Day 3 had us up early and traveling back the way we had been the afternoon before. The Applegate Valley AVA in Southern Oregon established in 2000, is actually a sub AVA of the Rogue Valley AVA. From California’s border runs north 50 miles to the Rogue River west of Grants Pass.
We arrived early to Cowhorn to meet Bill Steele. This Southern Oregon vineyard is Demeter Certified Biodynamic and is a bucolic setting on Eastside Road that runs along the Applegate River. We did an interview with Bill in the vineyard and walked the property before heading into the beautiful modern tasting room to do a tasting with Bill. The tasting room features a large window that looks out onto the vineyard and the valley, which is reflected in the shiny white glass behind the tasting bar, allowing you the view while facing either direction.
The wines here are Rhône varieties primarily and the finese on the winemaking is pretty spectacular. Everything is done with native yeast. I have to admit the grounds were so beautiful, I really didn’t want to leave. We will dive in deep to our visit in a separate post and tell you about Bill, biodynamics, the patio, gardens and the tasting room. Their tasting room was the first in the US to meet the “Living Building Challenge”.
You can look forward to our in depth interview with Bill coming up soon.
We left unwillingly. We could have stayed all day (or perhaps forever). But we had another appointment and this one was a bit of a drive.
North to the Umpqua Valley
We were headed toward Roseburg in the Umpqua Valley about 2 hours North. The Umpqua Valley AVA is a little older, established in 1984. We jumped back on Route 238 and took the scenic (and shorter) route to Grants Pass where we grabbed a bite and got on the 5. Yes it was freeway, but it’s Southern Oregon, so the views are still pretty spectacular.
We exited onto the 99 around Cow Creek and then took Route 42 out to Ten Mile where Girardet Vineyards is located. Mind you….our GPS had a little trouble out here and we ended up coming into the property the back way. I suggest downloading a map ahead of time and not relying on GPS.
Girardet is one of the older wineries in this area planting the vineyard back in 1971. The Girardets (Philippe and Bonnie) got in their VW bus and drove the country looking for vine starts. They picked up some French varieties from Wente and then planted some of the French hybrids that they picked up in New York; Baco Noir, Seyval Blanc, Cayuga among others. Marc was born in 1975 just after this experiment had begun. He now runs the vineyard and winery and he took some time to speak to us on the beautiful covered patio with a picnic table, next to the tasting room. After our chat he took us through the winery and drove us up into the vineyard to see the views. Vines do love a view.
We finished this stop with a tasting which included some of the Italian varieties that Marc has added on the newer section of the vineyard where they found ancient marine bed shale. We made some friends in the tasting room before heading back on the road to Newburg, where we would stop for the night. This winery has a great history that we look forward to sharing with you.
Coming up Next…
Next we head North, first to the Columbia Gorge to visit the waterfalls on the Oregon side, then onto the Washington side to visit Syncline winery. From there it is off to the Yakima Valley to visit with Seth Kitzke of Kitzke Cellars and Upsidedown Wine and then enjoy sunset with Jonathan and Mike Sauer at the iconic Red Willow Vineyard.
We headed out early. Not pre-dawn, but early enough to beat the heat in Death Valley. It was the top of a 12 day road trip that would take us almost 3800 miles, through so much stunning scenery that we almost became numb to the beauty. Almost.
This was the Flash Tour 2019, that we are dubbing “The Scenic Route”. We visited vineyards and winerys and met many really wonderful people. We look forward to telling you each of their stories. But for now, we will tell you ours. This is our adventure. A sometimes over-planned 12 day epic trip that was filled with exceptional places, some of which were far beyond our expectations. A few things were skipped along the way as we prioritized in the moment. So hop on for the adventure!
Back to the top of the drive. Day One’s plan, out early to travel North to Lake Tahoe. We could have taken a quicker route, going through some expansive empty desert, but, with all the driving on this trip, we opted to take the scenic route.
We headed North out of Vegas, passing the exit to Mount Charleston, up past Creech Air Force Base, past the High Desert State Prison and on to the Armagosa Valley. The morning light gave us a fresh morning feel, a start to the day and our adventure. My cannister of hot coffee was close by to help me slowly enter the day.
From the Armagosa Valley we took a turn south, as anti-productive as that seems for a trip north. This was onto Route 373 which would take us to Death Valley Junction. There we would pick up Route 190 taking us into California and Death Valley National Park. We soaked in the expansive arid beauty of the area and stopped for a quick break at the Furnace Creek Visitors center.
Furnace Creek is a small oasis of green in the midst of the Valley, with places to stay or camp. We continued North from here passing the Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes, Panamint Spring and then stopped at the Father Crawley Vista Point. It was time to stretch our legs before getting onto Route 136 which took us to US Route 395.
This drive took us through the quaint towns of Lone Pine & Independence. Roads here were lined with banners and bunting for the previous day’s Fourth of July Celebrations. By this time our tummies were grumbling and we headed toward a rest area Michael discovered on a previous trip.
Division Creek Rest Area
Division Creek Rest Area sits on Division Creek and has views of Mt. Whitney, Black Mountain and Mt. Pinchot in Sequoia National Park and Kings Canyon National Park. We pulled out the cooler to a picnic table and fended off the birds while enjoying the sounds of the creek and the view of the snow capped peaks.
In this beautiful setting there is a darker side. The rest area tells the story of this plentiful valley and the Piute Indians who lived here, who were bit by bit driven out as settlers took the area. You can explore the details of the story here.
Back on the road we drove north through Big Pine and into the Inyo National Forest. We passed Mono Lake and the back entrance to Yosemite and drove through the Stanislaus National Forest.
At last we turned on the tiny Route 756 to head to Lake Tahoe. The drive up the mountain to get to the Lake which sits at 6,237 feet above sea level reminded me of how far we had come. Earlier in Death Valley, the elevation was 286 feet BELOW sea level.
