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Look out for Willamette Valley 2017s

Look out for Willamette Valley 2017s

As Alder reported previously, there is a lot of excitement about the 2017 vintage in the Willamette Valley, Oregon’s principal wine region.

The 2017 harvest comes after three hot vintages in a row – 2014 through 2016 – for the Willamette Valley. The vintage was characterised by several key factors. Spring was cold, and quite wet. Cooler temperatures delayed the start of the growing season. Wet conditions, however, sped growth once it started while also delaying farmers’ ability to get into the vineyards to keep up with the growth. By early summer, conditions settled into warm and dry weather with good diurnal temperature variation to retain acidity, colour and phenolic potential. A few heat spikes did hit during the growing season but, unusually, smoke from the wildfires that hit the Pacific Northwest in summer 2017 provided an unexpected beneficial filter but no reported instances of smoke taint.

Harvest in Willamette started almost simultaneously with the fires that devastated California’s North Coast in October. For producers in Oregon, concern for their southern colleagues exacerbated the challenges of harvest. For producers in co-operative facilities this created unique challenges where space was shared with California-based vintners. Thomas Savre of Larry Stone’s Lingua Franca winery in the Eola-Amity Hills described how producers simply helped each other, stepping in if a winemaker had to return to California during the fires. Logistical winery needs such as lab work, bottling supplies and more were also affected in some cases since California’s North Coast serves as the epicentre for much of North America’s wine business. The California fires meant that many winery suppliers and shippers could not access the North Coast and were unable to fulfill orders until after the fires were under control. This served as a powerful reminder of how interconnected the wine world turns out to be, regardless of state boundaries.

Yields were incredibly abundant throughout the Willamette Valley, with some vineyards even leaving fruit on the vine thanks to good fruit set and abundant early growth. At the same time, the last several years have included a significant increase in planting new sites throughout the region. Many of those new vineyards came online in 2017, adding to the increase in fruit availability.

Overall, 2017 looks to be a structured vintage for the wines of the Willamette Valley. Wines I tasted from barrel – both in the very early stages during a visit in December, and then, more revealingly, as wines were finishing in March – were promising. The wines generally have good colour and ample tannin with no shortage of flavour. The wines I tasted from barrel showed …

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Two Days Traveling German Wine

Traveling Germany

After finishing Prowein, Wines of Germany took around about-15 of us through the German countryside to meet with producers for three days. Due to my departing flight I was only able to be part of the travels for two days so had a quick go of it. It was of course lovely to taste the wine. Along with the tasting, I have to admit one of the most interesting parts of the trip was learning about the culture and wine scene of the countries and cities in which our fellow travelers live. One night during dinner a handful of us simply compared restaurant-wine culture in London, NYC, San Francisco, Moscow, and Rio. Pretty remarkable really.

Here’s a look back at the two days in Germany as shared during our travels via Instagram.

 

Winegrower Jens Bettenheimer of Weingut Bettenheimer in the Rheinhessen region of Germany discusses his viticultural practices. To capture the highest quality in the resulting wines, he believes it is important to focus on biologically-minded practices. At the core of this approach is soil health but also a holistic view of what that means. He follows moon cycles as has long been traditional in farming all over the world but also judges those cycles in relation to the weather at the time. While his farming is organically-minded he chooses not to be certified. His university thesis looked at the impact of copper use on soil health and soil biology. Copper is one of the primary treatments available for vineyard maintenance in organic farming. His studies showed that copper builds up significantly over time in the soils and effectively depletes the micro flora and micro fauna of the soils, which then reduces the vines ability to uptake nutrients from the soil. In rainy conditions under organic farming higher copper use becomes necessary as rains effectively wash necessary treatments from the vine. To avoid this increased copper use in especially rainy years he opts instead for products such as phosphoric acid that are not officially recognized by organic certifications but that he has found reduce overall impact on the site, and especially soils, while maintaining vine and fruit health and reducing disease pressure. #germany #rheinhessen #wine @winesofgermany @jens_bettenheimer

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Weingut Bettenheimer grows in sandy wild blown soils over chalk stone (with lime). The focus as a result is on varieties especially suited to these soils from the extended Pinot family, such as Chardonnay, Frauburgunder, and Spatburgunder, though also Sylvaner. Bettenheimer does also make a small proportion of Riesling but by shifting the focus to the Pinot family they have effectively distinguished themselves within the German market. While Chardonnay is less commonly thought of in relation to German wine, it appears throughout the country in small quantities. Jens Bettenheimer takes a particular interest in Chardonnay as he feels it is especially suited to the underlying chalky soils. He also enjoys working on honing the particular expression of the variety to the region with the idea of age-ability in mind. Here we taste a small lot experiment he has done of Chardonnay vinified without sulfur with skin contact. He also experiments with blocking malolactic conversion, for example, to see what creates best expression for the site with ageability and drinkability. In the end the various small lots are blended to create the finished Chardonnay. #germany #rheinhessen #wine @jens_bettenheimer @wines_of_germany

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Volker Raumland began making sparkling wine for his Sekthaus Raumland in 1981 from both the Rheinhessen and Pfalz wine regions. In 1986 he helped open up the German sparkling wine market by creating a mobile disgorgement and bottling machine that he advertised as a traveling service for all of Germany. After placing the advertisement in 1986 he quickly received over 100 phone calls from small producers all over the country who needed help disgorging their sparkling wine. For the next sixteen years he drove his machine in every direction across Germany. Without assistance or expertise it can be so difficult to disgorge traditional-method sparkling wine that producers will lose a lot of volume just by opening the bottles to release the yeast plug. It proved more economical to pay Volker for help, and his services, as a result, helped expand availability of quality sparkling wine from Germany. #germany #rheinhessen #pfalz #wine @wines_of_germany @sekthaus_raumland

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The German classic for mineral water. #germany #water @wines_of_germany

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Among the world’s greatest wonders is getting to see friends in unexpected parts of the world. What a blessing and how cool is this. Rafael and Ivannia are from Costa Rica. We met in Montreal as Rafael and I were in grad school together there. The week they became Canadian citizens, now so long ago, our grad school cohort took Rafael and Ivannia out to jokingly deliver a Quebecois citizenship ceremony. (We ate poutin served with a side of hotdogs and cabbage.) They have since lived in multiple Canadian cities, a US city, and now Germany, as is the life of an academic. I have since lived in multiple US cities, left academia, and become a wayward traveler of wine. And here we are meeting up for dinner in Düsseldorf tens years after the last time we saw each other in Quebec. Incredible. So great to see you two! Thank you for making time to visit! #germany #friends

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Tasting with James: Clos du Moulin

Clos du Moulin

My week in Germany included tasting Clos du Moulin champagne for the first time. On the first full day of Prowein just one-hour into the program I bumped into several friends. Mister James Tidwell himself was there walking the event with Donaji Lira, who with James helps coordinate Texsom and Texsom International Wine Awards, and Amie Hendrickson, who runs Edmond Wine Shop in Oklahoma. Amie had won a Prowein-sponsored contest at Texsom in August last year and was flown to the event by the organizers as her prize. The four of us spent much of the day’s remainder tasting together, shuffling between exhibition halls to continuously change what region we were visiting.

(One of my favorite, albeit silly, parts of Prowein was simply being able to say things like, O! I’ll meet you in Portugal, while standing in the hall for Oregon, as if one really could cover the globe in that small space. In terms of wine, you could. Every country in the wine producing world was represented at Prowein.)

