Illahe Vineyards – Stepping back to a simpler time

Illahe Vineyards, Tasting Room

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.

Illahe Vineyard
Illahe Vineyard

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.

https://www.oregonwinepress.com/gaining-ground

The Vineyards at Illahe

Grape Varieties

Illahe Vineyard
Illahe Vineyard

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.

Sustainability

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.

Illahe Vineyard
Illahe Vineyard

Soils here 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.

Illahe Vineyard
Illahe Vineyard

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.

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On the 3rd day we pair Riesling with a Tamales!

Libertine Riesling with Tamales

As we arrive at the 3rd of our 12 days of Wine, we are channeling a little decadence.  When I spoke with Alex Neely about pairing the Libertine 2015 Dry Riesling here was his suggestion:

This holiday season pair the 2015 Riesling with pork tamales doused in your favorite hot sauce. The flowery aromatics and kiss of residual sugar in the wine provide the perfect compliment and balance to the dish. My wife’s family has been eating tamales every Christmas Eve as long as she can remember. Since we have been together it is a tradition we continue in our house and have even introduced to my Southern family, much to their delight.

Alex Neely, Owner/Winemaker Libertine Wines
Libertine Wines, Alex Neely
Libertine Wines, Alex Neely

I will admit to not being anywhere brave enough to try making my own tamales, and I knew that here in Vegas I would be able to find a place locally that had them, so I went on a search.  What I found was a local Mexican family owned restaurant that has become a Vegas staple for Tamales.  Doña Maria Tamales has been in Vegas since 1980.  They make great tamales and have a fresh tortilla maker in front of the kitchen which is fascinating to watch.

I did a bit of research on how Tamales came to be a Christmas dish and found a great piece “Tamales: A Christmas Tradition”

The decadence tie in

Tamales a special event food, created typically in large quantities and meant to be shared with friends and family, I found this to be reflected in the Libertine label with Bacchus, the God associated with Festivals.  The tie in continues when you realize Bacchus was also the god of agriculture and “Corn was a very important crop in Mesoamerica, with people believing that people were created from corn. Tamales, because they were wrapped in corn husks, became part of ritual offerings. ” (from Tamales: A Christmas Tradition)

2015 Libertine Dry Riesling

Libertine Riesling
2015 Libertine Riesling

This wine comes from the LaVelle Vineyard in the Willamette Valley.  36 hours of skin contact and fermented outdoors for 5 months in neutral oak.  Alex aged them sur lie for a year and a half.  Unfiltered and unfined, it was lovely and decadent.

The Pairing

Libertine Riesling with Tamales
Libertine Riesling with Tamales

Normally you think of riesling and it’s bit of sweetness as calming spicy foods. Alex had suggested dousing the tamales in our favorite hot sauce.  I’m a little “white bread” on this one.  Michael doesn’t do “spicy” anymore, so we didn’t do the hot sauce,  and we actually found that the wine intensified the spicy notes in the tamales.

The wine had petrol on the nose and green apple.  It was tart and crisp on the palate and leaves your tongue a little buzzy!  While it increased the spiciness of the dish, the wine itself became sweeter on my palate when I paired it with the food.

We met Alex at a festival this past summer and you can see our interview with him here.

It’s not easy to find his wines, but they are worth searching for.  They are available mostly in Portland, but also in Beaverton and Hillsboro…all in Oregon.  He has a page of supporters, so go visit them and taste his wines!

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On the first day of Christmas my true love gave to me a Gerwürvignintocloniger!

fossil and Fawn, with potato chips and cheese

Okay, well he didn’t really give it to me, he pulled it out of the cellar (“cellar” being a fancy word for the wine rack downstairs).

When we thought about how to celebrate the holidays and to share them with you, the first thing that came to mind was Wine (of course).  So we raided the cellar and pulled out 12 bottles to pair and enjoy in the run up to Christmas. Here is the first of our “12 days of Wine”.

Day 1 – Fossil and Fawn 2017 Oregon White Wine (aka Gewürvignintocloniger)

Gerwhat?  Okay, so we tasted this wine at the “Uncommon Wine Festival”

The 2017 Oregon White Wine is a blend of 50% Riesling, 20% Savagnin Rose, 15% Gewürztraminer, 6% Fruilano, 6% Melon de Bourgogne, 3% Kerner (Yep, that’s a blend!).  They fondly refer to it as the Gewürvignintocliniger.

Here is how Jim and Jenny of Fossil & Fawn described it then.

