Years….they used to take forever! No longer. Now they often seem to speed by in a blur. The coming of the New Year makes me nostalgic. I sit warm, happy with a full belly and I remember that this is not to be taken for granted. Time for a little reflection and gratitude.
I head to social media to reflect on the year. Remember the days when we had journals or diaries or a box of photos? Well, technology has allowed us to share those memorable moments, both big and small.
Instagram is my go to photo journal. So I’m sifting through to give you an idea of my year…holy crap there are alot of wine photos! LOL!
The Quiet Time
My photo essay of the beginning of my year…snow, studying, a Valentines Day on the ice, new Ramen places, hiking at Mount Charleston, beautiful sunsets, reading by the ocean in Carlsbad, high tea with friends, the super bloom in San Diego, a blind tasting event and of course, Loki. Okay…that gets us through the quiet months.
Double click on any of the photos for a larger picture and perhaps a bit more information.
The Scenic Route
We did our typical drive a million miles summer vacation. This year it was named “The Scenic Route”. It took us from Vegas to Tahoe, to Mount Shasta, to Southern Oregon, through the Columbia Gorge to the Yakima Valley, Walla Walla and then back through the Willamette, down to the Applegate Valley and finally to Yosemite before traveling home. We met incredible winemakers, saw beautiful scenery and vineyards and while we shared the overall story of our trip this year, you can look forward to many more in depth pieces on the places we visited this year.
Then we rested…that should be what I write next. But no. This was crunch time for me. I had been studying all year to take my test to become a Certified Specialist of Wine. After a 13 week course and then months of additional study I hoped I was ready. I was…
Now was it time to rest? Nope. We were off to the Wine Media Conference in October. Social media got to see much of our trip…there are still interviews and articles to be written in the new year. Here is a glimpse of our travels through New South Wales Australia. We dubbed it #OurAussieWineAdventure.
So, exhausted and exhilarated, we returned. At this point the holiday’s approached and our 2nd Annual 12 Days of wine celebration was at hand.
12 Days of Wine
Here is a link to that page. 12 Days of Wine 2019. You’ll find fun video reveals and details about each of the wines there.
Now we’ve come to the end of the year. It was a full year. We have writing to do video’s to create and tons of content to share with you. And…there will be new adventures. For right now…I’m going to relax and then day dream about what the New Year might hold.
What wine list of ours would be complete without a bottle from Johan.
The Van Duzer Corridor
The Van Duzer Corridor is one of the newer AVA’s in Oregon’s Willamette Valley. The TTB approval of the AVA happened in December of 2018 (7 years after they started the process). So what is this corridor and where is it?
1st, this is a nested AVA lying within the larger Willamette Valley AVA in Oregon. It is in the southern part of the AVA, north of Salem. Encompassing 59,850 acres, there are but 1,000 acres planted to vines. The soil here is marine sediment. It is named for the area 10 miles to it’s west, the actual Van Duzer Corridor, where there is a drop in the coastal range that funnels cold air into the interior. This happens daily at around 2 pm. The breeze, or should I say wind (it often gets up to 8 mph) does a couple of things. It cools things down and it dries out the berries, keeping them free from mold and fungus (think the Mistral in Provence). It also forces the berries to protect themselves. To do this they thicken their skins and tend to grow smaller and fewer. This gives you more tannins and anthocyanins (which give you color). Lower yields, smaller berries, thicker skin…this all means more flavor.
I have a great love for the wines of Johan. If you know me, you are probably surprised that this was not a Pet Nat! (I do love their Pet Nats). But today we dive into their Estate Grüner Veltliner. But before we get into that…a little on the vineyard.
Johan Vineyard is 85 acres certified biodynamic. More than that, the winery is certified biodynamic. A holistic approach is important to them here. We walked the vineyard with Jack when we visited and saw the compost heap, and the oak stump innoculated for mushrooms. They have a garden and their wines…most lean toward that “natural wine” style, with many deliciously unfiltered.
For more on Johan you can catch a couple of our previous pieces
Grüner Veltliner can be an underappreciated variety. Hailing from Austria, this grape can often trick people in tastings. That is until they get to the finish where white pepper is the give away. These wines can be citrus, or herbal, lean or full. Flavors as well as textures can vary dependent on climate and style.
