courtesy of Willamette Valley Wine Association)

This area sits North of the Yamhill-Carlton AVA and West of Chehalem Mountains AVA. This AVA is horse shoe shaped and it’s southern edge butts up to the northern edge of Yamhill-Carlton. From there it stretches north following the edge of the Willamette Valley AVA and then takes a right turn East toward Portland. It shares a little bit of a border with the Chehalem Mountains AVA on it’s south east side and well as a tiny bit with the proposed Laurelwood AVA.

Montinore Vineyards in the proposed Tualatin Hills AVA

Montinore Vineyards in the proposed Tualatin Hills AVA

The soils here are Laurelwood. Not to be confused with the proposed AVA, this soil series is volcanic basalt and loess (windblown silt). In addition the reddish soils here have pisolites (tiny balls of iron manganese).

Being due east of the Coast Range also allows them a rain shadow, so conditions here are dryer and allow for diurnal temperature shifts (day to night temperatures).

Laurelwood AVA

General Area of the proposed Laurelwood AVA

General Area of the proposed Laurelwood AVA (Willamette Valley Map courtesy of Willamette Valley Wine Association)

This area is nested within the Chehalem Mountains AVA. This proposed AVA encompasses the Northern facing slopes of the Chehalem Mountains, honing in on the Laurelwood soils.

Ponzi Vineyard in the proposed Laurelwood AVA

Ponzi Vineyard in the proposed Laurelwood AVA

These Laurelwood soils are Ice Age Loess (windblown silt), contained within the Northern slopes. The southern and western facing slopes in the Chehalem Mountains are primarily Columbia River Basalt and Marine Sediment.

Van Duzer Corridor AVA

General Area of the proposed Van Duzer Corridor AVA

General Area of the proposed Van Duzer Corridor AVA (Willamette Valley Map courtesy of Willamette Valley Wine Association)

On the west side of the Eola Hills you will find the Van Duzer Corridor AVA.

Johan Vineyards in the proposed Van Duzer Corridor AVA

Johan Vineyards in the proposed Van Duzer Corridor AVA

Soils here are basalt and marine sedimentary over siltstone bedrock. The winds here are key. Eola-Amity brags about the Van Duzer Corridor winds, but here, on this side, the strong winds cause the grapes to thicken their skins.

Mt. Pisgah/Polk County AVA

General Area of the proposed Mount Pisgah AVA

General Area of the proposed Mount Pisgah AVA (Willamette Valley Map courtesy of Willamette Valley Wine Association)

South of McMinnville and West of the Eola-Amity Hills, kind of out on it’s own you will find the proposed Mt. Pisgah/Polk County AVA. West of Salem Oregon, there are just 10 vineyards and 2 wineries in this area.

Illahe Vineyard in the proposed Mount Pisgah/Polk County AVA

Illahe Vineyard in the proposed Mount Pisgah/Polk County AVA

Here the base is some of the oldest rocks in the Valley, Siletz River volcanics, and it is covered in a shallow layer of marine sedimentary soils.

Elevations here are higher and the vineyards on Mt. Pisgah are protected from extreme temperatures and wind.

Lower Long Tom AVA

General Area of the proposed Lower Long Tom AVA

General Area of the proposed Lower Long Tom AVA (Willamette Valley Map courtesy of Willamette Valley Wine Association)

Far south between Corvalis and Eugene you find the proposed Lower Long Tom AVA. This region is south of Corvalis, north of Eugene and sits on the western border of the Willamette Valley AVA. Soils here are marine sedimentary soil in the Prairie Mountain and Bellpine series.

Temps here are higher with Prairie Mountain diverting winds North and South around the area.

Next, the details….

That’s just our overview. We visited all but one of these areas and we look forward to deeper dives into each AVA, with more geeky details about climate and soil and what that means for the wines. In the meantime, if you are looking for further information, you can visit Willamette Valley Wine, Oregon Wine, or check out this great article in the Oregon Wine Press.

