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]

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

Grapes of Southern Oregon with Leah Jørgensen

Leah Jorgensen Pirate Princess

Leah Jørgensen makes wines from grapes in southern Oregon, primarily from the Rogue and Applegate Valleys.  In our previous post (link here) we discussed the soils of the region.  Now we get into the grapes she is growing and why the climate in Southern Oregon is good for these grapes.

Oregon-Wine-Map-Southern-OR-AVA Courtesy of Oregon Wine Board

Oregon-Wine-Map-Southern-OR-AVA
Courtesy of Oregon Wine Board

You’re making wines that are mostly from Rogue River Valley?

Rogue and Applegate, correct.

So much further south than this.  How is the climate different there?

Well for one thing, there is this perception that it is so much hotter down there, but you just have longer days of heat, that’s the biggest difference than when I compare it to the Willamette Valley.  And then the other thing is, the elevation, the valley floor starts at around 900 foot elevation, so by the time we get to some of our vineyards  you get some decent elevation right?  So that means in the evenings it cools off quite a bit in the vineyards.  So when we think of things like acid and sugar ripening, you get the long days you want for ripening that is necessary for grapes like Malbec and Cab Franc, but then you also get these cooler evenings that give off this wonderful balance of acidity with the fruit.  So when we pick we get…Cab franc just naturally has high acidity, so we’re just getting everything we want out of this particular fruit in Southern Oregon.

Are they growing a lot of Cab Franc in Southern Oregon?

There is not a lot of Cab Franc grown in Oregon in general, but it is still one of the most widely planted varietals in the world.  I even have some statistics in here from a report, the first official Cab Franc report* I’ve seen that we’ve been mentioned in and she kinda gives every question you’ve ever wanted to know about Cab Franc, about the plantings, including the plantings that are, I think it was based on 2010, so I know there has been more planted since then.  So when they do the next grape consensus I guess in 2020 they will see a bit of a jump. But there is not a lot of it to be honest.  I have to search for what I want to grow, but the growers I work with are also onboard with what I’m doing so they will plant more for me.  Which is great.

So  you work really closely with your growers?  So you are really in touch with what’s happening during the season.

Yes, exactly, so I’m in it.

For down there, when do you run into bud break and when do  you end up doing harvest?  Is the season longer there?

It actually usually starts earlier than up here for the whites and then for reds, just because these grapes require a little bit longer time on the vine, I make my wine at Raptor Ridge Winery so while they are bringing in their Pinot Noir, it’s great, we don’t butt heads on timing, my stuff’s coming in a little bit later.  My Cab Franc and even my Gamay, up here in the Willamette Valley is a late ripener, so that comes a little bit later.  Which is interesting, comparing the Willamette Valley to Southern Oregon, Gamay is one of our last picks, which is Willamette Valley.  It comes in after our Malbec, which would technically be our last pick.

*We happen to be big fans of Pam Heiligenthal and Enobytes and if you like getting geeky about wine The Cabernet Franc Report is an in depth and thorough look at Cab Franc as it is grown around the globe.

 

Check out Leah’s updated website at https://leahjorgensencellars.com/

You can find her on on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram too!

And join us back here at Crushed Grape Chronicles  as we continue sharing our conversation with Leah (Yes there is more.  Next we talk about her Sauvignon Blanc and her use of Acacia barrels for white wine)!  And don’t forget, you can also find us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram

Leah Jørgensen – Pirate Princess and Winemaker

Leah Jorgensen Pirate Princess

Leah Jørgensen – Pirate Princess and Winemaker, that’s what it reads on her business card.

Leah Jørgensen - Pirate Princess and Winemaker

Leah Jørgensen – Pirate Princess and Winemaker

I had heard about Leah Jørgensen.  There was a post of a great wine label on Instagram by a fellow wine writer, talking about this White Cab Franc.   Yep, you read that right, White Cab Franc.  I then saw her name as one of the winemakers that would be at the Uncommon Wine Festival at Vista Hills that we were planning to go to during our trip to the Willamette Valley, and I was anxious to taste this wine and talk with her about it.  I had no idea how enchanting her wines would be or that we would spend a fascinating hour talking with her, not just about her wines, but about the vineyards she sources from and the ancient seabed that lies beneath the top soil in the southern part of Oregon.

We are not alone in finding her fascinating; She was named one of “15 Women in Wine to Watch” by FOOD & WINE (March 2018) and her wines have been well reviewed by Wine Enthusiast on numerous occasions.  She is putting Cab Franc on the map in Oregon.

A little bit about the Pirate Princess and Winemaker

Leah was previously a representative for a wine distributor in Washington DC.  She worked with embassies, providing them wines from a portfolio she managed.  She is partial to the Loire Valley and many of her wines (most) are influenced by this love.

She comes from a family that has always been passionate about wine.  Her mother’s family has been making wine in Italy since the 1700’s, Her grandfather’s family made barrels in Austria.  Her father was raised on a farm outside of Eugene and her cousins own the fisherman’s market in Eugene, and are fishermen who run boats that go up to Alaska.  So creating great wines that pair with shellfish…well, that’s really in her blood.

We spent a bit of time at the Uncommon Wine Festival talking with Leah.  She’s incredibly knowledgeable and passionate.  Conversations with her, you just don’t want them to end.  As a result, we have a collection of 7 videos from our interview with her, discussing soils and climate in Southern Oregon, the grapes she uses, the influences of the Loire Valley and several of the wines she was pouring that day including her Sauvignon Blanc, Blanc de Cabernet Franc, Rosé of Cab Franc, her “Tour Rain” blend and her Malbec.

Leah Jørgensen on Southern Oregon and it’s soils

So we begin our conversation with her speaking about the Southern Oregon Soil series and how the Loire Valley influenced her wine making.

“…we are definitely inspired by the Loire Valley, but we are very fully aware that Southern Oregon is not the Loire Valley, just like the Willamette Valley is not Burgundy.  We have points of reference, reasons why we can grow some of the same varietals.  With Southern Oregon, looking at some of the vineyard sites that we have like Crater View Ranch which we work with, with our Malbec, our Sauvignon Blanc and some of our Cab Franc, there’s ancient marine shellfish, shell imprints, shell fossils and blue schist, ocean bottom rock and this is all present from a subduction that happened 250 million years ago.  So mostly when we talk about Oregon Wine and soil series, we are often talking about the Willamette Valley and the Missoula flood, and the influence of the Missoula Flood which happened about 17 million years ago, so now we are talking about really ancient 250 million years ago.  The stuff that we are seeing in those vineyards in the Rogue and Applegate, but especially in these particular vineyards in the Rogue, they even predate the Old World.  When we think of the Loire Valley, my inspiration, Paris used to be under a tidal basin, so all of the waters that were in that tidal basin around Paris are now the vineyards for the Loire valley.  So you find shellfish and ancient marine fossils in some of the vineyards of the Loire Valley.  That episode, when the water was all in those vineyards in that area, that was about 100 million years ago, So our geological episode happened 150 million years before that, so Old World, right?  I’m really proud of that, I love talking about these soil series and the ancient marine shellfish, because I think it’s a new dawn for Oregon wine to talk about other regions that have really fascinating geological stories.  So that’s really the inspiration for me, capturing the sense of place and the soils and then also the grapes that seem to make sense, Cab Franc Malbec, (in the Loire Valley they call it Côt), Sauvignon Blanc.”

 

This is just the start of our conversation with Leah.  We went on to learn about the grape varieties and how they grow in southern Oregon, and then we talked about each of her wines as we dipped our nose in the glass and tasted each.

Check out Leah’s updated website at https://leahjorgensencellars.com/

You can find her on on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram too!

And join us back here at Crushed Grape Chronicles  as we continue sharing our conversation with Leah!  And don’t forget, you can also find us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram

Farmer Fizz? An exploration of Grower Champagne with the French #Winophiles

Pierre Péters Champagne Rosé for Albane

Grower Champagne, Farmer Fizz it’s been called. Why do we want to drink it? Why would I prefer “a dirt to glass story” to go with my bubbly? Who wouldn’t?

Quick breakdown on Champagne

You are probably already aware that just because it is fizzy wine, doesn’t mean you can call it Champagne. That title is reserved for sparkling wines made in the Methode Champenois in the Champagne region of France. (for more on what makes Champagne different dive into our piece “Sparkling Wine or Champagne“.)In the US in California they labeled bubbly as Champagne for a bit, (something to do we us not ratifying the Treaty of Versailles, back in 1919. When we then signed the wine trade agreement with France in 2006, Korbel was grandfathered in to be allowed to use the name Champagne) and France put the kibosh on that.

