Digging into Biodynamics and a tasting

Lavender at Cowhorn supporting pollinators and biodyversity

More often than not, when we travel to wine country we find ourselves drawn to biodynamic vineyards. So it should be no surprise that when Michael and I went through the cellar to choose a couple of bottles to celebrate our Anniversary, we each chose a bottle and then realized that both were biodynamic.   So what is it that pulls us this direction?

I have heard at least one winemaker speak about “finding his people”, when he discovered biodynamics, and when we meet these people, we usually feel the same. What draws these people to this method?  I’ve read articles and spoken with people in vineyards and in wineries and I’m digging deeper on my understanding of “biodynamics”. There is alot here to unpack. Today, we will start with some of the basics.

Biodynamic
Digging into Biodynamics

Biodynamics – as per Merriam Webster

: of or relating to a system of farming that follows a sustainable, holistic approach which uses only organic, usually locally-sourced materials for fertilizing and soil conditioning, views the farm as a closed, diversified ecosystem, and often bases farming activities on lunar cycles Followers of biodynamic viticulture not only abstain from the use of chemicals, but also take a more holistic approach, viewing their environment—the soil, plants and animals—as a working unity that should be as self-sustaining as possible.— Alison Napjus


https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/biodynamic

Rudolf Steiner

Biodynamics as we speak of it today, came from a series of lectures given by Dr. Rudolf Steiner in 1924. He was a philosopher and scientist, which really gives you insights into where his studies were going. Influenced by Goethe and he was the founder of “anthroposophy” which was a spiritual movement. He believed in the link between science and spiritualism.

There is a rabbit hole here.  I could (and I expect I will) do quite a bit more digging on Mr. Steiner and not all of it will make me happy.  But, his work in agriculture looked at the farm as one unit and looked at a farm’s health in this way, much like holistic/homeopathic medicine, where you look at the whole patient and not just one symptom. That I can wrap my head around.

The Farmers Almanac & The Gardeners Labyrinth

I was feeling a little concerned about my research, when I came across hawkwakawaka and her brilliant sketches. (WakawakaWineReviews.com) This filled in some gaps for me, and I highly recommend taking a look at her breakdown of biodynamics. It is easy to understand and her sketches make it quite entertaining.

I grew up planting the garden depending on the cycles of the moon as listed in the farmer almanac, as did many of the people my family knew.  I took it as traditional farming, but it’s influence, as I learned from Elaine’s sketches, comes from Thomas Hill’s “The Gardeners Labyrinth”(I’ve included a link to a beautiful photo of a page on archive.com). The Farmer’s Almanac was first published in 1792 and is still published annually today. It gives annual schedules for planting according to the lunar cycles.

Stick with me here…this just makes sense. Calendars are a man made created thing. For early farmers the calendar was the seasons and the cycles of the moon.

Biodiversity and the Demeter Association

The Demeter Association, that certifies biodynamic farms, set a farm standard, that requires biodiversity. This to me is simple sustainable farming. Biodiversity as opposed to monoculture is just common sense. Any ecosystem is affected when you remove an element, the wolves at Yosemite for instance.

In addition there are requirements for soil managment, animal welfare, as well as the use of preparations (yes, this is where the cowhorns and cow poop come in), and the calendar with fruit, flower, leaf & root days which indicates when certain tasks should be done. We won’t dive that deep today, but we will later. These are things I find interesting and fascinating and I want to know more about them.

Biodynamic wines and the people behind them

My first exposure to biodynamics came through Tablas Creek in Paso Robles. I had an opportunity to speak with Jason Haas about the practice as they used it there. Their influence, of course, came from the Perrins at Chateau de Beaucastel in the Rhône where they have been using this practice for a while. Jill Barth just did a fantastic interview with Marc Perrin about this on Forbes. But surprisingly, the wines we chose today, were not Tablas…(I keep track of the vintage calendar closely, and many of the bottles in our cellar are still resting and aging).

Oregon and biodynamics

On our last couple of trips to Oregon, we spoke with many winemakers who are farming biodynamically. This was where the two bottles that Michael and I chose hailed from.

Johan Vineyard and Winery

Johan Vineyard in the Willamette Valley's Van Duzer Corridor
Johan Vineyard in the Willamette Valley’s Van Duzer Corridor

I first discovered Johan when I came across an online seminar on Oregon wines. The experts on the panel spoke on wineries to watch in Oregon and the woman who mentioned Johan, was emphatic that they were doing some amazing things and were to be watched. We determined that we would stop in on our next visit to the area.