And if you are as in love with this beautiful map as I am, you can get one of your own at Willamette Valley Wine

Watch here as we delve deeper into Oregon Wines. We have multiple interviews with fascinating wine makers to share with you, including a morning spent with Rudy Marchesi of Montinore Estate, who is instrumental in the proposed Tualatin Hills AVA.

You can also read our piece on the Uncommon Wine Festival, with our interview with Dave Pettersen the Winemaker and CEO of Vista Hills who founded the event. We look forward to bringing you interviews and discussions with all of the winemakers from this event. So check back here at Crushed Grape Chronicles . And don’t forget, you can also find us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram

White Sangria – the perfect wine cocktail for spring and summer

Sangria Test with Sav Blanc

I love wine and typically I am a purist, wanting to stick my nose in a glass and breathe in the aromas of the place where the grapes were grown, the seasons they saw and the soil they came from.  But spring hits and I’m looking for something for a party that is a little less intellectual and a little more fun.  That’s where sangria comes in.  The great thing for me is, that I can still geek out, finding pairings to go with the wine for the sangria and riff on some great recipes.

We started testing some recipes for a white sangria, for a party coming up later this month.

I came across a great pin shared by Wine Enthusiast The Anatomy of Sangria which is perfect for giving you the basics to riff on! The base of sangria is wine, then you can add fruit, liquor, fruit juice, sweetener, a mixer and then garnish.  This really is a wine cocktail.

I also came across a recipe on Pinterest for a cucumber melon sangria https://www.bhg.com/recipe/cucumber-sangria/ .  So we did a play on the one recipe and created another, for testing and tasting to find a crowd-pleaser for our upcoming sangria and tapas party.

Sangria lineup

Sangria alcohol lineup

Based on the Cucumber Sangria recipe, we decided to try two styles with a sauvignon blanc as the base.  I made a simple syrup (equal parts water and sugar, on the stove, bring to a boil and cook 3 minutes until the sugar dissolves, then cool), and let it cool while we went shopping for ingredients.  The great thing about this is that you can just roam the produce section and find things that speak to you of the winen you’ve decided to use.  We picked up lemons and limes, which seemed a no-brainer with a sauvignon blanc.  Of course we picked up a cucumber and honeydew melon for the recipe we had, and then a granny smith apple, lemon grass, mint, basil, starfruit & ginger.  We had honey at home, as well as rum, triple sec and some sparkling water.

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After chopping up all the ingredients, I settled on two blends.

Cucumber melon Sangria

  • cucumber slices
  • honeydew melon
  • lime
  • fresh mint
  • sauvignon blanc
  • triple sec
  • simple syrup
  • sparkling water

So because I was just doing a test, I used 1/2 bottle of wine.  I used about a 1/4 each of the cucumber, lime and honeydew.  The lime and cucumber I halved lengthwise and then sliced thinly, since I was not going to let this soak too long.  The melon I just scooped with a spoon, but you could use a melon baller (as I probably will when I make a full batch).  I used about 1 ounce of triple sec and 1/4 cup of simple syrup.  I tossed the fruit in the carafe first, added the wine and then the triple sec and simple syrup and swished it a bit before tossing it in the fridge. The sparkling water gets added as it is served.

 

Starfruit Sangria

  • Starfruit
  • lemon
  • lime
  • granny smith apple
  • basil
  • lemon grass
  • ginger
  • honey
  • rum
  • sauvignon blanc
  • sparkling water

Again I used the remainder of the sav blanc and a quarter of the other fruits thinly sliced.  This one gets called “starfruit” because it’s the showiest fruit in the glass.  I layered the fruits in, added the basil (2 sprigs), lemon grass (1 piece cut in half) and ginger (which was peeled and sliced thinly and you only need a little, 4 or 5 small slices). I mixed the honey with the rum so the honey would incorporate into the liquid and not be globby and added it and the wine.  Another swish and into the fridge.