Before heading off for lunch, we decided to visit the Champagne Lounge and taste one champagne on the way. While we were walking, wondering which wine to try, James got to pick. His selection became clear when he simply stopped frozen in front of the Cattier booth, standing in front of the bottle of Clos du Moulin. It turned out it was a wine he hadn’t properly tried before, though he’d read of it repeatedly during his studies for the Master Sommelier certification.

Thanks to a mix of his world travel, reality as a master sommelier, time leading the wine list at The Four Seasons in Dallas, and work with Texsom and Texsom IWA, I think of James as someone who knows and has tasted almost everything in the world of wine. He’s like the human equivalent of Prowein itself – all ten exhibition halls and every wine producing country in the world are there inside his memory. So, to come across a wine he hasn’t tasted is a sort of epiphany. Even more special is to share the moment with friends. The four of us all tasted Clos du Moulin for the first time that morning.

Clos du Moulin stands as a special example in Champagne, not only because it is a beautiful wine – and it is, a beautiful wine – but also because of its distinctive origin. The wine is a vineyard-specific champagne grown in one of the very few clos of the region. While we can use the word clos to refer simply to a particular recognized vineyard, it is more often used to refer to an actually enclosed vineyard surrounded by a wall. The most famous clos in the world, Clos Vougeot, stands in Burgundy, but four examples from champagne are still grown and bottled as their own wines as well. Clos du Moulin is one of them.

The history of Clos du Moulin reaches to the time of Louis XV, when the site belonged to one of his trusted officers who also produced champagne. It went on to gain fame with the Russian Tsar’s. Through the 19th-century, Russia was one of the biggest export markets for champagne. Then, during the wars of the 20th century the site was all but destroyed, replanted again in the late 1940s. Incredibly, the site is still farmed with horses. Clos du Moulin is a 50/50 blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, as well as three vintages to ensure its balance, released after around 8 years in cellar.

The wine itself is beautiful. It carries that rare balance of delicacy and strength I so love to find in wine. Somehow the aromatics and mouthfeel feel as ethereal as chiffon even as tasting the wine is all encompassing. In the midst of a busy exhibition hall it was as if the world slowed down. The four of us all commented on it. Tasting the Clos du Moulin easy-filtered the world for us, as if it was some sort of inoculum to mayhem and once we’d swallowed we were temporarily immune to it. For the next while Prowein felt quiet.

Clos du Moulin has its typical wine notes – there is a hint of brioche on the nose, a bite of it again on the finish. In between there is a delicate dance of apple and pear, citrus and even faint nectarine. The finish is long. The acidity is bright and persistent but expertly housed in a lightly-creamy mousse. But it’s a wine that is more than that. It’s a reminder that wine is an experience, best shared with friends. It feels almost ceremonial, even standing in the midst of a vast exhibition hall. Drinking the Clos du Moulin with Amie, Donaji, and James, the wine felt like it bonded us, forever friends in the Clos du Moulin. My favorite part was the simplicity of it. Afterwards, we headed off quietly and ate our lunch.

Thank you to Cattier for hosting us for that moment, and for Prowein for making it possible. 

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Getting to Know ProWein

ProWein

enjoying Tattinger 2006 Comte in the Champagne Lounge at Prowein with (from left) Tanja Klein, Essi Avellan, Mikael Falkman – the man for all seasons, he was a hilarious and wonderful host, me, Madeleine Stenwreth

Last year the organizers of Prowein saw me deliver a seminar at Texsom and afterwards invited me to attend their event in Germany this month. As a result, I’ve just returned from the three day event in Dusseldorf having tasted wines literally from all over the world while there. It was my first time at Prowein as well as my first visit to Germany, and I’m so grateful for the incredible opportunity.

Prowein proves to be a truly global wine forum with wineries from every wine producing country in the world represented. The tasting opportunity, and chance to connect with representatives of the world’s wineries as a result is unparalleled. At the same time there are seminars going in depth on everything from sustainability, to the growing conditions of a particular region, to regional expressions of specific varieties, to the history of a place. Seminars occur in two fashions. Prowein has a dedicated educational space they call the Prowein Forum with rooms devoted to master class level discussions on specific topics. Regions and educators compete to present in this space as it attracts high-level wine professionals from all over the world and every aspect of the wine industry. At the same time, regions and wineries are also able to offer seminars in their own wine fair floor space and many create special areas in their booths for this purpose. It’s incredible to walk the floor and find some of the most respected wine experts in the world giving talks all over Prowein. There were at least ten halls showcasing wine, while mixed into them was also a special section called Same but Different dedicated to regionally specific spirits and craft beers. With these the idea was to show off aspects of the drinks world that also carry that sort of regional specificity we associate with wine.

The event serves multiple interests with importers from all over the world finding new wineries to represent, wine students from sommeliers getting certified to WSET and Master of Wine hopefuls attending to taste-study for their exams, and even restaurants securing specific wines for their wine lists. I also spoke with several people working on books who use Prowein to add to the research they have already done. They are able to taste through a sizeable selection of wines and meet with the producers they might not be able to in person otherwise. The event offers them the opportunity to be comprehensive in their research in a way it is difficult to cover trying to go to each individual winery.

While there I was able to attend two different seminars – one on sustainability and another on terroir of champagne – as well as deliver a seminar with my dear friend Madeleine Stenwreth. New Zealand Winegrowers asked us to present a master class in the Prowein Forum looking at regional expression of Pinot Noir. It was a fun opportunity to present with dear Madeleine, and to share insight into the unique character of that place, New Zealand, we have each spent so much time studying. Afterwards we celebrated by walking over to the Champagne Lounge – a brilliant idea Prowein instituted six years ago with a beautifully lit, fresh tulip accented, white countertops space devoted entirely to the best of Champagne – then gave each other mini-tasting seminars on wines from some of the regions in which we’ve each specialized.

At Prowein I tried to taste as widely as possible. With the enormity of the event it is impossible to taste everything, or even a wine from every country. So, I let myself be rather spontaneous and amorphous about my approach on the first day so as to acclimate to the size of the fair and really get to know the lay of the land, and then was a bit more planned the second day. The third day I hurried to a few places I had hoped to visit and hadn’t fit in previously before departing on two days of winery visits in Germany. The one other thing that should be mentioned is how many people from all over the world attend. Though I traveled to Prowein on my own the entire time there was spent bumping into people literally from all over the world of wine. There is no loneliness at Prowein. There were even far more people I would have liked to see and didn’t manage to bump into.

Honestly, I couldn’t be more impressed with my time at Prowein. Enormous thanks to the Prowein team for including me this year. Thank you too to the New Zealand Winegrowers for including me in their seminar in the Prowein Forum.

Here’s a look at my time at Prowein via the Instagram collection I posted while there.

