Soupe aux choux and a Grüner Veltliner from Illahe

Illahe2017 Estate Gruner Velthiner with Cabbage Soup

“On the fourth day of wine my true love pulled out of the cellar for me, a Grüner Veltliner from Illahe.”

Illahe Vineyards

ILLAHE, pronounced Ill-Uh-Hee, is a local Chinook word meaning “earth” or “place” or “soil”

From the Illahe Vineyards site

This summer we visited Illahe Vineyards in the Willamette Valley.  Illahe is located in the southern part of the Willamette Valley west of Salem.  They are within the proposed Mt. Pisgah/Polk County AVA. 

If you want more details on the AVAs and proposed AVAs in the Willamette Valley, you can check out our post https://www.crushedgrapechronicles.com/oregons-willamette-valley-avas-a-primer/

We spent a morning at the vineyard with Lowell Ford who owns runs the vineyard with his wife Pauline.  Their son Brad Ford is the winemaker and the force behind the proposed Mt. Pisgah/Polk County AVA.

Illahe Vineyard in the proposed Mount Pisgah/Polk County AVA
Illahe Vineyard in the proposed Mount Pisgah/Polk County AVA

Sitting on the patio in front of the winery you look south down the slope and  across the vineyard.  They sit between 225 and 440 feet here.  They get earlier budbreak, as they are a warmer site than most in the Willamette Valley, but they also get the Van Duzer winds which cool the vineyard in the evening and give them a long growing season.

Illahe 2017 Estate Grüner Veltliner

While they primarily focus on Pinot Noir (and we look forward to a future post telling you all about those, including teaser their 1899 which is made) , they also grow Pinot Gris, Grüner Veltliner, Tempranillo, Viognier, Langrein, Schioppettino and Teroldego.  Today we will focus on the Grüner that we picked up when we visited.

Illahe 2017 Grüner Veltliner
Illahe 2017 Grüner Veltliner

I reached out to Kathy, who runs their tasting room and had set us up for our visit and interview and she kindly put us in touch with Brad the winemaker.   Brad responded with this great description of the wine, followed by a simple seasonal pairing:

The 2017 Illahe grüner veltliner introduces itself with light but dense aromas of dried peach, honey crisp apple, and fresh cedar board. This wine is fermented partially in acacia barrels which offer herbal flavors and a complex texture. The palate also contains flavors of red grapefruit, graham cracker, and white nectarine. The balanced acid and strong mouthfeel create a beautiful wine ready for drinking or aging.
A nice, simple pairing for the gruner in the wintertime is a soupe aux choux, or cabbage soup. The lightness and fattiness of the soup pair well with a white wine like gruner. I like a homemade chicken broth and homemade sourdough wheat bread for the croute. Of course, a little pinch of classic gruner white pepper on top of the soup is the kicker.


Brad Ford, Winemaker Illahe Vineyards
Illahe 2017 Estate Gruner Velthiner with Cabbage Soup
Illahe 2017 Estate Gruner Velthiner with Cabbage Soup

Soupe aux Choux

Some refer to this as “Old Shoe Soup” (that would be Brits who were poking fun at the French words).  This is a simple Cabbage soup.  I searched through a few recipes and then adapted one to fit. 

Here is the link to the recipe I based my soupe aux choux on https://www.thefrenchcookingacademy.com/cabbage-soup/

For my Soupe aux Choux I deviated a little from the recipe, with turkey stock from Thanksgiving, using bacon I had on hand and adding some par boiled potatoes left from the tartiflette I made earlier this week.

Tastings and Pairings

Michael was a bit skeptical of “cabbage soup”  I reassured him, letting him know there was bacon in it.  Regardless he requested a back up of fish and chips for lunch.  So we paired both.

He was pleasantly surprised at the soupe aux choux and finished off most of his bowl.  The fish and chips we found only paired with the addition of tartar sauce.