I let them sit for maybe 30 minutes.  Then I added a little ice to a couple of wine glasses, poured in the sangria and dug out some of the fruit from the carafe to go in the glass.  We tasted first, then added sparkling water.  The extra fizz really works nicely.  The cucumber melon was perfect, which means you can make this fresh and serve almost immediately.  The starfruit, probably needs a little more time to meld.  It was a little tart, so perhaps more honey next time?  And I think I like triple sec better than the rum in these white sangrias. I also think that I would add kiwi to this recipe in the future. I had skipped the kiwi this time, because I thought it would be too mushy, but in retrospect, it would have integrated into the wine and given it an added sweetness.  All in all, it was lovely, but when you take a sip of the cucumber melon, you know you have found a crowd-pleaser.  The melon adds a lovely sweetness, you still get this bright clean fragrance from the cucumbers and then the mint just knocks it out of the park.  So we found our white sangria.

If you look at the Wine Enthusiasts Sangria Anatomy, you will note that I did not add a juice.  I didn’t need one, I feel like I would be more likely to add juice to a red sangria, to help to cut the alcohol a bit,but really, you should do your own taste test and see what you like best.

There are so many options with Sangria, you can even leave fresh fruit and herbs out so that guests can mix their own.  Grab a wine, find the flavors in it and create your own sangria recipe.  Don’t forget to come back and share with us! I will be on to test a red recipe next!

You can find more information on wines, restaurants and on wine country and on Crushed Grape Chronicles  .  You can also find us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram

 

 

Spring in the Vineyard

Spring time in the vineyard
Grapevines and mustard growing in California's Napa Valley

Grapevines and mustard growing in California’s Napa Valley

Spring arrived a week or so ago, and much of the country has finally seen flowers start to bloom and things start to green up.  I have kept track of spring in California, as vineyards in many areas saw early an early warm spell, which actually caused an early bud break for some white varietals in Napa Valley.  This was followed by cold spells that had vineyard managers seeing sleepless nights as they monitored for frost.  Then they got rain and clouds, that turned early spring breakers away from the coast.  Now the warm temps are back and bud break has begun in many areas.

Now I am seeing beautiful photos on my Instagram feed of vineyards carpeted in green, dotted with flowers and the dormant vines spouting plumps ends, that are starting to open and leaf out.  So it seems appropriate to dive into a little of what happens in spring in the vineyards.

Spring

Perfect spring conditions have the weather warming gradually. The barren vines become dotted with bright green buds. Bud break when the tiny buds of green burst forward with those vividly bright green leaves. The vines coming back to life after being dormant all winter is a time for celebration right?

Sadly, with spring comes spring frosts, and those are a nightmare for those who work in the vineyards.

Paso Robles vineyard in the Central Coast Wine Country

A beautiful West Side Paso Vineyard in the hills, green with spring.

Frost & frost protection

If you have ever driven by a citrus grove in winter, you might see the big barrels for fire (smudge pots) and fans to spread around the warm air. This can be used in vineyards also.

Fans

Large fans or wind machines are used in vineyards to move the air around. This directs the warmer air from above down toward the vines and displaces the colder air on the ground away from the vines. You need one of these machines for every 10 to 12 acres of vineyard.

Heaters

Heaters or smudge pots can be used to heat the air in the vineyards. These heaters typically burn about a gallon of diesel oil per hour and give off a thick warm smoke that the vineyard fans then circulate to keep the vines from freezing. Mind you, this is not just about the heat from the smudge pots, it is also about the smoke, particulates, carbon dioxide and water vapor. This “smog” is a layer blocking out infrared light which prevents radiant cooling. This method requires about 25 smudge pots per acre, which are typically at the edges of the vineyard.