In Austria white wines dominate, much of that due to the climate and Grüner is the definite leader covering about a third of the vineyard acreage.
2017 Johan Estate Grüner Veltliner
The grapes are crushed and destemmed, then barrel fermented through primary and malolactic fermentation in puncheons and aged 10 months sur lie (that’s on the dead yeast cells that fall to the bottom). They do not stir the lees. It sits at 13.6% abv and runs $34.99.
They look to make this wine rich and exotic, choosing to pick appropriately and going through malolactic and sur lie aging to increase the texture.
It should be noted that white wines from the Van Duzer Corridor have a few things in common. They tend to have bright fruit and acid that is compimented by weight and texture. The Oregon Wine Board also notes that you will often find Iodine and Nori characteristics in these wines.
Exotic and rich…lime, lemon, herbs, white pepper, poprocks, nectarine, ginger, honey are all typical aromas and flavors for Gruner.
This wine was a deep golden color in the glass. The first thing on the nose was bruised apple, then white flower and nectarine. It exploded out of the glass and bottle when it was first opened. It perfumed the air for a several foot radius around the bottle and glass. Then it quickly became shy, making me search for aromas. The acids were firm and the wine had a depth of texture.
We paired this with camembert cheese and found that it brought forth the floral notes. It was lovely with our asparagus risotto. This is one of those rare wines that can pair with asparagus! We also tested it with a split pea soup and found it was less exciting. Perhaps a lighter style of Grüner would have worked with this. I did struggle to find that signature Grüner white pepper on this wine. On a second pour tropical notes came forward and it opened again in the glass with rich warm baked apples.
Other pairing suggestions
Grüner can pair beautifully with Wiener schnitzel (breaded veal cutlets quickly fried). It also pairs well with fried chicken. In addition it is one of those rare wines that will pair with artichokes! Try it with cauliflower, trout or gnocchi!
Noooooo….Only 1 day left!
Thank goodness there is Christmas to cheer us after tomorrow! Otherwise what would we do? The sadness as the 12 days comes to an end would be unbearable! Come back tomorrow!
If you have tried today’s variety I want to hear about it! This is Baco Noir, a French American hybrid created by Francois Baco from folle blanche (which is a wine grape from France) and a red grape of the vitis riparia species (comes from America, but the exact grape is unknown). This variety is often found on the east coast and chilly North American regions like Ontario and New York.
Baco Noir at Girardet
The vines for this wine came from New York. In the late 60’s Philippe Girardet was bored of rocket science so he and his wife Bonnie headed north in their VW bus. They settled in the Umpqua Valley in Southern Oregon bought some land, built a cabin and decided to plant a vineyard.
Well to plant a vineyard, you need vines. So they headed cross country in the VW bus and picked up vines in New York, among them Baco Noir.
It was 1990 before Girardet did a single varietal bottling of Baco Noir, the first time this had been done. In 2009 it was Matt Kramer hailed as one of Oregon’s best reds in the Oregonian.
We are here to make discoveries, not to follow the beaten path.
Philippe Girardet, Co-Founder Girardet Vineyards and Winery
Marc Girardet was born in 1975, so the vineyard had just recently been planted. He grew up on the vineyard and then in the winery as that was built. He was away for a bit in the Air Force, but the vines called him home. In 1999 he took over the winemaking from his father. It was time for dad to enjoy the fruits of his labors.
We spent an afternoon with Marc, talking on the patio, driving through the vineyard and tasting wine. Marc has planted the back vineyard(Shale Rock Summit) to Italian varieties now including Sangiovese, Barbera and Teroldego. We watched the jackrabbits, talked about the vines, the bush training he was doing and took in the view.
This wine sits at 13.4% abv and they note plum, blueberry, black cherry, dark chocolate and cinnamon spice in the tasting notes. It ran $34.00. Yep, sorry, this vintage is sold out, but never fear the 2017 has been released and sounds even more delicious with additional notes of clove, tobacco, cedar, vanilla and caramel. It also runs $34.00
This wine came with the promise of notes of plum, blueberry, black cherries, dark chocolate and cinnamon spice.