Just 5% of total global vineyard acreage is grown organically with a total of 360,000 ha organically farmed worldwide. France grows 9% of its vineyards organically. New Zealand 10%. Spain has 11% grown organically, which is the highest proportion of organic viticulture of one country in the world. Attending a Prowein seminar on sustainability hosted by Gonzales Byass. (Interestingly, China is rarely brought into these conversations currently but today China has a total area of vineyards farmed organically almost as large as Spain’s organically farmed vineyard area. It is unclear what portion of the country’s total vineyard area is but even so, do not be surprised when China starts becoming one of the drivers in the conversation on organic wine.) #germany #spain #prowein #wine @prowein_tradefair @gonzalezbyassus

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“What is the relationship between sustainability and quality? […] It is not just about soil but about life, not about the specifics or details [of your specific vineyard or place] but about how you articulate them together. All this situation [in your site] together makes a very unique matrix, what we admire but [as a culture making wine around the world these last 100 years] have not been able to understand very well. […] The question is, how can you transform the life of the current generation through a process of fermentation into the life of your next generation, your next crop. You begin to have a relation of different layers of other organisms that live in the vineyard. It is a balance of adaptability [to the site], ancient wisdom, and ageability [both in terms of the vineyard itself being long lived, and the wine in the bottle also being long lived].” – Rodrigo Soto of Veramonte, Ritual, and Neyen in Chile. Sustainability seminar hosted by Gonzales Byass at Prowein. #germany #chile #prowein #wine @prowein_tradefair @gonzalezbyassus @veramontewines @ritualwines

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A week in Galicia

Galicia

Jose Luis Mateo of Quinta da Muradella

Erin Drain and I just finished a week in Galicia focused primarily on the wines of Jose Luis Mateo and Quinta da Muradella in Monterrei, and those of Alberto Orte in Valdeorras. Erin represents Olé Imports, which brings regionally specific producers of Spain into the United States. Quinta da Muradella and Alberto Orte are each focused on understanding and preserving the viticultural heritage and quality potential of their respective regions, and as a result stand out as top vintners in each of their areas.

Traveling with Erin was an opportunity for me to take the deep dive approach I prefer, giving in depth time to understanding the work and approach that go into wines I respect and love. We had a fantastic trip. Both projects have been important to the development, as well as the preservation of heritage for their respective regions. It turned out too that our willingness to slow down and be with the producers to see what they wanted to show us meant we witnessed and tasted wines not previously seen by people outside the region. Some of the vineyards we visited were unbelievably remote and difficult to get to through hand-cut mountain roads. We even had to drive through a waterfall pool that went more than half way up the wheel-well of the jeep we were driving for one of them. It was outrageously fun, and felt incredibly special to see the vines once we arrived.

Here’s a look back at photos from our trip as shared along the way via Instagram. (I’m currently traveling German wine. If you want to follow along, check out the trip live as we go there directly on Instagram here.)

Galicia

 

Welcome to Vigo. #spain

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Walking Gorvia vineyard in the village of Pazo with Jose Luis Mateo. The site was the first he planted thirty years ago to make wine for his parents’ bar in Verin before going on to start his Quinta da Muradella winery. Gorvia sits at 410 meters in elevation in impressively rocky soils. The vines grow in a mix of alluvial soils full of granite, quartz, and shale rocks. The site grows a mix of varieties indigenous to Galicia. When phylloxera moved through the region in the 1890s it destroyed the region’s vineyards and afterwards entirely new varieties were planted through the area. At the heart of the Quinta da Muradella Project is Jose Luis’s commitment to preserving the region of Monterrei’s rich viticultural history. In his hunt for old vine sites he successfully rediscovered older indigenous varieties almost lost to the area and has focused his vineyards and winemaking on them ever since. #spain #galicia @erindrain

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For the wines of Quinta da Muradella Jose Luis Mateo has found focusing on the farming, using organic methods and focusing on the health of the soils, also matching the varieties to the conditions of the site, all for the sake of vine balance, also means there is less work to do when making the wine in the cellar, and to make interesting wines. Here he shows us a site where the soils had been depleted through previous farming practices. In the first photo (with the white flowers) you can see the naturally occurring cover crop that appears when the soil has begun to regain nutrients and be less compacted. The second photo shows the grasses that are the only plants that will grow when the soils have become compacted with little air, and less available nutrients. #spain #galicia @erindrain

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Tank tasting Candea wines with Jose Luis Mateo. #spain #galicia #wine @erindrain

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Visiting Chaves, Portugal for a walk around the old city. #portugal @erindrain

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Jose Luis Mateo at the top of the Castelo de Monterrei discussing the history of winemaking and the geological history of Galicia as it relates to vineyards through the area. Winemaking began in the region during the Celtic era of the 5th century. The Castelo de Monterrei itself was built during the 12th century atop fortifications that go back to the Celtic period. The Celts occupied these southern areas of Galicia through Monterrei until the arrival of the Visigoths just before the 7th century. People of the Celtic era are considered the first Galicians. Winegrowing through the area goes through several important stages of development here in Galicia with this ancient Celtic period being the first. Phylloxera arrived to Monterrei in the 1890s and radically changed what was grown in the region as many varieties do not take easily to grafting. Contemporary commercial winemaking shifts importantly – from being primarily for home use as part of a general subsistence lifestyle – beginning in the 1970s but more earnestly in the 1990s. Jose Luis works to document the winemaking history through the region while also searching out the oldest vineyards through the extended area to find older varieties of the region. As a result several varieties indigenous to Galicia he has successfully recovered and for a few of them he remains the only person to grow and bottle them. He has recently found several varieties we are so far unable to identify as they had been lost entirely, found again in an abandoned vineyard in the mountains near Monterrei. Here we see Jose Luis, he and Erin, overlooking the valley, the hospital in the Medeval castle for pilgrims on the O Camino de Santiago, part of the fortification, the castle itself, and an ancient Roman road up the hill to the castle. #spain #galicia @erindrain

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As part of his work to understand his region, Jose Luis Mateo of Quinta da Muradella seeks out vineyards in different parts of and with different soil profiles of Monterrei. He vinifies the sites on their own, their varieties on their own as well in order to learn how the different growing conditions inform the typicity of both the varieties and of the place. Once the individual sites are made into wine he either brings them together with others as a regional blend, or if the site has really stood out and he has continued to work with it over many vintages then it can become a single vineyard bottling. Jose Luis sees this process as part of his work to recognize and record the current history being formed of winegrowing in Monterrei. Each vineyard planted serves as part of the larger story of this region. Here he stands in an alluvial soil vineyard in the valley of Monterrei that he has more recently been getting to know. #spain #galicia #wine @erindrain

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Huge portions of Monterrei consist of granite based soils. Granite is made as magma cools very slowly deep under ground (and away from oxygen) thus making extremely hard rock. In composition granite is primarily made of quartz (the glittering bits) and feldspar (the black flecks), as well as mica. Granite consistently also includes a mix of other minerals, which then lead to the overall color of the stone – white, pink, or gray granite. As granite erodes it creates a highly granular granitic sand, essentially, which can also combine with other conditions to form various soil structures and drainage. More transparent wines from granitic soil tend to carry a nerviness in the mouth that stimulates the front of the palate in a way we wine professionals like to call yum. #spain #galicia #wine @erindrain

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Large swaths of Monterrei include slate-based soils, which appear here in small orange-taupe slab-like rocks throughout the vineyard. Slate forms through a mild metamorphic transformation of shale (made of essentially pressed clay or volcanic ash). In its nature slate consists of fine particles. As a result, as the rock breaks down a fine powder is released that feels and smells much like talcum powder. The stone is also relatively easy to break even with your hands and will leave that powdery texture on your hands as you do. Thanks to this fine texture, slate parent materials are often associated with clay soils – the fine particles of the stone help form clay over time essentially. In hotter climates this combination of rocky soils with some clay serve the vines well. The rocks help maintain good drainage and oxygen access for the soils (can help keep it from getting overly compacted) while the clay presence helps the soil maintain enough water, and as a result also cooler temperatures, to reduce vine stress and create a more even ripening over the course of the season for established vineyards. #spain #galicia #wine @erindrain

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Walking old town Ourense. #spain #galicia @erindrain

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Public outdoor thermal baths, old town Ourense. #spain #galicia @erindrain

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Northern Spain is the world’s largest provider of slate. #spain @erindrain

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Vineyards of Bierzo – old vines, very rocky. #spain #castillayleon @erindrain