So to be called Champagne you must come from the Champagne Region in France. Now within that there are more distinctions and here is where “Grower Champagne” comes in.

Most Champagnes come from large Champagne Houses or Maisons.  These houses may have estate vineyards, but they also source from all over the region, pulling grapes from small growers.  They then blend the juice and often blend in some previous vintages.  The goal?  To create a uniform wine NV (non vintage) that will have consistent flavor and quality from year to year.  A noble pursuit!  And many fine Champagnes come from these houses.

 

The Champagne AOC is one of the largest in France covering 340,000 hectares with over 300 Villages. 

80% of the wine coming out of this AOC is produced by Négociants and Coopératives.

They can pull from anywhere in the AOC AND they can purchase not only grapes, but pressed juice or in some cases sur-lattes (that is pre-made sparkling wine).

 

Grower Champagne

Picture the small winery, one that has maybe been in the family for generations, growing grapes and now, rather than selling those grapes to someone else to blend, they keep those grapes and make their own wine.  This is a wine that speaks of their land, their soil and their style.  We love this in wineries, don’t we?  It’s tougher to do in Champagne, because the bubbly, well… the equipment is expensive and the process is time consuming.

For those who don’t have the money to invest in the equipment you find Cooperatives, places where smaller vineyard owners can get together and make a Champagne from a village. These vineyards bring their grapes together and one winemaker will often make a cuvée.  These are often vintage Champagnes. These are noted on the bottle with “CM” for Coopérative Manipulant.

True Grower Champagne comes from a Vigneron.  Someone who owns the land, farms the land, harvests the grapes and makes the wine.  They are typically vintage Champagnes and the best part about this (IMHO) is that they taste different from year to year.  As with good still wines, you are able to taste the terroir.  It makes tasting much more exciting in my opinion.

Types of Champagne Producers

So a quick breakdown on the one set of codes that you will find in fine print on the Champagne Bottle that can help you determine the origin of your Champagne.

ND Négociant Distributeur

  • These guys are the labeler/marketers.  They buy a Champagne, label it and sell it.

MA Marque d’Acheteur

  • Kinda like ND’s, they just buy a wine and private label it with their brand.

(So I don’t have alot of use for these top two.  If you need to buy a whole bunch of Champagne for a celebration and no one is going to notice quality…well maybe then.  I mean bubbles are bubbles, but if you have a choice…look for the codes below)

NM Négociant Manipulant

  • They may buy all or some of their grapes from others.  Deal is that anything under 94% estate fruit puts you in this category.  While big houses are typically in this class, it’s easy for others other to get lopped in also.

CM Coopérative Manipulant

  • These are the Co-ops we talked about above.  This is a group of growers that work together to make a single wine or brand.

RC Récoltant Coopérateur

  • This is a small grower, who rather that purchasing their own equipment, has it made at a co-op facility (we see lots of this style of co-op popping up in California for wineries)

SR Sociéty de Récolants

  • This is a group of growers who get together to buy the equipment to share and then each produce their own wine.  (These spots are popping up in California too for still wines.  The Buellton Bodegas that Michael Larner started is a great example, they have separate warehouses for each winery, but they share the larger more expensive equipment)

RM Récolant Manipulant

  • This is where it’s at in my book.  They grow the grapes (a minimum of 95% must be estate)

Where do you find this on the label?  Well, it varies, but typically it is in small print on the back label.

RM Récolant Manipulant

RM Récolant Manipulant

Vintage Champagne

Just because you are a grower, doesn’t necessarily mean that you are making “Vintage” Champagne.  You can be a grower and still blend previous vintages and make a cuvée.  And truth be told, if you want to sell a Vintage Champagne, there are a few more hoops for you to jump through regulation wise.  Vintage Champagnes must spend a minimum of 3 years aging on the lees in bottle, where as non-vintage only need 15 months.

Some Growers choose to put the vintage on the label.  Others, while adhering to the standards for a vintage, prefer to focus on the vineyard and site.  You will see this below with the Chartogne-Taillet I tasted.

Regions within the Champagne AOC

Within the Champagne AOC there are Montagne de Reims, Vallée de la Marne, Côte des Blancs, Côte de Sézanne and Côte des Bars.

Map of the regions within the Champagne AOC

Map of the regions within the Champagne AOC

Overall, the Paris Basin is Jurassic sediment covered in Cretaceous Chalk and the Chalk is the key to the terroir in this region.  Chalk can hold water, so the roots struggle to dig down up to 30 meters to tap into this moisture.  The average precipitation in the Champagne region is just 26 inches each year, so this moisture stored in the soil is critical to keeping the vines going.

Each of the regions within the Champagne AOC have slightly different soil breakdowns and each grow a slightly different mix of wine grapes.

Montagne de Reims

This region in the Northwest of Champagne has cretaceous chalk with clay and sand for soil.  The breakdown for grapes in the region is 56% Pinot Noir, 28% Chardonnay and 16% Pinot Meunier.  You might see village names on the label also.  The Grand Cru Villages include: Ambonnay, Beaumont-sur-Vesle, Bouzy, Louvois, Mailly-Champagne, Puisieulx, Sillery, Verzenay and Verzy.  Premier Cru Villages include: Bezzanes, Billy-la-Grand, Chamery, Chigny-les-Roses, Eceuil, Jouy les Reims, Les Mesneux, Ludes, Montebré, Pargny les Reims, Rilly-la-Montagne, Sacy,Taissy, Tauxières-Mutry, Trépail, Troi Puits, Vaudemanges, Villiers-Allernad, Villier-aux-Noeuds, Ville-Dommange and Villiers Marmery.  Vineyards here face multiple directions (northeast, southeast, southwest and west). The tops of the hills have deposits of lignite that nourishes the chalk soils below.

Vallée de la Marne

South West of Montagne de Reims along the Marne River you find the Vallée de la Marne region.  Here Pinot Meunier is king, with 63% of the grapes grown.  Pinot Noir comes in at 27% and Chardonnay at 10%.  The sub soil is Cretaceous chalk with a top soil mix of clay, flint, limestone, marl and sand.  There are 2 Grand Cru Villages: Aÿ, and Tours-sur Marne.  Premier Cru Villages include: Bisseuil, Champillon, Cumières, Dizy, Huatvillers, Mareuil-sur-Aÿ and Mutigny.  The best vineayrds here face south.

Côte des Blancs

South of the Vallé de la Marne you find the Côte des Blancs.  There is a reason for the name, 96% of the grapes grown here are Chardonnay with a mere 3% Pinot Noir and 1% Pinot Meunier.  The soil here is Cretaceous Chalk.  There is a bit of clay and sand, but really it is overwhelmingly chalk.  Vineyards are typically east or southeast facing.  Grand Cru Villages include: Avize, Chouilly, Cramant, le Mesnil-sur-Oger, Oger and Oiry.  Premier Cru Villages include: Bergèrese-les-Vertus, Coligny, Cuis, Etréchy, Vertus, Villeneuve-Renneville and Voipreux.

Côte des Sézzane

Step a little further south of Côte des Blancs and you find Côte des Sézzane.  Like Côte des Blancs, it is mostly Chardonnay that is grown here.  The vineyards here are about 64% Chardonnay and tend to face southeast which allows them to get a little riper than the grapes of the Côte des Blancs. The soils here are clay and clay silk with pockets of chalk.

Côte des Bars or The Aube

The furthest south you find The Aube or Côte des Bars.  Here the grapes are primarily Pinot Noir (83%) and the soil is marl. Almost half of the PInot Noir grown in the Champagne AOC is grown in this region. While not as well known, this area has some of the prettiest country side.  It includes the 3 communes that make up Les Riceys; Ricey-Bas, Ricey-Haut and Ricey-Haut-Rive.

How does this all affect the flavor?

For the most part you will notice the wines of Côtes des Sézzane and Côte de Bars are more aromatic and have less acidity.  The wines of the Vallée de la Marne are unctuous and fruity (due to the pinot meunier) and the Côtes des Blancs are higher in acidity and racy.