Balleto Winery, Sprinkler head in Vineayrd

Balletto Winery, Sprinkler head in Vineyard

Overhead sprinklers

Now most vineyards now also have an overhead sprinkler system. When it gets to freezing a fine mist is turned on, it coats the buds and keeps them from freezing. Here’s the magic of this, as the water changes to ice, it releases a small amount of heat and that is what protects the vines. Of course this depends on the water continuing to flow and continuing to freeze and give off this latent heat. Of course this leaves you at the mercy of the amount of water in a vineyard. During times of drought this kind of frost protection becomes difficult.

Preventative mowing

Vineyards will also mow down the cover crops to allow for airflow down off of hillsides and into valleys. This protects the hillside vines. Also they do not till or cultivate the soil, because that would let out the heat in the soil.

What kind of damage can frost do?

It can completely wipe out the buds on a vine. Vines can re-sprout, they will do this if the primary buds are destroyed. The problem with this is that when your pruned, you set up for where the vine would sprout and the secondary sprouts may not be so conveniently located. It also will severely diminish the amount of grapes for harvest.

This is why many vineyard managers and winemakers spend endless sleepless nights in the spring worrying about frost. Nights are spent tracking temperature patterns hourly and if the temperature drops getting out there and turning on that frost protection equipment and hoping for the best. Okay…enough of the scary part…on to bud break.

Bud break

This is the opening of the buds left behind by pruning. These fuzzy beady little things have all the stuff to grow leaves, shoots, tendrils and berries.

Norton Grape Vine at Chrysalis Tasting Room

Norton Grape Vine at Chrysalis Tasting Room

Flowering

About a month after bud bread the flowers come out. These are tight bunches of tiny flowers, and each flower has the potential to become a grape.

Shatter

Standby for more scary stuff. Wind and frost can wipe out the flowers and that would mean that those bunches of grapes would never form. There is the possibility of a re-sprout, but at this point in the vines season the yield will be considerably smaller.

Fruit Set

This is when the flowers start to take the shape of grapes in the cluster. As the are pollinated the flowers drop their petals and tiny green sphere emerge.

Now things are warming up and we are moving into summer.  When things really get rolling in the vineyard!

You can check out our pages on the seasons in the vineyard at “the seasons”

You can also find us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram

What is Terret Noir?

Wine & Cheese Pairing with Tablas Creek Terret Noir 2105

Terret Noir

Terret Noir is a Rhône Valley Grape that is dark but thinned skinned and produces a light colored wine. It is one of the 13 grapes permitted for blending in Châteauneuf-du-Pape, although it totals just 2 acres of vineyard in the region. Like Grenache you will also find Terret Blanc and Terret Gris the other color variations in the grape. Terret Noir is thought to be originally from Languedoc where Terret Gris was once grown widely and used in the production of vermouth.

This grape buds late (which is great, so you don’t have as much frost worry with it), produces abundantly and brings a freshness to other varieties when blended.

Terret Noir in Paso Robles

Tablas Creek Vineyard in Paso Robles brought this grape in with their program to bring all 13 of the Châteauneuf-de-Pape grapes to their vineyard.  We had the opportunity to taste a single varietal of Terret Noir in their tasting room and took a bottle of the 2015 with us. (They made this as a single varietal in 2013, 2014 & 2015)

It was indeed a light colored wine, transparent cranberry red, leaning more toward orange than purple in my glass.  On the nose you get bright red fruit and spice with dried strawberries and brambles, like a walk in a meadow in summer after rain as you get all the lush green grasses drying in the sun.

In your mouth it is pomegranate and bright spices and the flesh of a bright red plum.

We paired it with a cheese and charcuterie plate and found it made the parmesan cheese taste sharper and less salty.  The dry Italian salami brightened the fruit in the wine while the wine brought out the savory tones in the salami.

Tablas Creek plans to use this as a blending grape. Watch for it to appear with Syrah and Grenache in a 2016 blend.

I always enjoy exploring those underappreciated grape varieties.  It widens your palate and reminds you that there is so much more out there than Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay.

