Jim & Jenny – Fossil and Fawn at Uncommon Wine Festival

Fossil & Farm Jim & Jenny

Jim Fischer II and Jenny Mosbacher of Fossil & Fawn

These two…they finish each others sentences.  Case in point

Jim & Jenny

This is our 2017 White wine blend (they say in almost stereo)

Jenny

our field blend of 6 different grapes from 3 different vineyards

Patron

Wow that was really in sync!

Jim

I’m like, wait, do we really both need to say this in stereo, it’s too weird.

Jenny

Ummm..

Jim

You go, you go

Jenny

No you

Jim

No, no no

Jenny

No you

Patron

It would be better if you went back and forth

Jim

Oh my gosh

Jenny

Well that’s kinda how it goes

Jim

You take the first line of the script…

LOL!  They are a team and they bounce comments and ideas off each other in rapid fire.  As entertaining as they are…they also are making some “stand up and take notice” wines.  Wine Enthusiast just put them in the 40 Under 40 lineup.  Check out their photo from the Wine Enthusiast Photo Shoot, it really sums them up.

Fossil & Fawn – the origin story

A little background on Fossil & Fawn.  Jim grew up on a vineyard in the Eola Hills, that would be the vineyard he and his father manage together to this day, Silvershot Vineyard.  Jim’s father, Jim Fischer Sr. and his brother Bill started a nursery in 1999 with cuttings from neighboring vineyards, they planted in 2000.  They originally named the vineyard Crowley Station Vineyards for the historic railroad station at the foot of Holmes Hill, but renamed in 2016 for the family horse who had roamed the vineyard before the vines were planted.  The vineyard soil, is old ocean floor littered with fossils which is the “Fossil” part of the name.  The fawn part comes from the deer who roam the oak savanna that surround the property.

Jim speaks of his father as always needing a project. When Jim was a child it was roses.

“in the summertime it was my job to take care of the roses.  He had 100 rose plants.  And so I’d have to go outside and dead head 100 different rose bushes all summer long, so if I never have a rose again I’m happy, it’s okay with me.”

“That being said, now we just replaced 100 roses with 1000 grape vines.  So it’s a different thing.”

They started making wine in 2011.  The idea was a vineyard specific wine from the family vineyard, to show to potential fruit buyers. Soon they figured they might as well make it an official label and then it had a life of it’s own.  They culture yeast from the vineyard and make wines with as little input as possible.  This is not to make a big stand for natural wines, it’s just because this makes wines they like to drink.

The Wines

So with a table lined with people bearing empty glasses at the Uncommon Wine Festival held at Vista Hills Vineyard back in July, they began to pour and dive into their “Uncommon Wines”.

Kooky Varieties

Kooky Varieties

Fossil and Fawn 2017 White Wine Blend

Fossil & Fawn 2017 Oregon White WIne (photo courtesy of Fossil & Fawn)

Fossil & Fawn 2017 Oregon White WIne (photo courtesy of Fossil & Fawn)

The first wine was their 2017 White Wine Blend.  As Jenny mentioned above, it is a field blend of 6 different grapes from 3 different vineyards.  Jim calls it their nod to a style of wine from Austria, specifically Vienna called Germischter Satz.

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, very summery.

This wine on their website, they give they name “aka Gewürvigtocloninger”.  It comes from 3 vineyards, from 3 different areas of the Willamette Valley.  This was the first wine that they sourced from outside their home vineyard at Silvershot. On a map these three vineyards form a triangle of sorts with 30 to 40 mile drives between them, so they span a pretty large area. Beckenridge Vineyard is located just outside Dallas, Hanson is east of Gervais and Omero is outside Newburg in the Ribbon Ridge AVA. Beckenridge is probably best known for Weddings. In fact when you visit their site, that is all that you find.  But…that beautiful venue is surrounded by vines and they do actually produce grapes, which would be the Gewürztraminer in this blend.  At Hanson they are cultivating an eccentric bunch of grapes.  In addition to Pinots Noir, Gris and Blanc, they have Gamay, Auxerrois, Riesling, Chardonnay, Gewürztraminer, yeah, yeah you say, so exotic, but wait there’s more, they are also cultivating Marechal Foch, Leon Millot and Golubok!  10 points for any of those varieties you are familiar with!  They provide the Riesling for the blend.  The Omero vineyard in Ribbon Ridge provides the remaining oddities, the Savagnin Rose, Fruilano, Melon de Bourgogne and Kerner.

They produced 110 cases of the White Blend and the suggested retail price is $20.  Yep, you read that right…$20.  I happily own a bottle.  Some day later this year you will get a pairing note.  I will say that his description is on the nose, summery is the perfect description.

2017 Rosé of Pinot Noir

Fossil & Fawn 2017 Oregon Rose (photo courtesy of Fossil & Fawn)

Fossil & Fawn 2017 Oregon Rose (photo courtesy of Fossil & Fawn)

The Rosé is 1005 Pinot Noir and comes from a small portion of the vineyard that was planted in 2003.