The first thing I got on the nose was brambles and dried herbs, with a backing of that black cherry and then blackberry with spices in the background. It had great acidity (think sour cherry) and lots of red and black fruit on the palate.
Okay…this was a late night tasting. I was soooo hungry at work, and I was craving pasta. I mentioned this to Carlo (a handsome Italian I work with, who is a great cook). He rattled off sauces…bolognese, puttanesca. Both sounded delicious, but I didn’t have the time to make those this evening. Then he said a word I had not heard…amatriciana. What is that? “You chop up bacon and sauté it, but don’t let it get crispy…” (Then he left to do a cue and I was waiting breathlessly for the rest of the recipe!). He returned to tell me to add peeled tomatoes, salt and pepper, maybe a little basil if you have it. So…a late night grocery run on the way home for these simple ingredients and voila!
We also paired with Gouda, bleu cheese and blackberries and a little dessert pairing with brownies. All good choices.
Only 2 more days! Noooo!
Yep…there are just 2 days left in our 12 Days of Wine Celebration. Come back tomorrow…
We are sticking to Southern Oregon today, but…we are into a white wine. Viognier is a white Rhône variety that has found a home in the new world. It is thought to be the leading white variety in Virginia, where it does very well. You will find it in California where it can vary in style from a more full bodied style in warm climates to a more elegant style in cool climates.
Last year we did a Viognier from Maryhill Winery near the Columbia Gorge in Washington. This year, we bring you a Viognier from a bit further south in Oregon.
We visited Wooldridge Creek this past summer and did a tasting and pairing. The property is a beautiful farm with goats and a garden in addition to the vineyard. They make cheese here on site also, as well as other delicious things from the garden.
Our tasting at the time took us through the gammit of their wines, as well as a tasting array of cheeses, charcuterie, mustard and chutneys, all produced on site. It was a treat for the senses as we sat on the crush pad with a view of the vineyards and gardens and enjoyed this feast.
Wooldridge Creek 2018 Viognier
This wine is fermented and matured in stainless steel. They noted flavors of peaches, creme, candied orange zest and vanilla. It sits at 13.5% abv and runs $25.00.
The nose on this gave me wet stone, white peach, mineral and citrus zest. On the palate it had great acidity and I got tart white peach that was still a little crisp. The body is medium and the alcohol heats your mouth and makes your gums tingle.
We paired this with roast chicken, butternut squash and mac & cheese. The acid allowed it to cut through the fat in the chicken as well as the mac & cheese to pair well. I found that it also paired nicely with the bleu cheese we had.
We are sticking with Southern Oregon today, but we are heading into the Rhônes. No…I’m not giving you another Syrah. Today we focus on Grenache from Cowhorn in Southern Oregon’s Applegate Valley AVA (which is nested in the Rogue Valley AVA).
We’ve done a bit on Bill Steele and his wife Barbara recently
Feel free to dig into these, but I’ll give you the quick run down here.
Bill and Barbara Steele, were working in the corporate world and trying to live a homeopathic lifestyle. Finally it came time to make this life they wanted, full time, incorporating it into everything they did. They chose the Applegate Valley and settled on creating a vineyard and farm. After meeting some biodynamic vineyard owners, they knew this was the way forward for them. After having the soil analyzed they settled on Rhône varieties and planted their vineyard. They also grow asparagus and have a really wonderful lavender patch that is home to multiple varieties of bees, as well as some really beautiful decorative gardens.
When they decided to build their tasting room, they went for the Living Building Certification and became the 1st tasting room in the world to be built to these standards. The tasting room is beautiful as well as energy efficient and is made from sustainable products.
Cowhorn 2016 Grenache 6
Why is this wine called Grenache 6?
Well…it’s Grenache. The “6” comes from the number of mornings that Bill was raised before dawn in the coldest hours to turn on the frost protection for the vineyard. So as you can see, 2016 was not a bad year for frost!
Here are Bill’s notes on this wine from their site.