As I was researching I found that the big wine mega shops don’t typically have staff that will recognize the term “Grower Champagne”.  I had a couple of less than pleasant phone and face to face conversations that left me frustrated.  I reached out to the smaller wine shops that, sadly, are all the way on the other side of the valley from me (45 minute to an hour one way trip).  Incredibly, I missed out on a tasting event with Jean-Remy Rapeneau, who’s family owns Chateau Bligny at Khoury’s.  I found out about it too late to manage to go.  I did also contact Valley Cheese and Wine in Henderson.  They had over 20 different grower Champagnes in stock.  We went to look and picked up one bottle and found that they were doing a Champagne Class.  So…you will get to hear about that at the bottom of this piece.

When in Vegas…my go to wine shops are Khoury’s and Valley Cheese and Wine.

From our trek across the valley to Valley Cheese and Wine we picked up a bottle of Grower Champagne from Pierre Péters.  This was their Rosé for Albane Brut NV.  This comes through the Terry Thiese Estate Selection.

Pierre Péters Champagne Rosé for Albane

Pierre Péters Champagne Rosé for Albane

A little about Pierre Péters

So Gaspar Péters, was from Luxembourg.  In 1858 he married Miss Doué who owned vineyards in Le Mesnil.  They started their operation with about 2 hectares. Their son Louis Joseph continued the business.  Louis’ son Camille, was one of the first growers in 1919 to sell bottles under his name.  In 1930 Camille acquired “Le Chétillons” which was 2.5 hectares.  Pierre was Camille’s oldest son.  At the ripe old age of 12 they had him out traveling on his own developing sales.  He evidently took the branding to heart and when his father passed he took over operations and released the first vintage under Pierre Péters.  In 1967 the estate passed to François, his second son who ran the estate until 2008.  In 2007 Rodolphe Péters joined the family estate.  He came with 12 years of experience as an oenologist/winemaker in the wine world. (information from http://champagne-peters.com/en/historical)

This Champagne is from the Côte des Blancs region and within that Le Mesnil-sur-Oger.  This is a 20 hectare vineyard, so around 50 acres and produces 14,000 cases annually.  Soils here are Cretaceous Chalk and they grow 100% Chardonnay.  They are known for their Blanc de Blancs.  So…hmmm how do they make a rosé?  Well, they moved into the rosé market in 2007 adding this “Rosé for Albane” which adds some saignée Pinot Meunier to Chardonnay.  This wine is 60% Chardonnay and 40% Pinot Meunier.

Champagne & Sushi

Sushi with Grower Champagne

Sushi with Grower Champagne

We paired this first with some takeout sushi, we were hungry and it was what was for lunch!  And really, you can’t go wrong with sushi and Champagne.  Rosé Champagne is great against melt in your mouth fish and soy.  We always talk about salt and fat with Champagne (popcorn, potato chips, caviar & créme fraiche) you get that same fat from the fish and salt from the soy.  And for me, the festive atmosphere a sushi platter creates goes great with bubbles.

A selection of cheeses with Grower Champagne

A selection of cheeses with Grower Champagne

I did dive deeper into pairings and later we paired the Champagne with a selection of cheeses.  We visited our friendly Murray’s Cheese counter and picked up a couple cheeses to pair.

Swiss Emmentaler

Swiss Emmentaler cheese

Swiss Emmentaler cheese

I was hoping to pair the buttery and nutty notes of this wine with the Champagne.  It was okay, but I honestly liked the cheese better on it’s own.  This is a raw cow’s milk cheese from the Emmental region of Switzerland.  When you say swiss cheese, this is what you mean.

Grand Margaux

Grand Margaux cheese

Grand Margaux cheese

Brie and Champagne.  No brainer right?  This cheese is double creme and is similar to Brie and leans towards buttery flavors.  It paired as perfectly as expected.

Comte

Comte cheese

Comte cheese

Alpine cheese is a great pairing for Champagne.  We waffled between Comte and Gruyere and thought we were picking up the Gruyere.  No worries, this cheese went very well.  As firm as this cheese can be on it’s own, the Champagne makes it seem lighter in your mouth.  This cheese is cut from 90 pound wheels from the France’s Jura.  It is made from raw, mountain pasture fed cow milk.

Fourme d’Ambert

Fourme d'Ambert cheese

Fourme d’Ambert cheese

Typically I would have chosen this to go with a sweeter wine, but I wanted to see how it would do.  Topped with a bit of honey, it was heaven.  Without the honey, Meh.  Made from pasteurized cows milk in Auvergne, this cheese is made from unpressed curds inoculated with a blue mold.  They start a bit crumbly, but then after 4 months in cave you get a smoother softer blue with notes sweet cream and mushrooms.

We garnished with champagne grapes.  No they are not really the grapes that you make champagne from, but they are cute sweet little grapes that are tasty and look adorable on the cheese plate.  That sweetness was a great offset to the savory cheeses.

We also paired with a fresh cheese bread and quite honestly that was one of my favorite pairing.  All the yeastiness was happy to play together in my mouth.  Bread and Champagne….yeah, I could happily try to live on that.

Bread with Champagne

Bread with Champagne, yeast and more yeast

Now for a brief rundown of my Champagne Class at Valley Cheese and Wine.

A Champagne Tasting

So I spent an evening around a table with a dozen or so people at, Valley Cheese and Wine, tasting through some Champagnes with Bob, who focus’ on the wine here.  We were tasting through 6 Champagnes all but one were Grower Champagnes.

They did provide us pairings for the tasting (after all they are a cheese shop also and Kristin brings in an amazing array of cheeses)  The platter of cheeses included Cremèux de Diteaux with truffle (a cow’s milk cheese from France), Clochette (goat’s milk cheese from France) and Regal de Bourgogne with raisins (cow’s milk from France).  There were blueberries, strawberries, dried apricots, raspberries and bread, plus Jamon Serrano from Spain, Chorizo from Spain and Speck from Italy.  Later in the evening, hot fries and baked macaroni and cheese with crumb topping were served.  The salt the fat the richness, was perfect for the Champagne to cut through.

Duval-Leroy

Run by a family team of mother Carol and her 3 sons Julien, Charles and Louis, this is a Champagne House, not a Grower Champagne. They produce about 4.5 million bottles annually.  The Duval-Leroy Champagne house was formed in 1859 between two families; the Duval family of Vertus in the Côtes des Blancs and the Leroy family, merchants from Reims.  It has been passed down father to son for 6 generations.  Carol Duval-Leroy took over the company in 1991, when her husband unexpectedly passed at just 39 years of age.

2006 Duval Leroy Grand Cru Blanc de Blancs

2006 Duval Leroy Grand Cru Blanc de Blancs

Duval-Leroy Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru 2006 Prestige

100% Chardonnay, 2,000 cases produced.  This is made from grapes from the Grand Cru Villages that include: Avize, Cramant, Chouilly, le Mesnil sur Oger and Oiry in the Côte des Blancs.   This goes under malolactic ferementation to give it a smoothness and that bit of bready yeastiness on the nose.  These wines age in chalk cellars for a minimum of 6 years.  This wine ages on the lees for 6 years.

This was a good Champagne, but it sat as our control.  It was a bright Blanc de Blanc.  Each of the wines we tasted after this were much more intense both in the nose and in flavor on the palate.

Champagne Doyard

Located in Vertus in the Côte des Blancs, this is a family farm. Champagne Doyard has 10 hectares of Chardonnay spread over Vertus, Le Mesnil-sur-Oger, Oger, Cramant and Avize.  They also have 1 hectare of Pinot Noir in Vertus and Aÿ.  The vineyards average 40 years in age.  They can trace their family roots in Champagne to the 17th century. They farm biodynamically and the vineyards are worked by horse rather than tractor to keep the ground in the vineyards from compacting.

2011 Champagne Doyard Clos de l'Abbaye Grower Champagne

2011 Champagne Doyard Clos de l’Abbaye

2011 Champagne Doyard Clos de L’Abbaye Premier Cru Extra Dry

“Clos” indicates wall, and this wine is made from a little walled vineyard behind the winery that was planted in 1956.  It spent 4 years on the lees. This is a vintage champagne and it is 100% Chardonnay.

I found this wine to be more fragrant than the first.  There were fruits and florals on the nose and the flavors floated in my mouth and had a lovely length.

Marc Hébrart

Located in the Vallée de la Marne, Jean-Paul Hébrart took over the reins from his father in 1997. With 15.5 hectares of vineyard they produce 8,750 cases annually.  Calculated in acres that is 37 acres, which is made up of 70 different parcels in 10 villages.  They do 6 or 7 cuvées here.  The soil here is chalk and they grow 75% Pinot Noir and 25% Chardonnay.  Jean-Paul is experimenting with indigenous yeast and barrel fermentation.  Everything here is organic and sustainable and they hand riddle the bottles.

