No irrigation, no systemic herbicides, hand harvested
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.
While I do not own any vineyards, I farm my blocks at Hanson Vineyards under a lease agreement; prior to that, I farmed Zena Springs under a similar agreement. I purchase the majority of my grapes from trusted farmers, typically under acreage contracts so that I can manage yields correctly and ensure custom farming protocols as needed.
All but one of the vineyards are located in the central Willamette Valley, right along the 45th parallel. All are dry farmed, without exception.
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 Woodburn silt loam and sandier alluvial soil.
Hanson: The Hanson farm is nestled beside Butte Creek on the cool eastern side of the Willamette Valley. Over thousands of years, floods washed away the deep loam soils common on the Willamette Valley floor and deposited an alluvial melange of loam, clay, sand, and gravel. It's an unusual terroir for the Valley, and the wines show bright acids and graceful, gentle textures.
Columbia Gorge AVA • Grüner Veltliner
Acadia is a certified organic vineyard planted high above the Columbia River at 1300' elevation on the slopes of extinct Underwood Mountain. It's the Washington side of the AVA, just a bit northwest of Hood River.
Our newest fruit source is also our first to be sited on volcanic soil. But whereas most volcanic wine growing soils in Oregon are derived from basalt lava flows, the ashy loam at Acadia is derived from pyroclastic flows. The soils seem to impart a strong core of minerality.
The vineyard is sited at the very boundary between the temperate rain forest to the west and the inland desert to the east – this is very apparent in satellite photography. The famous winds of the Columbia Gorge keep disease pressure at bay, which helps facilitate the organic farming program.
The Central Willamette Valley
Of the four 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 and Alsatian varieties prevail, varieties such as Gamay, Grüner veltliner, Blaufrankish, Trousseau, and Syrah also thrive here.