South Lake Tahoe
As we arrived on the Lake in South Lake Tahoe, it dawned on me that the day before was the 4th of July and while the Independence Day fireworks were done, the lake was still teaming with visitors for the holiday weekend. We headed to Zephyr Cove to set up to catch sunset views to find it packed. So we traveled further North and found a place to park at Logan Shoals Vista Point. After a bit of exploring, and a bit of getting lost and climbing, we settled on a spot just above the lake where we could camp out and watch sunset.
By the time the sun had set we were hungry! We headed back to our hotel for the night in Minden and then headed late night to the Carson Valley Inn & Casino, to Katie’s Country Kitchen for a good ole stick to your ribs dinner (or breakfast…I had the breakfast burrito). While waiting for our food, we checked our social media. We found another earthquake had shaken Las Vegas and LA just a few hours earlier. The shallow quake had friends from both cities reporting waves in their pools. We checked with the neighbors to be sure the house looked okay and the cat sitter to check in on Loki. We then finished our dinners and headed back to catch a bit of sleep.
Day Two had us up early and traveling North around Reno. We took Route 44 to the Lassen Volcanic National Forest, stopping to enjoy views of Lassen Peak, then traveling North on Route 89 to take in some spectacular views of Mt. Shasta.
On to Oregon
We continued up through Ashland and Medford on Interstate 5. We veered off on Route 238 to Jacksonville, driving through the super quaint town as it teamed with visitors. Then it was out into the country, venturing into Southern Oregon Wine Country in the Rogue and Applegate Valleys. Our first stop would be at Wooldridge Creek Winery and Creamery.
I had spoken with Monica at Wooldridge Creek via email a bit before our trip. Sadly for us, a staff member was getting married this day, so most of the staff would be away. While there would be no one to give us a full tour of the property, they gave us permission to photo to our hearts content.
The property houses goats, chickens and a garden on top of the vineyard. This is a perfect spot to spend an afternoon. Just bring a cooler, because you will want to leave with some of their specialty products. They set us up with a tasting out on the crush pad with a cheese and charcuterie platter. Everything on the platter was made on site, most of it grown here also. It was a delightful sensory experience enjoying wines from the site with mustards, cheeses and pickles from the site. (You will need to watch for our future post for all the details).
After a visit to the barrel room and a bit of time in the vines, we picked up a few bottles of wine to take with us and headed on to our next stop.
Our stop at Red Lily was simply to taste. No one knew we were coming. We didn’t know how much time we might have left after our first stop and didn’t want to have to rush. We arrived at Red Lily, just before their last pours of the day. This winery focuses on Italian varieties. Our tasting was served in test tubes in a test tube rack that we could take with us to the patio.
After our tasting we strolled to the river or creek that runs along the property. Red adirondack chairs dot the shore, many right in the water with people cooling their feet with a glass of wine in hand. There was a bar with bottles and glasses, picnic tables, live music and a food truck up the hill by the winery. It was a lovely place to spend an afternoon. One tree was roped off as there was an otter nest that they did not want disturbed.
We soaked up a bit of ambience and headed back to Medford to our hotel for the evening.
Next up we visit Cowhorn Vineyard a biodynamic vineyard in the Applegate Valley. We then travel north to the Umpqua Valley and Girardet, where they planted French and French American hybrids in the early 70’s!
Located in the Chehalem Mountains, Beckham is actually on Parrett Mountain on the south east end of the range. We visited them in July of 2018 to hear their story. It was a beautiful morning and Annedria set us up on the patio next to the tasting room, (which has a beautiful view), for our tasting. Andrew was busy in the studio making amphorae.
We had discussed the creation of the vineyard (you can see that in our post here). Now we move on to Annedria telling us about planting their Riesling, expanding the vineyard, their inspiration from the Jura in France and then how the Amphorae Project began.
When choosing a white grape to plant, they settled on Riesling and planted in 2013, the traditional way on the steepest, rockiest part of their vineyard.
“We had to hand pick with a pick axe every hole for each vine because it was just cobble and it’s taken a little while to come along.”
Annedria Beckham, July 2018
had warm vintages from 2014 to 2017, so the vintage in 2016 was small with an
even smaller vintage in 2017 since it is dry farmed. Annedria was hoping they might have enough
this year to do something. She’s really
looking forward to some Riesling.
the Riesling was planted they had 6 acres of Pinot Noir and 1 acre of Riesling
on their 8 and a half acre parcel.
“I was doing my happy dance thinking we were done. Now we were finished. No more breaks spent planting vines, pounding posts, no more catch wire. All of the infrastructure was finally in. We were done.”
Annedria Beckham July 2018
But Andrew was contemplating the acreage behind them. He spoke to the owner and made a deal to purchase a bit of the parcel.
The parcel was covered in Douglas Fir. The family who owned it were Oregon homesteaders and had gone through a variety of crops on the land before settling on timber. The owner liked that they were farming and was happy to make a deal for the property. The county, however, couldn’t parcel off the property in smaller blocks, so they ended up with the whole 20 acres.
Soon Andrew was thinking of what else he could plant and the journey of contacting the timber guys, pulling out the Douglas fir and all that follows began again.
They cleared 10 of the 20 acres and prepped it. At this point they had a bit more knowledge on how to lay out a vineyard and had decided to go with higher density, up to 2000 vines per acre from 1200. That makes for just a few vines…2000 vines times 7 acres…that’s a chunk of change. They were also ready to go with North American root stock. The previous vines were own rooted, which was pretty safe up here on Parrett Mountain, as they do not share equipment.
To save a bit, they took cuttings of North American root stock and planted them. They could get the vines going and when they were ready, purchase bud wood to graft in place.