2010 Marc Hébrart Rive Gauche Rive Droite Grower Champagne Extra Brut

2010 Marc Hébrart Rive Gauche Rive Droite Champagne Extra Brut

Rive Gauch Rive Droite 2010 Grand Cru Champagne Hébrart Extra Dry

This wine is named for the vineyards that comprise this blend which sit on both the left and right sides of the Marne River.  This wine is 50% chardonnay and 50% pinot noir, natural yeast, unfiltered and made in barrels. This wine is part of the Skurnik Portfolio.  This aged 6 years on the lees and the pinot noir is old vine.

As we went through the tasting I felt like the aromas in each wine became more intense.  The nose on this wine is intense.  It hit me with notes of apple cider, that type of sweetness, that is tangy on the nose.  This wine was served with the baked macaroni and cheese with a crumb topping.

Champagne Chartogne-Taillet

From the Montagne de Reims region.  This winery has 11.5 hectares of vineyards and produces 7,500 cases of wine annually.  They grow 40% chardonnay, 38% pinot noir, 20% pinot meunier and 2% arbanne.  They are located in the village of Merfy and have been growing wine there for over 500 years.  Alexandre Chartogne now runs things and is delving into biodynamics.  He uses stainless steel, neutral barrique and concrete eggs and allows for natural malolactic fermentation. Another from the Skurnik Portfolio, you can find more information here.

The vines in this vineyard go deep to look for water, some digging down as much as 65 feet.  They are also ungrafted vines (which is risky for phylloxera, an aphid which in the early 1900’s took out over 70% of the vines in France.  Since then most French vines are grafted to American root stock which those little aphids evidently don’t like to eat).  They believe that the ungrafted vines pull more terroir and varietal character into the wines.

We tasted 2 wines from this producer, which were made from a single vintage, but they chose not to label them as vintage Champagnes, but rather to focus on the single vineyards each came from.

*Bob did a follow up to confirm the reasoning for Chartogne-Taillet not releasing as vintage.  The answer was “Chartogne wants to have flexibility and to release them as he wants rather than by regulation. The vintage in which the wines were harvested is on the back label.”

NV Chartogne Taillet Les Barres GrowerChampagne

NV Chartogne Taillet Les Barres

Champagne Chartogne-Taillet Les Barres Extra Dry

This wine is made from grapes from the 2012 vintage, but they chose not to label it by vintage. The first vintage of this wine was produced in 2010. It is 100% Pinot Meunier.

This wine was fragrant and unctuous. I got an herbal-bramble note lightly on the nose.  This wine felt a little more wild to me.  I had not had a 100% Pinot Meunier Champagne before, and it was exotic to me and I liked it!

NV Chartogne Taillet Couarres Château Grower Champagne

NV Chartogne Taillet Couarres Château

Champagne Chartogne-Taillet Couarres Chateau Extra Dry

They make a Couarres Champagne also, but this is the Couarres Château Champagne, a distinction that indicates the specific vineyard.  This is a single parcel wine with vines planted in 1987.

This wine is 100% Pinot Noir.  It was a lovely wine, but quite honestly, I was so enamoured by the Les Barres….

Champagne Geoffroy

Located in the Vallée de la Marne in Cumières the Champagne Geoffroy vineyards span 14 hectares (just over 34 acres) and they produce 10,400 cases anually.  Soils here are calcareous, sandstone and clay.  The family has been rooted in Cumières since the 17th century, but it was in the 1950’s when Roger and Julienne Geoffroy decided to start making their own wine.  René Geoffroy took the reins when his father passes all to soon and together with his wine Bernadette they continued the brand.  Today, Jean Baptiste Geoffroy runs the estate and they have moved the winemaking facilities to Aÿ.  The vineyards are made up of 35 plots of 24% Chardonnay, 34% Pinot Meunier and 42% Pinot Noir.

NV Geoffroy Rosé Saignée of Pinot Noir Grower Champagne

NV Geoffroy Rosé Saignée

Champagne Geoffroy Rosé de Saignée

The Rosé de Saignée Brut is hand harvested and sorted and they avoid malolactic fermentation.  This wine is 100% Pinot Noir and you get that Pinot funk the minute you dip your nose in the glass.  This is a Saignée, and we have talked about this in terms of rosé before, where a winemaker will bleed off some of the juice of a red wine to intensify the flavors and then use this bled off juice to make a rosé.  In this case they let the juice sit on the skins for about 4 hrs to get this vivid color and intensity and then bled off all of the juice to use to make this Champagne.  It spends 3 years on lees.

You get bright BRIGHT red fruit on this and some savory notes.  It is cheerful in color and intense with flavor.  (Think Tavel intensity with bubbles)

The Grower Champagne Community

As Bob talked about the winemakers, most of whom he has met.  He talked about what a small community they are and how they help each other out.  The Pinot Meunier that is used in the Pierre Péters Rosé that we started with comes from either Geoffroy or Hébrart.  These growers all know each other and work together, sharing knowledge.  It was heartwarming to know that the type of wine community that we have seen in Oregon and Santa Barbara, winemakers working together and supporting each other, exists across the pond.

And I mentioned hand riddling, horses plowing fields, organic and sustainable farming and really all of these producers are doing that.  Most in fact are gravity flow in their winemaking.  They differ in sites, and in styles, but overall growing philosophies are similar.

Global Warming as it impacts Champagne

They are seeing the signs of Global Warming on  a very locale scale.  They and other Champagne makers are finding each year that they are cutting back on the dosage (the sweetness added to the bottle after disgogement that determines the sweetness of the Champagne).  This is because the grapes are getting riper earlier.  Within their lifetime they are watching tremendous change in the climate and ripening times in the vineyards. Bob mentioned that one wine maker had said “If they tell you Global Warming is not happening, send them to my vineyard, they can see.”

How Much?

Now if you are heading out to buy a bottle of Grower Champagne, be aware that these wines are not cheap.  They run from $85 to $175 retail and there are many in the shop that run $200-$300 each.  You can find Grower Champagnes that are less expensive, and you may find a great deal, but keep in mind, that Grower Champagne is all the rage these days, and many people are jumping into the market without proper experience.  Do a tasting if you can, before settling on splurging on a bottle.

The French Winophiles on Grower Champagne

We are lucky enough to get to associate with some wonderful people in the French # Winophiles group and this month we all dove into Grower Champagne.  So if this has wet your whistle, you can dive into more great information and pairings for Grower Champagne.  And…join us on Twitter on Saturday Morning 11 am EST or 8 am PST!  Just follow #Winophiles to join in the conversation!  And it’s Saturday morning, pop a bottle of Grower Champagne while you join us!

Here are the links to all the other great articles the #winophiles have out there on the subject!

 

And don’t forget to check back here with us  at Crushed Grape Chronicles , you can also find us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram

We will be continuing our journey through Oregon’s Willamette Valley and the winemakers we met there and…next month with the French #Winophiles we will be diving into Cahors!


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

A Palette of Pinots – The Hues of Alsace

Famous wine route in the Vosges mountains Alsace France

What comes to mind with you think of “Pinot”? Do you think of a ruby-red pinot noir from Burgundy or a rich deep pinot from Sonoma? Is it the pale straw of a pinot grigio from Italy? Whatever color variation of this grape you thought of, you probably were not thinking of Alsace when you thought of it. I’m here to tell you why you should, because #AlsaceRocks.

The Shades of Pinot

First lets talk about pinot. We begin with pinot noir, a grape with a thin skin that can be notoriously fickle. It has tight bunches (that are shaped like pine cones, hence the name) that are prone to rot.  It wants lots of sun, but doesn’t want to be too hot. Luckily, the Cistercian monks in Burgundy found their penance in the hard work of coddling this grape to it’s greatness.

From here we get the mutations: pinot blanc and pinot gris. Simply enough, pinot blanc is a white grape mutation and pinot gris is a “grey” grape. While not truly grey, pinot gris sits in the in between hue ranging from bluish gray to pinkish brown. Of course pinot gris is the French term for this grape, in Italy they call it pinot grigio.

Beyond this we get Crémant d’Alsace, a sparkling wine that can be made from any of the pinots, (and upon occasion some “not pinots” like chardonnay) but all Crémant d’Alsace Rosé must be made from pinot noir, in the method traditionelle.