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Viticulturist Alfredo “Freddy” Vazquez standing in his 120-year old field blend vineyard perched at around 520 meters elevation far into a river canyon along the river Bibei. The area is so cold this site barely ripens and is harvested a full month later than the main parts of Valdeorras at higher elevation and further from the river. This is one of the most remote parts of Valdeorras. We had to drive a hand-cut mountain road down a cliff side and through a forest to get here crossing a waterfall pool on the way. 60 years ago the entire canyon was covered in vineyard terraces. Today this is the last one remaining. When Freddy purchased the site the vineyard had already been abandoned for decades. He has been able to resuscitate the vines. #spain #galicia #valdeorras #wine @erindrain

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Grateful for a wonderful week in Galicia. Thank you. #spain #galicia #wine @erindrain

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Champagne reset. Madrid airport. #spain #wine

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Sixteen days in the Willamette Valley, Oregon

Willamette Valley in February and March

I just finished a two and a half week stint in Willamette Valley working on six different projects. Among these was adding more layers of detail to my knowledge of the region and its subzones by doing a full day in each of the six nested AVAs – McMinnville, Yamhill-Carlton, Dundee Hills, Ribbon Ridge, Chehalem Mountains, Eola-Amity Hills – within the larger Willamette Valley.

For each of the six AVA days I asked a different person with a long-standing background in that AVA, and a community focused perspective on it to organize what they saw as an insightful day of looking at maps, driving the region, meeting with growers and producers, and tasting. It added up to an intensive two weeks, and I’m super grateful for the time people put in.

I also spent time again with Pedro Parra. Raj Parr and I spent time with Pedro in Concepcion, Chile getting to know Itata and Bio Bio and its wines back in December. During that trip we discussed spending a day together in Oregon when we had the chance to overlap there. It was also an opportunity for me to continue understanding the work he does and better understand his views of a specific region, in this case Willamette Valley, as a result. In Chile I met with a number of producers that he has previously or is currently working with so I have been keen to continue getting to know his perspective.

During the rest of my trip I attended the Oregon Chardonnay Celebration, led a seminar for Brooks University – a wine education program for Brooks wines – was interviewed by the Oregon Wine History Archive, did research for leading the IPNC Grand Seminar this summer, and did a few follow up visits with producers as well. Here’s a look at the trip via the compiled Instagram images posted while I was there.

 

Dai Crisp discussing the unique growing conditions of light and wind that move through the Temperance Hill vineyard in Eola-Amity Hills with my daughter Rachel. A daily wind blows from the west through this site during the growing season. It is the cooling effect of the Pacific Ocean coming through the Van Duzer corridor, a low spot in the Coastal Range, that thickens skins and helps retain acidity in the wines. Today though, long before the start of the growing season, the wind blows down from Alaska in the North bringing with it freezing temperatures and overnight snow. Temperance Hill is one of two vineyards featured in this year’s IPNC Grand Seminar. It is one of the region’s iconic sites. #willamettevalleywine @lumoswine @dai_crisp @ipnc_pinot @buteo_jamaicensis_jr I spend my life with legends. Such an honor to share them with my daughter.

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After falling in love with the Dundee Hills, and getting to know the Worden Hill Rd area through a friendship with the Maresh family who were among the first to plant in the area, Steven Whiteside began planting Bella Vida vineyard in the late 1990s. The dramatic steep slopes of the vineyard make it one of the distinctive site’s of the region focused primarily on Pinot Noir. Steve has developed his farming of the site partially through friendships with long-standing farming families in the area and partially through working with some of the region’s most respected viticulturists. Bella Vida vineyard is one of two sites featured in this summer’s IPNC Grand Seminar. #willamettevalleywine @bella_vida_vineyard @ipnc_pinot

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Before contemporary agricultural crops, including vineyards, entered the Willamette Valley the local habitat included a predominance of white oak and white oak savannah. The native species are thoroughly adapted to the unique growing conditions of the region from soil pH, to climate, and as a result also foster a wealth of other native species thus promoting overall biodiversity of a place. As agriculture and viticulture have expanded, the white oak, their accompanying savannah, and their associated diversity of native mushrooms, broad grasses, wildflowers, and insect populations have radically decreased. A group of farmers through the region are working to preserve the remaining white oak habitats and increase them as well. At Carabella Vineyards the team has re-established acres of white oak savannah on the property, and also introduced it into the vineyard by creating alternate no-till rows. As the white oak savannah has taken hold in the vineyard they have seen an accompanying increase in native wildflowers, beneficial fungi, and beneficial insects as well, thus improving the overall health of the vineyard. Here the savannah plants are dormant but the Roemers Fescue broad grass species at the heart of the white oak savannah complex can be seen growing between the vine rows. #willamettevalleywine @carabellavineyard @drewbarelymore

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Each year the Carabella team does both a vineyard and a cellar experiment to expand their understanding of the place. In 2017 @drewbarelymore worked harvest in Central Otago on @prophetsrock wines and thus learned from the work of both Paul Pujol and François Millet. Upon his return he and Mike Hallock decided to make their 2017 @carabellavineyard cellar experiment a look at the low extraction winemaking techniques used by both @paulpujol and François. Together Mike and Drew vinified both control and experimental side-by-side lots of their traditional approach and the low-extraction approach mimicking what Drew learned in New Zealand. They tried it on two different clonal selections. Here we got to taste them – a side by side of selection 667 Pinot, as @prophetsrock has in Central, and of Wadensville, a selection of Pinot that helped found Willamette Valley. Then we blended them and tasted again. Super awesome tasting experiment. Thank you, Mike and Drew! #willamettevalleywine @carabellavineyard @drewbarelymore @paulpujol

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Steve Doerner at Cristom would sometimes bottle small quantities of vineyards he worked with as part of the Mount Jefferson cuvee so the vineyard could be seen on its own, though the wines were never released on their own commercially. Cristom bottles their own estate vineyards as single vineyard bottlings. In making the Mount Jefferson cuvee they blend vineyards from around the region and as a result have worked with an impressively long list of sites throughout the Eola-Amity Hills and beyond. Here a Cristom single vineyard wine made from the Seven Springs Vineyard in 2001, never released commercially. Impressively youthful and savory. Made with 50% whole cluster, all ambient yeast ferment. #willamettevalleywine @cristomwine @benjamindicristina @tomsavre @larrystone1 @mimicasteel @patbethelheights @bethelheightsvineyard @kpahlow32 @ericaalandon

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Willamette Valley’s other crop … #willamettevalleywine

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Trying to figure out what we mean by fractured basalt? Here’s a look. Basalt is volcanic stone that was formed at or near the surface with exposure to oxygen (versus granite, which is volcanic stone formed under the surface without exposure to oxygen and thus also much harder). Because of its surface exposure, it was formed as the lava rapidly cooled. By definition, basalt is fine-grained and contains about half silica. It is the most common volcanic rock on earth and can be found throughout oceanic islands, many regions on the coastal side of a continent, and through the ocean’s crust. (So cool.) In all three states on the west coast of the United States we find loads of fractured basalt with high iron content. What that means is that the rock itself easily breaks and also turns red when exposed to oxygen. When basalt fractures, the area inside the cracks form small particles of soil that act like iron-rich clay retaining water and releasing mineral ions that can be processed by micro-flora and micro-fauna into forms available to plants. That matters when it comes to vine roots as the fine hair-like roots that form near the bottom of vine roots, and in older vines push between the fractures and pick up both nutrients and moisture. The iron in these soils tend to create a more lifted and open weave to the shape of the wine through the palate compared to wines grown in more compressed sedimentary soils. There is also often a ferric, gunmetal, or even bloody flavor that comes with more transparent wines from such sites. Other minerals can also be present in basalt leading to black or pale ash-like colors, for example, as well as coarser particle structures in some types. In the US west coast wine growing regions from Walla Walla to Willamette Valley to Sonoma Mountain to Napa Valley and beyond, the basalt tends to have that iron-rich, redder character. #willamettevalleywine