Illahe2017 Estate Gruner Velthiner with Fish and Chips
Illahe2017 Estate Gruner Velthiner with Fish and Chips

We found the wine needed to open a bit and warm to let out the nose.  I did get honey crisp apples, a hazy bit of white pepper and wet stones on the nose.  Later I noted something woodsy which…hmmm okay we can call it cedar board.  On the palate I got a tartness which yes, reminded me with the bitter notes in the background of pink or red grapefruit and then under ripe apricots.

The soup was light, but warm and lovely and was perfect for the pairing on this cloudy day, to enjoy as the early afternoon sun peaked through the clouds and my windows.  The croute which was sour dough baguette was topped with gouda which for me kicked the flavor up a notch and gave the Grüner even more to play with.

To visit Illahe:

To schedule an appointment email Kathy: [email protected] or call 503-831-1248.

We will have more on our visit with Illahe in the future, including our visit to their beautiful cellar and discussions on their 1899 Pinot Noir.

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

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

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.

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

Montinore Estate – a recent history

Montinore Vineyards sign

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

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

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

Montinore Vineyards Entrance

Montinore Vineyards Entrance

Montinore Estate

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

Montinore Vineyards driveway trees

Montinore Vineyards driveway trees

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

John Forbis home at Montinore Estate

John Forbis home at Montinore Estate

 

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

Interview with Rudy Marchesi

Interview with Rudy Marchesi

A little about Rudy Marchesi

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

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

The History of the Montinore

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

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

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

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

video link

from the Smithsonian Channel.

Becoming a Vineyard

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Oregon Wine Country

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

“Tour Rain” Vin Rouge – Leah Jørgensen Cellars

2016 Oregon "Tour Rain" Vin Rouge

“Tour Rain”

It’s a play on words and a bit of an inside joke on the label.  Note the rain, the umbrella, the boots… Tour Rain speaks to the Touraine region of France as well as to Oregon Climate and Tourists. The ladies on Leah’s labels may look the same, each is really individual.   It’s all about the details,  just like her wines.

2016 Oregon "Tour Rain" Vin Rouge

2016 Oregon “Tour Rain” Vin Rouge

2016 Oregon “Tour Rain” Vin Rouge

Leah was graciously pouring us through her entire lineup and sharing so much information on her wines and philosophies.

“This is actually the first red that I made it’s a blend of Gamay and Cab Franc.  It’s based on, or inspired by wines from the Touraine region of the Loire Valley around the city of Tours. It’s a little play on words.  You’re in Oregon, you know, you might encounter some rain and Oregonians, we know don’t use umbrellas, that identifies a tourist, so we are being a little tongue in cheek, a little whimsical.

But not tongue in cheek about what’s in the bottle.  For me, the Touraine, especially Clos Roche Blanche were my wines that I would always take to a dinner party.  Clos Roche Blanche particularly was 40% Gamay, 60% Cab Franc and anytime I would go to someone’s house I would either grab a Morgon Beaujolais or I would grab a Touraine Clos Roche Blanche, because, it goes with everything, roast chicken, pasta, you name it.  It’s a crowd pleaser, it’s got great acidity, amazing fruit.  I wanted to make Oregon’s first version of that kind of wine, that blend.

So this is 40% Gamay Noir from Haviland Vineyard which is in the proposed Van Duzer Corridor. And the Cab Franc is from the Mae’s Vineyard in the Applegate Valley. And that’s the same vineyard where the White Cab Franc is from and it’s farmed by Herb Quady of Quady North.

You get a lot of those bramble berries, I love that fruit character to it.  Gamay always has that white pepper on the finish.  Just the two together I think are just really so complimentary.”

The Vineyards

We spoke before of Herb Quady and Mae’s Vineyard with the Blanc de Cab Franc.  That vineyard is in the Applegate Valley.