This wine pairs well with braised vegetables, grilled eggplant and salty meats and cheeses.

Come back and see what other great wine varieties we are tasting. Keep up to date on all of our posts by following us on Crushed Grape Chronicles  .  You can also find us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram

Winter in the Vineyard

winter-vineyard

Winter in the Vineyard. It’s the quiet time. Harvest is over, the cellar has done their thing and now the wine sits quietly and ages. The leaves in the vineyard turn red or golden and then fall, the vines are going dormant. They will get pruned mid winter, cutting back the vines to ensure a healthy crop for next year.

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Fertilizing the vineyard

Now is the time to compost the vineyard. Many vineyards save the unripe fruit and/or pomice (the skins from the grapes after the wine is pressed off) to use in their compost. Sometimes additional fertilizers will be added. (We like when they used the natural kind). Then the soil is disked to get the nutrients mixed in with the topsoil. This way when the rain comes the soil can soak up all these nutrients.

Grapevines and mustard growing in California's Napa Valley

Grapevines and mustard growing in California’s Napa Valley

Cover Crops

Cover crops will also be seeded, and coming up, likely making the vineyards look green in early winter. Cover crops help with keeping down erosion, adding nutrients back into the soil and help lure in those beneficial insects. Vineyards with sheep and other animals may have them out grazing in the vines. This helps keep the soil loose and adds natural fertilizer.

Pruning

Pruning may seem simple. It’s just cutting back the vines of course, but there is strategy involved.

A weaker vine may be pruned more deeply than a healthy vine.

Pruning also has some determining factors for harvest. As you prune you determine the number of spurs per vine (the knubs left of the pruned branch which will bud out in the spring). Each spur will have a shoot in the spring that will probably hold 2 clusters. So when you prune you can calculate your crop size for the next vintage (of course accounting for frost, shatter, birds, rot and rain, LOL).

There is also the matter of timing in pruning. All the vines of a varietal that you prune at the same time are likely to ripen at about the same time. So spreading the pruning out a little, changes the pacing of your harvest. And Pruning will stimulate the vines causing them to push out earlier. So depending on your forecast for spring, you might hold your pruning until later.

The pruning typically removes most of the canes leaving just those spurs. As you prune you can see how the sap is flowing. The sap flows stronger as you close in on bud break

These vine cuttings can be used to graft to new rootstock to plant again.

Pruning is often done by hand and it is laborious work. There are Pre-pruning machines that can cut the larger parts of the canes back, making it easier to get in and finish the job by hand.

As winter ends we will head toward spring and as the sap starts to flow and we get closer to bud break the sleepless nights when freeze warnings happen. But that’s for Spring (and you thought spring was all bright greens and flowers?)

 

find out more of how the Seasons work in Wine country.

Corner 103 – more than just wine tasting in Sonoma

Corner 103 wine glasses

Just across the street from Sonoma Plaza in beautiful downtown Sonoma sits Corner 103. Appropriately it is on the Corner and the address is 103 West Napa Street. It’s an understated name. If you go by early in the day you are likely to see a man outside sweeping the sidewalk in front of the establishment. That man would be the founder and owner Lloyd Davis. Understated is a word that describes Lloyd well, he is soft spoken and mild mannered, and his tasting room, which is much more than a tasting room, like the man himself, is sparkling and spotless.

Corner 103 Sonoma

Corner 103 on the Sonoma Square

We had a 2 pm appointment for a Cheese Experience. Brent welcomed us and then Lloyd joined us at the table which was glistening with glasses of wine and plates of cheese and something more. Lloyd intends this to be an experience, and an educational one. This is not just educational in that you learn about wine, but that you learn about what you like and don’t like in wine. Every palate is different and the intention is for you to experience how you can find things that speak to your taste buds.