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Getting started with a full day of blind tasting the Chehalem Mountains to investigate if, how, and what sense of place are offered by the wines organized by neighborhoods. The wines across multiple flights will not be revealed until the very end of the day. All wines from the 2013 vintage. Here with the first group of winemakers focused on the Laurelwood neighborhood. From left: Tom Fitzpatrick of Alloro, Harry Peterson Nedry of RR (Ribbon Ridge), David Adelsheim of Adelsheim, Luisa Ponzi of Ponzi, Adam Campbell of Elk Cove, Katie Santura of Chehalem, Shannon Gustafson of Raptor Ridge, Gina Hennings of Adelsheim, Sam Schmitt of Adelsheim. #willamettevalleywine @adelsheim @elkcove @ponzivineyards @raptorridgewinery @chehalemwines @alloro_vineyard @petersonnedry

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The Eastern side of the Chehalem Mountains in Washington County is dominated by what is called the Laurelwood soil series, which consists of windblown loess on top of basaltic soils. The loess soils consist of fine while quite gritty, textural particles. Over time they become weathered and form small shot pebbles, or pitoles, that cause farmers to call these shot soils (as shown here at the base of a vine). When wet, loess sticks together, though it contains virtually no clay, and is actually high draining. The result is that in younger vines, with shallower roots vine stress can readily happen in very hot, or dry low water years. As vines get older they root into the underlying basalt, which has a much higher clay content, and thus also water holding capacity. Much of the area is planted to hazelnuts and blueberries. Partially because of its proximity to Portland there is comparatively more residential and less agriculture through this area, and only sparse vineyards. Vines from the Laurelwood soil series tend to include lifted floral aromatics, a lifted blue-purple-register palate, slightly rustic tannins and plenty of acidity. #willamettevalleywine @chehalemmountains

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Getting close up with the soils of Parrett Mountain in the Chehalem Mountains. On the southeastern point of the AVA, Parrett Mountain reaches to 1200 ft elevation and descends in a series of steps towards lower elevations. The soils through the region are primarily silty clay loam loaded with basalt cobbles on top of basalt bedrock. In much of the mountain the cobble top soils are only between one and two feet deep. The little bit of hummus near the very top helps the vine get just enough nutrients to reduce excess stress. The cobbles mean good air in the volcanic soils as well as good drainage. At the same time there tends to be enough clay to allow dry farming once the vines get established. Wines from these sorts of soils tend to give red fruits and earthy notes, with a bit more compact character than Dundee Hills, accented by some of the purple floral aromatics similar to those seen in the Laurelwood area. #willamettevalleywine @chehalemmountains

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The western side of the Chehalem Mountains is full of incredibly steep slopes much of which eroded into lower elevations below. As a result, to the east of Ribbon Ridge (which is an AVA nested within the Chehalem Mountains) much of the vineyard land is varying degree slopes of colluvial basalt that eroded off the basaltic mountain peaks above. This Basaltic Bench area of the Chehalem Mountains is full of red volcanic soils as a result, but the character of that soil – cobbled to gravels to more silty clay – varies significantly, as does the depth of top soil, as does the steepness of the slopes in which it appears. The wines from this area, then, do tend to be red fruited and full of spice but also vary in other characteristics. There tends to be ample while fine tannin and also plenty of acidity. Here at Quarter Mile Vineyard the colluvial basaltic soils are more of a silty clay loam full of iron, with a lot of earth that has volcanic pebbles as shown here, then suddenly intensely cobbled bands in some blocks. The vines shown here were planted in 1974 and are entirely dry farmed. These sorts of volcanic silty clay soils with enough gravel or more cobbles for good air and good drainage tend to do well with dry farming, and also offer enough nutrients plus oxygen in the soils to give generally good balance to the vine. By comparison, Laurelwood loess can more readily mean vine stress in younger vines; with Marine Sedimentary soils it can be harder to either get good root depth or enough water holding capacity depending on how compressed the bedrock beneath is. With lots of top soil depth, the challenge in volcanic clays can instead be excess vigor. The result is that the three major soil types in the Chehalem Mountains need relatively different farming practices, and also result in distinctly differing styles of Pinot Noir. #willamettevalleywine @chehalemmountains

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Moving into a thorough going discussion of a Marine Sedimentary subzone of the Chehalem Mountains on the easternside of Ribbon Ridge, West of the Basaltic Bench that eroded down the western face of the mountain range this is likely to be one of the more complex soil areas of the AVA though we’ll see how the wines express in the blind tasting. From left: (standing) Sam Schmitt of Adelsheim, (sitting – starting from red plaid and running clockwise) Jay Somers of J. Christopher, David Paige of Paige Wines, Brad McLeroy of Ayres, Josh Bergstrom of Bergstrom, (standing) Harry Peterson-Nedry of Rr, Shannon Gustafson of Raptor Ridge, David Adelsheim of Adelsheim, Michael Davies of Rex Hill, Bruno Corneaux of Tresori. #willamettevalleywine @joshbergstromwine @adelsheim @joshbergstromwine @petersonnedry @ayresvineyard @raptorridgewinery @rexhillvyds

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Soils of Ribbon Ridge and the portion of the Chehalem Mountains just east of the Ribbon Ridge boundary are primarily Marine Sedimentary soils uplifted from the ancient seabed. They consist especially of eroded sandstone and siltstone with some sections of mudstone. The Marine Sedimentary soils tend to have less water holding capacity than the volcano, basalt-based soils of the region. As basalt decomposes it creates fine particles that essentially form clay, which has higher water holding capacity than silt-sand particles. Ribbon Ridge, and it’s marine sediment, is known for its profound aromatics in both the nose and palate. Wines carry an ethereal quality with a base of red fruits but a focus on flowers, herbs, and mushroom notes all in a structured while delicate presentation. The Marine Sedimentary soils on the eastern side in the Chehalem Mountains seem to bring a little more heft to the wines creating a sense of muscle to the tannin with a mix of red fruits and spice bursting with a midpalate of flavors. Parent material in the Willamette Valley is predominately Marine Sedimentary or Volcanic, with a bit of windblown loess as well, but the soil presence in any particular area tends towards outrageous diversity. While most of the volcanic basalt in the area flowed in as Columbia River basalt, a few lava chimneys pushed through the seabed in the region while it was still underwater, creating unique basalt deposits entirely native to that specific site within the uplifted seabed of marine sediment. These localized lava flows tend to be full of basalt cobbles. Here in Brick House Vineyard is one example. A mini field of basalt soils full of boulders in the middle of an (almost) entirely Marine Sedimentary based region. #willamettevalleywine @brickhousevineyards

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One answer.