Falling in love with the Jura
this time, they also managed to take their first real vacation in years and and
visited France. They visited Burgundy,
which Annedria said was wonderful, but they had enough Pinot Noir planted. When they visited the Jura, they felt
completely at home. This region is one of the undiscovered areas of France for
“it wasn’t a monoculture there yet. There were still farms, there were still animals, there were still other crops. It wasn’t just row after row of vines and hillside after hillside of vines. And the people…you know, dirt under their fingernails and they were doing it like we were doing it”
Annedria Beckham July 2018
They visited cellars and garages in the Jura and decided that these were the varieties they wanted to plant.
Planting Jura varieties and testing some Italian varieties
were a couple of vineyards that had planted Trousseau Noir, so it wasn’t
completely new, but in around May of 2018 they grafted over 2 acres to 3 or 4
clones of Trousseau Noir, including the Bastardo clone. They also grafted an acre to Sauvignon Blanc
and an acre to Aligote. While they don’t anticipate getting Poulsard, they are
looking to add Savagnin.
also have a test block of a couple of Italian varieties, high alpine Nebbiolo,
Montuni and Albana. These last two from
the Emilia Romagna region. With global
warming they are testing the waters to see what might start to grow well.
the cool climate style of Pinot Noir that they like is becoming more of a
challenge without doing things like making additions, adding water,
reacidulating etc in the winery, with the multiple warm vintages that they have
been experiencing. They’ve been doing
it, but it is tougher.
A vineyard, a winemaker and an artist with clay – The amphorae project
to 2013. They planted the Riesling,
bought the new property, started clearing and one night, Annedria has half a moment to flip thorough a
Wine Spectator and comes across a piece on Elizabetta Foradori.
“I was flipping through waiting for my computer to load and I see this photograph of this stunning Italian woman in her underground cellar and row after row of these beautiful terra cotta vessels. And it was Elizabetta Foradori in her cellar. And I thought about it 3 different times before I decided to show the article to Andrew, because I knew him well enough that I didn’t want him to get this crazy idea that he needed to start making amphorae, because we had enough on our plate. But I showed him the article and said “you know I’ve heard of this winemaker and I’ve heard of her wines, we should see if we can get some in Oregon.” And he flipped through and said “I can make those” I said “ I know you can dear, but that’s not the point. How ‘bout we try the wines first?” And he ordered clay the next day and started working on shape and size.”
Annedria Beckham July 2018
This was in his wheelhouse. Andrew’s pottery had always been large scale, now it had a purpose. They tried to keep this quiet. I mean… it was an experiment. But friends found out and soon there was quite a bit of interest. At this point they just had the amphorae, but they did not have any wine made in it.
Trials for amphorae – the experimentation
Andrew worked with a chemist trialing clay. They searched for an Oregon clay, but the closest they could find was from Sacramento in the delta. Most terracotta is used for pots for plants, so there are things like barium and color stabilizers in it that would not work for making wine. The clay body has changed over the years as he trialed the wines. As the potter and the winemaker he can look at a vintage and see where he might like to tweek the vessel or adjust firing temperatures. It’s all a big experiment, which, like anything with wine, takes time.
scientific in his testing. The first
year they used their estate pinot noir and just did primary fermentation in the
amphorae, then pressed and aged in neutral oak.
There were just 24 cases of this wine.
They did not additions other than a touch of sulfur before bottling to
keep the variables down as they tested.
ferment was complete, he had this empty amphorae just crying to be used, so
they picked up some Pinot Gris that another winemaker had and did a little skin
contact Pinot Gris. This first year was
2 weeks skin contact, the next 30 days, the next year 40 days and now he does
A summer spent creating amphorae
2014, happy with the initial test, he spent his entire summer break making
around 30 amphorae. The clay body was
slightly different this time. They took
a little more of their Estate Pinot Noir fermented it in the amphorae, pressed
and then separated half to amphorae and half to neutral oak for aging. These were later bottled separately as Creta
for clay and Ligna for wood.
“ It was really fun to pour those wines side by side because it was split 50 50 down the middle between what people liked. Because the ligna wasn’t too far off the beaten path. You could tell there was a difference. There was this textural component, this purity but it wasn’t so different to be too far out there. Where as the Creta in 2014 was very different, was very iron driven, there was a I don’t want to say a “blood character” . There was a very clay textural component.”
Annedria Beckham July 2018
the point wasn’t to taste the clay, the point was to get a purity of
place. So he tweeked the clay body again
and settled on one in 2015 that he has moved forward with. He know feels that you get that textural
component, but it’s not so overt that the clay is what stands out.
On to the Winery and fields of amphorae
At this point Annedria pours us a little of their Syrah/Viognier and we head up to the winery and studio. The Winery is modest, with the views they have the majority of tastings are done in the tasting room or on the patio, but they can do tastings in the winery. The building was filled with barrels and amphorae in multiple shapes.
Annedria spoke to us about the amphorae, the progression and the process, going through Andrew’s experiments with firing temperatures and how they change the oxygen exposure and can even impart reductive qualities to the wine if fired very hot.
She also mentioned some other vintners who were using Andrew’s amphorae. We had seen a couple of these amphorae when we visited Montinore and spoke with Rudy Marchesi. I also remember seeing later that Ross & Bee of Maloof wines had picked up an amphorae, and I look forward to tasting the wine they make in this.
We continued on and met Andrew in the studio where he was in the process of making another amphorae. I think that you can look forward to tasting many wines aged in his amphorae in the future, from winemakers around the region and beyond.
It was early morning of our last day in the Willamette Valley and we drove North from (where we were staying) heading toward the Chehalem Mountains. The road into Portland was moving fast and we came up a hill, with the side of the roads deeply forested. There was our turn. We had to make it fast. And suddenly, from the whirl of fast trucks, we turned and turned again into the quiet of the forests on Chehalem mountain. This is timber country. Deep forests with early morning mist. It was a magical escape from the fast morning pace on the road behind us.
