And Plans are made to change

Walla Walla Pinot Gris grapes.

Walla Walla Pinot Gris grapes.

Walla Walla Dolchetto grapes.

Walla Walla Dolchetto grapes.

I would think everyone has heard “Life is what happens while we are busy making plans” by now; that is how Crush 2014 is starting for us.  Friday morning the flatbed truck that was scheduled back in January, repeating the order from the previous year, was interpreted as a box truck by the rental company!  I took my midterm, blithely unaware of this hiccup, and discovered my afternoon wasn’t going to be booked after all.  It frustrated me to know the Sauvignon Blanc grapes were hanging, ready and ripe for us to begin crush as we had planned.  Texting my husband with requests for him to see if his employer had a truck or trailer we could borrow, texting the wine maker, Jason, with my different ideas and questions probably didn’t make either one of them happy with me as both were busy.  Thankfully, Jason was able to redeem the afternoon – we took samples from the local vineyards!

Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir, Dolchetto, and Cabernet Sauvignon grape samples.

Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir, Dolchetto, and Cabernet Sauvignon grape samples.

Juice samples ready to be tested for Brix, TA and pH.

Juice samples ready to be tested for Brix, TA and pH.

Picking four samples from three vineyards we headed back to the Locati Farm where Locati Cellar wines are made.  Crushing the sample bags, running acid and pH levels.  When we discovered the densitometer had grown legs we had to press as much juice from each of the sample bags as we could to use the hydrometer to get Brix.  Note to self, always get a sample large enough to use a hydrometer!  Locally the acid levels were running high and Brix were still too low, so we know we aren’t going to have more than one grape to crush at a time right now.

Saturday morning we were able to borrow a trailer to bring the bins to Sagemoor

Bins delivered to Sagemoor Vineyards, now it is time to go play for a while.

Bins delivered to Sagemoor Vineyards, now it is time to go play for a while.

Vineyards to be retrieved Monday mid-morning.  Being so close to Red Mountain AVA the three of us decided to spend some time at the local wineries exploring the Red Mountain AVA fruit at the source.  Five wineries, some lunch and lots of craziness ensued as we visited with each proprietor or staff member and sipped the offerings.  From a very new, young couple with the zeal and energy to push their dreams forward to some of the oldest vineyards on the southwest facing slope being made into wine by those responsible for planting them.  It was a good learning decision; it was a great experience.  We will have to make time to visit a few wineries we didn’t have time for this time.

Sunrise as we head into the vineyard in search of Syrah.

Sunrise as we head into the vineyard in search of Syrah.

Sunday morning, bright and early, a few of us headed into a small vineyard to thin fruit.  This entails removing the majority of the grapes from the vineyard to give the remaining fruit time to really ripen and hand the fruit.

It was several hours with four of us working.  Then it was time to clean and move equipment at the Lagana crush pad so we are really ready for the fruit.  Now we pronounce ourselves ‘ready’ for fruit; now we expect the flatbed trailer to show up this morning so we can bring back our fruit to press.  Monday will not start before dawn, but it will certainly be a late night.

Cheers!

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First grapes for 2014 are coming in for Lagana Cellars

Sagemoor Sauvignon Blanc slated to be picked Saturday, August 30th!

Sagemoor Sauvignon Blanc slated to be picked Saturday, August 30th!

This afternoon we deliver bins to Sagemoor Vineyards to have Sauvignon Blanc grapes picked on Saturday.  Labor Day weekend won’t be a kick-backed weekend after all.  This morning I had an exam and tentative plans to visit family for the weekend – not going to happen and that is quite all right.  We will be processing the Sauv Blanc later in the weekend for Lagana Cellars.

There have been Facebook posts from various Walla Walla wineries picking and processing fruit.  College Cellars pressed some early Riesling, also from Sagemoor Vineyards, for a sparkling wine.  Muscot Ottonel will soon follow from Schnorr Vineyard, if you have been reading my posts, that is the first vineyard I picked from last year.  (You can read about it here.)