The table is beautiful with the glasses, and I realize that there are many different styles of glasses before me, each specific to the wine that it holds. While you can drink wine from any sort of container or glass, the right shape of glass can greatly enhance the experience, bringing out the aromas in a wine and channeling them in just the right way for you to be able to most appreciate them.

Under each glass sits a coaster size card giving you the wine, the area the grapes came from, the Vintage and any awards that the wine has garnered. Flip the card over and you are treated to even more information. This begins with a short description from Lloyd and then includes a map of the Sonoma Valley, with the specific area that the grapes for this wine were pulled from highlighted. It goes on to give you the Blend, the Total Production, Alcohol, the Appropriate glass style to drink it from, the Harvest and Bottling Dates, how it was aged, the appropriate serving temperature and the price. It’s quite a bit of information I know, but for a wine geek like me…heaven.

In addition there was a card specific to our tasting with each wine and the cheese and other other small bits.

As we chatted and Lloyd explained a little about Corner 103, he invited us to enjoy some of the 2015 Sauvignon Blanc. This allowed us to prime our palates and get into discussing the wine and what we tasted. He asked each of us and explained that we were likely to experience the wine differently, our taste buds and experiences are unique to each of us and affect how we interpret flavors.

Corner 103 cheese Experience Sonoma

The Cheese Experience at Corner 103 in Sonoma

We moved on to the 2014 Chardonnay from the Sonoma Coast which was paired with and Italian Style table cheese as well as crushed roasted hazelnuts. The process went as follows; taste the wine, taste the cheese, taste the wine with the cheese and finally taste the wine with the cheese and the hazelnuts. The idea is to identify what you are tasting separately with the wine, then the cheese and then how they are different when they are together. Adding the hazelnuts at the end change what you experience yet again. Depending on what you enjoyed or disliked about each bite, Lloyd can suggest a pairing. If you enjoyed the wine with the cheese, try a darker meat chicken, if you didn’t like it with the cheese try it with white meat chicken (adjusting the fat content). If you liked the addition of hazelnuts, perhaps try adding something earth to the dish like mushrooms. The possibilities are endless, but this small pairing can give you direction for planning an entire meal.

We continued on moving into the red wines:

2013 Pinot Noir from the Russian River Valley with California Daisy Cheddar & Dried Cherries

2012 Zinfandel from Dry Creek Valley with Asiago & Dried Herbs

2012 Merlot from the Alexander Valley with Oro Secco & Bacon Bits

2012 Red Blend (Merlot, Syrah, Zinfandel & Petite Sirah with Romanello Dolce & Green Peppercorns

2012 Cabernet Sauvignon from the Sonoma Valley with Mezzo Secco & Blackberry Preserve.

Each time the sequence was the same; wine, cheese, wine & cheese, wine & cheese & the added flavor. Michael and I surprised ourselves with some of the differences in our tastes. Throughout the experience Lloyd encouraged us to not worry about what was right or wrong. We are each experts on what we are tasting. His quiet and thoughtful demeanor allowed us to open up to our own thoughts and interpretations.

With Corner 103 Lloyd is committed to creating a safe space for everyone to learn and embrace the wine expert inside each of us. He finds that too many people are intimidated by wines. His wines strive to be approachable.

The experience is really extraordinary and you are treated as an honored guest from the moment that you walk in the door. While we were there, the beautiful park was right across the street, people and cars were going by, people came and went, at least I think they did, I was completely absorbed in the experience.

You can visit the Corner 103 website to schedule one of these amazing tastings.

Keep up to date on all of our posts by following us on Crushed Grape Chronicles . You can also find us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram

 

a Corner 103 Photo Gallery

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Flash tour Central Coast Wine Country and Beyond – Day 2 Sonoma

Gloria Ferrer Vineyard Carneros

We continue our 6 day journey through Central Coast Wine Country and a little beyond with Day 2, which is the beyond part.  After driving from Vegas to Santa Barbara and making our way up the coast through San Luis Obispo and Paso Robles, we ended Day 1 in Monterey.  Our 2nd day takes us to Sonoma.

