IPNC Day 1: Yamhill Valley Vineyards Tour and Luncheon; Cristom, Tyee, Felton...

IPNC Day 1: Yamhill Valley Vineyards Tour and Luncheon; Cristom, Tyee, Felton Road

IPNC Day 1: Vineyard Tour: Yamhill Valley Vineyards

The International Pinot Noir Celebration includes a day of vineyard tours in which attendees are split into small groups that then take a personal vineyard and winery tour, including tastings from four Pinot Noir producers, and a seminar on wine. The focus of the seminar is on helping participants understand the full steps of the process from vine to glass, including the decisions made by the wine maker.

Today, my sister (who is attending IPNC with me–pictures to follow) and I were on a vineyard tour of Yamhill Valley Vineyards, which included a wine maker panel with Yamhill as well as Cristom, Tyee, and Felton Road. Following are wine review comics of the Pinot panel wines presented.

Felton Road 2008 Block 5 Pinot Noir

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“The truth is, we didn’t really have any genius when decisions had to be made. The problem is, the idea of making decisions focuses on the concept of better or worse, and the idea that the wine is on a trajectory of better or worse. But wine is actually multifaceted, and dynamic. So, instead, we tried to focus on critical moments. And, when there is a time to make a decision, to decide to do nothing, and also to avoid doing things differently, and it turns out we like it quite a lot. It’s turned out to be our philosophy and we’re big proponents of it as an approach.

“The decision to do something, or to not is a challenge because if you do something you can tell yourself that you tried your best. But resisting that decision, and deciding not to do something is much harder. You must be patient.

“The process of not making a decision. When thinking about wine, there are three factors that are going into the making of an individual wine. There is the place, it is a fixed fixed thing. There is one rule, and that is that you can’t move your vineyard. Then there is the weather that year. It is a fixed variable in that you can’t do anything about it but it changes from year to year. Then there is the viticulture and the wine making and we combine them because really they are one thing.

“The weather, you can’t do anything about it, but it effects the place, and you might change your viticulture and wine making choices in response to it. But, if you muck around in your viticulture and wine making due to weather, then when you taste the wine you can’t pick apart the effects of the place from the effects of the weather and what you have becomes just a beverage, not a complex interesting wine. So, we make wine from a fixed variable. We try to make it the same every time, to keep our wine making choices consistent so that what you taste is the place, and the vintage, the weather.” –Nigel Greening, Felton Road

Cristom 1998 Marjorie Vineyard Pinot Noir

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“We believe that handling the wine as little as possible is a benefit. We had early experiments to see what worked, and over time saw the less we handled the wine the better it was. So, when it comes time to make a decision [in the wine making], we try not to do something. It can be awfully hard. Especially when faced with data that tells you you are out of the box. But, that is what comes from experience–knowing when to go ahead and not do anything or when to jump in and try to do something.

“[I brought the 1998 because] the Estate vineyard, it was a difficult decision that year. It was a very low yield year, with low moisture, and pretty warm, and it didn’t have a lot of hang time. So, I wanted to leave the fruit out longer. We had 85 days that year, and normally we have 115, 125. It was a hard decision to pick, but we had to before the sugars got to high.

“In the cellar normally we don’t get a lot of sulfites, but in 1998 we were plagued with it. When that happened, I figured if we have this thing, I’m going to try to learn from it. So I dealt with it in a bunch of different ways. I racked some barrels. I sulfured some. I added silver to some, which is illegal but I tried it not to sell but to see the effect. I did nothing to some. It turned out that the sulfites, it resolved itself and no method did any better than any other. So, that reaffirmed the philosophy of my not doing anything.

It was a vintage where I was not happy with the hang time, but I was pleased with how the wine finally turned out. But, originally, I didn’t have high hopes for it. Sometimes wines surprise you. It can be the other way too. Wines you think you did a good job on can turn out not great in the long run.” –Steve Doerner, Cristom Wines

Tyee 2009 Estate Barrel Select

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“My family has owned the farm since 1885. I am a fifth generation farmer. I was born in 1974, the first year my parents planted vines. Then they planted more in the 1980s, so I helped with that. It is a small family owned farm, with hazelnuts. We had sheep for a time, hay, grass seed. Even if I’d left there, then I would still come back for harvest every year. In 2004 I became vineyard manager. Then in 2006 I became the wine maker, that was my first vintage.

“Our old winemaker used to say, ‘Stand back. Don’t touch anything!’ And that’s actually a reasonable approach to wine making.” –Merrilee Buchanan Benson, Tyee Wine Cellars

Yamhill Valley Vineyards 1994 Willamette Valley Pinot Noir

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“There is no formula in my mind to making Pinot Noir, from growing it, to picking it, to turning it into wine. That’s probably why I’m still in it.” –Stephen Cary, Yamhill Valley Vineyards

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