 

Jim  So this is predominantly from one vineyard here where they have what I would call a bunch of kooky varieties, very uncommon white wine varieties, for example…

Jenny  A very technical term…(Kooky)

Jim  For example, in the Willamette Valley to my knowledge there are 14 plants of Kerner, which is a German grape and that makes up 3% of that wine.  All 14 plants of Kerner are in there.  And so there is a collection of unusual things, Also a collection of not so unusual things. 50% is Riesling which is fermented in an egg shape vessel.  And the next is 20% Savagnin Rose, which is a relative to Gewürztraminer.

Jenny  Which is also in there

Jim  Which, Gewürztraminer is in there at 15%.  It is 6% Fruilano, 6% Melon de Bourgogne and 3% Kerner, those 14 plants.  So the Riesling as I mentioned is fermented in egg the other 50% was fermented on it’s skins for about 4 days and we pressed off and then it went into a mix of Acacia wood barrels and French oak barrels, totally unfiltered native yeast fermented, we use that yeast that exists naturally on the skins of the grapes to carry out the fermentation.  We wanted to make something that was dry but rich and textural but aromatic, something kind of fun, food friendly.

From our July 2018 Interview with Jim and Jenny at the Uncommon Wine Festival at Vista Hills Vineyard.

Pairing a Gewürvignintocloniger

We reached out to Jim Fischer of Fossil and Fawn to ask about a perfect pairing for the holidays.  Remember he described the wine as “something kind of fun, food friendly”?  He also mentioned it as “summery” and well, it’s less than that right now.  But in true Fossil and Fawn form he responded with a perfect pairing for the season!

“As far as pairings go, I’m a fan of elevated lowbrow food. Recently, we had the opportunity to include our gewurvignintocloninger with this incredible Wisconsin brick cheese (from Widmer’s Cheese Cellars) that our friend and cheesemonger Sarah stuck under a Raclette cheese melter. The cheese slowly dripped over a bed of Wavy Lay’s potato chips. The way the aromatic elements in the wine played off the rich, slightly funky cheese was delightful. Also, melting cheese on chips is incredibly fun and a great holiday party activity. We highly recommend it!”

Jim Fischer, II Vice President of Wine Things, Fossil & Fawn

I think my response to Jim was “Brilliant!”  and it really is.  This wine has plenty of those Alsatian varieties in it, so a raclette is pretty perfect there, but going with a Wisconsin brick gives it a twist and then over Wavy Lay’s potato chips adds just the right “Fossil and Fawn” funk.

We will add a little typical raclette accessories: cornichons, a little smoked meat (ours will be Proscuitto to make the Fruilano feel at home), gherkins and instead of the traditional fingerling potatos, the wavy chips!

I don’t have a raclette cheese melter and in lieu of running out and buying one, we found an internet hack by Cook the Story

If you have a raclette grill you can go the fancier route.  Here’s a great post by eat, little bird with ideas for a dinner with raclette.

We couldn’t find a Wisconsin brick cheese, but our cheese monger suggested the Dubliner as a good substitution. (see the photo above)  We also picked up a raclette.

The wine had a bit of funk on the nose and then lots of different aromatics!  This wine is unfiltered. You can see that it is cloudy in the glass and you can see the sediment in the bottom of the bottle.  The first sip started off feeling simple and pleasant and then all the different parts of my mouth erupted with a little “hey what’s that and what’s that!”.  I won’t say this wine is complex in depth, it doesn’t necessarily evolve in the glass, but it has alot going on and is highly entertaining on your palate!  It is fun and funky…I’m channelling a little “Commodores” here with a little “Brick House” and “Play that funky music”.  The wine went well with everything, taking the pickles, cheese, chips and prosciutto out on the dance floor for a spin, each to a different song.

All in all, a really good time! It’s just $20 a bottle…that is if they have any left.

Join us again tomorrow for our Day 2 pick!

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

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Montinore Estate – About the wines

Montinore Vineyards Entrance

Continuing our conversation with Rudy Marchesi at Montinore Estate

 After looking over the Willamette Valley AVA map and having Rudy give us some background on the soils and the impact of the Missoula floods we sat with him to talk about how these soils influence the wines at Montinore Estate.

Pinot Noir

Pinot Noir is very expressive and Rudy told us that pinot grown in the windblown loess here tend to be brighter, with berry flavors rather than the cherry notes that are so often associated with pinot noir. The pinots here also are very spicy with baking spices.