” It specifically comes from one small portion of the vineyard that my friend Greg helped us plant back in 2003.  Greg loved cats.  He unfortunately passed away a few years ago, so it’s a bit of a tip of the hat to Greg being that this is the first wine that came from just that one portion of the vineyard.  We put some kitties on the label as a little thank you for Greg for helping us out with it. And like the white wine, native yeast fermented in barrel.  This is a very different style of rosé than others that you might try.  This a little bit richer a little bit fuller. There’s this little kind of very very slight bit of effervescence to it.  It is very rocky and chalky and mineraly, that I attribute to growing into this very very harsh material.”

These vines are own rooted Pommard and Dijon 777.  On their site they talk about picking the fruit on a perfect autumn day — cool and damp in the morning with sun slowly burning off the clouds. ”  (how glorious is that)? They destemmed and soaked the grapes on skins for 24 hours then gently pressed, racked into neutral oak and fermented with native yeast.  Malolactic fermentation completed in the barrel, so this wine has a richer mouth feel.  They just made 89 cases of the Rosé.  And again…it retails at $20.  You can watch for a future pairing with this wine also.

 

2017 Do Nothing

Fossil & Fawn 2017 Do Nothing Mondeuse Noir (photo courtesy of Fossil & Fawn)

Fossil & Fawn 2017 Do Nothing Mondeuse Noir (photo courtesy of Fossil & Fawn)

Do Nothing started in 2016, the idea being that they would be as hands off as possible.  The 2017 is 100% Mondeuse Noir from the Omero Vineyard in the Ribbon Ridge AVA.

“I mentioned native yeast and lack of filtration? This is the apex of that very hands off approach.

This is a nod to the very traditional way wine has been made for eons, specifically in places like Georgia.  The country, not the state.”

They believe this is the first time Mondeuse has been released as a single variety in the Willamette Valley.  The grape itself is native to the Savoie in France.

“we call this “Do Nothing” because the fruit we pick full cluster stem on the whole bunch, throw it into a bin, seal it, put on the lid, seal it, and then walk away.  We don’t do any punch downs we don’t even check on the fruit, we don’t look at it for 3 weeks.  At the end of 3 weeks we take off the lid dig out the fruit with a shovel into the press and then squeeze it.  The juice comes out, we take that juice, it goes into mix of older Oregon and French oak barrels where it ferments very slowly.  So at that point our cellar is probably the high 40’s temperature wise, so it ferments over the next 5 months, in our very cool cellar.  And then we bottle it without any filtration or fining and this is designed to answer that riddle of “what do you do when it’s warm out and you want a chilled red wine?  Well this is a red wine that is designed to be chilled.  So very low alcohol it’s 11% alcohol, it’s tannic so it has some nice structure to it, it’s a great food wine it’s just really something super totally different.”

So that 3 weeks that it sits on the skins is called “carbonic maceration”.  You might have heard of this with the wines of Beaujolais.  This kind of fermentation starts without the yeast, inside each grape, then the grapes burst and they yeast takes over for the remaining fermentation.  Now typically the maceration process short, this is an extended maceration…I’m getting really geeky…if you are interested in this fascinating subject there is a great article on VinePair you should check out.

The Do Nothing they kindly made a bit more of, with 215 cases.  It’s still incredibly $20 a bottle, that is, while it lasts.

 

2017 Pinot Noir

2016 Silvershot Vineyards Pinot Noir (photo courtesy of Fossil & Fawn)

2016 Silvershot Vineyards Pinot Noir (photo courtesy of Fossil & Fawn)

 

This is their flagship wine.  In 2011 they produced just 2 barrels and now 8 years in they make 191 cases.  The wine comes from Silvershot Vineyards in the Eola-Amity Hills AVA, the vineyard that Jim grew up on.  This is own-rooted Pommard, Dijon 114 & 115, Espiguette 374 as well as some mystery clones.  This is a mix of their Pinot parcels.  70% of the fruit is destemmed and then fermented in open top fermenters.  The rest is whole cluster fermented.  They ferment with the pied-du-cuve of wild yeast from the vineyard.  Since they do not yet have their own winery, they make their wine at a shared facility in a tricked out 100 year old barn.  This wine does contain a little Chardonnay from 30 plants that were mistakenly planted in with the Pinot.  They co-ferment, and did some foot stomping until fermentation was complete. They barreled in neutral French Oak for 9 months.  It is unfiltered and unfined.

This wine was made to honor the work that Jim’s dad does in the vineyard.  This was the start.

They made 191 cases their Pinot Noir this year and it will set you back $30 a bottle.

They also do a Pinot Gris that is from Silvershot.  Sadly they were not tasting it on this day.  That wine is an orange wine, (a white wine made in the style of a red wine).  Follow the link and read about it.  I would be tempted to order a bottle, but…they do not, as yet, sell online.  But you can find them locally in Oregon! And there are a few distributors carrying them in their portfolios.  If you are going to get some, I suggest you do it fast.  I expect that they will be selling out quickly.