  • Tree stump inoculated for mushrooms at Johan
  • Jack and the compost at Johan in the Van Duzer Corridor
  • View of the Johan Vineyard in the Van Duzer Corridor of Oregon's Willamette Valley

We dropped into the tasting room and were lucky enough to meet Jack, who walked us through the wines and so much more. On our last visit we set up an early morning visit to talk with Jack and walk the property in the Van Duzer Corridor AVA. The vineyard and the winery are certified biodynamic here. Their Pét Nat is a favorite of mine.

Johan 2018 Pétillant Naturel Melon

Johan Vineyards 2018 Melon Pét Nat from Oregon's Van Duzer Corridor
Johan Vineyards 2018 Melon Pét Nat from Oregon’s Van Duzer Corridor

Pét Nat or Pétillant Naturel, is a sparkling wine made in the “method anscestral”. In this method, the wine is bottled before the first fermentation is complete so the carbon dioxide from the end of the fermentation is trapped in the bottle. This makes the wine light and fizzy and the alcohol is relatively low. Unfined and unfiltered, you get a little bit of funk here that rounds the wine and makes it warm and comfy. Often people say that Pét Nats are like cider and this one does have that style of aromas and mouthfeel.

Cowhorn

Cowhorn Tasting Room View
Cowhorn Tasting Room View

Well, the name of this winery is definitely a giveaway as to it’s thoughts on biodynamics. Cowhorn is in Southern Oregon’s Applegate Valley. Bill & Barbara Steele founded the vineyard in 2002. As they researched growing techniques they met some biodynamic growers and found a group of people they could get on board with.

Bill Steele of Cowhorn
Bill Steele of Cowhorn

Bill spent a morning with us this past summer, showing us around the beautiful property, talking about their biodiversity and the biodynamic techniques they use. (Our background photo for this post is the lavender garden on their vineyard.) The vineyard sits at about 1,550 feet in soils best suited to Rhône varieties, so that is what you will find planted here. The soils are alluvial, from when the Applegate river came through the entire area. He also walked us through their wines in their beautiful Living Building certified tasting room.

Cowhorn 2015 Sentience

Cowhorn 2015 Sentience

The Sentience is a Syrah. For this vintage the Sentience came from 10 tons of Syrah harvested on September 29th and 30th (2015). This wine sits at 13.7% abv and is a deep purple that smells of black fruits, herbs and eucalyptus.

Today’s conclusion

So, Michael and I lean toward biodynamic wines. Why is that?

Back to Nature

Perhaps it is the idea of a more natural way of growing, getting back to the earth. Across the board the winemakers and growers we have spoken with say that the most important thing about biodynamics to them is the fact that the vineyards are safe. The animals, children and people who come to the property or live there, can safely wander through the vines without concern for dangerous chemicals.

Like minded people

Perhaps it is the people…I have yet to meet a biodynamic winemaker or grower that I didn’t like. These are practical people who have a reverence for the earth and a passion for keeping it safe while growing something amazing.

Lively wines

Maybe it’s the wine? I have heard it said that biodynamic wines feel more lively in your mouth and for my personal experience I find that to be true. There is something energetic in the way the wine feels in your mouth. I don’t have science to back that, yet.

There is so much more to explore. We will get into the history, as well as the preparations and the science behind them. There are so many great people to speak with and we look forward to sharing our conversations as we continue to explore biodynamics in wine.

You can look forward to a deeper into our conversations with Jack at Johan and Bill at Cowhorn, as well as other winemakers we spoke with like Sarah Hedges at Hedges Family Wine on Red Mountain in Washington’s Yakima Valley or Rod Windrim at Krinklewood Vineyard around the globe in Australia’s Hunter Valley of New South Wales. We find more and more vineyards either growing biodynamically or leaning that way and we will continue to bring you interviews and insights from these individuals.

If you have found biodynamic wineries that you love please share them with us in the comments!

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

The Scenic Route Part 8 – Johan and Quady North

View of the Johan Vineyard in the Van Duzer Corridor of Oregon's Willamette Valley

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.

Johan

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.

Vineyard View at Johan in the Van Duzer Corridor
Vineyard View at Johan in the Van Duzer Corridor

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).

  • Recently grafted vines at Johan Vineyard in the Van Duzer Corridor
  • Jack and the compost at Johan in the Van Duzer Corridor

He also showed us a tree stump that they had inoculated for mushrooms.

Tree stump inoculated for mushrooms at Johan
Tree stump inoculated for mushrooms at Johan

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.

  • Pet Nat of Melon de Bourgogne from Johan Vineyards
  • Zero / Zero Pinot Noir from Johan Vineyards
  • Notice the Demeter logo? They are Biodynamic certified here for both the vineyard and winery

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.

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.