Havlin Vineyard sits in the Willamette Valley in what will soon be the Van Duzer Corridor AVA (this AVA is just waiting for final approval).  The area is known for it’s marine soils, and the corridor’s diurnal shifts in the summer due to the marine breezes.  On her site, Leah says “Planted in 2011 with cuttings from Seven Springs Vineyard, this site has a south-west aspect planted in Dupee soils, which is a down slope Willakenzie soil series.  This vineyard is dry farmed and LIVE certified.”

From the Winemaker

Here are some extra notes on this vintage from the winemaker on her site.  Leah’s descriptions are so lush and vivid they must be shared.

“Perhaps the prettiest profile of our red wines (and especially the gorgeous color!), this blend is always a lovely balance of floral, red fruit, and a hint of pepper and sweet wood – with aromatics of ripe cherry, raspberry, cassis, hibiscus, rose petals, cedar, cigar box, vanilla bean, black puerh tea, and pink peppercorn, and then flavors of bing cherry, pomegranate, cranberry, raspberry, cocoa powder, clove, and roasted bell pepper – this wine has bright acidity and is juicy with rich, soft tannins – it’s light, lithe, flirty and bright. Enjoy slightly chilled (cellar temperature/58-64° F). Serve with pasta; spicy, rich Asian dishes (noodles); smoked salmon; charcuterie and cheese boards; beet salad; brick oven thin, bubbly-chewy crusted pizza; and skewers/kabobs.”

Want to find a bottle?  Head to Leah Jørgensen Cellars squarespace or look for one of the smart establishments that carry her wine.  There is a list here.

We will continue our chat with Leah Jørgensen tomorrow.  Next up is her 2015 Malbec. And check out our previous episodes with her Leah Jørgensen – Pirate Princess & Winemaker, Grapes of Southern Oregon with Leah Jørgensen, Southern Oregon Sauvignon Blanc with Leah Jørgensen, Blanc de Cab Franc…What? and Leah Jørgensen Cellars 2017 Rosé of Cabernet Franc

Check out Leah’s updated website at https://leahjorgensencellars.com/

You can find her on on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram too!

And join us back here at Crushed Grape Chronicles  as we continue sharing our conversation with Leah!  And don’t forget, you can also find us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram

Deven Morganstern is making a Joyful Noise

Joyfull Noise

Joyful Noise…it’s the sound of family and friends coming to table, chairs being pulled up or maybe milk crates, scuffling with a cacaphony of conversation, squeels of children being hoisted up onto seats, clanking of dishes as they are passed, the clinking of glasses and laughter.  That is the inspiration for the name of this winery.

“Deven grew up in a large family in one of those places that there was always another chair, whether it was an upside down milk carton type of thing or something they always figured out another chair at the table and it’s that happy chaos Joyful Noise.”  Calli

We had the opportunity to meet Deven & Calli of Joyful Noise at the Uncommon Wine Festival held at Vista Hill Vineyards in July. This great festival features smaller wine producers and is the place to catch up and coming labels in Oregon.

 

Deven & Calli with Joyful Noise

Deven & Calli with Joyful Noise

The Journey to Wine Making

Deven says he lucked into wine when he went to school in Eugene and started tasting wines at King Estate.

“right around harvest in 2011 I was looking for something new to do, and everyone I asked for a list of who I should go talk to and who should I try to go work for Rob & Maria Stuart were always on that list.  So I was lucky enough to hop in for harvest worked a couple weeks and decided that’s what I wanted to be.  Got to bounce around a little bit and see some other styles, but as soon as a job at R. Stuarts came back open, I went straight there.” Deven

A Joyful Noise

A Joyfull Noise

2015 Joyful Noise Lazy River Pinot Noir

Joyful Noise currently makes just one wine and the 2015 Lazy River Pinot Noir that we were tasting was their second vintage.  They make one ton of Pinot Noir from Lazy River vineyard in the Yamhill-Carlton AVA.  The Vineyard is owned by Ned and Kirsten Lumpkin. (These look like really fun folks, go ahead, visit their website, https://lazyrivervineyard.com/about-us/)

The part of the vineyard that these grapes are growing in is between 450 and 500 feet in elevation.