We were running early (it’s in our nature), so we had time to drive and explore the mountain. When you reach the top, you find clearings, fields with houses or sometimes, giant pink painted adirondack chairs, between bunches of Douglas fir. We followed the google maps and ended up on a gravel road at one point, but found our way back around to Beckham which actually sits on Parrett Mountain on the South west end of Chahalem Mountain. We knew we were in the right place before we could read the sign, because of the clay amphorae at the gate.
I came upon Beckham in the usual way, at least for me. When researching where to go in a region, I head to the regions site, in this case the Willamette Valley Wine and one by one, I click through the links and check out the sites for each winery. The Beckham site stopped me as I saw their Amphorae Project video. I read on, and knew that these were people I wanted to meet.
We arrived and met Annedria Beckham who walked us to their tasting room, that sits just down from their home, next to the garden. We met Ruby Tuesday, their dog and Annedria set us up at the picnic table on the patio for a tasting.
She and Andrew bought this property in 2004 to build an art studio. Andrew is a high school art teacher and a ceramics artist. He teaches in Beaverton at the High School. They bought this little house in the woods to grow a garden and raise a family.
Directly across the street there was a little 2.5 acre vineyard. The owners were in their late 70’s early 80’s and had 20 year old pinot noir and chardonnay vines back in 2004. They farmed the fruit and had someone else make the wine for them and then on Saturdays they would sell their $11 pinot noir out of their garage.
… we were there quite often, fell in love with the idea of growing something on our property. Andrew went and helped Fred prune the vineyard that first year, came back with a truck load of Pinot Noir cuttings and said “Hey hun, how ‘bout we plant a couple rows right over here for fun.” I humored him thinking he will get over this crazy notion, we didn’t know anything about growing grapes. Next thing I know we are propagating vines on the coffee table in the living room.
Annedria Beckham, Beckham Estate Vineyard July 2018
As the tale goes, the vines then went to heat mats in the garage and then a timber company was called to see what the 60 year old Douglas Fir on the property was worth. They negotiated and had the company come and cut the timber, but they were left with the stumps, limbs and the mess. They cleaned that up themselves with a rented track hoe and a cat. There were some pretty big bonfires and they have been using the limbs for firewood ever since. Finally, after some grading, the first block was ready to be planted in May of 2005.
They began with own rooted, dry farmed Pommard and Wadenswil. They added on and planted about 2.5 acres the first year and another 1.5 the next. This was a gradual slow process, bit by bit as their budget and time could allow. This is a labor of love, that grew out of a passion. They dove in headfirst into farming.
So once we put our little baby sticks in the ground we had to keep them alive. So when I mentioned dry farming, we hand water about 15 lengths of hose and a few beers and me after work every day, watering just to keep them alive that first year, and then after that they were on their own. Just a little in 2005 and spot watered some stressed areas in 2006 but since then they haven’t seen a hose.
Annedria Beckham, Beckham Estate Vineyard July 2018
At this point they were focused on the farming, so they sold their first tiny batch of fruit to a winery in Dundee in 2007.
But we had those first few babies, we were really excited for and at that point you’ve hand rooted every vine, pounded every post, run every wire, hand hung every cluster and then at that point to give them away to someone else was nearly heartbreaking. But Andrew got to stay and help with crush deliver the fruit and help with processing and then went back every couple of days. He came home and said “I don’t know that I can continue to farm with this much energy and effort and then just hand it off to someone else. I think we should make wine.”
Annedria Beckham, Beckham Estate Vineyard July 2018
They did spend another year selling off fruit, while Andrew apprenticed for a few years with different wineries. In 2009 they kept the fruit to make their own wine. The first year it was 250 cases of one wine. In 2011 they opened the tasting room. At the time it had a roof, but no sides, only one light and no running water.
.. but people came and they got to taste one wine about 5 different times, because that was all I had. And they came back and they bought and they came back and they brought their friends.
Annedria Beckham, Beckham Estate Vineyard July 2018
All this time Andrew was still teaching as well as working for a couple of different winemakers and they now had 3 children. Annedria began working for the Chehalem Mountain Wine Growers Association in 2008. Their executive director went on maternity leave and Annedria was asked to fill in, and the previous director never returned. She found this to be a wonderful way to immerse themselves in the community.
When we speak about Oregon wine country, you always find people speaking about the generosity of the community, with people happy to share their time, resources and knowledge.
To have David Adelsheim on speed dial? How lucky was I to be in that position. It was a wonderful way to learn how winemaking works and making business decisions….hey this first restaurant wants to have our wine, how do I price it? I have no idea? So asking those important questions and having the right people to be able to talk to while Andrew was working in the vineyard and the winery.
Annedria Beckham, Beckham Estate Vineyard July 2018
At this point we tasted the first of the wines. It was the 2015 Estate Pinot Noir, which is a composite wine from the entire site. They make about 300 cases of this. It’s 30% whole cluster with native yeast fermentation.
They farm organically here and have been farming organically since 2013. They are not certified. It’s expensive and time consuming to become certified, and they are looking into that now. They would need to hire someone just to deal with all the paperwork for this and they are a small operation.
A lot of folks are like “how do we know that you are doing everything organically unless you are certified?” I’m not doing something for someone else, we are small enough that I’m not putting it on my label, we still sell the majority of our wine direct to consumer. You can walk around and see that we farm things organically. I grow for my family. My kids are running around these vines, our chickens are running around these vines. That we are eating the eggs from, we have sheep around the vineyard the majority of the year. We do it for us.
Annedria Beckham, Beckham Estate Vineyard July 2018
They’ve started some biodynamic practices, burying their first 500 cow horns in 2017 with their first sprayings of the solution in 2018.
Annedria poured us the Dow’s 2015 Pinot Noir, which is from Andrew’s favorite couple of barrels from each vintage.
Their first vintage was in 2009 and all they had was the Estate bottling. Of course it’s tough to do a tasting with just one wine, so she asked Andrew how they might make a second wine, and that is how the Dow’s came about.