College Cellars first year students preparing equipment for harvest.

College Cellars first year students preparing equipment for harvest.

Forklift class practice; watching them brings memories of last year's class to mind.

Forklift class practice; watching them brings memories of last year’s class to mind.

Putting up the bird netting a couple of weeks ago I met a few of this year’s first-year students.  Chris was hosing out bins while Matt (not pictured) was waiting his turn to practise on the forklift.  There is nothing like jumping into the program at the very beginning of Harvest.  There is so much to learn, so many things to observe, do and experience that might not make lots of sense at first, but it helps bring home many of the lectures later on.

With due respect for those suffering losses from the Northern California earthquake earlier this week, drought issues throughout the state and the severe bud damage in Northeast, this is shaping up to be another fabulous harvest in the Pacific Northwest!

Cheers!

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Bottling 2012 Reds

I was in class for the early part of the day, these photos were taken during lunch as all hands were required when the line was running.

First thing in the morning the bottling truck pulls up to get set up and cleaners run through the machine in preparation for bottling.

First thing in the morning the bottling truck pulls up to get set up and cleaners run through the machine in preparation for bottling.

Bottles are loaded at the front end of the line, actually at the back right of the trailer.

Bottles are loaded at the front end of the line, actually at the back right of the trailer.

Automation is fantastic - bottles are filled to the precise level as they progress along the bottling line.

Automation is fantastic – bottles are filled to the precise level as they progress along the bottling line.

In this case we were using all screw caps and people were needed to place them on the bottles as they passed by so the machine could secure them to the bottle with an impermeable seal. Some machines can place the caps on as well.

In this case we were using all screw caps and people were needed to place them on the bottles as they passed by so the machine could secure them to the bottle.

Looking into the back of the trailer: the beginning of the bottling line is at the right, bottles are cased and sealed before coming down the conveyor for stacking.

Looking into the back of the trailer: the beginning of the bottling line is at the right, bottles are cased and sealed before coming down the conveyor for stacking.

Each box comes down to be labeled with a front label of the wine being bottles and stacked on pallets.

Each box comes down to be labeled with a front label of the wine being bottles and stacked on pallets.From tanks to bottles, the 2012 reds:

From tanks....

From tanks….

...to cases.

…to cases.

 

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Prep for bottling

In anticipation of bottling Monday we have been racking wine from barrels into tanks, and then filtering from tank to tank.  Cleaning is the key, clean tanks, clean barrels, clean all of the equipment necessary to move the wine, and then reclean during and after filtering.  The smell of wine permeates the air as the residue from the bottom of the barrels drains away: Sangiovese, Barbera, and a barrel of Cab Sauv, delightful.  Enjoy your day, after class I will be bottling today. Cheers!

Thoroughly cleaned tanks on the crush pad, ready for wine.

Thoroughly cleaned tanks on the crush pad, ready for wine.

Started late, so night time draining of barrels.

Started late, so night time draining of barrels.

Having the right tools to help clean the barrels is nice, this sprays water throughout the inside of the barrel.

Having the right tools to help clean the barrels is nice, this sprays water throughout the inside of the barrel.

Wine coming into the filter.  By filtering we minimize anything that would detract from the experience of enjoying the wine.

Wine coming into the filter. By filtering we minimize anything that would detract from the experience of enjoying the wine.

 

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Harvest!

Columbia Valley AVA, touring the vineyards in preparation of harvest.

Columbia Valley AVA, touring the vineyards in preparation of harvest.

It’s back and I am excited!  Two weeks ago I began three weeks of classroom preparation to be put into practice during this Fall’s Harvest Internship.  Last year I helped at a couple of small local wineries, this year I will be doing my internship with the same wine maker at those two wineries!  We toured the vineyards where the grapes are sourced during July and August, we are prepping for bottling 2012’s reds to make room for this year’s wines.  The benefits for me over last year is that there is a new class of first year’s that will be helping at College Cellars during Crush and I will to not be taking other classes this Fall.