They produce several different Pinot Noirs here.  Here is a sampling.  I can’t promise that I have not missed one.

  • “Red Cap” Pinot Noir:  This is a blend from all the vineyards giving you multiple areas and soil types blended into one bottle. 
  • Reserve Pinot Noir:  Again from multiple sites but all within the estate. These are the best blocks and lots. They ferment and age separately and then blend the best.
  • Parsons’ Ridge Pinot Noir:  This vineyard block sits on a part of the vineyard where the vines face two different directions.  The lots, as they are different, are fermented separately and then blended.
  • Keeler Estate Pinot Noir:  This is a 25 acres Biodynamic vineyard in Eola-Amity Hills that they source from.  This gives you another opportunity to taste and compare the terroir.
  • Windy Hill Pinot Noir: This comes from the Southern part of the Valley and is influenced by the winds of the Van Duzer Corridor.
  • Cataclysm Pinot Noir: Comes from their Block 1 which has mineral rich soils.  They pick the most expressive barrels from this block to make this wine.

Pinot Gris

 He finds the white wines to actually be more distinctive.  Pinot gris grown in the Missoula flood loess, is very complex.  Rather than apple and pear, they get citrus and herbal notes. In warmer years there will be tropical notes.  Always he finds pinot gris here to have lots of texture.

Riesling

The riesling he find distinctive, but without as much difference although he feels sure some might disagree.

Chardonnay

Chardonnay is new here.  They had quite a bit planted early on, but it was the clone brought up from California.  This clone was a late ripener and had tight clusters which were prone to rot.  It was a great clone when there was good weather in a vintage, but that was about 1out of every 4 years.

They have now planted the new Dijon clone, which has looser clusters and is an earlier ripening clone.  They are back in the Chardonnay business in a small way.  He is encouraged by the quality, but it’s too soon to know what they will get stylistically from the vineyards with these clones.  They will need a few more vintages to figuring this out.

Bubbles

They are currently producing a prosecco style bubbly, and have a Traditional Methode Champenoise Sparkling wine of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay which is yet to be released.

Other Varieties

In addition they are growing bits of Teroldego and Lagrein, Gerwürztraminer and Müller Thurgau.

Blends and specialty wines

You will find Rosé, Orange wine, fortified wine (Ruby), Ice wine (Frolic) and Verjus also on their wine line-up which is very diverse, having something for every palate.

Everything here is done on site, and they try to be as Estate as possible.  The 2016 Pinot got away from 100% Estate because they had too much demand and had to contract a couple of other growers.

Speaking with Rudy and walking the winery, you can see the pride they take in making the best possible wines here.

You can learn a bit about the estate with our posts.

https://www.crushedgrapechronicles.com/montinore-estate-a-recent-history/

https://www.crushedgrapechronicles.com/montinore-the-deeper-history/

And check back here as we will next talk to Rudy about Biodynamics before heading with him to the cellar for a tour and barrel tasting.

If you are in the Willamette Valley stop by and give the wines a taste for yourself.  You can find them a:

Montinore Estate
3663 SW Dilley Road
Forest Grove, Oregon 97116
503.359.5012

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Montinore – the deeper history

Montinore Vineyards panorama

Time to talk soils

The soil at Montinore Estate in the Northwest corner of the Willamette Valley, is loess from the Missoula Floods.  The Missoula Floods… well that takes us back a bit further in history, like 13,000 to 15,000 years back.   During our interview with Rudy Marchesi, Immediate Past President and Partner at the winery, he took us into the tasting room to show us the beautiful Willamette Valley map created by the Willamette Valley Wine Association.  Here he took a minute to paint the picture for us of the floods and the soils that came from these floods

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

The Missoula Floods

At the end of the last ice age, there was an ice dam in the Clark Fork River in what is now Idaho. This backed up the water from a finger of the Codilleran Ice Sheet that was melting and creating the Glacial Lake Missoula.  As the water pressure built, the ice plug was forced upwards releasing cataclysmic flood waters, a wall of water 500 feet tall down the Columbia River to the ocean.  After the surge of water, the plug would drop back into place and the lake would refill.  Then periodically, the plug would get pushed up and more flood water would be released.  This repeated dozens of times over about a 2000 year period.  The area that was flooded covered almost half of what is now Washington on it’s eastern side side of the state and followed the Columbia River to the ocean.  It also branched off at the mouth of the Willamette River creating a lake that covered much of the Willamette Valley as far south as Eugene.  Mind you, Glacial Lake Missoula was in Montana…yet another Montana and Oregon link for Montinore.