Day 2 Monterey to Sonoma

Sky at Marina Dunes

Morning Sky at Marina Dunes

 

The sky was lit up beautifully behind the clouds as we headed out from Marina California, just south of Monterey in the morning.  We hit the road to make the drive to Sonoma.

Gloria Ferrer

We started the day with some bubbly at Gloria Ferrer in Carneros. The wine, the view, the gardens and the service all started the day off beautifully. We will do a detailed post on our tasting later…for now, just soak in some of the beautiful scenery and bubbles.

Viansa

This is the southern end of Sonoma and we made one more stop in the area at Viansa. The grounds here are beautiful and the views phenomenal. They are committed here to preserving the wetlands habitat that surrounds the vineyards.  After soaking up the views, it was time to head into the city of Sonoma.

Sonoma Plaza

We had time for a visit to the Sonoma Plaza to relax and watch the ducks and take in some of the art.

At the center of the plaza is the City Hall built in the early 20th century.  It was built with all 4 sides identical, so as not to offend any of the merchants and businesses on the surrounding square.  It has a beautiful duck pond on the corner where I rested soaked in the calm and enjoyed some of the wonderful large art pieces.

Corner 103

Now it was time to head across the street to Corner 103 where we had a 2pm Cheese Experience Scheduled. This is a great way to start a wine trip, they will guide you through a tasting of Corner 103 wines, paired with cheeses and help you to find our what your preferences are. Schedule in advance and allow at least an hour and a half. (And watch for an in-depth posting on our experience here)

Day 3 has us exploring Napa, more of Sonoma and taking a trip out to the Livermore Valley!  Come back for more of the trip!

Keep up to date on all of our posts by following us on Crushed Grape Chronicles  .  You can also find us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram

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Summer Heat with a refreshing Vinho Verde

Food pairing with Vinho Verde

It’s hot. I mean, Vegas Hot, which is like someone opened the oven in your face when you walk out the door. A little breeze? Yeah, that feels like they turned on the blow dryer. We acclimate, but often you just need something refreshing. So you sit in the air conditioning pour a glass of Vinho Verde and ask Alexa to play ocean waves. If the fan is on in the living room you can pretend it’s an ocean breeze.  Here, I pulled up a bit of sunset from off the Pacific Coast highway to put you in the mood.

Well tonight is the night for that getaway. The Vinho Verde is chilling in the fridge and I have put together a menu to compliment it.

Vinho Verde. It means “green wine” or rather “young wine” by intent. This wine is meant to drink in the first year. And while the name indicates that it is a young wine, the name actually stands for a region in Northern Portugal, where these wines are made.

Espiral Vinho Verde

Vinho What?

Vinho Verde. It means “green wine” or rather “young wine” by intent. This wine is meant to drink in the first year. And while the name indicates that it is a young wine, the name actually stands for a region in Northern Portugal, where these wines are made.  You can learn more about this region on the Wines of Portugal site.

What grape do they use?

Most often Alvarinho and Loureiro, but also Arinto, Trajadura, Avesso, and Azal, among others. So, as you see, the variety and range can be wide.  Still these wines are typically made in a similar style.

What’s that fizziness?

Yeah, it’s kinda effervescent. At least sometimes. Originally this was because the bottles would still be fermenting a little after they were capped and that locked in some of the CO2. Now…well honestly, it’s often added. But regardless, it does make it refreshing.

So what are you eating it with?

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Seafood is always a good bet. A meatier white fish or something fried. We are having fried Calamari and Mahi Mahi burgers. It goes well with green vegetables, so I’m going to have a salad with some avocado (a little fat that the acid in the wine will cut through). Creamy rice dishes and potato dishes also pair well, so we will be doing a brown rice and quinoa blend with onions, butter, lemon juice and zest and some parmesan cheese, and latkes. I think arancini balls would be great with this too. We will taste it with Salmon, smoked trout, goat cheese and a parm/gouda blend also.