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McMinnville AVA hosts primarily volcanic basalt parent material but rather than the Columbia River basalt formations, which were formed on land, that appear in many portions of Northern and Central Willamette Valley, the basalt of McMinnville AVA are largely (though not only) formed underwater. The result is an importantly different range of basalt types, leading to importantly different basalt based soils throughout the McMinnville AVA. While the Columbia River basalt tends to be high in iron and so also reddish-orange in color when exposed to oxygen, the basalts in McMinnville are more varied, and in many cases rather dark in color. Additionally, many of the vineyards showing basalt in McMinnville are also quite rocky, which is not always the case in other basalt-driven AVAs. Here, a highly rocky basalt block at Brittan Vineyard. #willamettevalleywine @brittanvineyards

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McMinnville AVA basalts were not formed during the Columbia River basalt flows, which run through huge portions of Washington, Idaho, and Oregon. Instead, most McMinnville AVA basalts were formed underwater and then uplifted to the surface of what is now the far western edge of the Willamette Valley. The ages of these underwater lava flows also vary significantly, resulting in very different looking basalt rocks through the AVA. Basalt forms as lava quickly cools. The speed of it turning to rock can create a vesicular structure where water or air pockets were essentially caught in the lava as it cooled. The basalt rock on top here looks rather white, because it was made so long ago then continued to sit on the ocean floor for so long that marine sediment accumulated over it and the vesicular structure now contains rock made of marine sediment. How cool is that? In parts of the McMinnville AVA the uplifted rocks are from profoundly different ages of formation. The oldest uplifts often show this surprising combination of volcanic and marine sediment. The basalt rock in the middle here still shows the vesicular structure, or holes, that have not filled with other materials. Notice too it is also an orange-red color as it includes iron, which has oxidized from air exposure. The basalt on the bottom here is much darker in color, incredibly hard, and is believed to be both the youngest of the three, and also formed after the ground was uplifted from the seafloor in a lava vent on land. It having essentially no holes, unlike the other two examples, meaning it would have cooled more slowly. #willamettevalleywine @brittanvineyards

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As if the soils of McMinnville AVA weren’t complex enough just looking at the volcanic side of things, the marine sedimentary soils are diverse as well, and any one vineyard is likely to contain both volcanic and marine sedimentary parent materials. In the vineyards of Youngberg Hill, a band of shale runs through the midst of their Bailey block. Though the Bailey block is predominantly volcanic rock and its resulting soils, just under the surface on one side of it runs a band of shale, which is a form of marine sedimentary mudstone. It is yet another example of how complex the soils resulting from uplifted seabed can be. Other marine sedimentary soils in the McMinnville AVA are from sandstone and siltstone. #willamettevalleywine @youngberg_hill

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Geological parent materials native to Willamette Valley are entirely volcanic or marine sedimentary in nature. The massive Missoula floods though also carried in materials from all over including erratic boulders of various parent materials and various sizes. These can be found spotted in a number of parts of the valley, mainly, though not only, through the valley floor. Generally the rather mixed nature of the flood soils are seen as less ideal for grape growing as the deeper sections especially are overly vigorous as well as overly fertile. The erratic rocks can be fascinating to find though. Some of the most fascinating erratic rocks through the region though were carried in not by the floods but instead by glacial activity long before the floods. The first image of the white stone is one such sample found in the McMinnville AVA. The second image is of The Erratic Boulder, also found within the McMinnville AVA, the largest such rock carried thousands of miles from its origins across the continent by glacier. It was over 160 tons originally when first found and about three times larger than it appears now as people are people where ever they are so lots of them have chipped off bits of it over and over, over time because geez. It’s still cool but geez. #willamettevalleywine

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In considering what it means either to make a wine that expresses your site, or to make the best wine from your site, one of the crucial questions rests in selecting aging vessel. In much of the world oak barrels are standard for Pinot Noir. Different barrel types have huge impact on how the wine shows and the forest source, wood aging and preparation, and cooper all change how the oak marries to the wine, even on older barrels. Ariel Eberle became head winemaker at Yamhill Valley Vineyards in 2016 and began doing oak trials with different coopers and barrels to investigate which the team prefers with their Pinot. Here she tastes me through some examples to investigate the fruit signature of their McMinnville AVA site via the lens of oak choices. #willamettevalleywine @yamhillvalleyvineyards

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Discussing the climatic site specificity found in the McMinnville AVA thanks to the undulating crests, folds and valleys of this eastern side of the Coastal Mountains with Couer de Terre owner and winemaker Scott Neal. Though the McMinnville AVA is less exposed to the Van Duzer corridor than the Eola-Amity Hills, it still faces a persistent cooling breeze and afternoon wind. Overall temperatures in the McMinnville AVA are cooler as a result, as are nighttime temperatures, with budbreak, bloom, and harvest generally a bit later than elsewhere in Willamette. At the same time, the McMinnville AVA sits in a rain shadow receiving less overall precipitation and less general storm impact than much of the rest of the valley. Even so, most sites are still dry farmed. The undulating topography of the AVA means within these general conditions there is enormous specificity by site, and on most sites enormous specificity even block by block. Lower blocks at Couer de Terre, for example, stand in a bowl more protected from wind, for example, while the top of the site is hit by it quite directly. Such variation greatly changes how the vine responds with differences in vine size, vigor and canopy, fruit set and crop size, and even how physiological development and ripeness progress. Generally the McMinnville AVA tends to have both darker color in the skins, and more tannin, as well as lower pHs and higher acidity levels at ripeness. The result is wines with bright acidity and plenty of freshness with still tons of presence on the palate. #willamettevalleywine @cdtvineyard

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Gotta represent. Yamhill Carlton. #willamettevalleywine

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Soil structure, drainage, water holding capacity, and resulting temperature holding capacity all impact the physiological development of a vine. For example, soils with higher clay content also have higher water holding capacity. The higher moisture content can impact the vine on a daily basis by literally lowering the overall soil temperatures surrounding the vine. Cool evening temperatures effectively sit in soils with some clay later into the day than they do in soils with little to no clay. To put that another way, it takes ground with more clay longer to warm up. Vines progress in their development through the course of the season not just thanks to sun exposure and ambient air temperatures but also because of ground temperatures. Soils in the Yamhill Carlton AVA are all eroded sandstone, siltstone and in some places mudstone. That means there is little to no clay, and also less water holding capacity. The soils effectively warm up more quickly in the course of any particular day. At the same time over the course of a growing season marine sedimentary soils with little clay like this will also go drier earlier in the season than volcanic soils of Willamette Valley, which naturally have higher clay content. The drier soils encourage vines to switch from the earlier vegetative phase – grow canopy, essentially – to the reproductive phase – make and ripen fruit, essentially – earlier. So, predominately volcanic subzones of Willamette Valley, even with higher temperatures, can actually step into stages of fruit development later than cooler areas with drier soils. The Yamhill Carlton AVA can often begin the fruit ripening process earlier than some of the warmer subzones of the area while still maintaining cooler air temperatures during that ripening process. Wines from Yamhill Carlton tend to have darker fruit character, and more robust structure, while still maintaining acidity. As a result, the darker fruit tones characteristic of the AVA can still correlate with vibrant acidity and moderate or lower alcohols, creating a fascinating interplay of characteristics unexpected in many other Pinot regions. #willamettevalleywine

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The overall growing conditions of a region’s subzone, or nested AVA, when studied and understood can give a great overall picture of the underlying character of a region and the character range that can be found in its wines. The fine tuned details come back to the specific topography, conditions, and farming of any particular site. Soil architecture offers various general conditions but whether cover crop is used, whether in row tilling is done, and how the soil is worked or not worked, as examples, have significant impact on the character of a particular vineyard. Many of these choices are specific to the site itself as well as the stylistic interests of the winery getting fruit from the site. A drier site, for example, may not support cover crop. At the same time farming choices also inform the site character as they shift the life of the soil over time. Parent material of soil remains consistent in our human lifetimes but soil drainage, degree of compaction, microbial flora and fauna presence – which all impact water retention, air in the soil, and a vines ability to uptake nutrients – are changed over time by farming choices. Here, an example of a vine row from a no till, no herbicide vineyard. No till vineyards tend to be uncommon in New World farming but are a fascinating example of how farming transforms a site. The plantlife throughout the vineyard rely on surface water, transforming the water availability to shallow vine roots, thus encouraging vines to go deeper. The dense forest of ground-level plants lower the surface temperature of the soil, thus changing how the vine moves from the vegetative-growth to fruit-growth phases. The plant life of the cover crop and lack of tilling also encourage and support complexity or micro flora and micro fauna in the soils, which increase air-ability within the soils and also nutrient uptake for the vines. #willamettevalleywine