 I found this link to an article on Oregon Live that discusses the flood 

https://www.oregonlive.com/environment/index.ssf/2012/06/lidar_map_shows_path_of_missou.html

Here you can also find beautiful lidar maps (as Oregon Live puts it “think radar, but with light”), some of which are truly artworks,  including an interactive mapthat illustrates the floodwaters by the Oregon Department of Geology and Mineral Industries

https://gis.dogami.oregon.gov/maps/lidarviewer/

Build up of soils

Every time that the floods happened they would take out forests, that had grown in the last 75 years and carry that sediment with them, as well as anything else in their way (ie rocks, mammoths). Then the plug would drop back into place and the soil over the flooded area would dry out.  Some of this would be dusty and dry, so the wind would carry it (wind blown loess). You have layers and layers of these soils, forests that were buried or swept away downstream.  One of the ways they were able to tell that there were multiple floods, was because they found separate layers of ash from Mt. Saint Helens eruptions.

The soils of Montinore and the proposed Tualatin AVA

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

We mentioned that when the Chehalem Mountain AVA formed that they offered to include Montinore.  Rudy declined.  He knows his soil and it is different from that of the Chehalem Mountain AVA.  The soils here are considered Laurelwood and Cornelius (wind blown loess glacial lake sediment) and are similar to some of those found in the Northeast part of the Chehalem Mountains, the area that is looking to become a nested AVA inside Chehalem, the proposed Laurelwood AVA. 

So what does Rudy believe sets this area apart to warrant it’s own AVA?  Well the windblown loess for a start.  The loess is the fine topsoil that formed as the flooded areas dried out. These fine particles which include clay (the finest and lightest of particles), were blown westward and got caught by the hills. This dust buried an ancient redwood forest 200 feet deep.  Rudy told us that he has had neighbors drill wells and pull up chunks of redwood from deep underground.

Redwoods
Redwoods

While it shares the Laurelwood soil series with the Chehalem Mountains AVA, the proposed Tualatin Hills AVA is located within the rain shadow of the coastal range and the temperatures are a bit higher. 

Tualatin Hills AVA borders

The proposed AVA is a horse-shoe shaped basin that opens to the east, bounded by the Tualatin River watershed. To the northwest the boundry is the peaks of the coastal range, where the prevailing winds come over and hit the Chehalem Mountains and Portland.  Then Willamette Valley AVA provides another border and urban development the last.  Elevation borders sit at 200 feet for the low end (anything below that has soils to fertile for growing wine grapes) and 1000 feet on the high end, which is the natural boundry for growing wine grapes in this climate.

The overall proposed Tualatin Hills AVA covers 144,000 acres.

Stick with us as we continue our discussion with Rudy as we dig deeper into the soils and how the Missoula Flood Loess affects the flavors in the wines.

You can also check out our previous post Montinore Estate – a Recent History which tells how the Estate came by it’s name and the history of the property and winery.

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Montinore Estate – a recent history

Montinore Vineyards sign

It was overcast the morning we headed out to Montinore Estate. That’s not unexpected in Oregon.  What was unexpected for me was how vivid the colors were under the cloudy sky.  We headed out from Newberg, through a bit of a drizzle for our half our drive to Forest Grove.  As we got closer, the drizzle dissipated and the vivid colors of the fields and trees woke me up, probably better than the coffee in my cup.

We were heading into what will soon be the Tualatin Hills AVA to meet Rudy Marchesi who has been the driving force behind this AVA.

We arrived early and wandered the grounds, cameras in hand, taking in the beauty and capturing it to share with you here.

Montinore Vineyards Entrance

Montinore Vineyards Entrance

Montinore Estate

The Estate is named Montinore as a combination of Montana and Oregon, so don’t try to give it an Italian twist as I did. It’s not Mont-i-noray, even though Rudy’s last name is Marchesi.

Montinore Vineyards driveway trees

Montinore Vineyards driveway trees

Big leaf maples line the drive on the way in.  You are greeted by the tasting room to your right and then the southern style mansion built in 1905 by John Forbis.  I have heard that the home was actually a Sears kit house.  This particular morning it was resplendent with purple hydrangeas in bloom.

John Forbis home at Montinore Estate

John Forbis home at Montinore Estate

 

Finally, I turned around and there was the view, vineyards, trees, and bright green field dotting the landscape.  It’s easy to see how Rudy became enchanted with this place.  We headed into the tasting room to meet Rudy.