Map of the Wine Region of Alsace France

Map of the Wine Region of Alsace France

Alsace

This region is perfect for these wines as they thrive in the dry climate created by the Vosges Mountains. Alsace is a thin strip on the North eastern edge of France. This area has gone back and forth between Germany and France for centuries and the style of houses and names of towns attest to that fact.  It’s a fairytale land with charming villages with half-timbered buildings, dotted with flower boxes. You can explore these delightful towns on the oldest wine route in France, that travels 106 miles from Marlenheim to Thann, stopping to taste the wines and the food as you explore this beautiful region.

The charming city of Eguisheim in Alsace France

The charming city of Eguisheim in Alsace France

Then there is the soil.  We did say #AlsaceRocks right?  This area at the foot of the Vosges Mountains is a patchwork of soils.  You find granite, and sandstone, limestone, schist and volcanic soils. Once, fifty million years ago, the Black Forest and the Vosges were a single mountain range, pushed up by the plates.  When this collapsed it formed the Rhine River.  All that shifting around will geologically mix up some soil, and hence you get all these varied pockets of soil that add fascinating diversity to the vineyards.

The Wines & Pairings

Pinots from Alsace; Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir and Crémant d'Alsace

A range of pinots from Alsace from Teuwen Communications (and Loki)

Now lets dive into the hues of pinots. @DrinkAlsace was kind enough to provide us a variety of pinots to taste through. (All opinions are my own) We begin with a 2017 Pinot Blanc from Emile Beyer, followed by a 2012 Pinot Gris from Dopff & Irion, on to a 2015 Leon Beyer Pinot Noir and finishing with a Crémant d’Alscace Rosé from Domaine Zinck. All but one of these wines come from the village of Eguisheim. The Pinot Gris is the exception coming from Riquewirh.

Emile Beyer Pinot Blanc Traditional 2017

Emile Beyer is a 43 acre family estate just outside of Colmar in the village of Eguisheim. This wine comes from younger vineyards on the estate.  The soil here is clay, sandstone & chalky marl, and the grapes are mostly Pinot Blanc with a little Auxerrois. Alcohol sits at about 13%. $15

Cheeses

I searched for cheeses to pair with this wine and went off to look for a Saint-Nectaire and a Chaource.

Chaource is a named for the village of Chaource in France. It is a very soft ripened cow’s milk cheese. This cheese is soft and buttery. My Murray’s guy found me a domestic equivalent that did not disappoint. Murray’s Delice is a lovely soft ripened cheese that really and truly melted in your mouth. It went nicely with the wine.

Delice from Murray's

Delice from Murray’s Cheese shop, similar to a Chaource

Saint-Nectaire is a Tomme style cheese again from cow’s milk. It is a semi soft washed rind cheese. It specifically comes from the Auvergne region of France and is made from the mild of cows that feed in rich volcanic pastures. It matures 6-8 weeks on rye straw mats, which causes a pungent smell.

My Murray’s guy pointed me toward a Springbrook Vermont Artisan Cheese which was similar to an Alpine raclette. This gave us a different texture to compare with the Delice. Michael found it too pungent, but I enjoyed it.

 

Springbrook Vermont Artisan Cheese

Springbrook Vermont Artisan Cheese similar to a Saint-Nectaire cheese from France

Appetizer

I had envied a fellow blogger his grilled peaches the other day, and planned on making some myself. I got running behind on dinner and instead sliced my peach and plopped a little goat cheese on it, a leaf of basil and wrapped it in prosciutto. This was definitely the right decision, both time wise and pairing wise. The fresh peach was still a little firm and with the goat cheese was really nice with the wine, picking up on those unripe stone fruit notes. It was also cool and easy to eat. I suggest these bites for all summer!.

Peach slices with goat cheese wrapped with basil and proscuitto

Peach slices with goat cheese wrapped with basil and prosciutto

Frittata

I knew the minute I saw the suggestion of an egg dish with this wine, that I would go that direction. I looked through quiche recipes and then settled on the simplicity of a Frittata. This wine loves spring vegetables so a spring green salad would go along side. I quick pickled some small golden beets and radishes in honey and white wine vinegar to add to the top with some pine nuts.

The frittata I filled with broccoli, peas and green beans that I quickly blanched, then I sautéed golden beets, radishes and zucchini and let them develop a little crunch. I added a cup of ricotta to add a creamy cheese to the mix that would not be too heavy. Red onions were sautéed before dropping in the egg mixture. And it cooked to perfection in my rod iron skillet.

Sprint salad with pickled beets and radishes and a spring vegetable frittata with a Pinot Blanc

Spring salad with pickled beets and radishes and a spring vegetable frittata with a Pinot Blanc

Dopff & Irion Cuvée René Dopff Pinot Gris 2012

René Dopff took over Dopff & Irion in 1945 as he joined forces with the Widow Madame Irion, taking over the Château de Riquewirh. The Château was built in 1549 by the Princes of Württemberg who ruled this area for 5 centuries.

The village of Riquewihr in Alsace France

The Village of Riquewirh in Alsace. Home of Dopff and Irion

This wine is 100% Pinot Gris with soil in marl, limestone, gypsum, clay and sandstone. This cuveé comes from 200 selected vine-growers. It is stored on lees for 4 weeks before maturing in tank for four months. Like the Pinot Blanc it sits at 13% alcohol. $21.

Exotic and Strange Pairings

Dopff & Irion suggestioned “Pair with oriental and exotic cuisine like prawns with Thai Sauce, chicken curry or cottage cheese with pepper.  “Cottage cheese with pepper? It seemed strange to me, but I was definitely going to try this! Other suggestions included mushrooms and cream sauces, triple crème cheeses, green beans, and tikka masala.

So our pairings included a triple crème cheese with mushrooms, almonds, hazelnuts, apricots, apricot compote, cottage cheese with pepper, green beans, mushroom risotto, tikka masala, chicken in a thai curry sauce and fettuccine with chicken and a crème sauce. It gave a wide variety of styles of food to pair with.

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This wine was full and warm on the palate with baked apples and warm apricots. It was lush with a viognier like quality. Golden in color it opened into white flowers and the stones of stone fruit.

It spiked the flavor in the hazelnuts, blended nicely with the cottage cheese and pepper and brightened the spice in the Tikka Masala without adding heat.

With the mushrooms it leaned into the depth of forest floor. My favorite bite was the triple crème with mushrooms with the apricot compote. This was glorious in my mouth.

This wine was exceptional. So much depth! While I enjoyed all the wines, this was my favorite.

Route-des-vinsd'Alsace

Route-des-vinsd’Alsace

House of Leon Beyer 2015 Pinot Noir

This wine is one of the oldest Alsatian family owned estates. Founded in 1580 this winery is now run by Marc Beyer and his son, who along with a team of 21 others farm 173 acres.

The soils are limestone and clay with grapes from vines that are 25 to 30 years old. This wine was fermented in glass-lined concrete tanks. It sits at 13%. $28.

This wine is light with warm berries and bright exotic spice. The nose reminded me of a savory strawberry tart with warm strawberries and rosemary and thyme.

I found this wine to be much more interesting when paired with food, than on it’s own.

Domaine Zinck Crémant d’Alsace Brut Rosé NV

Paul Zinck created the winery in 1964, it is now run by his son Philippe and Philippe’s wife Pascale.

This winery is also located in Eguisheim, with vineyards with soils of silk, chalk with clay-silt and volcanic ash.

This Non Vintage crémant is 100% Pinot Noir and sits at 12.5% alcohol. $25

The color on this wine is rich and warm as it also is on the palate.

Pairings for Both

Both of these wines we paired with a cheese and meat platter. We pulled up a variety of cheeses including a local cheddar from Utah coated in Earl Grey as well as prosciutto and sopresso, pistachios, pine nuts, sliced apples, apricots and salt and pepper popcorn.

Crémant d'Alsace & Pinot Noir from Alsace and a cheese platter

Crémant d’Alsace from Domaine Zinck and a Leon Beyer Pinot Noir paired with cheese, fruit, charcuterie and salt and pepper popcorn.

These two wines were lovely to enjoy on an afternoon with the pinot noir going nicely with the Earl Grey cheddar, the sopresso and the salt and pepper popcorn most especially. The crémant went well with everything and had a great depth of flavor.

All of these wines were exceptional values and provided flavors that were not quite “typical” for the varieties.