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 and Ariel Eberle of A Cheerful Note Cellars. 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

 

Yeasts: Indigenous or Cultured

Wine pouring into vat

Recently while in Paso I had an interesting and enlightening conversation with David Parrish of Parrish Family Vineyards regarding yeast.  Now this is not a subject that I have in depth knowledge on, most of what I know I have picked up by listening at my favorite vineyards.  I walked into the conversation a big supporter of the use of natural yeast, without any real understanding of why you wouldn’t use natural yeast.  David explained that natural yeast could be a completely uncontrollable variable in wine making.  This was a new perspective for me.   So, today is the day to research and explore the pros and cons of indigenous yeast vs. adding cultured yeast to wines.

First, I suppose we should talk about what part the yeast plays in the making of wine.

Yeast is what causes the fermentation process in wine.  The yeast, just like when you are making bread, eats up the sugars and produces, in this case alcohol and carbon dioxide.  The yeast will typically continue to do this until it has transformed all the sugars. The process can stop or be stopped short of that, which gives you the residual sugar in wine.

grape-grapesIndigenous yeasts are those that are “naturally” occurring in the vineyard or winery.  Yes “naturally” is in quotes, because well…yeasts can show up from anywhere.  Lets begin by talking about the natural yeast that you find in the vineyard.   In Europe these yeasts that are found on the skins of the grapes are considered part of the terroir.   Often called the “bloom” or “blush” these yeasts can be seen on the skin of the grape and come into the winery with the grape during harvest.  These native yeasts can produce amazing and unique wines, but they are also a bit of a wildcard, because they can also be unpredictable causing off flavors or aromas and possible spoilage.  Wild yeast as it is already on the grapes can start the fermentation process immediately, as the weight of the grapes on top crush the grapes on the bottom the yeasts can go to work before they even get to the crushpad.  Indigenous yeast can take longer to get going with fermentation and there isn’t a specific formula for how long fermentation will take, so the winemaker must be vigilant, checking in on the process often to see where it’s at.  The type of vineyard can assist natural yeast in the vineyards.  If the pH is low and there is high acidity this will help the yeast to succeed.  Often warmer regions with higher yields don’t work as well for natural yeast.  The variety of natural yeast found in a vineyard can also add to the diversity of flavor in the wines.  In Europe most wineries use natural yeast, this is the way it has been done for centuries.  Often a “pied du cuvee” is used to kick start a slow fermentation.   A “pied du Cuvee” is like sourdough starter.  Grapes are picked a few days or weeks prior to harvest and crushed to cultivate the yeasts.  Then if the fermentation from the indigenous yeasts is slow this can be added to kick start the fermentation process.  This is also used if there is rain before harvest that washes away many of the natural yeasts on the grapes.

On the downside, it has been said that the benefits to flavor of natural yeast can only be shown while the wine is young, after 6 months of aging these notes are no longer noticeable.  And…yeasts also can be found in the winery and cellar and these are thrown into the mix along with any that arrive on equipment coming into the winery, so you have additional curve balls that can be thrown in.  Also many indigenous yeast are of strains that only tolerate low alcohol levels, once levels reach 3 to 4% these yeasts die off.

 

For the winemaker who prefers cultured yeast it is all about control.  Yeast is an ingredient carefully chosen for a specific effect. I mentioned how indigenous yeast can be a wild card?… Using indigenous yeast it is possible to lose 10-20% of a wineries wine if the yeast does not behave in the way you expected.  Many small wineries do not want to take that chance.  And…well once you use a cultured yeast, that powerhouse of a yeast is in your winery and will overpower any native yeast that comes in, so it’s hard to go back.  Cultured yeasts will start the fermentation process much more quickly.  Large producers use this to quickly ferment, so they can move on and reuse the tanks.  Cultured yeasts are primarily “sugar yeasts” and there are several hundred strains to choose from.  The type of yeast can affect the characteristics of the wine even changing characteristics within a grape variety.  Some strains make a heavier sediment to make it easier to rack the wine.  Commonly with added yeast a large dose of a single strain is added to start the fermentation process.  Saccharomyces cerevisiae is the primary yeast used in fermenting wines.  Unlike many naturally occurring types of yeasts it can tolerate high alcohol levels.

There are downsides to using cultured yeast.  You can have problems with volatile acidity and stuck fermentations, problems you don’t see with natural yeast.

 

My summary:  This is just the start of my research on yeasts.  I look forward to conversations with winemakers on their opinions.  I am all about the love of wine, and the winemaker’s love of winemaking.  The romance and history of natural yeast and my immense love of Tablas Creek has me leaning in that direction.  But…as I have said before gorgeous wine comes in many forms.  There are so many variables in wine, in the growing of the grapes, in the harvesting, in the winemaking… and I enjoy wines with many different backgrounds and styles.  We discussed Biodynamics and Organically Certified wineries before.  Do those labels make these wineries and their wines better?  No, but often it means that the winery and winemaker are passionate about their wines and are striving to find ways to make them better.

So here’s to the discussion and exploration of winemaking in all it’s many forms and facets!  Cheers!