Dow is a family middle name in the Beckham family with over 20 Beckham sons carrying the name. In 2011 they added their wine club and Annedria asked how they might get a 3rd release. They only had Pinot Noir, and rosés were just becoming popular again so Andrew made her the Olivia’s Rosé and Sophia’s Pinot Noir. Sophia’s is the first release, elegant and delicate, the Estate follows with more complexity and then the Dow with a little new oak and a darker fruit profile.
This was all of their estate wine until 2013 when they started the Amphorae Project.
We will continue our visit with Annedria and Andrew Beckham with a pod cast speaking with her about the addition of their riesling, their inspiration in the Jura and the Amphorae Project
It’s no secret that I’m kinda infatuated with Oregon wines. More than just the wines…it’s the people behind them. That whole “Keep Portland Weird” thing, kinda speaks for much of Oregon. But then again, with all the delicious weirdness, there is a simple, elegant classy side also. I love it so much, let’s delve in a little.
The Oregon Wine Trailblazers
This is a relatively new region for wine. The first winery, post prohibition, appeared in southern Oregon’s Umpqua Valley back in 1961, thanks to Richard Sommer who refused to listen to the UC Davis folks who told him it wouldn’t work. There were a couple of other UC Davis grads who bucked the trends in the mid to late 60’s and headed North including David Lett (Eyrie Vineyards), Dick Erath (yep, you guessed it, Erath) and Charles Coury (which is now David Hill Winery). If you have been into a wine store (or a grocery store) you will recognize Erath. Obviously growing grapes here worked.
My Introduction to Oregon Wine – At Home in the Vineyard
I’ll admit that my knowledge of early Oregon wine history came from reading Susan Sokol Blosser’s book “At Home in the Vineyard”. this memoir is her personal story of the struggle to build the Sokol Blosser Winery in the Dundee Hills. These were not people with money looking to invest and have a retreat in a vineyard. They were idealists and they struggled with the weather and the soils as they figured our this new area for wine. This was the way for many of the early vineyard owners and winemakers and it’s still that way for many today. (I had a wonderful conversation with Annedria Beckham of Beckham vineyards in the Chehalem Mountains that I will share with you soon, about the continuing struggles of planting and growing their vineyard and winery).
I encourage you to visit the fantastic site of the Oregon Wine Board and read all about the history of this great region.
Early visit circa 2011
My introduction to Oregon wine came with a visit back in 2011. We came to spend 3 or 4 days, visit wine country and catch up with an old friend of mine. We stayed at the cottage at Winter Hill. Winter Hill Winery is in the Dundee Hills, the cottage was over the hill with a separate entrance. There were chickens running about and an amazing view of the area and the stars from the porch.
On this visit we took in, Winter Hill Winery, Erath, Youngberg Hill, Stoller Family Estate, Lange Estate, Argyle, Cana’s Feast, Willakenzie, Rex Hill, Trisaetum, Domaine Drouhin Oregon, Sokol Blosser, Torii Mor, Vidon & Vista Hills. It’s a list, I know!
I remember them all. Here are a few of the stories…
Winter Hill at the time was tasting in the middle of the working winery on a folding table. It was a humble for a tasting room, but warm and friendly, and we got a first hand look at the wines with the people who were putting their heart and soul into the endeavor.
Michael was driving to get to us Youngberg Hill and Adam (my friend who had been married there just a year before) was giving directions. Adam and I got busy talking and we missed a turn, and then another. We arrived to views and VIP treatment thanks to Adam. The views here are wedding worthy that’s for sure!
At Stoller, Adam was also a member, and he was doing a pick up, so we got a little extra special treatment. I remember a Tempranillo they had that I wish we would have taken home with us. And I remember a story about the honey that they were hoping to get from hives in a black berry patch part way up the hill.
Up on the hill at Lange, we were greeted by Jack, the vineyard cat and stepped into the tiny tasting room where they were boxing up their wine club shipment. I remember a moving experience tasting their Pinot Noir (if I close my eyes, I can still taste it).
At Argyle we enjoyed some bubbles and I got hooked on their Black Brut. This was back when Rollin Soles the pioneering vintner was still the winemaker. I remember thinking how cool it was that Lyle Lovett was his friend from college. They are two unique and iconic individuals in their own right.
When we visited Vidon, we met Don the owner, when he came in off the tractor. Don was still busy in the vineyard back then. He was a particle physicist by training and worked with NASA before he purchased the property in the Chehalem Mountains in 1999. We also visited Vista Hills. It was late in the day, and close to the cottage and they snuck us in as their last tasting. The views are stunning and the wines delicious. We returned to them on our last trip again, just before the announcement that they had been purchased by Coppola.
We’ve waxed poetic on some of this before…
You can read a little about the Stoller Tempranillo, the Lange Pinot Noir and the Argyle Black Brut in our piece Wines I can’t forget Part 1
Last year we returned to this region that had so enchanted us. We spent 5 days exploring AVA’s within the Willamette Valley. Actually trying to visit each of the AVA’s and the proposed AVA’s. We gathered so much content, that we are still putting out pieces! We also were able to enjoy the last “Uncommon Wine Festival” at Vista Hills, where we spent a day tasting and talking with up and coming wine makers.
We did a Primer on this that you can read here. We managed to visit most of the AVAs.
Current Willamette Valley AVAs
We managed to visit a winery or tasting room representing each of the current AVAs
Chehalem Mountains AVA – est 2006 where we visited Beckham Vineyards and met both Annedria and Andrew.
Dundee Hills AVA – est 2005 where we visited Vista Hills to taste their wine as well as enjoy the hospitality of the Uncommon Wine Festival
Eola-Amity Hills AVA – est 2006. We visited the Evening Land tasting room in Dundee and then drove to see the vineyard in the Eola-Amity Hills.
McMinnville AVA – est 2005. We visited Brittan Vineyards tasting room and then did a drive by of the McMinnville vineyard on the way to the coast.