And remember I mentioned the hues?  The colors, the aromas, the flavors on the palate, they all brought a range of depth.  From the faintest color of straw in the Pinot Blanc from Emile Beyer, to the rich gold of the Pinot Gris from Dopff & Irion, on to the warm rich golden salmon tones of the Crémant d’Alsace from Zinck and into the vivid rich red of the Pinot Noir from Leon Beyer,  the range of expression in these wines was beautiful.  It was a trip through the seasons; spring with Pinot Blanc and the brightness that went so well with the spring vegetables in the frittata; summer with the warmer exotic flavors pairing with the vivid Pinot Gris, that brought in a little of humid lazy summer days with it’s brooding side; fall with the rich warm tones of the Crémant d’Alsace, which did really look like fall in the glass; and then the richer warmer red of the Pinot Noir for Winter, that still keeps things a little light, I picture snow sparkling in moonlight amidst the festive streets of Eguisheim.

These wines brought something a little extra. Perhaps it is the soils? I mean it is true that #AlsaceRocks

If you enjoyed this, and want to dig a little deeper into Alsace, please join our chat on Twitter We love visitors and happily chat and answer questions. Simply tune in to the #winophiles hashtag on Twitter this Saturday, June 16 at 10am CDT. You can also check out the #AlsaceRocks hashtag for more Alsace fun during and after the chat.

Here’s a list of great Alsace wine suggestions from our Winophiles

You can check out another piece we did “Dipping my toe in Crémant d’Alsace“.  And of course to keep up with all of our posts and wine adventures, you can find us here at Crushed Grape Chronicles . You can also find us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram

Chad Melville – SAMsARA Sta. Rita Hills Syrah

Melville Vineyard

Syrah Panel Santa Barbara Vintners April 2016 Episode 7

The last of the winemakers to speak at the Syrah Seminar was Chad Melville of SAMsARA. He spoke on his 2012 SAMsARA Syrah from Donna’s Block at Melville Vineyards that Chad helped plant back in 1998.

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Melville to SAMsARA

When you hear the name Melville you think Sta. Rita Hills. Chad Melville worked with his father and brother to plant and build Melville Vineyards and Winery. He continues to work with Melville as their head winegrower. With his own label, SAMsARA, Chad is able to do small batches and take a few more chances in the wine making process. The winery is garage/warehouse in Lompoc. Their home page gives you the definition of their name, it is originally Sanskrit and in Buddhism speaks of “the process of coming into existence as a differentiated moral creature” and in Hinduism of “the endless series of births, deaths and rebirths to which all beings are subject”.

The SAMsARA Syrah from Melville Vineyards

The Syrah Chad had with him was a 2012 Melville Vineyard Syrah. This was pulled from 5 rows of Donna’s block at Melville.  Donna’s Block is in the Northwest section of their Estate Vineyard and is planted on 20 feet of sand.  It was 50% whole cluster which will give you more tannins and structure, native yeast, basket pressed and in barrel for about 2 years. I will mention that this is a current release that you won’t find on the website. They have a Priority Release list, followed by a Mailing list and if there is any wine left over after that, then they are posted on the website.

You can find SAMsARA online at http://www.samsarawine.com/ They have a tasting room in Los Olivos at 2446 Alamo Pintado Avenue that is open Thursday to Monday from 11 am to 5 pm and by appointment on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Be sure to try to get to the next seminar! The Santa Barbara Vintners will have one during the Celebration of Harvest Festival, which happens October 7-10. Here’s a link to more information. http://www.celebrationofharvest.com/

And check back here at Crushed Grape Chronicles for more on our visit to Santa Barbara.  You can also find us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram

The Video!

The Transcript

WTS: All right staying in Sta. Rita Hills for our final wine, number 8 the 2012 SAMsARA Syrah, Melville Vineyard, located along highway 246 near Lompoc. Planted in 1996, by Ron Melville and his sons, Melville Vineyards grows Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Syrah. The Syrah Block is 9 different clones planted in 1998 has deep light textured sandy loam soil. Chad not only makes this wine, he grows it. Tell us about what goes into a bottle of SAMsARA Syrah.

Chad Melville: Thanks. This is such a pleasure to be here and to listen to all these great winemakers and growers and to be able to taste through these fantastic wines and to see the differences of the climates and the soils and how they impact. The SAMsARA…I only work with Syrah from cool climates. Sta. Rita Hills that has been touched on is a very extreme cold climate. If you guys are familiar with the Davis program with the way they dissect the regions, one through five with five being the hottest, one being the coldest, there are some years where Sta. Rita Hills doesn’t even register one. So it’s that cold, right? What makes it really unique as well is that we have really early bud break. So we typically get bud break in Syrah in early March, which makes for a really long growing season, given that we are picking Syrah typically in the middle of November. Some years we even go to December. So it’s crazy right? The idea that growing Syrah is easy in a cold climate is completely false. It requires just as much time and effort to grow Syrah as it does Pinot Noir, so our farming costs are essentially the same. It’s a late ripening varietal, so it’s DNA, its propensity is to just naturally ripen late. You put that in a cold climate, you’re asking for a little bit of trouble, right? It’s also a very friendly forgiving grape. It will always produce a lot of fruit. You can plant it in the concrete outside and you would have a vineyard. It will grow anywhere. So it requires you to drop a lot of fruit in a cold climate to insure that you can get it ripe, and again, we’re still picking it quite late in the season. So there’s a lot of risk there, right? But there is also a lot of reward and with cold climate Syrah you tend to get; I love when Mark said this “quivering tension”. You get that fruit; you get that Syraness that’s there, that tannin, the deep dark richness. You also get this vibrant quivering acidity that’s there. It just makes it really unique and different. It doesn’t make it better than anyone else’s it doesn’t make it a better climate than anyone else’s; it just makes it different and unique. With this wine in particular, it’s 50% whole clusters, so there’s kind of an additional layer or integration of tannin. It’s completely neutral wood, so the idea was to get little tiny slivers of blocks within Sta. Rita. So this is five rows of our Donna’s Block at Melville, which is in, as well as Zotovich, pure sand. So neutral wood, 50% whole cluster, bright acidity, bright fruit and this kind of extra layer of tannin.

WTS: Chad told me he likes to push the envelope with SAMsARA. What does that mean?

Chad Melville: I do it all natural, so it’s native yeast, it’s basket pressed, and it’s in barrel for 2 years. It goes to bottle unfined and unfiltered and it’s in bottle for 1 year. So this is the current release here. It’s really about procuring really beautiful clean concentrated fruit and then kind of getting out of the way. So for those of you who know much about the winemaker process, it’s a pretty non-manipulative approach. And in terms of pushing the envelope, you know those are things that you can typically do when you are producing smaller amounts. It’s a lot risky and maybe even partly crazy or non-advisable to be doing native yeast with big fermentations. Basket pressing just simply is inefficient if you have a lot to do, so it typically something that you find with smaller productions. But also the wine sits in barrels almost 20 months without any SO2, but it’s in a really cold environment. So by controlling the cellar it allows me to take that risk. All those little things are really pushing it. I mean I only make 125 cases of this wine, so you can sleep a lot easier when you are making smaller lots. If I approach it this way at Melville, it would be a little nerve wracking.

WTS: SAMsARA has a tasting room in Los Olivos and all of these wineries will be pouring today at the 34th Annual Santa Barbara County Vintners Festival Grand Tasting at Riverview Park. I hope you all will be going. It’s from 1:00 to 4:00 this afternoon and all of these wineries will be represented there.

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Mark Horvath, Crawford Family Wines on Sta. Rita Hills Syrah

Syrah Panel Santa Barbara Vintners April 2016 Episode 6

This Episode of the Seminar takes us West toward the coast to the chilly area of Sta. Rita Hills.   Winemaker, Mark Horvath speaks about his Sta. Rita Hills Syrah from Zotovich Vineyard.

Crawford Family Wines

Crawford Family Wines produces small lots of Pinot, Chardonnay and Syrah in the “garagiste” style of winemaking all from the Sta. Rita Hills AVA. They pull from vineyards like Babcock, Bentrock, Radian, Rita’s Crown and Zotovich.   They recently started a Rhone program from the Ballard Canyon appellation, but today we are diving into their Sta. Rita Hills Syrah. While working in Sonoma, Mark took UC Davis extension classes which introduced him to a group of energetic and enthusiastic Santa Barbara Winemakers. An opportunity arose at Babcock and Mark joined as Assistant Winemaker. While there he met Kenneth “Joey” Gummere and the two formed Kenneth-Crawford Wines. They produced wines together for 10 years. Mark and his wife Wendy now have Crawford Family Wines (read the transcript or watch the video to find out more about the name)

Sta. Rita Hills Syrah

When you hear Sta. Rita Hills you usually think Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. This AVA is cool climate and these Burgundian grapes do well here, but so does Syrah. Most of the area is planted to Pinot Noir (2100 acres) or Chardonnay (500 acres) with the remaining planted 140 acres divided between such varieties as Sauvignon Blanc, Viognier and Syrah.

Syrah here buds early and harvests late, so there is a lot of hang time. Mark speaks of March bud break and November or December Harvests. This allows for elegant Syrahs with bright acidity.

Crawford Family Wines has a tasting room in Buellton in the Zaca Creek Industrial Park at 92 Second Street Suites G & H. They are open Saturday and Sunday from 11 am to 4 pm and by appointment the remainder of the week. Visit their website at http://www.crawfordfamilywines.com/   or give them a call at 805.698.3889.

Be sure to try to get to the next seminar! The Santa Barbara Vintners will have one during the Celebration of Harvest Festival, which happens October 7-10. Here’s a link to more information. http://www.celebrationofharvest.com/

And check back here at Crushed Grape Chronicles for more on our visit to Santa Barbara.  You can also find us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram

Syrah Panel Santa Barbara Vintners April 2016 Episode 6: Mark Horvath on Sta. Rita Hills Syrah

The Transcript

Wendy Thies Sell: Okay. “Go west young man!” they said and so west we shall go, to the Sta. Rita Hills. Mark Horvath of Crawford Family Wines makes small lots of wine, focusing on fruit from the Sta. Rita Hills. He sourced his Syrah for this wine from Zotovich Vineyard, with it’s deep sandy soils on the 246 corridor between Buellton and Lompoc. The fruit here ripened slowly in the cool foggy climate. Mark, tell us about this wine and why you are so passionate about Sta. Rita Hills.

Mark Horvath: Sure. First of all, thanks for coming. I appreciate everybody being here, thanks for inviting me. I’m really proud to represent the Sta. Rita Hills up here today. I moved here and started making wine here in 1998. No one was really making Syrah from the Sta. Rita Hills then. There were a few isolated plantings. I was working for Bryan Babcock at the time and we had a section of Syrah that he really hated. He never wanted to put much effort into it, he just didn’t feel like it was the right place. But every year we made the wine, I was struck by how interesting it was, how it held onto it’s acidity. We’ve been talking about how in these cool climates Syrah really hangs on to it’s acidity and there was a freshness and a vibrancy about that wine. It would be big and rich on the one hand but then have this tremendous backbone of acidity that would keep it fresh and bright. It was very peppery, it was very spicy, it was not his cup of tea, but for me it really ignited this curiosity. I had a project for a number of years called Kenneth Crawford Wines that some of you may remember, and our goal out the gate was, we always knew we would make some Pinot and some Chardonnay and some other things from the area, but our goal out the gate was to make some Sta. Rita Hills Syrah, and as much of it as we could. At the time there was even a bit of resistance, in the Sta. Rita Hills to us championing Syrah, because the focus of the area at the time, trying to establish itself in the marketplace was very specific to Pinot and Chardonnay. We really felt like we were bucking the trend, by promoting Syrah, but we were convinced that Syrah in the Sta. Rita Hills, in that climate, was special and unique and worthy of that attention. So I’ve been making Syrah from the area for a very long time. I don’t think I’m as brave as Scott. You’re drinking the youngest wine here is mine. Partly purposeful, partly the dynamics of a very small winery, in needing to get wine out into the market. I bring the fruit in, it cold soaks for a few days, it is then inoculated and spends a good 14, 15 days during fermentation, pressed off, I use only neutral barrels for this wine, because again, like these other guys, I really want to let the fruit shine through. I want you to smell and taste Sta. Rita Hills fruit. I agree, I’ve made wine from fruit from Ballard Canyon from the Los Alamos area, they are all excellent Syrah producing areas. What I love about the Sta. Rita Hills is the really dark earthy qualities we get in the Sta. Rita Hills, that tar and creosote, maybe fresh tobacco leaf, that kind of thing that comes out of the wines. But I’m really most struck by the structure of the wines from the area. That sort of quivering tension we get between rich ripe fruit and striking acidity and a bit of minerality that we get in the core of that wine. That’s what I love about the Sta. Rita Hills. There it is.

WTS: Mark also produces Pinot Noir. Can you compare and contrast, producing Syrah with Pinot? What are the differences for you?

Mark Horvath: Well, comparing and contrasting Syrah and Pinot Noir in the Sta. Rita Hills in particular, is really interesting because I think Pinot Noir has a lot of the same characteristics in the Sta. Rita Hills that Syrah has in that, it is such a cool and challenging area to grow grapes in. Same thing happens with Pinot Noir, I think Sta. Rita Hills is rather famous for making somewhat dark, rich, but definitely spicy Pinot Noir. Our Pinots are known for being on the spicy side, and I think that’s very distinctive about the area. Syrahs are the same way. I think there’s a lot of sandy soil. You know Zotovich Vineyard is a really interesting vineyard in the fact that it’s not a very interesting vineyard to look at. It’s a very flat, very simple deep sandy vineyard, and yet the fruit that comes out of there is just extraordinary. You know, I source from these really dramatic hillsides in a lot of different areas in the Sta. Rita Hills that are really amazing to look at and as a winemaker, you stand there and go “Wow, this is going to make something interesting, I mean, look at this soil, look at this aspect, and the wines are awesome. Then you go over to Zotovich and you stand there and it’s like “Hmm.” , you know, I hope this does what I think it’s going to do, and it does every time. It’s really interesting and unique. I think its…Larry touched on it, there’s all this sand on the surface and it is like beach sand at Zotovich, it’s probably 12 to 15 inches of just beach sand. But then below that you’ve got all this ancient seabed, you’ve got sedimentary rock, you’ve got all this really interesting stuff, that I think the vines really dig deep for. And it’s what ends up making the wines so unique from there. I think the Sta. Rita Hills has this great, I use the word “tension” and probably too much, but I just feel like between ripe rich fruit and vibrant fresh acidity, both the Pinot Noirs and the Syrahs have that same characteristic, obviously different flavors and aromas, but that structure, that tension, that freshness in the wines, I think holds through whether it’s Pinot, Chardonnay as a matter of fact as well and Syrah. I think the area is known for that.

WTS: Can you tell us where the name Crawford Family comes from?

Mark Horvath: So my middle name is Crawford. My first project with “Kenneth Crawford”, it was our middle names, it was better than Mark and Joey’s wine. That just did not have the right ring. I told my dad early on “Horvath is not going on a label, it just doesn’t work for a wine label.” I had to deal with Horvath my entire youth and so I wasn’t going to put it on a label. It’s also my Mom’s maiden name and my Mom was instrumental when we moved here in helping finance a young winery and so it’s sort of an homage to Mom as well. So, yeah, Crawford is my middle name.

WTS: Thank you for sharing, I didn’t know that. And so Crawford Family Wines tasting room is in Buellton.

Mark Horvath: That’s it! Right around the corner, right by Pea Soup Andersen. I use a little of the PSA yeast as a matter of fact. It’s been known to float around my winery too.

WTS: His lovely wife Wendy, gotta love a Wendy, she is at the tasting room today.

Mark Horvath: Yep, she’s there manning the fort.

WTS: Thank you Mark.

Mark Horvath: Thank you.

Tablas Creek Vineyard – The Rhones, the new Adelaida AVA, natural fermentation and the use of foudres.

Tablas Creek Vineyard Spring 2015

While on the Central Coast in April we were lucky enough to meet with Jason Haas, General Manager of Tablas Creek Vineyard in Paso Robles. Jason graciously took time out of his busy schedule to spend a couple of hours with Michael and I in the vineyard and the winery.

Tablas Creek Vineyard is the collaborative effort between the Perrin Family of Chateau du Beaucastel in Chateauneuf du Pape in France’s Rhone Valley and the Haas Family. Vineyard Brands, the wine import company founded by Robert Haas had been the exclusive importer for Beaucastel wines. In 1989 they founded Tablas Creek Vineyard in the west side of Paso Robles to grow Rhone varieties.