Panorama of the view from Mae's Vineyard
Panorama of the view from Mae’s 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.

Happy vines at Quady North's Mae's Vineyard
Happy vines at Quady North’s Mae’s Vineyard

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!

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It’s Oregon Wine Month

Vista Hills Vineyard in the Dundee Hills AVA

It’s no secret that I’m kinda infatuated with Oregon wines. More than just the wines…it’s the people behind them. That whole “Keep Portland Weird” thing, kinda speaks for much of Oregon. But then again, with all the delicious weirdness, there is a simple, elegant classy side also. I love it so much, let’s delve in a little.

Willamette Valley Wine Country panorama
Willamette Valley Wine Country panorama

The Oregon Wine Trailblazers

This is a relatively new region for wine. The first winery, post prohibition, appeared in southern Oregon’s Umpqua Valley back in 1961, thanks to Richard Sommer who refused to listen to the UC Davis folks who told him it wouldn’t work. There were a couple of other UC Davis grads who bucked the trends in the mid to late 60’s and headed North including David Lett (Eyrie Vineyards), Dick Erath (yep, you guessed it, Erath) and Charles Coury (which is now David Hill Winery). If you have been into a wine store (or a grocery store) you will recognize Erath. Obviously growing grapes here worked.

My Introduction to Oregon Wine – At Home in the Vineyard

I’ll admit that my knowledge of early Oregon wine history came from reading Susan Sokol Blosser’s book “At Home in the Vineyard”. this memoir is her personal story of the struggle to build the Sokol Blosser Winery in the Dundee Hills. These were not people with money looking to invest and have a retreat in a vineyard. They were idealists and they struggled with the weather and the soils as they figured our this new area for wine. This was the way for many of the early vineyard owners and winemakers and it’s still that way for many today. (I had a wonderful conversation with Annedria Beckham of Beckham vineyards in the Chehalem Mountains that I will share with you soon, about the continuing struggles of planting and growing their vineyard and winery).

I encourage you to visit the fantastic site of the Oregon Wine Board and read all about the history of this great region.

Early visit circa 2011

My introduction to Oregon wine came with a visit back in 2011. We came to spend 3 or 4 days, visit wine country and catch up with an old friend of mine. We stayed at the cottage at Winter Hill. Winter Hill Winery is in the Dundee Hills, the cottage was over the hill with a separate entrance. There were chickens running about and an amazing view of the area and the stars from the porch.

On this visit we took in, Winter Hill Winery, Erath, Youngberg Hill, Stoller Family Estate, Lange Estate, Argyle, Cana’s Feast, Willakenzie, Rex Hill, Trisaetum, Domaine Drouhin Oregon, Sokol Blosser, Torii Mor, Vidon & Vista Hills. It’s a list, I know!

I remember them all. Here are a few of the stories…

Winter Hill

Winter Hill at the time was tasting in the middle of the working winery on a folding table. It was a humble for a tasting room, but warm and friendly, and we got a first hand look at the wines with the people who were putting their heart and soul into the endeavor.

Youngberg Hill

Michael was driving to get to us Youngberg Hill and Adam (my friend who had been married there just a year before) was giving directions. Adam and I got busy talking and we missed a turn, and then another. We arrived to views and VIP treatment thanks to Adam. The views here are wedding worthy that’s for sure!

Stoller

The view from Stoller Winery Dundee HIlls Oregon 2011
The view from Stoller 2011

At Stoller, Adam was also a member, and he was doing a pick up, so we got a little extra special treatment. I remember a Tempranillo they had that I wish we would have taken home with us. And I remember a story about the honey that they were hoping to get from hives in a black berry patch part way up the hill.

Lange

Up on the hill at Lange, we were greeted by Jack, the vineyard cat and stepped into the tiny tasting room where they were boxing up their wine club shipment. I remember a moving experience tasting their Pinot Noir (if I close my eyes, I can still taste it).

Argyle

Argyle tasting room Dundee Oregon circa 2011
Argyle tasting room Dundee Oregon circa 2011

At Argyle we enjoyed some bubbles and I got hooked on their Black Brut. This was back when Rollin Soles the pioneering vintner was still the winemaker. I remember thinking how cool it was that Lyle Lovett was his friend from college. They are two unique and iconic individuals in their own right.

Vidon

When we visited Vidon, we met Don the owner, when he came in off the tractor. Don was still busy in the vineyard back then. He was a particle physicist by training and worked with NASA before he purchased the property in the Chehalem Mountains in 1999. We also visited Vista Hills. It was late in the day, and close to the cottage and they snuck us in as their last tasting. The views are stunning and the wines delicious. We returned to them on our last trip again, just before the announcement that they had been purchased by Coppola.