“This happens to be 100% Wadenswil on 101/14, high elevation of Lazy River, so it’s kind of right at the crest of the hill.  A little band of Jory soil actually goes through vineyard, so not common for Yamhill but part of the makeup.  So really shallow soil, really really dark dark fruit, coming out of the press it almost looks like Syrah it is almost black.  So big big tannins, we try to soften those up a little bit, so de-stemmed into a 1 ton fermenter and punch down a couple times a day.  Wild yeast starts so we make Pied de Cuve* (see explanation at the bottom) at the beginning of the year from vineyard samples.  If we like the fermentation and how it is starting we will pitch that into the fermenter and let it go with that.” Deven

Deven spends his days working for Rob & Maria Stuart of R. Stuart & Co. in McMinnville, and he makes this wine there.  In addition to the Pied de Cuve they also have a cultured yeast strain from R. Stuart & Co.  Four or 5 years ago, they had a wild fermentation that they really liked.  They send it out to a lab in Hood River who broke down the yeast strains into the 3 dominant ones and now yearly cultivate this yeast for them.

“Part way through the fermentation we will délestage the wine so it’s kind of like a rack and return to get some of the seeds out.  We like the tannin but we want the skin tannin more than the seed tannin.  So about 7 brix those seeds start falling out to the bottom so we can basically use like a 3 inch hose almost like a vacuum to pull them off the bottom of the fermenter take the juice away let the juice cool down and put it back.  And then it ages in two neutral French oak barrels and one new French oak barrel.  So 33% new.” Deven

When it comes to barrels, Deven is pretty specific on what he ages his wine in.  The barrels are from Tonnellerie Claude Gillet.  These barrels have a softer tone, so instead of vanilla and bourbon you get more cinnamon and baking spice.  Plus it’s a small family cooper, with people he really likes.  You can see their process on their site at tonnellerie-gillet.com http://www.tonnellerie-gillet.com/our-tradition/index.html

The Lumpkins at Lazy River are getting ready to plant Chardonnay up behind the block of Pinot that Devon pulls from and have pulled out the fir trees that were there last year.   So future vintages will be influenced by a little more breeze and a little more warmth.  It will be interesting to see how the effects on the wine.

When asked what the most important thing about his wine is to him..

“That people have fun and enjoy it. It’s supposed to be drank with friends, have it on the table somewhere, have a dinner party, If it needs to be the excuse for fun and people over than that’s what it should be”

 

Pied de Cuve* (the explanation)

“Basically we take Vineyard samples (clusters of grapes used to test sugar and acid prior to picking) keep them outside the Winery, and allow them to start fermenting.  If we like what we see, that is what gets pitched into the destemmed fruit to start the fermentation.”

Where can you find Joyful Noise?

You can find their wine online on their website https://www.joyfulnoisewine.com/ and they also have a mailing list.

If you happen into Tina’s in Dundee, you will find it on the bottle list.

Michael and Dawn Stiller and Dwight and Karen McFaddin own and run this classic Dundee restaurant that opened as the first fine dining in the area in 1991. We ate here with friends on our first trip to the area.

And then the Valley Commissary carries two kegs of this wine on tap each year.

Jesse Kincheloe is the chef/owner of Valley Commissary, which is a little lunch and catering spot right in the middle of the granary district parking lot in McMinnville. He grew up in Healdsburg in Sonoma.  They serve Lunch and Brunch leaving nights free for time with family.

And you can follow them on facebook, twitter and instagram.

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, and Alex Neely of Libertine Wines  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

 

Esther Glen Farm and Winery with Ryan Pickens

Vista Hills Uncommon Wine Festival Ryan Pickens

We met Ryan Pickens of Esther Glen Farm and Winery at the Uncommon Wine Festival at Vista Hills Vineyard, and had a chance to taste his wines.  The Uncommon Wine Festival gave us an “uncommon” occasion to meet and speak with several newer winemakers, who have smaller labels.  It was an opportunity to taste many interesting wines and hear the stories first hand of how they were conceived and made.  This was the 9th Annual event, but it was Ryan’s first time at the festival.