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Cutest thing you’ve ever seen? Yes. Grower Dick Crannell and I hanging out for happy hour on the hill chatting at Brooks about growing regions around the world. Growing up commercial fishing I was part of the fourth generation of active fishermen in my family. One of the things about being mentored into that industry by so many generations, was that to really hone your understanding of the region and the craft it was important not just to do the work itself, but also to listen to those that worked the industry before you. With fishing no two seasons were ever the same but the elders of the industry knew details that could be understood again and again in changing seasons, like, as examples, if the wind was blowing from the north and the tide was going out, the fish would pool on one side of the river in the shallows, or if it was a cold spring and the tundra cotton was late, the fish would be too. Listening quietly as the fisherman spoke meant learning some of those details. The point was that by spending time with those that had been doing the work longer you could learn the history of the place, how to read the natural characteristics that repeat and correlate with certain sorts of seasons, and thus deepen your knowledge of the work, the people, and the place all together. Those that have been doing the work longest are the region’s brain trust, so to speak. They carry the region’s library of knowledge. The next generations can innovate by understanding the work that has been done before. A total honor, and a ton of fun, to sit with Dick Crannell, one of the iconic growers of Eola-Amity Hills. #willamettevalleywine @brookswinery @dick_cranne

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Cheers!

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NZ 2017 – cyclone-hit but no write-off

Vintage 2017 New Zealand

tasting with Michael Brajkovich of Kumeu River

With the 2017 vintage, New Zealand suffered some of the most challenging weather in recent memory. Cool temperatures early in the season created variable fruit set, and delayed ripening. Then, just as vineyards caught up in ripening, two cyclones moved across the country – the first a week into March, and the second just a week later – bringing record rainfalls and extensive flooding during harvest. Each of the maritime-influenced growing regions was impacted by the weather with many vineyards suffering split fruit and high disease pressure as a result. Thanks to its surrounding mountains, Central Otago was spared from both cyclones, instead merely maintaining cool temperatures which prolonged the growing season.

Many wines from across the country reflect the difficult weather. Some varieties were simply not harvested as the rains essentially destroyed them on the vine. Larger producers with the capabilities for extensive manipulation in the cellar will probably bring those varieties to market anyway. The weather brought with it increased variability in quality on a site by site basis, also depending largely on the farming practices implemented long before the rains came. Well-managed farming proved essential to ripening fruit before the rains hit, or restoring vine balance between storms. As a result, there are good wines to be expected from New Zealand’s 2017 vintage. The key to finding them rests in knowing the producer and their farming practices. Short of that, looking to smaller, more hands-on wineries is a safe first bet.

In late 2017 I met with winemakers across the country tasting 2017 wines from barrel to see how such a challenging harvest would show in the wines. The best producers from the country are well aware of meeting and even exceeding quality expectations. Many managed yields in the vineyards to encourage earlier ripening, thus increasing the likelihood of harvesting before any autumn storms. In the case of varieties devastated by the rains, the best producers simply did not make wine from that fruit. In other cases, producers have chosen to declassify less successful wines. Many smaller-production producers have multiple quality tiers in their portfolio. Among them I consistently saw wineries choosing to bottle wines at the quality level appropriate to the final outcome of the wines, rather than by the previous history for the cuvee. I asked producers to share their insights on the weather and resulting wines from the vintage. Those I have included here are among those whose 2017s I would recommend on the basis of what I tasted in their cellar.

The following looks at growing conditions from the major growing regions of New Zealand moving north to south, and west to east (see your online map of the wine regions).

Kumeu

Vintage in the Kumeu region west of Auckland started with unusually cool temperatures, which would normally delay vine growth. However, persistent winds throughout the season seemed to re-balance …

To keep reading this article, including tasting notes, head on over to JancisRobinson.com

Here’s the direct link: https://www.jancisrobinson.com/articles/nz-2017-cyclonehit-but-no-writeoff

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Two Weeks in New Zealand

Central Otago

I spent a week in Central Otago primarily focused around attending the Central Otago Pinot Noir Celebration. Prior to the start of the event I was able to do a full day of vineyard visit and tasting with Grasshopper Rock in the Earnscleugh subzone of Central Otago along with Masters of Wine Jane Skilton and Julia Harding, and then also attend the Air New Zealand Fine Wine List from 2017.

The Air New Zealand Fine Wine List program is an exciting selection of the best wines of New Zealand selected by Masters of Wine and the Master Sommelier of the country. It focuses on wines of pedigree that have both proven themselves over time, and shine in the particular current release vintage. Air New Zealand features a selection of them on their long haul flights as well.

The Central Otago Pinot Noir Celebration

Every other year, the region of Central Otago hosts the Central Otago Pinot Noir Celebration. The event features pinot noir of the region while also looking at that made from other celebrated regions of the world. International media and wine professionals, as well as consumers from all over the world attend.

This year, the theme for the event was Connections. As a result, winemakers from other parts of the world who have also made wine in Central Otago attended and were part of the educational seminars as well.

The first day included the Discovery Tasting, led by Matt Dicey of Mt Difficulty, with winemakers Ted Lemon of Littorai in Sonoma and Burn Cottage in Central Otago, François of Comte Georges de Vogüé in Burgundy who also makes the Cuvée Aux Antipodes with Paul Pujol of Prophet’s Rock, and PJ Charteris who works as a wine consultant in the Hunter Valley and makes Charteris Wines from Central Otago. Each winemaker presented a wine from each of their two regions and discussed their experiences learning from both locales.

The second day centered around the Grand Tasting including around 40 wineries from the region in a walk around style, followed by more intimate lunches hosted at featured wineries, and then more intimate dinners held in restaurants around Queenstown.

On the third day, the Formal Tasting, a three-hour seminar designed to go in depth into the featured wine region of the year is held. This year I was asked to lead the seminar on Willamette Valley Pinot Noir with winemakers Adam Campbell of Elk Cove, and Sam Tannahill of Francis-Tannahill, Rex Hill, and A to Z Wineworks. It was an enormous honor to represent the wines we selected, to present with two such knowledgable and recognized winemakers in such a respected event for a region I love as much as Central Otago.

Following the seminar, attendees were escorted to a beautiful and relaxing picnic lunch just outside Queenstown. Then, in the evening we were brought to the top of one of the region’s mountains for the Gala Dinner overlooking Lake Wakatipu.

Marlborough

Following my week in Central Otago for the Celebration, I traveled to Marlborough to do a series of visits centered mainly on smaller producers in the Southern Valleys of the region. The Southern Valleys fall in the cooler side of Marlborough with a mix of soils. There are a wealth of fascinating vineyards, including several that are considered among the best in New Zealand. The area features Sauvignon Blanc more distinctly full of kefir lime leaf and other citrus notes than the examples from the warmer sections of the region, as well as some fantastic aromatic whites, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Syrah. Later this month, I’ll be giving a seminar of several wines from this sub-zone to a group in Oregon.

Following are some of the photos taken during the two weeks in New Zealand as shared along the way on Instagram.

Cheers!

Two Weeks in New Zealand

 

 

 

In considering what makes winegrowing in Central Otago unique compared to where he has worked elsewhere in Burgundy, Napa, Sonoma, Willamette Valley, Ted Lemon points out that Central Otago being so far south (the southern most growing region in the world) means that as the growing season progresses the length of daylight hours begins to reduce very swiftly. The result is that the vines’ fruit ripening moves with the light change and halts grape development as days get short regardless of sugar development or vigneron intent. As a result, farming must be in tune to the swift arc of the growing season and its light levels from the very beginning of the season. #centralotagowine #newzealand @pinotcentral @burncottagevineyard @littoraiwine

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In discussing why he makes wine in Central Otago, the Cuvee Aux Antipodes with Paul Pujol at Prophet’s Rock, when he comes from such a rich history in Chambolle Musigny, François Millet says, “There is a lot of nuance and this is very interesting to try to show, to put in the front [of the wines]. And also the vines are getting older [in Central]. At 20 to 25 years old this is when the vines begin to get deeper, into the terroir. And also the vintage variation. There are very interesting vintage differences that prove there is vintage diversity. So [with all these things channeled through winemaking in Central Otago] here there is a lot of room to find the connections between the sky, the land, and the expression of the wines.” #Repost @somm_arthurhon ・・・ #FrançoisMillet speaks about #chambollemusigny and his connection with #centralotago & @paulpujol @prophetsrock @pinotcentral @nzwinegrowers #nzwine

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#Repost @paulpujol ・・・ Catching breath and catching up on photos after chairing an epic Central Otago Pinot Noir Celebration… The formal tasting this year celebrated the ties between Oregon and Central Otago with an absolutely amazing seminar led by Elaine Chukan Brown @hawk_wakawaka and featuring Oregon Adam Campbell and Sam Tannahill on the panel. This was the best Oregon seminar I've ever seen including the ones I was involved with when I worked in Oregon. The range of wines beautifully covered history, geography, style, and included wonderful stories that helped greatly to inform the wines. A massive thanks to Elaine for the unbelievable amount of preparation and expertly leading us through this great flight of 8 wines. Thanks to Adam and Sam for sharing their stories and knowledge with us. @eyrievineyards @elkcove @joshbergstromwine @bergstromwines @francistannahill @brookswinery @antica_terra @walterscottwines @brianneday @pinotcentral @wvwinelady

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Gourmet Traveller Wine: Interview

Gourmet Traveller Wine, February/March Edition

Australia’s Gourmet Traveller Wine magazine interviewed me for their just-released current edition. It’s the February/March 2018 issue. The appears in both their print and digital editions. I have to admit seeing myself in a wine app – the magazine’s digital edition – on my own phone is a little bit of a trip. It’s a total honor and life is also just full of surprises.

If you download their digital edition, you can read the interview there for free. You can find the link to their app here.

Here’s the interview in full. Thank you to Kylie Imeson for taking the time to include me.

Have you been to Australia and which wines do you like? 

In 2013, I was able to attend the first Rootstock Festival in Sydney, visit a number of wine bars there, and then tour Victoria. The wines there, especially the Syrah, are among my favorourite. I am also a long-time lover of Pinot Meunier so to be able to spend a day at Best’s Great Western and drink older vintages of their Old Vine Meunier was a treat.

What interests you about the Australian wine scene? 

Australia has such a great combination of iconic world wines, such as Hunter Valley Semillon, long-standing premium classic, such as Penfolds Grange, and then this incredible energy from newer producers. There is a camaraderie that can be seen in the Australian wine community that is inspiring – it seems to give a lot of room for experimenting, supporting each other, and sharing insight and information on grape growing and winemaking. That isn’t true everywhere. It’s refreshing.

What is your most memorable wine moment? 

Before I had ever started working in wine my dream had been to someday enjoy one bottle of Salon Champagne. It seemed an unlikely goal as I was living on a graduate student stipend while raising a child on my own at the time. Years later I took a huge risk and left my academic career, even though I’d put so much work into it, and ended up working in wine. A couple years in I was invited to take part in a Salon Champagne vertical across four decades. I’d tasted Salon in passing a few times by then, but the transition from academia into wine wasn’t easy. I worked pretty hard to make it happen and the change in career meant my daughter and I had no spending money for a long time. Then, there I was, not only drinking Salon, but tasting every vintage back to the 1960s. It was overwhelming. What a total surprise it was to change my life completely and inadvertently fulfil a dream I’d had in my previous life.

Can you explain the part your drawings play in your writing and tasting notes? 

My entree into wine was actually via the illustrations I do of wine. When I was leaving philosophy I needed something utterly different to focus on. My life had been entirely verbal and intellectual for a long time and I wanted to reactivate other aspects of my thinking so I started drawing. Drawing turned out to be far better for me than I ever expected. It made my entire brain go quiet, which was incredibly relaxing. When I realised how much I liked it I came up with the idea of drawing my tasting notes instead of writing them. When I published my first illustrated tasting notes it was something that had never been done before. That was what originally brought attention to my work and started my career in wine, but writing and speaking is what gave my career legs. I still do illustration work, but treat it more as genuine art compared to the more casual line drawings I originally did. Today I mostly draw wall-size art pieces that are interpretations of wine I love. At the same time, some wines are so moving or overwhelming for me when I taste them that words fail me so when I’m trying to record a description of them I’ll draw them in my note-book to bring words to later.

What does it mean to you to be writing for Jancis Robinson MW? 

Jancis has served as a mentor for me. I have a lot of respect for the career she has built and the work she does. Now having access to her global network of wine experts is really incredible. On a wine trip when I first started working with her, I ended up stopping in at a vineyard on a mountain top in the Central Coast of California and emailing Jancis, Julia Harding, and a couple other MWs in Europe in order to problem solve a question I had about how vineyard treatments can impact flavour in wine in a particular way. No one of us had the answer on our own but together we were able to sort out what it was I was seeing within a matter of minutes. Being part of a global network of wine experts all helping each other to build greater understanding and insight in that kind of way is incredible.

You can find out more about Gourmet Traveller Wine magazine here:  http://gourmettravellerwine.com/homepage/

At Home and At Work in Wine Country

At Home & At Work in Wine Country
Seasonal workers settle into the wine community as year-round vineyard staff.

by Elaine Chukan Brown  Instagram: hawk_wakawaka  Twitter: hawk_wakawaka
posted on January 23, 2018

“People with the specific skills needed to do what we do in vineyards in Napa Valley outpace temporary labor that isn’t regularly focused on those tasks.”—Oscar Renteria

The recent fires on California’s North Coast have shone a light on a growing problem for the wine industry: a shortage of affordable housing. The massive increase in wine tourism, as well as an accompanying increase in vacation rentals and second homes in one of the country’s most prestigious destinations has meant a significant increase in the local population. Wine tourism and an influx of wealthy residents have built demand for more service and hospitality workers. As those workers have moved in, it’s become harder for agricultural workers to find homes.

In 2015, Karissa Kruse, who serves as president of the Sonoma County Wine Growers, set out to revamp the group’s mission, focusing on sustainable conditions for the county’s agricultural workers. To better understand the challenges, the group initiated a community study.  They found that key issues included workforce development, education, healthcare, childcare and affordable housing.

“We realized that addressing these issues wasn’t something vintners could tackle on their own,” Kruse says. So SCWG invited political leaders and community groups throughout Sonoma County to help design …

To keep reading this article head on over the the Wine & Spirits Magazine website where it is shared free-for-all. It is also available in the just-released print edition of their February issue. Here’s the direct link to the article:  https://www.wineandspiritsmagazine.com/news/entry/at-home-at-work-in-wine-country