Pinot Gris in early August; already tasting great!

Pinot Gris in early August; already tasting great!

Bird nets; it is that time too.  A mix of second and first year students, me included, brought out the nets, spread them over the rows and clipped them during this last two weeks.  Grapes in – birds out, hopefully to remain so.

Barbera grapes mid-August in Walla Walla.

Barbera grapes mid-August in Walla Walla.

 

 

 

 

 

Cheers!

 

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Rounding out our Carlton Tastings

The day was fast getting away from us and it was the last tasting day we had in Oregon this trip – how to make the best of it in the hour before bottles were gassed and doors locked.  There is a building just off of Main Street that houses three wineries – not the Winemakers Studio, but a compact facility that must have been built for this purpose.  In the interest of expedience, this seemed like the best bet.

Troon Vineyard, their 'Insomnia Dessert Wine' - but Vermentino is their best known wine.

Troon Vineyard, their ‘Insomnia Dessert Wine’ – but Vermentino is their best known wine.

Troon Vineyard is the most southern of the suites where Meg poured for us.  Established in 1972 in Grant’s Pass – apparently we missed this winery on our early journey through Gold Hill and Grant’s Pass as well – it has a long history of growing grapes sustainably, being both L.I.V.E. and Salmon Safe certified.  There are a number of different varietals planted with more Zinfandel than most others due to the founder’s preference for this particular wine.  We enjoyed a 2013 Vermentino (this was the first vineyard to grow Vermentino in Oregon), a 2013 ‘Jeanie in the Bottle’ which tasted like a fruit salad, and a few reds.  In fact, after focusing so much on Pinot Noir for three days this was a treat, enough to make me savor each sip despite my awareness of the time.

Still basically in rush mode we made the short trek from one suite to the next, to Kramer Vineyards.  I hate to have customers come into the tasting room in a hurry, so I made a concerted effort to put all of my attention in the moment – it was very worth it!  Sarah, a nurse most of the week, was pouring for us.  She started us with a 2013 sparkling Rose’ of Pinot Noir called ‘Celebrate’.  There is also a Celebrate Pinot Gris and Muller-Thurgau, both sparkling; all terrific.  Still wines being poured were the 2012 Chardonnay, 2012 Muller-Thurgau and 2011 Barbera from the Horse Heaven Hills – a Washington AVA.  But the best part of this stop was meeting second generation winemaker Kim Kramer; her mother was the first winemaker in this 30 year venture.  We spent quite a bit of time discussing viticulture, wine making and her dedication to growing and distributing the sparkling wines produced by Kramer Vineyards, some of the most decorated Oregon sparkling wines.  Reading further on their website, it seems Kim’s mother Trudy began her wine making career much as I have begun my dabbling, with fruit and flowers. Excellent wines, excellent conversation – so much so, I forgot to take pictures!

Lachini Vineyards, Carlton, Oregon tasting room menu board.

Lachini Vineyards, Carlton, Oregon tasting room menu board.

We tentatively opened the Lachini Vineyards tasting room at the north end of the building where Aubrey graciously invited us to taste despite our last-minute appearance.  The owners are from the Sonoma Coast; the 45 acre vineyard in the Chehalum AVA focuses on Dijon, especially Pommard, Pinot Noir clones, Chardonnay clones and eight rows of Muscat Canelli.  We fairly flew through their 12 Pinot Gris, ’13 Rose’ and the few PN they had to offer with minimal notes.  One of the Pinot wines is sourced from the Sonoma Coast; it is a 1-2 day drive to transport the whole fruit to Newburg.  The wines were mildly smokey with some leather and nicely developed acid structure.  The web site gave me much more detail into the philosophy of the owners and their commitment to using biodynamic means to encourage sustainable growth in their vineyards.  They are L.I.V.E. certified and are working to have their organic certification – I am not sure if they are actually working toward the Demeter Biodynamic certification of their wine as well.  Finishing with Pinot Noir seemed appropriate.

