Barrel Tasting with Rudy Marchesi at Montinore Estate

Montinore Vineyards, Rudy Marchesi

After a wonderful interview with Rudy Marchesi of Montinore Estate discussing the Missoula Floods, the history of Montinore estate and their wines as well as Biodynamics in the vineyard and garden, Rudy invited us to the cellar for a barrel tasting.

Winemaker Stephen Webber

Montinore_Estate_Stephen_Webber
Montinore_Estate_Stephen_Webber, courtesy of Montinore Estate

On the way, we went through the lab, where we met Montinore Estate winemaker, Stephen Webber. Stephen started with Montinore as Assistant Winemaker over a decade ago in 2006 coming from DiStefano winery in Seattle. He became the Co-Winemaker in 2009 and took over as head winemaker in 2016.

On to the tasting

Rudy Marchesi of Montinore Estate
Rudy Marchesi of Montinore Estate

We stopped briefly in the tank room for a taste of the Red Cap Pinot that was fermenting in tank. Before heading to the cellar with room after room filled with barrels and a few clay amphorae style vessels (which we later found out were on loan from Andrew Beckham).

The original plantings of Pinot Noir in the Montinore Estate Vineyard in 1982 were very typical of the early Oregon plantings and were Pommard and Wadenswil clones.

High density vineyards

Looking down the rows at Montinore

The vineyard we tasted from next were some of the first high density vineyards in the area, planted 2500 vines to the acre. Rudy feels high density works better here. With high density vineyards, each vine is asked to do less work. Here, instead of each vine needing to produce 6 lbs of fruit, they are only asked to produce 2 lbs per vine.

I remember speaking with Jason Haas about high density vineyards. He was very much against them in Paso Robles. But here is where perspective comes in. High density planting in Central California during a drought is much different from high density planting in Oregon, where moisture is much more abundant. So much of vineyard practice is determined by location and climate and available natural resources.

Soils and their affect on the taste of a wine

We moved on to taste from another barrel that came from a block about 100 yards from the first. The difference was immediately apparent in nose and color. This was the same elevation. The soil is Missoula Flood loess over basalt. Rudy conjectured that these 35 year old vines had worked their roots into the basalt and this was where the differences came from. This pinot had more earth with herbal and cherry notes. Basalt, Rudy explained, often had this cherry note. The first block we tasted from had deeper loess. He noted that the basalt in Dundee was different, but still had these cherry notes.

Courtesy of Montinore Estate Vineyards

The Red Cap Pinot Noir is a blend of all of their Pinots. Everything is barrelled separately, then they pull reserves from each vineyard and block and the remaining blends into the Red Cap. The very best blocks make up the estate reserve. They then make several vineyard designate wines. They make 200 cases of a single vineyard Pinot Noir from Parsons Ridge. Which we tasted next.

We tasted again, from a block in Helvetia soil. This is a different soil series but still part of the Missoula flood loess and is known as Cornelius. The slope on this block is a little different. The color in this wine was more purple, which they seem to get from the southern part of the property. You could taste a bit more wood (the barrel this was in was newer oak) on this wine. There was more floral, and the fruit on the nose was more boysenberry than blackberry. This is the soil on Rudy and his wife’s 1 1/4 acre property

The next wine was from the Tidalstar vineyard which has marine sediment soils. This vineyard is located in the Yamhill-Carlton AVA on it’s western edge. This wine will be part of the Red Cap, as well as all 3 tiers of single vineyard wines. They are thinking of creating a new brand exclusively from this vineyard.

Michael commented on this being the perfect way to taste wines. Comparing blocks and soils in the cellar and seeing and smelling the differences, guided by someone who knows the vineyard.

This is the beauty of Pinot Noir, it is so expressive.

Rudy Marchesi (our interview in July 2018)

More than just Pinot Noir

As Rudy searched for the right varieties for his early vineyards on the East Coast, he set up a research project to go to Northern Italy and explore indigenous varieties. His father was born there, so he had some people he could contact. They went to 5 different cultural research stations. He learned quite a bit, but didn’t put it into practice until he arrived in Oregon.

Lagrein

We tasted the Lagrein. (disclosure – a varietal I love and find all too rarely). Lagrein’s parentage is Pinot Noir and Dureza (which is also a parent of Syrah). In the glass it is very Syrah like.

You can really see in the glass, something syrah like going on. This has been doing well. We just bottled the 2016. I planted these in 2010-2012, so they are just starting to come in stride.

Rudy Marchesi (our interview in July 2018)

Teroldego

We moved on to Teroldego a grape related to Pinot Noir, Lagrein & Syrah.

Elisabetta Foradori, she inherited her family winery at 19 or so, they grew Teroldego, at the time it was meh.  She went through and selected the best vines and clusters and bred for quality….I got material from her.  We only have 2 acres of it, like the Lagrien.  But I think it needs warmer sites, this might be our global warming hedge.

Rudy Marchesi (our interview in July 2018)

Different Vessels

At this point we came to the beautiful clay fermentation tanks.

Andrew Beckham created “Novum”

Clay breathes more than concrete, you can feel it. That’s what we want. I want that evaporation of water through clay just like barrel. In amphorae you get alot more fruit. Pinot producers worry, they get so much fruit…would it have the ageing ability without the tannins from the wood? As a blending component it could be very exciting.

Rudy Marchesi (our interview in July 2018)

Unfortunately, the Clay tanks have no sampling valves. So there was no tasting to be done there. Andrew Beckham is making him several of these clay vessels which Andrew calls “novum”. (these clay vessels are rounded like amphorae but do not have the conical bottom). You will get to hear all about the “novum” soon, as we spent a morning at Beckham and some time with Andrew on this trip also.

This was the end of our joyous trip to the cellar with Rudy. He was off to lunch with the grand kids and led us back to the tasting room for a tasting of their wines already in bottle.

Person of the Year 2018 – Oregon Wine Press

Montinore Vineyards, Rudy Marchesi
Montinore Vineyards, Rudy Marchesi

What an amazing visit. Rudy Marchesi has such expansive knowledge and a drive to keep learning. He was so generous with us sharing his time and his knowledge. He was just named Person of the Year 2018 by the Oregon Wine Press

For his work in Biodynamics and its advocacy, and, more importantly, for his generosity of spirit, OWP is pleased to honor him.

Oregon Wine Press, January 8, 2019 by Jade Helm

I knew of his work in Biodynamics. We spoke with him during our interview about it. But I truly had no idea of what a true leader in this field he is.

Most recently, Marchesi was one of nine growers — and the only American — asked to join the International Biodynamic Viticulture Group. This new committee will endeavor to integrate more viticulture into the annual Biodynamic Agriculture Conference held in Dornach, Switzerland, and to create a web-based forum for exchange of information among the world’s Biodynamic winegrowers.

Oregon Wine Press, January 8, 2019 by Jade Helm

Here, here Oregon Wine Press! Well done! And well done Rudy. I am humbled at the time and knowledge you so graciously shared with us.

More on Montinore

We documented all the time he spent with us that morning. The fascinating information fills 4 posts in addition to this one. There are links below as well as a pairing we did over the holidays that Rudy’s daughter Kristin (President of Montinor Estate), so graciously shared with us:

Visit them! Montinore Estate

Montinore Vineyards Entrance
Montinore Vineyards Entrance

The Estate is beautiful. You will find it in the Northwest corner of the Willamette Valley in Forest Grove.

3663 SW Dilley Road Forest Grove, OR 97116

503.359.5012
[email protected]

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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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