A little bit on Esther Glen

The name comes from Esther and Glen who came to the Dundee Hills in the 1960’s to start their holistic farm and be self-sustaining.  In 1970 Craig Rathkey came to Esther Glen. He was farming with a 1950 Vintage Formal Cub tractor and a 1948 John Deer “M” tractor.  He restores old tractors, as well as antique clocks.  In 2015 Ryan Pickens met Craig Rathkey and now Ryan makes wine with the sustainably farmed grapes grown on the vineyard.  The Estate is 15 acres located on the Willamette Valley Floor across the street from Sokol Blosser.

Ryan Pickens, the winemaker

Esther Glenn Winemaker, Ryan Pickens

Esther Glenn Winemaker, Ryan Pickens

Ryan put his Marketing degree to use working for the Benzinger Family in Sonoma, CA selling wine.  It was there that he learned about sustainable and biodynamic farming.  Talking with the Benzingers, he got the itch to work on the other side of wine, in production. He started with a harvest internship and was hooked.

“That was in 2012 and I haven’t looked back since.  I went to New Zealand, Germany, Australia, during that time also, trying to find which wine I wanted to make for the rest of my life, and Riesling, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir are those three and Oregon is that place, that I’ve really found my heart, so I moved here in 2015.”

He does still work full time making wine for somebody else, so this is a side project.

“Yeah so this is just so fun, and I feel so blessed to be able to do this. I never thought that I would actually be able to start my own label.”

We tasted the two wines that Ryan was pouring, the 2017 Pinot Gris and the 2016 Pinot Noir.  Both are own rooted.

Esther Glen_Wine Bottles

Esther Glen_Wine Bottles

2017 Esther Glen Pinot Gris

This is the 2nd vintage of Pinot Gris for them, they are just getting started.  The 2016 is sold out, so not so bad for their first vintage.

The nose is bright with meyer lemon and the then a little softer on the palate. This wine retails for $18.00

2016 Esther Glen Pinot Noir

This is the first vintage of Pinot Noir for them.  It is a mix of Pommard, 777, 115 and 667.  It is aged in 20% new oak.

 “(I was).. Trying to capture, so when I moved here this forest floor, this mushroom characteristic, that everyone was talking about, and happy to see that this is starting to blossom out like that .”

There was definitely forest floor on this wine as well as leather and cola on the palate.  This wine retails for $28.00

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On Sustainability and holistic farming

Coming from Benzinger where they farm biodynamically and then at Esther Glen where that was the original idea of Esther and Glen, the grapes here are farmed sustainably.  Certification will come eventually, but it is a process and a cost and the vineyard and winery are young.  Regardless the idea of holistic farming is important to Ryan.

“Yeah, so you want to give back to the land you know, who knows if we are going to be there for 10 or 20 years, but we want to make sure that that land is ready for the next person coming around.  So really you’re just taking care of it for the next generation.

Esther Glen does tastings by appointment only and you can reach them by phone at (503)583-0970 or email them at [email protected]

You can also find them online at EstherGlen.com

And on social media on Facebook  and Instagram

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. 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

Oregon’s Willamette Valley AVAs – a Primer

Vista Hills Vineyard in the Dundee Hills AVA

Oregon’s Willamette Valley …You picture green hills, rain and beards, don’t you? Well as we visited in July, we found lots of the first, very little of the second and enough of the third to keep the myth alive.

After flying into Portland, we made the relatively quick drive, over one of the many bridges across the Willamette River and into the Willamette Valley. Our goal with this trip was to visit each of the AVA’s (American Viticulture Areas) and most of the Proposed AVA’s and learn a little about them to give us a better overall understanding of the area. We managed to visit all but one of the Proposed AVA’s. We did not have the time to make the drive to the proposed Lower Long Tom AVA, which is much closer to Eugene than to Portland.