We’ve waxed poetic on some of this before…

You can read a little about the Stoller Tempranillo, the Lange Pinot Noir and the Argyle Black Brut in our piece Wines I can’t forget Part 1

Or about that Trisaetum Coastal Riesling in Wines I Can’t forget Part 3.

And in our piece on Gravity flow wineries, we talk a bit about Willakenzie.

Returning to Oregon in 2018

Last year we returned to this region that had so enchanted us. We spent 5 days exploring AVA’s within the Willamette Valley. Actually trying to visit each of the AVA’s and the proposed AVA’s. We gathered so much content, that we are still putting out pieces! We also were able to enjoy the last “Uncommon Wine Festival” at Vista Hills, where we spent a day tasting and talking with up and coming wine makers.

  • Winemakers setting up for the Uncommon wine Festival at Vista Hills
  • Deven & Calli with Joyful Noise
  • Vista Hills Uncommon Wine Festival Ryan Pickens
  • Libertine Wines, Alex Neely
  • Libertine Bottle Shots
  • Libertine Pouring Botrytis Reisling
  • a Cheerful Note, Ariel Eberle
  • A Cheerful Note with Ariel Eberle, the story behind the label
  • Ross & Bee Maloof
  • Maloof 2017 Where ya Pjs at?
  • Leah Jørgensen Wine - inspired by the Loire Valley
  • 2016 Oregon "Tour Rain" Vin Rouge
  • Fossil & Farm Jim & Jenny

You can see Mega Mix Video and read about the day at Vista Hills Vineyard and the Uncommom Wine Festival.

Willamette Valley AVAs

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.”

We did a Primer on this that you can read here. We managed to visit most of the AVAs.

Current Willamette Valley AVAs

We managed to visit a winery or tasting room representing each of the current AVAs

  • Chehalem Mountains AVA from Beckham Vineyards
  • Trisaetum Vineyard in the Ribbon Ridge AVA
  • Vista Hills Sunset Dundee Hills-
  • View of Yamhill-Carlton from Fairsing vineyard
  • Johan Vineyards in the proposed Van Duzer Corridor AVA
  • McMinnville AVA
  • Brittan Vineyards in the McMinnville AVA
  • The Eola Amity Hills
  • Chehalem Mountains AVA – est 2006 where we visited Beckham Vineyards and met both Annedria and Andrew.
  • Dundee Hills AVA – est 2005 where we visited Vista Hills to taste their wine as well as enjoy the hospitality of the Uncommon Wine Festival
  • Eola-Amity Hills AVA – est 2006. We visited the Evening Land tasting room in Dundee and then drove to see the vineyard in the Eola-Amity Hills.
  • McMinnville AVA – est 2005. We visited Brittan Vineyards tasting room and then did a drive by of the McMinnville vineyard on the way to the coast.
  • Ribbon Ridge AVA – est 2005, where we revisited Trisaetum.
  • Van Duzer Corridor AVA – est 2019, actually established after we visited! We visited Johan here and fell in love.
  • Yamhill-Carlton AVA – est 2005. We spent a wonderful evening enjoy the sunset view at Fairsing Vineyard (along with smores!)

Proposed Willamette Valley AVAs

In addition there are 4 more proposed AVAs, which include:

  • Illahe Panorama
  • Lowell Ford, Illahe Vineyards
  • Montinore Vineyards sign
  • Rudy Marchesi of Montinore Estate
  • Panorama from Ponzi
  • Mt Pisgah/Polk County AVA. Located near Salem, we spent 1/2 a day with Lowell Ford owner of Illahe Vineyard.
  • Laurelwood AVA. We visited Ponzi Vineyards in this proposed AVA which is the Northern facing slopes of the Chehalem Mountains.
  • Tualatin Hills AVA. Located North of Yamhill-Carlton and West of Chehalem Mountians, we visited with Rudy Marchesi of Montinore Estate.
  • Lower Long Tom AVA. Okay…we didn’t make it here. It is far south between Corvalis and Eugene and there was just not enough time.

Do it!

Our trailer on Willamette Valley AVAs and proposed AVAs

Get yourself to Oregon. You won’t regret it. Be it the Willamette Valley or further south in the Umpqua, Applegate or Rogue Valleys. Or maybe you head to some of those border areas that share AVAs with Washington. (they are good about sharing in Oregon)

You can find great information on Oregon from the Oregon Wine Board, Willamette Valley Wineries and the Southern Oregon Winery Association to get you started!

And don’t forget to check back here! We have loads of posts on our last trip and there will be more as we head back again this July!