Ribbon Ridge AVA – est 2005, where we revisited Trisaetum.
Van Duzer Corridor AVA – est 2019, actually established after we visited! We visited Johan here and fell in love.
Yamhill-Carlton AVA – est 2005. We spent a wonderful evening enjoy the sunset view at Fairsing Vineyard (along with smores!)
Proposed Willamette Valley AVAs
In addition there are 4 more proposed AVAs, which include:
Mt Pisgah/Polk County AVA. Located near Salem, we spent 1/2 a day with Lowell Ford owner of Illahe Vineyard.
Laurelwood AVA. We visited Ponzi Vineyards in this proposed AVA which is the Northern facing slopes of the Chehalem Mountains.
Tualatin Hills AVA. Located North of Yamhill-Carlton and West of Chehalem Mountians, we visited with Rudy Marchesi of Montinore Estate.
Lower Long Tom AVA. Okay…we didn’t make it here. It is far south between Corvalis and Eugene and there was just not enough time.
Get yourself to Oregon. You won’t regret it. Be it the Willamette Valley or further south in the Umpqua, Applegate or Rogue Valleys. Or maybe you head to some of those border areas that share AVAs with Washington. (they are good about sharing in Oregon)
We continue our visit with Lowell Ford of Illahe Vineyard in the proposed Mt. Pisgah/Polk County AVA in the Willamette Valley, by leaving the upper level of their gravity flow winery and heading into their new wine cave completed in 2015. Both the winery with it’s barrel shaped ceiling and the wine cave, set into the hill behind the winery, were designed by Laurence Ferar and Associates from Portland.
The Cave is cool and the walls are lined with barrels and our voices echo as we enter it’s dark interior. Once inside the cave, even before Kathy turns on the lights, you find there is still light, due to an skylight at the end of the cave inset into the ceiling. There is a sense of reverence in here. While the cave can hold around 200 barrels, at this time of year there are fewer, so we have ample room to quietly walk in and take in the space.
Lowell tells us how the cave was installed in three sections that were precast, with rebar sliding into place to fit the puzzle pieces together. There are wall sconces to light the space, although those get turned off when they are working on the 1899. The Bon Sauvage, Percheron and 1899, all barrel age here before release.
We leave the cool confines of the cave to walk out to the Vineyard, where Lowell shows us some bunches that are still full of bright green hard berries (it was early July when we visited). These bunches are filled with evenly sized berries, something he’s pretty happy about. “I don’t see any hens and chicks!” “That’s good news!”
We proceed to talk about vineyard maintenance, the use of sulfur to prevent downy mildew and other practices. They are LIVE Certified, and they have 6.5 acres that are farmed organically. The difficulty with that, it that to keep away the downy mildew, and other issues, they must spray every 7 days, which means they have to run a tractor through. These are the difficult choices in agriculture do you use the organic sprays which must be used more often to be effective, but then cause you to get out the tractor twice a week and burn fossil fuels?
We take in the view again as we move to the beautiful front patio, where we sit down and talk about the 1899. (I promised to give you some insights on this wine right?)
Illahe 1899 Pinot Noir
What he came up with was the process in which we take the winemaking activity and break it down very distinctly into it’s individual components. And there’s the genius of it.
Lowell Ford, speaking of his son and winemaker Brad Ford and his idea to create the 1899 Pinot Noir
The 1899 is made with the resources that would have been available in 1899. That means, without modern equipment and without electricity. Bea and Doc, the Percheron Draft Horses do a bit of work helping to get the grapes to the winery. In 2017 Bea had a lame leg on the day they were harvesting, and couldn’t pull the wagon. So while the harvest crew kept harvesting, the winemaking team got busy hauling the small buckets of ripe berries up the hill from the vineyard into the winery.
Once in the winery, everything gets de-stemmed by hand and goes into their wooden fermenting tanks. Here they are foot stomped.
After a 10 day soak they have a wooden basket press and then it is pumped into barrel. They have a bicycle that provides the power for the pumping and there are races to see who can fill a barrel fastest.
Bottling, corking and labeling are done by hand. The label is printed by a letterpress.
Then how to get it to market? They don’t skimp on this process either. It travels by Stagecoach to the river, by canoe 96 miles on the river and then by cargo bike into Portland.
We got the story from Lowell, but if you want to check out Brad (Lowell’s son and the winemaker at Illahe) you can watch this great video that they produced. Illahe 1899 Pinot Noir
For more details on Illahe you can check out these additional pieces we have done on this remarkable vineyard and winery.
More from Crushed Grape Chronicles on Illahe Vineyards
Last July we made the drive out to Illahe Vineyards in the southern part of the Willamette Valley. The vineyard is south west of Salem, Oregon, in the proposed Mt. Pisgah/Polk County AVA. Kathy Greysmith, the tasting room manager, took us through a tasting of the white wines and then Lowell the owner and grape grower walked us out front to look at the view of the vineyard. We then made our way back into the winery space.
Wines for the people
Illahe they have a wide range of wines and one of the things they find
important is keeping their wines at a price point that makes them accessible. They want people to be able to buy 2 bottles
rather than just one and they wanted the wines to be at a price point that their
neighbors could afford.
they released their 2004 vintage in 2006 they priced their Estate Pinot Noir at
$19 and the price has only increased to a still very affordable $25 for their
Estate Pinot Noir. The white wines across
the board are $19. Do they have more
expensive wines? Well yeah! These are the specialty reds and the block
designates. But even so, these wines are
2016 Bon Savage
this point we were tasting the 2016 Bon Savage, https://www.illahevineyards.com/our-wine/illahe-bon-sauvage-estate-pinot-noir-2015 which spends 16 months in barrel. It was
bottled in the spring so it was still quite new as we tasted it. This is a barrel select wine from the lower vineyard
sections. This lower section is less
influenced by the summer sun and is lighter.