I did a bit of research to prepare for the trip and thought I would share some of that, in case you are not familiar with the region.

Oregon

Everyone we met told us how young the area is as far as vineyards and wine. They just passed 50 years. Humility is a virtue in Oregon. The grapes began in the Willamette Valley, but today you will find 2 other regions, the Columbia Gorge and Southern Oregon, where vineyards and wineries have a definite foothold. The state has 18 AVAs with the new Van Duzer Corridor within the Willamette Valley the possible 19th. Here are a few stats from the Oregon Wine Board. https://industry.oregonwine.org.

72 Grape varieties – 725 Wineries – 30,435 planted vineyard acres

But there is more to it. 47% of the vineyards in Oregon are certified sustainable. And while they only tap into a 1% share of the US wine market, they held 20% of the Wine Spectator 90+ scores in 2015 & 2016. Quality is something they take great pride in.

Willamette Valley

This trip was focused on the Willamette Valley and the Willamette Valley Wineries Association has a gorgeous map of the Valley.

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.”

This map shows the current AVAs, soils and even the vineyard blocks. We thank the Willamette Valley Wineries Association for allowing us to use it and pass along their acknowledgements “Map data by everyvine.com, design by John Fisher, geologic cross section by Timothy A. Cross, special thanks to Patrick Reuter.”

The Willamette Valley is 60 miles wide at it’s widest (east to west), but is over 100 miles long (north to south), so you will note that the map is flipped so that as you look at it North is to the left, East is up, South is to the right and West (where you will find the Pacific Ocean over the Coast Range) is down.

The overall valley is the Willamette Valley AVA and within it there are currently 6 sub-appellations.

Willamette Valley AVA

The overall AVA spans the area from the Portland in the North to Eugene Oregon in the South and sits between the Coastal and Cascade Ranges. Plantings began in 1966 and the AVA itself was established in 1983. The base of the valley itself is fertile and great for agriculture, except of course for grapes. Grapes need the struggle to be tasty enough to make wine. As a result, most of the vineyards will be between 200 and 1000 feet in elevation.

Within this large AVA you will find the 6 sub-appellations, one of which is nested inside another. We will work our way from North to South (left to right on the map as you look at it)

Chehalem Mountains AVA

Willamette Valley Map courtesy of Willamette Valley Wine Association

Chehalem Mountains, Ribbon Ridge AVAs (Willamette Valley Map courtesy of Willamette Valley Wine Association)

Furthest north and to the east side of the valley, you will find the Chehalem (Sha-HAY-lum) Mountains AVA. The Chehalem Mountain Range is 20 miles long and 5 miles wide and was established in 2006. Within the Range you will find Ribbon Ridge (which is its own AVA) and Parrett Mountain. The area is home to around 150 small vineyards, most average around 12.5 acres and are family owned.

Chehalem Mountains AVA from Beckham Vineyards

Chehalem Mountains AVA from Beckham Vineyards

Soils here vary. This was after-all an uplift that created the range and you find sedimentary seabed, red soils from lava flows, and glacial sediment. So you find variety in soils and within the AVA there will be both similarities and contrasts. This would be part of the reason for the nested Ribbon Ridge AVA and the proposed nested Laurelwood AVA. http://www.chehalemmountains.org/home

Yamhill-Carlton AVA

Yamhill-Carlton AVA Map

Yamhill-Carlton AVA Map (Willamette Valley Map courtesy of Willamette Valley Wine Association)

West of the Chehalem Mountains and North of McMinnville you will find the Yamhill-Carlton AVA established in 2005. The AVA was named for the two hamlets, Yamhill and Carlton nestled in the center of the horseshoe shaped ridges in the foothills of the Coast Range. The Coast range provides a rain shadow (an area where the rain typically does not fall) over the whole area.