More on Oregon wine Country

Here are a few you might want to check out:

And there are more, check the bottom of each page for other related pieces.

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

WBC18 in Walla Walla the Sweeping Overview

Owen Roe Vineyard Shot

We returned from WBC18 with so much content on Washington Wines and beyond!  Tons of great photos and footage and stories from amazing people and wineries.  We will break it all down and give you the in-depth stories, but the week was so exciting I wanted to give you the sweeping overview (Complete with lots of photos!) of the stories you will see coming soon!

Michael drove to Portland, you can catch a little of his trip on #WBC18 Crushed Grape Chronicles Travel Log(Day 1) and #WBC18 Crushed Grape Chronicles Travel Log Day 2  We will pick up here where he left off.

So I did make it to the airport in Portland!  While Michael got a couple extra hours of sleep due to our cancelled and re-booked flight, I sadly did not.  Whatever, it’s vacation right?  Sleep is overrated.  We got on our tiny little flight to PASCO the Tri Cities airport that sits between Yakima and Walla Walla and were seated at the back of the plane.  We noticed the plane was pretty empty and inquired about re-seating.  The flight attendant informed us that we were seated to provide ballast.  LOL!

The flight, new friends and Wine!

As it turned out, there were other WBC attendees on the flight, so we made friends!  Jennifer of Beyond the Corkscrew sat with us and we enjoyed complimentary wine from Horizon Air from Sagelands Winery.  They are part of the Precept Wine Portfolio and say Sagelands “embodies Washington State’s wine making legacy by sourcing the finest grapes from the four corners of the Columbia Valley and handcrafting them into wines of outstanding quality and value”.  From what I can gather on their site, they are a larger winery sourcing grapes, but….I appreciated the bits on their winemaker and the vineyards they source from and their soils.  Feel free to use the link and check them out. Michael had the Cabernet, I had the Chardonnay and we toasted with Jennifer to a fine start to what would be a full weekend of wine!

Wine Yakima Valley

We spent a little bit of time at the airport, before our host from Wine Yakima Valley arrived to pick us up.  There was also a Red Mountain Tour leaving from the airport.  I will have a piece or two (or three) on this pre-conference tour.  Barbara with Wine Yakima Valley did a phenomenal job setting this all up.  So you get the overview!  They had snacks for the drive…

Yakima Valley Cheese Plate

Yakima Valley Cheese Plate

…it included some local products, a bit of a tussle to get them out of the plastic wrap but…and then we were off for the hour ten minute drive to Owen Roe Winery for Flavor Camp.  Patrick our driver regaled us with stories and details of the area along the way.

Owen Roe Winery

We arrived early at Owen Roe and were greeted with wine, I managed to get a winery tour with Owner David O’Reilly and then Flavor Camp!  Yeah, you’ll have to wait to hear about that.  The evening ended with Dinner with a spectacular view and many Yakima Valley wines, with Winemakers pouring.

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Elephant Mountain Vineyard

The next morning we were up for breakfast and a fly-over seminar, with Co Dinn of Co Dinn Cellars and Kerry Shiels of Côte Bonneville to give us the layout of the Yakima Valley so we could connect with the landmarks we were passing as we headed to Elephant Mountain Vineyard.  We met Joe Hattrup, who owns the vineyard., tasted some of the varieties fresh from harvest and then tasted an assortment of wines made from the grapes sourced from this vineyard.  Of course they kept us fed, today with a great Mexican food truck to enjoy with the wine and the astounding views.

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Walla Walla pre-conference wine education

We came in hot to Walla Walla, dashing from the van right into our first session which was with Dr. Loosen USA on riesling.  We had a moment to check in and then off to our second session on the Wines of Uruguay (which was really fascinating and delicious).

Cadaretta

Our dinner that night was at Cadaretta’s glass house.  This trip actually took us across the border into Oregon, as the Walla Walla AVA is a cross border AVA.  The views were amazing, dinner and the wines were delicious and Kris Middleton of Cadaretta was kind enough to take some time to speak with us.  (Yeah…more on that later)

And the conference begins!

The conference…well it’s really fast paced.  The Conference Opening ran right into the Introduction to the Walla Walla Valley (and more stories to come from the 4 women winemakers from name the winemakers with links to wineries who introduced us to the region), then a session on Wine Bloggers vs Wine Influencers which took us into lunch sponsored by Cascade Valley Wine Country

Agenda Board for Wine Writers Conference

Agenda Board for Wine Writers Conference

Michael and I then split, Michael did a wine discovery session with Rias Baixas and I did one with Consorzio Tutela Lugana DOC.  We met up again for the Keynote speaker and then went right into Live Red Wine Blogging.  What is Live Red Wine Blogging you ask?  It’s like speed dating for wine tasting and it’s chaos. You will get the rundown on that later or feel free to jump onto twitter and check out my notes that I did as we went along, the red tasting starts here.