Vibrant and acid driven, the 2016 Grenache reaches a new level of boldness. Intense aromas of cherry, blackberry and licorice pour over the glass. Juicy ripe strawberry appears on the palate with a perfect balance of oak on the finish, making this fun red wine perfect for your favorite BBQ fare. Chill slightly for a refreshing zip in the summertime.
Cowhorn.com Tasting notes
James Suckling gave this wine 93 points. It sits at 14% abv and runs $45.00. Oh…and while I sort of mentioned this, it is important to note that this is biodynamic.
The first thing that hit my nose with this wine was stewed strawberries. You know like when you are cooking down some strawberries to make a sauce. Then the spice hit my nose followed by anise (licorice) and then cooked blackberries.
The tannins were lighter sticky tannins and the wine had a medium intensity. This is an elegant wine that evolves in the glass.
On our cheese plate with the above pictured berries, we included included manchego cheese which was heaven with this. A small bite of manchego, honey, black cherry and rosemary was heavenly with this wine.
Our dinner pairing was barbecued beef, which again was lovely with this.
This is a wine that I will look forward to tasting future vintages. For Bill, he is not looking to create the same wine over and over. He looks to create the best wine for that vintage, which will make each year different in it’s own unique way.
On to the 9th Day of Wine
Onward! 4 days left, 4 wines to go. Are you still with us!?
Where in Washington is this winery you ask? Nope, we finally stepped out of Washington. Quady North can be found in Oregon’s Applegate Valley. The Applegate Valley AVA is a nested AVA within the Rogue Valley AVA. This region is way south in Oregon, just above the California state line. In the State of Jefferson…well that’s a story for another day.
We discovered Quady North when we were speaking with Leah Jörgensen a couple of years ago. She pulls Cabernet Franc from his Mae’s Vineyard and spoke highly of Herb Quady. So when we were visiting the Applegate Valley this past summer, we stopped in and met Herb at the vineyard. You can see a bit of our visit in The Scenic Route Part 8 – Johan and Quady North .
Herb comes from a wine family. Quady is known in Central California for their sweet wines. Then he fell in love with Rhônes and headed North to Southern Oregon, convinced this was the perfect place to grow those varieties.
Cabernet Franc is not a Rhône variety, but Leah had spoken so highly of his Cab Franc…so…
Quady North 2014 Cabernet Franc
Most of the Cab Franc for this wine comes from Mae’s Vineyard, named for his daughter which they planted in 2006. We walked the vineyard with him when we visited. The views from the vineyard are pretty spectacular.
2014 is one of our best vintages to date. It was warm and even with good set in the vineyard. In the winery, we took advantage of our new facility to improve our winemaking with gentler handling and reduced exposure to oxygen. The result is a vibrant, balanced Franc with notes of loam and red pepper.
He goes on to give lots of wonderful geeky notes about fruit handling, aging, lees stirring etc…you should visit his site if you are into those. The wine sits at 14.3% abv and runs $35.00 per bottle.
I found this wine to be medium intensity with notes of earth, coffee, black cherry and red pepper, plus there was a bit of spice on the nose. I am a Cab Franc lover and this wine has found it’s way into my heart. (much like that corkscrew on the label).
While it was suggested that we pair with coffee and ancho chili rubbed skirt steak (which I think would be awesome with this)…that was not in the cards for this evening. We paired with bleu cheese and gouda and with some strips of red pepper (just wanted to see…) and all worked really well. We paired with bbq and some creamy gnocchi and it made for a great dinner.
A little more…
Herb is also exploring other ways to get his wine to the people, other than bottles that is. We did a piece on his canned rosé a while back, and talked with him about cans, bags and kegs when it comes to wine. You can check out that piece here Cans and kegs – packaging sustainability with Quady North
Tomorrow is Day 8!
Can you believe it? We are sailing toward the holiday at high speed! Come back as we pop yet another bottle!
If you are familiar with biodynamics, the first thing that will come to mind when you hear the word is often cowhorns. Bill Steele and his wife Barb, run their property biodynamically and own it right up front with their name, Cowhorn Wine.
The truth about those cowhorns
If you are not familiar with biodynamics, one of the most commonly discussed practices involves cowhorns. Cowhorns are filled with manure and buried in the ground, where they perculate over the winter and come out in the spring filled with all sorts of good microbes. This is then made into a solution (Preparation 500) which is sprayed in the vineyard to encourage all those good microbes to flourish in the soils.
Visiting Cowhorn Wines
Last July we had an opportunity to spend the morning with Bill Steele at his biodynamic vineyard in Southern Oregon’s Applegate Valley AVA. Bill walked us through the vineyard. It’s set in a valley and feels like it’s own world. The sound of birds in the trees that surround and dot the property, the buzz of bees as they wake up in the lavender patch, the sound of the water trickling over rocks from the pond…all are enough to make you want to move in and never leave.
The decision to go biodynamic
Bill and his wife Barb were living a homeopathic lifestyle, both of them working in the financial sector. They were ready to make a lifestyle change and get back to the land and found this property. As they explored options for farming techniques for their vineyard, Barb met with some biodynamic farmers in Sonoma. It was more than just the farming techniques, this was a group of like minded people who were open and willing to share. Barb felt they had found friends. These were people who held the same reverence for the earth and they were an inclusive group.
Receiving help and paying it forward
They had help getting started from Brickhouse in the Willamette and from Benzinger in Sonoma. Now as Troon (another vineyard in the Applegate Valley) works toward becoming biodynamic, they can pay it forward, helping as they were helped.
And they were lucky. When they purchase the property it had been untouched for 15 years, so they started their biodynamic vineyard from a relatively clean slate. Troon has a harder road to hoe. Their vineyard had been managed conventionally for a period of time and the journey to biodynamic will take longer, as they restore the vineyard to a semblance of normalcy in soil.
Why Demeter Certification?
I asked Bill about why he felt Demeter Certification was important. I know wineries that are farming in a biodynamic style but have found the certification to be difficult due to time and expense. For him, it is important because as he says “Wine travels”. With his asparagus, it will be sold close by and people can get out and see how he is growing. With wine, if you are sitting on the other coast and want to support biodynamic vineyards by having a bottle in a restaurant, or picking up one at the store, the Demeter certification is the only way you can be sure of what you are getting in the bottle.
Biodynamics in the winery
I had seen on their website that they were certified as a Biodynamic farm & Winery. I don’t often hear about the winery side of biodynamics and asked Bill about this.
There’s over 200 additions that wineries can put into our wines without disclosing. The only one that we can read about is sulfites. So at Cowhorn, as the winemaker I can guarantee you that there are no additives in there….I actually make my own sulfites. What I do is, I take distilled water and pure SO2 gas, and I diffuse the gas through the water to a certain concentration. The reason for that most folks will use something called “potassium metabisulfite”. I don’t really know exactly what’s in it, but what I wanted was the purest wine that I could have. So what’s in my wines is: organic grapes Demeter certified, a little bit of distilled water and a little bit of SO2 gas, and that’s it.
Bill Steel July 2019
I asked Bill what the most important thing about biodynamics was to him.
I think the thing that is most important to me is that 365 days a year I can have people on the property. My friends kids, my nieces, my nephews, the dogs, people bring dogs here everyday. There is no hazmat suit here, so it’s a safe environment.
Bill Steele July 2019
Quite honestly, I’ve asked this same question to other biodynamic growers and the answer is the same.
The truth about industrial agriculture
Perhaps we don’t think about the hazmat suits that are so often found in agriculture. We prefer to think of bucolic farms and quite honestly, agriculture prefers that we have that image in our minds. But it’s there. Industrial agriculture, which is probably where your lunch came from is filled with chemicals in fertilizers and pesticides. The people who work these farms pay a price with their health. They typically don’t get paid much and rarely have insurance. There is a reason that these farms use migrant workers. You see photos in ads of beautiful produce on the vine, not the chemical sprayers and then the people doing the backbreaking work of picking and breathing in the chemicals left behind.
So choosing biodynamics, or even organic or sustainable foods and wines, makes a difference. Perhaps for you, the choice is just for your own health. But there is a bigger picture, with many more facets. We will continue to explore these through vineyards and wineries…but it carries over to so much more in our world today.
If you want to get out and see this beautiful vineyard for yourself… you will find them in Southern Oregon, outside the city of Jacksonville at 1665 Eastside Road, Jacksonville, OR 97530.
The Van Duzer Corridor… it’s the newest AVA in the Willamette Valley and it is also home to one of our favorite wineries Johan. We stopped last year and spent an hour or so with Jack Tregenza in the tasting room and were looking forward to getting back for a more in depth conversation.
Van Duzer Corridor AVA
There is a drop in the Coastal Range of Mountains, creating a Corridor where the cool air from the ocean can come inland. That is the Van Duzer Corridor. Highway 22 takes you out through this river valley all the way to Lincoln City at the ocean ( a drive we would take later that day).
The warm air in the valley pulls in the cooling breezes at night. That diurnal shift (warm days, cool nights) especially as the vineyards close in on harvest, help keep some acid in the wines as they ripen.
Dag Johan Sundby is from Norway. He came to the Willamette valley with his family to establish this winery and vineyard in Rickreall Oregon. The winemaker here is Dan Rinke. Jack…well Jack is indeed a Jack of all trades, assisting in the vineyard, the winery and managing the tasting room, at least, lucky for us on the day we stopped by. He is a wealth of information and is passionate about this place.
The valley is beautiful and we were out bright and early to meet with Jack. You drive into the property through the trees and come around to the winery and tasting room to overlook the vines.
We set up on the patio to talk with Jack. We covered quite a bit, including why the vineyard was biodynamic and the different certification processes.
A walk of the vineyard
After our interview we walked the vineyard and Jack showed us some of the newly grafted vines. We took in the views, talked about the blocks and the compost pile (I know, crazy that I get excited over a compost pile).
He also showed us a tree stump that they had inoculated for mushrooms.
Back to the tasting room
We returned to the tasting room for a tasting and talked about…so much!
The wines here lean toward Natural. I know that is not an official term. Let’s say many are unfined and unfiltered with minimal intervention. They have some really wonderful sparkling wines a pet nat of Melon that I am enamoured with. It is barrel fermented and hand disgorged and there are only 80 cases made.
We tasted though some beautiful Pinots, talked about bottle closures, wine pod cast, the use of argon…and so much more. Really I could have spent all day talking with Jack, but…he had other things to do and we were off to drive through that Van Duzer Corridor for a little Ocean therapy.
Applegate Valley AVA
The next day saw us up really early to make the drive south back to the Applegate Valley to visit with Herb Quady of Quady North.
I first heard Herb Quady’s name when I was talking with Leah Jorgensen about her Blanc de Cab Franc. She sources her Cab Franc from Herb and spoke really highly of him. As we were going to be in the area, I knew I wanted to speak with him. He was kind enough to meet us out at the vineyard.
We sat on the patio, by the house, the dog curled up under our feet at the table and talked about the vineyard and the varieties he is growing in Mae’s (the first vineyard) and Evie’s the newer vineyard. Both vineyards are named after his daughters.
We finished with a vineyard walk. Again, vines with views. The dogs ran around us chasing rabbits and we got in some good cardio (Herb’s a fast walker). Herb headed off to his day and we headed to Jacksonville to visit the tasting room.
The Quady North Tasting room in Jacksonville
Sarah met us in the tasting room and took us through an incredible line up of wines. Some are block specific, like the Ox Block Viognier, which we had just walked earlier that morning. Others like the Pistoleta are blends. The Pistoleta is a Rhône white blend of Viognier, Marsanne, Roussanne & Grenach Blanc.
They also do some canned wines! Their Rose comes in a 3 pack. A Southern Rhône style blend, it’s led by Grenache at 55%, then 39% Syrah, 4% Mourvedre, 2% Vermentino and a splash 1% Counoise. Canned wine is accessible and rosé is the kind of wine you want accessible in the summer. They have a canning truck that comes by (just like a bottling truck) to package this.
There’s lots more to tell, but you will get the full scoop later. This was the last of our wine stops. From here, we headed south to Yosemite for a little nature meditation before returning to the desert.
Watch for future posts with our in depth interviews with both Jack and Herb!
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