View of Yamhill-Carlton from Fairsing vineyard

View of Yamhill-Carlton from Fairsing vineyard

The soils here are the oldest of the marine sedimentary soils in the overall Willamette Valley. The soils are coarse-grained and drain easily, which is great for making the vines struggle. https://yamhillcarlton.org/

Ribbon Ridge AVA

Willamette Valley Map courtesy of Willamette Valley Wine Association

Chehalem Mountains, Ribbon Ridge AVAs (Willamette Valley Map courtesy of Willamette Valley Wine Association)

This AVA sits within the Chehalem Mountains AVA and was established in 2005. Ribbon Ridge is a spur of ocean sediment uplift that is contained within 5.25 square miles on the northwest end of the Chehalem Mountains.

Trisaetum Vineyard in the Ribbon Ridge AVA

Trisaetum Vineyard in the Ribbon Ridge AVA

The uniform soils of ocean sediment that is high-quartz sandstone and weathered bedrock set this area of the Chehalem Mountains apart. http://ribbonridgeava.org/

Dundee Hills AVA

Dundee Hills AVA

Dundee Hills AVA (Willamette Valley Map Courtesy of Willamette Valley Wine Association)

Here is the place where the first of the grapes in the Willamette Valley were planted. It remains densely planted with around 50 vineyards in one of the busiest areas in the Willamette Valley.

This was the start of Pinot Noir in Oregon. The first Pinot vine was planted here. When we speak about the area being in it’s 50 year of growing grapes, we are talking about this place, the Dundee Hills. Eyrie, Sokol Blosser, Erath…if you know Oregon wine, you know those revered names. It was here that David Lett, Dick Erath and the Sokol Blossers took a chance and planted those first vineyards.

Vista Hills Vineyard in the Dundee Hills AVA

Vista Hills Vineyard in the Dundee Hills AVA

The Dundee Hills AVA was established in 2005. The soils here are almost all basaltic (volcanic) soil deposited by a lava flow 15 million years ago. https://dundeehills.org/about/

McMinnville AVA

McMinnville AVA

McMinnville AVA (Willamette Valley Map Courtesy of Willamette Valley Wine Association)

Also established in 2005, the McMinnville AVA takes it’s name from the city of McMinnville which sits just east of the AVA.

McMinnville AVA

Vineyards in the McMinnville AVA

The vineyards sit on the east and southeast slopes of the Coast Range where the soils are uplifted marine sedimentary over basalt. The soils here are shallow and the Coast Range protects the area from rain. https://mcminnvilleava.org/

Eola-Amity Hills AVA

Eola-Amity Hills AVA

Eola-Amity Hills AVA Map (Willamette Valley Map Courtesy of Willamette Valley Wine Association)

This AVA sits in the Eola Hill’s along the Willamette River and straddles the 45th parallel (just as Burgundy does) and reaches north to the Amity Hills.

Vineyards in the Eola-Amity Hills AVA

Vineyards in the Eola-Amity Hills AVA

Soils here are shallow and mostly volcanic basalt with with marine sedimentary rocks. It’s shallow and rocky (that tends to make small concentrated berries). The Van Duzer corridor causes summer afternoon temps to drop, which is especially helpful in late summer as the grapes are ripening, to keep the acids firm. https://eolaamityhills.com/

Proposed AVAs

There are 5 AVAs that are proposed and in process. While the Van Duzer Corridor AVA is likely to be the next approved, we are going to go North to South again so that you have a better geographical idea of where these AVAs sit. Keep in mind that we are showing you maps of the general area, the boundries are actually much more detailed. We will dive into that as we explore each of these proposed AVAs in a future post.

Tualatin Hills 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)

This area sits North of the Yamhill-Carlton AVA and West of Chehalem Mountains AVA. This AVA is horse shoe shaped and it’s southern edge butts up to the northern edge of Yamhill-Carlton. From there it stretches north following the edge of the Willamette Valley AVA and then takes a right turn East toward Portland. It shares a little bit of a border with the Chehalem Mountains AVA on it’s south east side and well as a tiny bit with the proposed Laurelwood AVA.