Interview with Rudy Marchesi

Interview with Rudy Marchesi

A little about Rudy Marchesi

Rudy Marchesi had just stepped down as President of the Montinore, handing over the reins to his daughter Kristin. He was returning from his first vacation in years and was kind enough to spend his morning with us before heading off to lunch with the grand kids.

Rudy’s grandparents were from Northern Italy, where they grew their own food, as well as grapes to make their own wine.   At that point in time, sustainable was just what you did.  Rudy sold wine on the east coast, he also grew grapes and made his own wine.  While working for a distribution house dealing with fine wine he came across Montinore.  He began consulting with the vineyard in 1998, worked as their president of Operation and then President and became the proprietor in 2005.  In 2008 the vineyard became Demeter Certified as Biodynamic.  The family is committed to sustainable agriculture and living, just like Rudy’s grandparents.  It is a legacy that Kristin continues.

The History of the Montinore

We spoke first about the history of the property.  John Forbis came to this area from Montana where he was an attourney for a copper company.  He and his family moved to Portland where he worked for the railroad.  The property here in Forest Grove reminded him of his home in Montana, and so he named it Montinore.

After owning the property for a couple of generations, the Grahams, who were lumber people bought the property in the 1960’s.

As we talked about the land Rudy painted the picture of the vineyard, before it was a vineyard.  It had been planted to hazelnuts for a time and been a cattle ranch.  I had forgotten how close Mount St. Helens was.  In 1980 when Mount St. Helens erupted, the lower fields then were planted to vegetables and the eruption buried it in 4 inches of ash.  Visualizing that will stick with me.

If you have not heard of this eruption or need a refresher to be able to visualize this, you can check out this

video link

from the Smithsonian Channel.

Becoming a Vineyard

The Grahams had an Ag survey done by both UC Davis and USO and the results encouraged them to grow wine grapes.  They planted 300 acres.

They planted the vineyards in 1982 and had their first vintage in 1987. In 1990 they had their first vintage from the winery.

The vineyard now is around 200 acres.  They lost some to pheloxera.  They have another 30 acres vineyard in the Yamhill-Carlton AVA and a longterm lease on a 20 acres vineyard in the Chehalem Mountains.

This is the recent history.  The Mount St. Helens eruption from almost 40 years ago is modern history in this neck of the woods. This area and the reason it is looking to become an AVA is due to natural events from long before that.

We will be digging into all the loess and basalt and ancient redwood forests, that lie under Montinore Estate in our next post where we speak with Rudy about the proposed Tualatin Hills AVA and what sets it apart.

Don’t forget to check back with us here at Crushed Grape Chronicles as we continue to explore Oregon Wine Country and beyond. And remember, you can also find us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram

 

Oregon Wine Country

Join us on our exploration of Wine from across the Oregon Wine Region. Interviews with winemakers. Wine Festivals. Explore the AVA’s and discover the Terroir, The stories, The Wine, all across Oregon Wine Country beginning in the Willamette Valley. Follow us at Crushedgrapechronicles.com for your Oregon Wine Adventure.

Dinner with a view – Cadaretta

The Glasshouse at Southwind Vineyard by Cadaretta

We got in a van not knowing how long the drive might be.  I suppose I could have looked at a map, but I’m not sure that would have helped.  We actually ended up in Oregon.  Walla Walla AVA is a border AVA with part of the AVA in Washington and part in Oregon.

We were headed to Cadaretta’s Glasshouse on their Southwind Vineyard for dinner.  We arrived as the sun was setting to amazing views.  We were greeted with a glass of wine and trays of passed hors d’oeuvres.  The food and wine were lovely, but that view…

Cadaretta

The name comes from the name of the schooner that carried the Anderson & Middleton lumber products to market in the early 20th century.  The family has a history in Washington having been in lumber on the coast since 1898.  That’s 120 years in business in WA this year, which is no small feat.  The timber company was based on the coast in Aberdeen WA (of Nirvana fame).

Getting into Grapes

Issues came up with the decline of old growth and the family, always looking to preserve the land, closed their mill. In the 70’s issues with the spotted owl came up and many companies went out of business. The family bought property in California’s central valley and started growing table grapes.  This led them to Paso Robles where they have been growers of wine grapes at their Red Cedar Vineyard for 30 years.

They started Clayhouse wines in Paso Robles.  Their roots were in Washington though, and they returned to purchase this piece of property in the Walla Walla AVA.

Back to the ship

The Cadaretta carried lumber to San Francisco and LA.  Kris’ father used to ride on the ship as a kid on it’s journeys.  During WWII the ship was requisitioned by the Government.  Family lore tell the tale that on the final trip as the Cadaretta the ship was followed down the coast by a Japanese submarine.  The ship was later renamed Southwind, which is where this particular vineyard derives its name.

Southwind Vineyard

This vineyard sits just west of Milton-Freewater on the Oregon side of the Walla Walla AVA.  L’Ecole, Doubleback and Sleight of Hand also have vineyards nearby.  The view and the company are impressive, but what makes this place special for wine is the soil.

Soil at Southwind Vineyard

Most of the soil in the surrounding area is loess (blown dust) from the Columbia and Missoula Floods and you find that in the soils on the Northern slope. Those are the relatively young 15 million year old soils.  On the South slope you find fractured basalt soils.  These are ancient soils.  They were just behind the tent we were sitting in.  You find them only on steep hillsides above 1250.

When they bought the property they spent 2 years digging test plots.  After soil analysis they planted 1 acre test plots. Digging into the basalt is difficult, time consuming and expensive.  The vines have to work harder and dig deeper, but the characteristic they were getting in the wines from this soil made it worth it.

They have been working on this for 8 years and only 2 years ago release the first of the Southwind wines. Kris said that as a timber family they have a saying…

“It takes 40 years to grow a tree, we have patience.”

They wanted to get it right.  They find Syrah and Malbec do best in this soil.  There are few other vineyard grown in fractured basalt. These Southwind wines are pretty rare also with just 50 cases of each released.

Sustainability is common sense

The family comes from timber and it was always just common sense to take care of the land.  It’s no different with the vineyard.  Being salmon safe and sustainable isn’t something they advertise, they just do it.  They have falconers from Paso that they used in the vineyard there who come in to help keep the vermin down, as well as owl boxes on the property.  They use arugula for cover crop and have a bee keeper who comes in with the bees.  It just makes sense to be sustainable.

Artifexs

With that idea in mind, they also didn’t see the need for a big showy winery.  Instead they worked with Norm McKibben and  JF Pellet and created Artifex in Walla Walla which is a custom crush facility for small lot, high end wines.  The name comes from a Latin term meaning “Made skillfully” and it is a state of the art facility.  The facility houses multiple wineries and they are customers to themselves.

The Glasshouse

So they had determined that they didn’t need an extravagant tasting room, but her brother still wanted a place to entertain.  The view here from the vineyard was stunning and he wanted to create a place to enjoy that view.  He had seen a building at the Santa Rosa Airport and honed in on the idea of a glass house with garage doors to open to the view.  The timber is recycled, of course.  To keep this a “special” place they limit it to just a few events.  We were lucky to be one of those few events.

The Dinner

Over the course of the evening, Kris spoke to us between courses and we enjoyed dinner from Olive Catering in Walla Walla to compliment the wines.

The 2014 Cadaretta, Windthrow

This wine was paired with Wild Canadian Arctic Char with Yukon potato emulsion, chanterelle mushrooms and plum relish.

The Windthrow is a Columbia Valley Rhone Style Blend (76% Syrah, 15% Mourvedre and 9% Grenache) sourced from Stonetree, Southwind and Monetta’s Vineyards.  Aged 22 month in 50% Hungarian Oak, 40% New French Oak and 10% Neutral French Oak.  Unfined they made just 259 cases.

The 2015 Cadaretta, Southwind Malbec

Paired with maple braised lamb shank with black truffle risotto, foraged mushrooms and dates.

The Southwind Malbec is a Walla Walla Valley wine specifically from the Southwind Vineyard.  2015 was a warm vintage with an early bud break. This was a wine that opened in the glass.

The 2014 Cadaretta, Springboard

Our dessert pairing of petite fours & truffles.

The Springboard is a Columbia Valley wine and is a Bordeaux style blend of 81% Cab Sav, 10% Malbec and 9% Petit Verdot sourced from Obelisco, Southwind, Red Mountain and Alder Ridge Vineyards.  It is aged in 60% new french oak with the remainder in more neutral oak.  Only 249 cases of this wine were made.

The evening was beautiful, the hosting was warm and the wines were truly stunning.  Getting to speak with Kris and being so warmly welcomed to the place that is so special to their family was a wonderful experience.

You can taste them at their tasting room in Downtown Walla Walla at 315 E. Main Street Thursday through Sunday.  Visit there website here for details.

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