Mystery Dinner

This is by far my favorite part of the conference, you get a colored tag at the top of the conference that is matched up to a group.  You all get in vans, buses, cars, limos….and they drive you somewhere.  You don’t know where you are going until you arrive.  We arrived at Doubleback Winery and were treated to an amazing dinner by Andrae’s Kitchen with wines from Doubleback Winery and Sleight of Hand Cellars. The winemakers joined us and spoke (we sat with Trey Busch winemaker for Sleight of Hand).  The atmosphere, food, wine and company were wonderful.

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Parties…

The conference is full of post evening parties, some sponsored by wineries, some just gatherings.  I attended one with Fullerton Wines (thanks Matt) and then another wine filled spectacle by the Drunken Cyclist where everyone brought a bottle to share.

Fullerton Pinot Noir

Fullerton Pinot Noir (they also have another brand called Three Otters)

Conference Day 2

The second day of the conference kicked off with the announcement of next years conference which will be held in New South Wales Australia!  Followed by breakout session on writing, media, video etc…

Lunch in Walla Walla

Lunch this day was sponsored by Visit Walla Walla and you signed up for lunch in a downtown tasting room.  We visited Gard Vintners where we sampled wines, enjoyed a box lunch as well as grapes from the vineyard and apples from the property.

Bubbles or Bodegas

Michael and I split up again, he attended a session with Bodegas LAN of Rioja and I did a tasting a pairing session with Sarah Tracey of The Lush Life, who I had an opportunity to chat with as I sat next to her the previous evening at dinner.  She set up a pairing seminar with Gloria Ferrer sparkling wines.  Informative, beautiful and delicious, this was a great way to spend an afternoon.

Cheese Please!

When you think of wine, you can’t help but also think of cheese!  Cheeses of Europe gets this and sponsored a session of cheese pairings hosted by the Cheese Twins Michael and Charlie Kalish (you might know them from Chopped or The Great Foodtruck Race.  Entertained and full of cheese we had a break before Lightning Talks and the Live White and Rosé tasting.

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The evening ended with the final dinner, where we met two winemakers Chris Loeliger of Truth Teller Winery and Tim Armstrong of Armstrong Family Winery .  And yes, we look forward to followup conversations with both of these gentlemen and bringing you the stories of their wineries.

The Gorge

We had also set up for a post conference excursion through the Columbia Gorge.  (This is where Michael parking at the Portland Airport comes in).  We traveled to the Columbia Gorge, stopping on the Eastern end at Maryhill Winery where Cassie and Amie had us all set up for a tour, tasting and lunch.  The views here are tremendous and we were really spoiled with the in-depth tour.  We will have plenty of video to share with you on this behind the scenes look.

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After Maryhill were driven west and south to the Oregon side of this AVA for a tasting, tour and dinner at Cathedral Ridge Winery.  This place has spectacular views of Mt. Hood.  We met owner Rob Bell (hmm…is he any relation to me?)

Finally they drove us back to Portland.  Where we picked up “Nuit” our plug-in hybrid Kia Niro and we were off to spend an evening luxuriating at the Hotel Monaco downtown.

The Adventure home

Our adventure continued!  We were up early to head to Voodoo Donuts!

The Oregon Coast and Applegate Valley

Then hit the road to the Oregon Coast.  It was foggy, but we could hear the ocean and explored some lovely seaside towns.

We drove the coast for a bit then headed inland to the Applegate Valley, hoping to catch some vineyard shots before sunset.  While we didn’t catch much, it was quickly made up for by the fabulous YURT we had booked!  Sunset View Yurt is amazing, great views, terrific people, a modern Victrola and a beautiful collection of music. We enjoyed a bottle of Johan Drueskall Pinot Gris which is an orange wine.  We packed this with us especially to enjoy on this evening, giggling over our Johan in a YURT and then soaked in the hot tub under the stars (well, clouds, but it was lovely anyway!).

The Redwoods

Our hosts Kathleen and Richard gave us tips on sites in the Redwoods and we headed southwest again to Jedediah Smith Park to visit the Stout Grove.  Redwood groves are sacred sites, it’s like walking in a Cathedral.  I really think they are Ents (any Tolkien fans out there?). Being among them you are forced to slow down. Their size and age put the universe into a bit better perspective.  After soaking up loads of energy here, we continued to the California Coast where the sun was out!  We traveled a bit of the coast, then back through the Redwood Forest and then finally to the freeway to get to Sacramento for our final evening of our trip.