Montinore Vineyards in the proposed Tualatin Hills AVA

Montinore Vineyards in the proposed Tualatin Hills AVA

The soils here are Laurelwood. Not to be confused with the proposed AVA, this soil series is volcanic basalt and loess (windblown silt). In addition the reddish soils here have pisolites (tiny balls of iron manganese).

Being due east of the Coast Range also allows them a rain shadow, so conditions here are dryer and allow for diurnal temperature shifts (day to night temperatures).

Laurelwood AVA

General Area of the proposed Laurelwood AVA

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

This area is nested within the Chehalem Mountains AVA. This proposed AVA encompasses the Northern facing slopes of the Chehalem Mountains, honing in on the Laurelwood soils.

Ponzi Vineyard in the proposed Laurelwood AVA

Ponzi Vineyard in the proposed Laurelwood AVA

These Laurelwood soils are Ice Age Loess (windblown silt), contained within the Northern slopes. The southern and western facing slopes in the Chehalem Mountains are primarily Columbia River Basalt and Marine Sediment.

Van Duzer Corridor AVA

General Area of the proposed Van Duzer Corridor AVA

General Area of the proposed Van Duzer Corridor AVA (Willamette Valley Map courtesy of Willamette Valley Wine Association)

On the west side of the Eola Hills you will find the Van Duzer Corridor AVA.

Johan Vineyards in the proposed Van Duzer Corridor AVA

Johan Vineyards in the proposed Van Duzer Corridor AVA

Soils here are basalt and marine sedimentary over siltstone bedrock. The winds here are key. Eola-Amity brags about the Van Duzer Corridor winds, but here, on this side, the strong winds cause the grapes to thicken their skins.

Mt. Pisgah/Polk County AVA

General Area of the proposed Mount Pisgah AVA

General Area of the proposed Mount Pisgah AVA (Willamette Valley Map courtesy of Willamette Valley Wine Association)

South of McMinnville and West of the Eola-Amity Hills, kind of out on it’s own you will find the proposed Mt. Pisgah/Polk County AVA. West of Salem Oregon, there are just 10 vineyards and 2 wineries in this area.

Illahe Vineyard in the proposed Mount Pisgah/Polk County AVA

Illahe Vineyard in the proposed Mount Pisgah/Polk County AVA

Here the base is some of the oldest rocks in the Valley, Siletz River volcanics, and it is covered in a shallow layer of marine sedimentary soils.

Elevations here are higher and the vineyards on Mt. Pisgah are protected from extreme temperatures and wind.

Lower Long Tom AVA

General Area of the proposed Lower Long Tom AVA

General Area of the proposed Lower Long Tom AVA (Willamette Valley Map courtesy of Willamette Valley Wine Association)

Far south between Corvalis and Eugene you find the proposed Lower Long Tom AVA. This region is south of Corvalis, north of Eugene and sits on the western border of the Willamette Valley AVA. Soils here are marine sedimentary soil in the Prairie Mountain and Bellpine series.

Temps here are higher with Prairie Mountain diverting winds North and South around the area.

Next, the details….

That’s just our overview. We visited all but one of these areas and we look forward to deeper dives into each AVA, with more geeky details about climate and soil and what that means for the wines. In the meantime, if you are looking for further information, you can visit Willamette Valley Wine, Oregon Wine, or check out this great article in the Oregon Wine Press.

And if you are as in love with this beautiful map as I am, you can get one of your own at Willamette Valley Wine

Watch here as we delve deeper into Oregon Wines. We have multiple interviews with fascinating wine makers to share with you, including a morning spent with Rudy Marchesi of Montinore Estate, who is instrumental in the proposed Tualatin Hills AVA.

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. We look forward to bringing you interviews and discussions with all of the winemakers from this event. So check back here at Crushed Grape Chronicles . And don’t forget, you can also find us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram