The Scenic Route – Flash Tour 2019 Part 2 – Southern Oregon Applegate and Umpqua Valleys

Day 3

Southern Oregon & the Applegate Valley

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.

Cowhorn

Cowhorn Entrance Gate in the Applegate Valley in Southern Oregon
Cowhorn Entrance Gate

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”.

The Tasting Room at Cowhorn
The Tasting Room at Cowhorn

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

Cowhorn To Girardet Wine Cellars

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.

Girardet Vineyards

Girardet Tasting Room in Umpqua Valley in Southern Oregon

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.

  • Grapes at Girardet
  • Ancient Marine Shale at the Shale Rock Summit Vineyard at Girardet in Southern Oregon
  • The picnic patio at Girardet
  • Vines at Giraradet in the Umpqua Valley
  • Girardet Tasting room Umpqua Valley Southern Oregon
  • Pouring in the Girardet Tasting Room
  • Philippe and Marc Girardet
  • Jack rabbits at the Girardet Vineyard
  • The view of Ten Mile from Giraradet Vineyard in Southern Oregon

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.

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

Beckham Estate Vineyard – The story

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.

Discovering Beckham

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.

Beckham Estate Vineyard Panorama

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.

Growing Organically

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.

Chickens in the vineyard at Beckham

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
The sheep at Beckham Estate Vineyards

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.

2015 Dow’s Pinot Noir Beckham Estate Vineyards

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

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Biodynamics at Montinore Estate

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.
Vines at Montinore Estate

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:

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In the Vineyard with Steve Beckmen – Talking Soil at Purisima Mountain Vineyard

From dirt to glass, Conversations with...

During the Spring Vintners Weekend we were lucky enough to do a Vineyard hike with Steve Beckmen at the Purisima Mountain Vineyard.

Located in the new Ballard Canyon AVA this property sits at the north end of the Canyon. This estate vineyard is planted primarily with Syrah & Grenache with smaller blocks of Roussanne, Marsanne, Counoise, Mourvedre, Grenach Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet Sauvignon. This vineyard became 100% biodynamic in 2006.

The elevations at Beckmen Vineyard Purisima Mountain reach 1250 feet. The wind, the fog, the climate all affect the grapes and I had a fascinating conversation with Steve about the “architecture” of the vineyard and how that was still evolving.

In this episode, Steve talks about the soils of the Purisima Mountain Vineyard.

The soil types here include clay and clay loam soils as well as a limestone subsoil. Limestone subsoil is predominate in the Rhone region of France but is not widely found in California. It can be found in the Central Coast from West side Paso to the North and here in Ballard Canyon further south. This limestone is tough and makes it hard for the roots to penetrate it. As a result the roots struggle in the topsoil keeping the vines less vigorous and creating low yields and intense fruit.

Listen to Steve talk about the soils:

The Beckmen Winery and Tasting room are not located here, but are one valley over. They have a tasting room on a duck pond with gazebos where you can enjoy a picnic lunch, that is located just outside Los Olivos.

Beckmen Vineyard  Tasting room

Beckmen Vineyard Tasting room

See more on our Beckmen Vineyard page or on their page on the link below

2670 Ontiveros Road, Los Olivos

1-805-688-8664

They are open Daily from 11-5.

http://www.beckmenvineyards.com