In our 3rd segment, Jason tells us about all the Rhone Varieties that Tablas has brought in to the United States, we discuss the new Adelaida AVA, he tells us the intricacies of native yeast fermentation and we discuss Tablas Creeks use of 1200 gallon Foudres for aging wines.  Here’s the video, but you can read below for the details

 

The Rhone Grapes at Tablas Creek Vineyard

Tablas Creek brought in classic Rhone varieties directly from Chateau du Beaucastel.  These original cuttings went through the mandatory 3 year quarantine and were grafted onto rootstock.  These were; Mourvedre, Syrah, Grenache, Counoise, Roussanne, Marsanne, Viognier and Grenache Blanc.  Soon after they also added Picpoul.  They planted 1/2 acre of Picpoul and this increased the amount of Picpoul planted on the planet by 50!  In 2003 they decided they might as well bring all the rest of the Chateauneuf du Pape grapes.  Many of these were the first new plantings of these varieties in a decade.  Clairette Blanche and Terret Noir were added and both have been made into single varieties wines in 2013 and 2014.  Picardan was planted and they expect to have a small crop this year for the first time.  3 others Vaccarese, Cinsaut and Bourboulenc are out of quarantine and they expect to be able to plant these this winter.  Poor Muscardin is still in quarantine and may be released next year.  Tablas Creek has wonderful information on their site about all of these varieties Tablas Creek Vineyard Grapes

The Adelaida AVA

Paso Robles Wine was one of the largest unsubdivided AVA in California spanning 40 miles East to West and 30 miles North to South.  This immense area varies from 350 to 2700 feet in elevation, rainfall in different areas can run from 6 to 35 inches and temperatures from one area to another can vary by 15 to 20 degrees.  In November of 2014 this area was broken into 11 new AVAs (American Viticultural Areas).  Tablas Creek is located in the Westernmost AVA known as the Adelaida District.  This is one of the AVAs to be noted by their calcareous soil, which is one of the reasons Tablas Creek chose this location.  How these new AVAs will change the area is yet to be seen.  For Tablas Creek Vineyards, all of their Estate Wines will now list “Adelaida District” on their label.

Native Yeast Fermentation

I have always been fascinated by native yeast fermentation.  Many winemakers find it to be too risky, so I took this opportunity to ask Jason about the native yeast fermentation at Tablas Creek and how they might handle a “stuck” fermentation.  Jason mentioned that often native yeast fermentation is described as “hands off” wine making.  He looks at it more as “fingerprints off” wine making because the process actually makes you more “hands on”.  During fermentation they are closely monitoring each lot and testing to be sure it is perking away.  If a lot is not fermenting well or looks like it is getting stuck, they have options.  They can mix the lot with another lot that is fermenting well or pump it over the lees of something that is fermenting well.  They can build a culture from a tank that is doing well and release it into a tank that isn’t.  So they don’t get “stuck”, they just have to work harder.  Using only native yeast is another way of expressing the uniqueness of the site or the “terroir” which is something that Tablas Creek is passionate about.

Use of Foudres

There are few places in California that you will see foudres used.  Foudres are 1200 gallon barrels (as opposed to a typical wine barrel that holds 60 gallons).  When you walk into the Tablas Creek Vineyards tasting room you can see these beautiful large foudres through the glass windows that surround the tasting room.  As Jason explains it, when you are aging a wine you must determine how much oxygen and how much oak you want.  As they follow the Chateau du Beaucastel style they are looking for very minor but consistent oxygen and very little oak.  As a result, large wood it the way to go.  With a 1200 gallon Foudre you have 20 times the wine and just 4 times the surface area compared to a normal 60 gallon barrel.  This gives you more volume to surface area.  The staves in these larger barrels are thicker also, which makes the penetration of oxygen slower.  This is perfect for protecting Grenache which is prone to oxidation and for Syrah and Mourvedre which are prone to reduction which can cause them to go funky.  The large foudres give a balance allowing the wines to age gently and still progress.

 

While this concludes our formal interview with Jason, we did continue with a vineyard walk and winery tour which concluded with a great conversation about how they blend their wines.  So watch for more videos and blog posts.

 

See More Conversations with

Tablas Creek Vineyard, Paso Robles, Biodynamics and more

Tablas Creek Vineyard Spring 2015

While on the Central Coast in April we were lucky enough to meet with Jason Haas, General Manager of Tablas Creek Vineyard in Paso Robles. Jason graciously took time out of his busy schedule to spend a couple of hours with Michael and I in the vineyard and the winery.

Tablas Creek Vineyard is the collaborative effort between the Perrin Family of Chateau du Beaucastel in Chateauneuf du Pape in France’s Rhone Valley and the Haas Family. Vineyard Brands, the wine import company founded by Robert Haas had been the exclusive importer for Beaucastel wines. In 1989 they founded Tablas Creek Vineyard in the west side of Paso Robles to grow Rhone varieties. In this part of the interview we talk about Biodynamics and the Tablas approach, the similarities and differences between the Tablas Creek wines and the Chateau du Beaucastel wines and the Tablas Creek Wine Library.

More on Tablas Creek Vineyard to Come

This is part two of our series, we will release additional segments where we discuss native yeast fermentations, the use of Foudres (1200 gallon barrels), as well as aging wines. We do a walk through the vineyard to look at the new acreage as well as Scuffy Hill where they grow their field blend. We look at the soil, the biodiversity in the fields and then explore the winery and it’s barrel rooms, before Jason talks us through how they create their blends. There is also Part 1 on the drought, dry farming and head pruning if you missed that.  So stick with us…there is lots more to come.

 

See More Conversations with

A Conversation with Jason Haas of Tablas Creek Vineyard, Paso Robles, the Drought, Dry farming

Tablas Creek Vineyards, Paso Robles, Central Coast Wine Country

While on the Central Coast in April we were lucky enough to meet with Jason Haas, General Manager of Tablas Creek Vineyard in Paso Robles. Jason graciously took time out of his busy schedule to spend a couple of hours with Michael and I in the vineyard and the winery.

Tablas Creek Vineyard is the collaborative effort between the Perrin Family of Chateau de Beaucastel in Chateauneuf du Pape in France’s Rhone Valley and the Haas Family. Vineyard Brands, the wine import company founded by Robert Haas had been the exclusive importer for Beaucastel wines. In 1989 they founded Tablas Creek Vineyard in the west side of Paso Robles to grow Rhone varieties. In this part of the interview Jason tells us how the soil and climate brought them to Paso. Average rainfall was also one of the draws and Jason tells us how the current drought is affecting them, which segues into a discussion on planting dry farmed vines and the benefits of a head-pruned vineyard.

More on Tablas Creek Vineyard to Come

This is just part one, we will release additional segments where we discuss biodynamics, similarities and differences between the Beaucastel wines and Tablas Creek Vineyard Wines, native yeast fermentations, the use of Foudres (1200 gallon barrels), as well as aging wines and the library of wine Tablas keeps. We do a walk through the vineyard to look at the new acreage as well as Scuffy Hill where they grow their field blend. We look at the soil, the biodiversity in the fields and then explore the winery and it’s barrel rooms, before Jason talks us through how they create their blends. So stick with us…there is lots more to come.

And if you are fascinated by this discussion, visit the Tablas Creek Blog.  Jason has a 3 part series on his blog about dry farming in California’s drought.

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Presqu’ile, Key to Wine Country Weekend Part 4 – Pinot Noir Deux

Presqu'ile Winery Terrace

This is the fourth and last section of our conversations with the winemakers at the Santa Barbara Vintners Key to Wine Country event held by Presqu’ile. This event brought together 4 winemakers all making wines from the grapes from Presqu’ile Vineyard. This final section finishes out the last 2 Pinot Noirs of the 5 that we tasted.

These last two wines were both 2012 Pinots one from Labyrinth by Wine Maker Arki Hill and Storm by Winemaker Ernst Storm. The Labyrinth Pinot Noir was made with whole clusters in neutral oak. The Storm Pinot Noir came from a small block at Presqu’ile that only produced 1.3 tons total that vintage. Ernst did 30% whole cluster and a 6 day cold soak. Fermentation was 14 days on skin and then 10 month in barrel on the lees.

Ernst Storm of Storm Wines is a believer in wines expressing a sense of place. You find a place that produces fruit with depth and balance then the winemaker just guides the grapes. His South African roots gave him a balance between new and old world styles in winemaking. He believes in being gentle with the grapes, basket pressing using gravity flow to move the wines and only fining and filtrating when absolutely needed on the white wines.

For More Conversations check out our Dirt to Glass Page

If you enjoyed this series and would like to enjoy an experience like this for yourself, check out the Santa Barbara Vintners site and watch for more of their amazing upcoming events. Santa Barbara County is a haven for wine geeks, not wine snobs. People here are relaxed and down to earth and more often than not you will run into the winemaker in the tasting room. If you are fascinated by wine and are looking for people to have interesting conversations about wine and winemaking and who knows what else…this is the place to be.