They age in 25% new oak and get a more Burgundian style from this
wine. There is oak influence but you get
a lovely cedar on the nose. This does
have some tannins that will make this wine age worthy.
Simple Gravity Flow
Kathy gave us the tour of the winery, with the Barrel room to the side, the tasting room is on the winery floor. During harvest the tasting bar is rolled away, the barrel room emptied and the winery floor is busy. The winery is a very simple gravity flow design with the grapes coming in at the higher back level and sorting tables there, they come down into the winery floor through a garage door high on the back wall and drop into bins for fermentation. Gravity flow is just smart design. It allows for less energy use (use gravity to move things), it’s easier on people, (again gravity is your friend, moving things down is less work) and it tends to be easier on the grapes. For more on Gravity Flow Wineries, check out the article below.
The Percheron and the 1899 Pinot Noirs are foot stomped in the wooden fermentation tanks. Everyone takes a turn. Well almost everyone, there is a height requirement for safety sake and Kathy sadly is not tall enough to see over the top of the tank when she is stomping…so she is out when it comes to stomping.
Games you don’t really want to win at
that this is a family affair, with the extended team included as family. During harvest they have a team board and
have a bee sting contest, which Assistant Winemaker Nathan won easily. They also have the beer board. If you do something stupid, you are required
to bring a 6 pack. Sadly, Nathan won
this also this year. (Rough year Nathan).
up the steps to the upper level and Kathy pointed out the wooden basket press
they use for the 1899.
Feel like you are standing in a
got to the top the open-air crush pad was stacked with bins and equipment as
well as a tank that was doing cold stabilization on the 2017 Estate Pinot Noir.
shape of the roof is curved and immediately you feel as if you in a giant wine
I asked about bottling, did they bring in a bottling truck? Up to this year they had hand bottled. This year with the growth they have seen they updated to a bottling system. A bottling truck is limiting. You have to schedule in advance and who knows if that is really when the wine is just right for bottling? So they had a local company design a bottling rig on a trailer. They keep it in a storage building below the vineyard and bring it up when they are ready to bottle. It can be easily moved and allows them control on their bottling.
will head over to the cave!
Where and how to find them!
Vineyards is located at 3275 Ballard Rd, Dallas, OR 97338.
a call for an appointment at 503-831-1248 or drop her an email at [email protected].
are $25 per person and are waived with a $100 purchase.
they don’t serve food, they have a lovely patio with tables overlooking the vineyard,
where you can bring your own lunch and enjoy the view.
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
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
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
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.
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.
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)
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)
At this point we came to the beautiful clay fermentation tanks.
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.
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:
In our conversation with Rudy Marchesi of Montinore Estates, we asked him about biodynamics. The winery was Certified biodynamic in 2008. Rudy had set this process up while he was still working for the Montinore Estate as an employee.
The Motivation & learning
Pheloxera was what originally motivated him to look at biodynamics. They had so much vine loss and he was looking at how to combat this, instead of just ripping everything out. So he started studying soil microbiology.
When he started out, he was more into organic farming. I would imagine his own garden informed this. But working with the wholesale importer on the east coast, he just kept finding that the biodynamic wines he sold in the French Portfolio, were the wines he liked the best.
At the time there were only a few books available and only two places in the US that had training. He found a tiny college in NY state teaching a course. This was just 1 class per month for 5 months and then a 5 day intensive. He took this information and tried it out and had tremendous results right away.
…biodynamic practices were established as agricultural practices. …Biodynamic winemaking is an extension of the thought process.
Rudy Marchesi, in our interview July 2018.
Biodynamics the practical and the mystical
I expressed my skepticism regarding some of the practices. I have never been one to believe in “leaf days”,
Rudy told me a story about his home garden. He always planted fall vegetables. Two weeks before the recent solar eclipse in 2017, he planted his fall endives. He planted a second row on the day before the eclipse. He had read that you shouldn’t plant anything for a few days around an eclipse, but he needed to get them in. The first row was beautiful. The second row only had 15% germination.
Rudy says that big events are significant. They don’t pick on black out days. They have to prune from January 1st to March 20th and it’s all got to be done. So they don’t take days off, blackout, leaf day or not. With racking and tasting they just watch to see if it makes a big difference.
80% of wine making is done in the vineyard anyway. It’s all about the quality of the fruit you get. I think that’s why, it’s perceptible but not understood, why biodynamic wines have that certain something that’s…. you put them in your mouth, they’re lively they’re interesting, they’re there, they have a presence. What is it? You can’t measure it. There is so much in life we can’t measure anyway you know, so it’s some sort of life force that we are creating in the vineyard in the farm to begin with. That translates through the vineyard to the fruit and to the bottle. And that’s what I think it is. You can’t measure that. You can taste it!
Rudy Marchesi, in our interview July 2018.
There is more to come…
We will have more with Rudy…he took us to the cellar after this to do some barrel tastings which were delicious and fascinating. In the meantime feel free to check out the rest of our conversation with him:
Day 8 of our 12 Days of Wine found us doing a late night pairing. We met Leah Jørgensen of Leah Jørgensen Cellars this summer and had a wonderful conversation with her about her wines and so many other things. You can find all that info here.
One of the unique wines that she makes is a Blanc de Cabernet Franc. She had run into one of these in the Loire Valley and decided to make one from Oregon.
Tasting notes: A most unusual white wine that first comes across as quirky, but then mellows into a truly distinctive beauty. Offers aromas of lemon, rosemary,beeswax and gradually gives way to deeper fruit aromas as it is exposed to air— ripe nectarine, blood orange and honey. There is even a note that recalls lilacs. Ultra-smooth texture and medium body, with some minerality on the finish. A wine with a lot of grace. Drink young. Recommended for: Summer sipping on the back patio. With food, I’d aim for roasted chicken or cedar-planked salmon.
