I do not engineer my wines to conform to predefined templates. Instead, I raise them so that they express the variety, the vintage, and the site – their terroir, in short. But that can only happen if the grapes are well farmed and if soils are nurtured to ensure a healthy ecosystem.
All the vineyards are located in the central Willamette Valley, right along the 45th parallel, and all are dry farmed to ensure they root deep for water and nutrients. Cover crops are used to either sequester or consume nitrogen, depending on the needs of the vineyard. Systemic herbicides (like glyphosate) are eschewed entirely, or are in the process of being phased out in favor of better alternatives.
Zena Springs Vineyard
Eola-Amity Hills AVA • Pinot Noir • planted 2000
From 2013 through 2015 I leased and farmed Zena Springs, a gorgeous southeast-facing slope in the heart of the Eola-Amity Hills AVA. Tucked beside the sustainably managed Zena Forest and a conservation easement owned by Willamette University, it's a pastoral place populated by blue heron, turkey vultures, coyotes, and even bobcat.
I farmed the grapes without herbicides or synthetic pesticides and the grapes went into both a vineyard designate wine and the Eola-Amity Hills cuvée.
The lease expired in 2015 and I have embraced new farming opportunities for the coming years.
EOLA-AMITY HILLS AVA • Pinot Noir • planted 2006
The Pinot noir from Zenith forms the backbone of the Eola-Amity Hills bottling and a vineyard designate wine is made as well.
The vast majority of my purchased grapes come from block 9-E, which is Pommard clone planted in 2006. In vintages 2014 and 2015 I also purchased small amount of 115 clone. As of 2016, I have replaced the 115 clone with a very young block of Wadenswil clone Pinot noir.
Zenith is a LIVE-certified vineyard. Soils are marine sedimentary. The gentle, south-facing slopes are cultivated (i.e. plowed) and are never sprayed with herbicides. The compost is built primarily from materials originating on-site.
Willamette Valley AVA • Grüner Veltliner, Syrah, Pinot Noir • Planted 2009
Of the vineyards I work with, Havlin Vineyard is the youngest. Yet thanks to the shallow soils and unique, near-solid Ironstone bedrock that underlies the North Field – both of which strongly limit water capacity, vine vigor, and yields – the wines from this southeast-facing slope already show distinction. (The Grüner veltliner is planted downslope on somewhat deeper soils, which is what Grüner needs.)
The vineyard is sited at the mouth of the Van Duzer Corridor about 6 miles west of the Eola-Amity Hills. It's a cool, windy site, and rows are planted on single hanging wire trellis in an east-west configuration to ensure the strong winds do not snap off shoots.
The site is LIVE-certified and the vineyard has been dry-farmed since its inception. Oak savanna restoration is designed to encourage native species, particularly the endangered Fender's Blue Butterfly.
WILLAMETTE VALLEY AVA • PINOT NOIR, Pinot Gris, Gamay
I both lease vines and purchase fruit from Jason Hanson and his father Clark. The Hansons farm 11 different grape varieties on their 4th generation family farm and also lease and farm a nearby vineyard.
Aamodt: Own-rooted Pommard clone Pinot Noir was planted in 1988. The Hansons began leasing this block in 2006 after it had been abandoned for many years, and restoring it to production took an insane amount of work. I sub-lease specific rows of Pinot Noir and farm it according to my specifications, which include letting grass grow under the vines. This steeply sloping vineyard includes both deep loam and sandier alluvial soil.
Hanson: The Hansons farm 11 different varieties on their home vineyard; from here I sub-lease and purchase Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, and Gamay planted from 2006 through 2010. Over thousands of years, floods from adjacent Butte Creek have washed away the deep loam soils common on the Willamette Valley floor, leaving behind heavy but nutrient-poor clay that naturally limits vigor.
The Central Willamette Valley
Of the three major soil types that dominate the central Willamette Valley, Franchere sources our grapes primarily from vineyards sited on uplifted marine sediments. These silt loams are themselves diverse, with a range of densities and structures, and beneath the shallow topsoils we find still more interest: near-solid ironstone on one site, a dense chalky layer on another. The vines struggle to break through these sub-horizons.
It's almost impossible to mention the central Willamette Valley without mentioning the Van Duzer Corridor, the gap in the Coast Range from whence rushes cool ocean air. Thanks to these winds, it's not uncommon for fruit to be harvested a full week later than in the northern part of the valley, and they are key to giving our area's wines a lifted elegance.
The winds are fiercer still west of the AVA, the mesoclimates cooler, and many growers toward Perrydale must orient their vines on an east-west axis, lest the winds snap shoots on the wires. The winds here are positively Provençal.
The central Willamette Valley is a grape grower's paradise, and while the Burgundian varieties prevail, varieties such as gamay, grüner veltliner, blaufrankish, and syrah also thrive here.