Now…about the wine.

This Vinho Verde is from  Espiral.  The wine is bright and when I close my eyes I can feel sea spray flying up from where it is crashing on the wet rocks (there’s my mini vacation). In my mouth it fizzes and opens with a bright tangy citrus. It’s lemon pop without the sweetness or the tartness of “Fresca” (who remembers Fresca?) without the bitterness. It’s joyful as well as thoughtful. The initial sip brings a smile that almost erupts to a giggle and then melts into a quiet moment of savoring, like closing your eyes to capture a moment at sunset on the beach. That…that is what is here in this glass, that balance of euphoric joy and a content sense of peace.

What did it bring to the food?

The calamari was fine. This is such a typically pairing that it was good without sending off any bells and whistles. The Latkes, now that was another story. The potato and onion had such richness and the lemon and acid in the wine cleaned your palate for the next bite. I could have continued eating this combination all night. Our salad of greens would have been fine alone with the wine, but add the avocado to give it some creaminess and fat to cut through, a little goat cheese for some tang and a vinaigrette of lemon juice, olive oil and thyme and the pairing had real depth in each bite. The Mahi Mahi had a lemon butter sauce  of lemon juice, melted butter salt, a dash of Worcestershire sauce and fresh thyme.   The weight of the fish and the lemon butter were perfect and the fresh thyme added this bit of unexpected depth that all played very nicely with the wine. Our grain was brown rice with quinoa to which I added butter, lemon juice, lemon zest and grated Parmesan cheese. Again, the creaminess and the lemon were perfect with the wine, the creaminess balanced the acid and the lemon popped back in to match. So like contrasting and complementary colors, these flavors pulled from different sides of the flavor wheel to make for a happy mouth.

Vinho Verde with Mahi Mahi, brown rice, avocado salad, calamari and latkes

We also tried it with a smoke salmon and a smoked trout.  The salmon was fine (kinda like the calamari).  I did notice that the flavor disappeared at first and then slowly returned to fill my mouth.  The trout on the other hand was really wonderful with the wine.  Being smokier it felt richer than the salmon and complimented the lemon and mineral nature of the wine.  This was an unexpected happy mix, inland creeks longing to return to the sea.

What I learned about pairing with Vinho Verde

Lemon, lemon, lemon

….that punch of lemon in your dish will reach out for the wine and want to dance.

Something richer and creamy

Then add a little creaminess, some fat to cut through, like the butter and cheese in the rice or the goat cheese and avocado in the salad. Or the richness of the potato and onion in the Latkes.

Fried is good

This wine is great with things that are fried, the salt and fat coat your palate and the acid and fizziness of the wine leave you with a clean slate for the next bite.  (like the calamari and most definitely the Latkes)

Seafood is a really good bet

The Mahi Mahi paired nicely because of the weight and the sauce.  A lighter fish I think would have disappeared.  Any fish that is not too delicate should go nicely.  I would like to try it with Swordfish or monkfish. Shrimp is also supposed to be a good bet.  With the minerality…I am also wondering about shell-fish, clams or fresh oysters.  Maybe I’ll try that next time.

Thyme, the unexpected harmony

Most recipes called for basil or parsley and while I can see that, I didn’t have any in the fridge.  I was left with Rosemary and Thyme as my options.  I went with Thyme.  As I added it I was wishing it was a lemon thyme to accent those fragrances, but in the end, I think it was better as it was.  The depth of fragrance really was an unexpected harmony to the meal.  This earthiness, a bit of forest, maybe again it’s that “land meets the sea” creating a balance.

I wrote about Vinho Verde once before and had a different pairing then.  You can check it out here:  Pairings at the Keyboard! Vinho Verde

Stop back here at Crushed Grape Chronicles  for more on wines and pairings and for stories of winemakers in winecountry.  You can also find us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram

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