Opening a bottle – What is Blanc de Cabernet Franc Like? May 11, 2016
While it wasn’t summer, we wanted to enjoy this bottle young.
I had to work, but when I returned at almost midnight, Michael had a feast set with a cedar-planked salmon in maple and spices, rosemary bread with goat cheese, and a fruit and cheese plate complete with two goat cheeses, one honeyed, the other herbed, gouda, grapes, prosciutto, blood orange slices and some of that lovely gooey haymarket goat cheese.
This wine is really fascinating. You put your nose in the glass and you get tart citrus and pith. It was blood orangey, but after tasting my blood oranges, it was a little more tart, drifting toward pink grapefruit. And then you get peppers, green, but not bell. It really is that a roasted pickled poblano pepper. On the back there was a bit of salinity, and there is that touch of tannins.
This is a wine that starts like a white and ends like a red with a lingering finish.
Maybe it’s just channeling the Loire Valley traditions, but I found that this wine went spectacularly with all the goat cheeses most especially the honeyed goat cheese. With the gouda? Not so much. With the salmon it was great, holding it’s own against the heavy spices on the salmon, the wood, with the maple helping to round and soften each bite.
At the end of our visit, we picked a few bottles to have shipped to us, including their 2015 Müller Thurgau. I mean how often is it that you come across a Müller Thurgau?
Montinore Estate 2014 Müller Thurgau
As we planned our 12 days of Wine, this was one of the bottles I pulled out to taste. I sent a quick email to Kristin Montinore the President of Montinore Estate and she was kind enough to reply with a favorite pairing for this wine.
I love serving the Muller Thurgau with appetizers. One of my favorite pairings is a Dungeness Crab and celery root salad. Its both bright and creamy and can be served on it’s own or with a crostini.
Kristin Marchesi, President Montinore Estate
She was kind enough to share this recipe with me, and I pay it forward (it’s really delicious) by sharing it with you!
Celery Root and Dungeness crab crostini 2 tbl mayonnaise 1.5 tbl lemon juice 2 tsp whole grain mustard 1 small celery root, grated 1 bunch celery leaves, chopped 2 tbl minced scallions ½ lb cooked Dungeness crab lump meat salt and pepper to taste
Whisk mayonnaise, lemon juice, whole grain mustard in a small bowl. In a larger bowl mix together remaining ingredients. Stir in dressing. Add Salt and pepper to taste and serve either with crostini, endive leaves or crackers.
Recipe kindly shared by Kristin Marchesi
Sadly I was unable to find Dungeness crab this time of year in Vegas, but we found some other crab that filled in. The crostini were delicious were quick to make.
The tasting and pairing
As we poured the wine, fine bubbles lined the glass. Müller Thurgau is a Swiss hybrid grape created by Hermann Müller. It is a cross of Riesling and Madeleine Royale. You can definitely taste it’s riesling heritage in the glass.
It contrasted beautifully with the savory buttery sourdough crostini and the bright celery root and celery leaves and the richness of the crab, it’s fruit and slight sweetness rounding out the palate. This wine sits at just 11% alcohol so feel free to finish the bottle with a friend!
If you find yourself in the Willamette Valley, take the beautiful drive up to Forest Grove in the Northwest portion of the Valley to visit Montinore Estate.
Well, I suppose “simpler” is all about perspective. They have a wine here called 1899 that they do with all the conveniences that could be had at that time. That means no tractors, no electricity, no motorized vehicles.
Illahe means “earth” or “place” or “soil” in the Chinook local dialect.
We visited Illahe this past July and spent the morning with Lowell Ford, the owner and grower. He and their Hospitality Manager Kathy took us through a tasting and a tour of the Winery and Vineyard.
The proposed Mount Pisgah, Polk County AVA
The winery and vineyard are located in the middle part of the Willamette Valley, West of Salem near Dallas Oregon. This area is part of the overarching Willamette Valley AVA and Illahe winemaker Brad Ford (Lowell’s son) has started the process of creating a Mount Pisgah, Polk County AVA.
The AVA covers 5,850 acres, 15 miles west of Salem and home to 10 commercial vineyards, including Freedom Hill, and two bonded wineries: Amalie Roberts Estate and Illahe Vineyards. Mount Pisgah, named by settlers in the 1800s in honor of a hill back home in Missouri, has 531 acres of vines — mostly Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris and Chardonnay — planted from 260 to 835 feet in elevation.
The Vineyards at Illahe
While the Primary focus here is Pinot Noir, they have planted Pinot Gris, Grüner Veltliner, Tempranillo, Viognier and then small bits of Lagrein, Schioppettino and Teroldego.
The vineyard is LIVE-certified and they take pride in working by hand. They are using native flowers as cover crops, which is good for the soil and makes for stunning vineyard shots.
The winery is built on the hill and is set up to be gravity flow. They also use solar power.
The site and soils
The site is south-facing with spectacular views from their patio in front of the winery. Their elevation here ranges from 250-440 feet. They get earlier budbreak and a bit of the Van Duzer Winds. On Mount Pisgah they get a little less of the extreme temps and winds than those vineyards in the proposed Van Duzer Corridor.
Soilshere are Willakenzie sedimentary clay (Bellpine, Dupee, Wellsdale) with sections of volcanic Jory soil.
They use some Acacia barrels here, and the winery was designed for it’s roof to make you feel as if you are inside a barrel.
The 1899 Pinot Noir
Without electricity for their 1899, they revert to bicycle power to do pump overs. Everything here is done by hand. The Percheron’s plow the fields, the harvest is by hand, the bottling, labeling etc. Then they have a carriage take the wine to the river and there is a two day canoe trip north and then they bicycle the wine to market. Yep… maybe not “simpler” right. But worth the effort.
To visit Illahe
You can look forward to a journey through the winery and into the cellar with Lowell coming up. In the meantime if you want to visit them To schedule an appointment email Kathy:[email protected] or call 503-831-1248.