Redwoods

Redwoods

Tahoe and the drive home

Our last morning had us up before dawn and heading to Lake Tahoe, soaking in the scenery and then on through the outskirts of Yosemite to Mono Lake, through park territory there and finally out into the desert and home to Las Vegas.

It was an epic trip and I can’t wait to get into all the details with you!

We did a little Primer on the area before we left, so feel free to dive into Washington Wines and beyond with #WBC18

So join us back here at Crushed Grape Chronicles  as we continue sharing our amazing trip into Washington Wines and more!  And don’t forget, you can also find us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram

 

Disclaimer:  Michael and I attended the WBC (Wine Bloggers Conference) as Citizen Bloggers at a discounted rate.  All opinions on the conference and related events are my own.

 

Ross & Bee – Maloof Wines

Ross & Bee Maloof

The brains and the brawn, the science and the passion…the perfect pairing for making wines.  Ross and Bee consider themselves to be a “true yin and yang team.”

Ross & Bee Maloof exude joy when you speak with them.  They are truly excited, bubbling to tell you about these wines that they are so passionate about.  And it’s contagious.  When we spoke with them at the Uncommon Wine Festival at Vista Hills Vineyard, they were multi-tasking, pouring glasses and keeping up multiple conversations at the same time.

Their story, while not easy, is kind of dreamy.  Bee is an aerospace materials engineer, rooted in science, while Ross comes from a hospitality background, running Food and Beverage programs on the east coast in Phili.  Ross had this urge to get into production and got into wine doing an internship with Brianna Day of Day Wines.  Brianna runs Day Camp, a wine cooperative and home to 11 small producers, one of which is now Maloof.

In 2015 they made a single barrel of wine, while living a bi-coastal life, just coming to Oregon for harvests.

Ross: In 2016 I had left my job in Philadelphia and I lived in a tent behind the winery from the middle of July through Thanksgiving and Bee came out for a really good portion of that too.  She took all her vacation

Bee: and I’d been saving it for years and years and years

Ross: Spent it all

Bee: In a tent”

So they spent the harvest in a tent behind the winery to fund their first vintage.  At this point, they decided to make a go of it.  They returned to Phili, packed up the stuff they didn’t sell, put the dogs in the car and did a 33-day drive across the country, with stops along the way to visit family.

This year they will be doing their 4th vintage, but they have only been full time residents since last May.

They focus on white wine, making 6 or 7 wines each year, with only one being a red wine and even that wine is typically 30% white fruit.  Their style is

“Bright, snappy, low alcohol, high acid white wines.”

As we got into tasting the first wine Bee gave us a disclaimer.

Bee: This first one is our possibly, I don’t want to say our most boring, because it’s very classic. (But) It’s going to get weirder going forward.

2017 Nemarniki Vineyard Riesling

Maloof 2017 Nemarniki Vineyard Riesling

Maloof 2017 Nemarniki Vineyard Riesling

Bee: This is our 2017 Riesling, it’s from a really cool vineyard at the top of the Chehalem Mountain Range, kinda just down the road, the Nemarniki vineyard and it is run by a female farmer, which I’m always a big proponent of.  She and her 3 legged mastiff dog, Babe, basically make the best fruit on Chehalem Mountain, it’s so good.  We fermented this super classically, low and slow over the winter, in large format neutral oak puncheons, so 500 liter puncheons and then we bottled in the spring.  And you’ll notice there’s a little sparkle to it, a little frizzante.”

A couple of extra notes:  Nemarniki is Dry Farmed, LIVE Certified, sits at 850 feet and the soil here is Loess.  The alcohol sits quietly at 10.5%, and it runs around $18 a bottle.

They suggest spicy pizza (they actually will suggest a type of pizza to pair with any wine. Pizza is kinda their thing), or Asian dishes with lots of umami.  They refer to this wine as “Stone-fruit moon juice”, which is an apt description.

2017 “Where ya PJs at?

Maloof 2017 Where ya Pjs at?

Maloof 2017 Where ya Pjs at?

“Ross: (This) wine is our fun little spring blend, this is what we think of as our answer to a rosé.  This is a blend, it’s 55% Pinot Gris and the Pinot Gris was fermented on the skins, kind of as you would traditionally ferment a red wine.  So we ferment that, on the skins in two different fashions; we do half of it with full skin contact and daily punch downs and then the other half we actually do carbonic masceration.  Then that’s pressed off and blended with Riesling. So it’s like 55% skin contact Pinot Gris and 45% Riesling.  And this wine is called “Where Ya PJs at?”

The Pinot Gris came from Johan Vineyard which will be in the new Van Duzer Corridor AVA when that is approved and the Riesling, like the Riesling above came from Nemarniki in the Chehalem Mountain AVA.  Soils at Johan are silty loam and Nemarniki is loess.

Which pie to enjoy this wine with?  They suggest a white pizza or “a bowl of popcorn over your favorite John Cusack movie”

This wine sits at 11.5 alcohol and will set you back a whopping $21 (do it if you can)

2017 Beckenridge Vineyard Gerwürztraminer

We moved onto the final wine they were pouring on this particular day.

2017 Beckenridge Vineyard Gerwürztraminer

2017 Beckenridge Vineyard Gerwürztraminer

“Ross:  So this last one is our Gewürztraminer. This is from Beckenridge vineyard, just outside of Eola-Amity Hills. The vines here are turning 40 this year.  They are own-rooted so really old vine Gewürtztraminer for Oregon.  It’s a really lovely little place.  We take this fruit and ferment it fully dry on the skins which ended up taking about 23 days.  So that’s 23 days skin contact before it was pressed off to neutral oak for the winter and bottled in the spring.”

This wine is from Beckenridge Vineyard.  The vines here are own-rooted and dry farmed and they are LIVE Certified.  The elevation is 650 feet and the soil is Jory.

On their site they describe this wine as “rose petals and black tea” and “A brooding copper color, with nourishing aromatics of flowers and cheering alpine herbs”.  The alcohol goes up another notch to 12.5%, which still sits on the low side in the universe as a whole, and runs $20.  They suggest pairing this wine with root veggies and alpine cheeses, oh, and Pizza…always with pizza.

As I noted the rich color of the Gerwürztraminer, Ross filled us in on their approach to this wine:

“Ross:  Yeah, so essentially if we kinda think about wine in the binary of white and red, white wine you are typically pressing the grape and separating the solid matter out of the equation and just fermenting the juice by itself and that’s why white wine is bright and acidic and easy to drink.  Whereas red wine, you crush the grapes and you leave all that solid matter, the skins, the seeds, the stems sometimes, you leave that in and even kind of reincorporate it.  I think of it as steeping tea. The skin of the berry is really where all the pigment is, that’s why even with table grapes, if you go to the grocery store and you buy red grapes, if you cut one open it doesn’t bleed red onto your counter it’s white on the inside, which is why Champagne is crystal clear and it’s made of Pinot Noir.  As you increase that steeping time that contact time with the solid matter, in the fermentation, you get more color pigmentation.  So if you take white grapes and do the same thing you would normally do for a red ferment, you end up with this copper hue.  But what you also end up with is a white wine that has more phenolic bitterness or drive complexity and tannins.  So things that you might more often associate with a red wine.  There are a number of wine cultures in the world that have been making white wine that way forever.  The Republic of Georgia, parts of Slovenia, north eastern Italy, make their white wines, the same way they make their red wines.  That’s just the tradition and how they make it.”

This wasn’t the first reference to Georgian wines we had heard today and finding these “Orange Wines” made the day pretty unique.

Other Maloof Wines

They were not pouring their Syrah on this particular day, but I asked about it.  It was two weeks from bottling at that time.  In 2015 they did a classic Syrah/Viognier blend.  This year though, it would be Syrah/Marsanne.  It was planned to be a Syrah/Marsanne/Roussanne but the Roussanne was lost to a frost.

In addition they have a sur lee aged Pinot Gris that they sold out of earlier in the year, but they will be bottling again next year.

How to find them?

Yeah, not online, at least not yet.  Watch for them to get that set up in the spring of 2019.  In the mean time they are distributed in Oregon, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Vermont.  Check out their distributor page here.  http://rossandbee.com/find-wine/

Find them online at http://rossandbee.com/

On Facebook https://www.facebook.com/maloofwines/

At Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/maloofwines/

You can also read our piece on the Uncommon Wine Festival, with our interview with Dave Pettersen the Winemaker and CEO of Vista Hills who founded the event, and check out other interviews we did at the festival with Ryan Pickens of Esther Glen Farm and Winery , Ariel Eberle of A Cheerful Note Cellars , Jim Fischer and Jenny Mosbacher of Fossil & Fawn, Alex Neely of Libertine Wines  and Deven Morganstern of Joyful Noise.  We look forward to bringing you interviews and discussions with all of the winemakers from this event, as well as details and visits with wineries in each of the Willamette Valley AVAs.  So check back here at Crushed Grape Chronicles  and don’t forget, you can also find us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram

And if you want to dive into details on the Willamette Valley, you can read our recent post Oregon’s Willamette Valley AVAs – a Primer