We packed our purchases in the back seat and drove back to tour trailer.  After a short walk we ate dinner and cleaned up, preparing as much as possible for the morning’s move: stowing wine, removing extra packaging to the recycle bin, and gathering linens into the laundry basket.  Each of us has our chores and we are proficient at breaking camp quickly.  Being as mobile as we are, this is a necessity or we would spend most of our time pulling stakes up and down so to speak.  It was a fantastic journey through Oregon!  Our palates are prepared for further, more directed, tastings on our next trip south.  Thankfully, we live close enough to the state line that we imbibe in Oregon wines frequently, but from the east side of the state rather than the west where we vacationed.

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Folin Cellars Tasting Room in Carlton, Oregon

Wondering west on Main Street in Carlton we recognized the name of a winery that we had contemplated visiting when we drove from Crater Lake via Gold Hill (Rogue Valley AVA) to Smith River Gorge on our way to the Pacific Ocean, Folin Cellars.  Towing a trailer and seeing a directional sign for the winery a couple of miles down a narrow road we didn’t trust that we could turn ourselves around simply enough so passed it by, among others.  It would have been terrific to see the vineyards and gravity flow winery, but once missed, second time visited.

Lisa poured for us.  She told us about what was there: 25 acres in “Sam’s Valley” planted to grapes we are quite familiar with (tempranillo, viognier, syrah, mourvedre, granache, and petite sirah) besides the winery and tasting room.  Although there is a 2011 Pinot Noir listed on their wines for sale, we didn’t taste Pinot Noir.  It was fun and we were happy to taste grapes we are familiar with grown in Oregon and interpreted by an Oregon-raised winemaker.

Folin Cellars 2010 Petit Sirah, all closures used are glass caps.

Folin Cellars 2010 Petit Sirah, all closures used are glass caps.

Glass closures – only glass closures are used to seal these wines into their bottles.  I am a fan of glass closures for my fruit wines because we can dish-wash them, sterilize them in boiled water (with the bottles, same as when I can fruit to store) and reuse them for the wines we share with family – these aren’t wines that will be kept for five – ten or more years.  Lisa was very gracious and provided us with a handful of closures.  Our family thanks you as there are more bottles available to spread around.

The wines, as noted above and a blend, are well crafted with attention to detail and a gentle hand in the winery.  Really wished we would’ve been bolder several days before and taken the county road to Folin Cellars and Sam’s Valley Vineyard.  The 2013 Viognier was crisp and acidic, as I like them, with pear, lychee and honeydew melon noted.  2010 Tempranillo was full of currants and dark stone fruits with baking spices – always a favorite!  A 2010 Petite Sirah was earthy with black fruits and a subtle pepper on the lingering finish (we brought one home with us).  The blend is described as a ‘dyslexic GSM’ – a smooth, rich but by no means reticent wine.

Cheers!

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Ken Wright Tasting Room, Carlton, OR

We had lunch at The Horse Radish, a cute restaurant on West Main Street (the street isn’t long enough to worry about directions).  Nourished and relaxed, we began our walk going east on Main St.  Within a block we were at the old Carlton train depot, totally renovated and charming in its new life as the tasting room for Ken Wright Cellars.  This was another of the wineries that came very highly recommended as we had meandered through Oregon.

Inside we were to experience the most helpful education about Oregon Pinot Noir!  Unfortunately our very helpful tutor’s name didn’t make it onto my tasting notes, which is more the pity as she deserves much credit for our embracing the grape more completely.  Thank you, should you eventually read this!

Four glasses with an ounce of 2007 Pinot Noir each from four different vineyards were poured.  She took us through each wine discussing the soil structure, the climate relative to location: marine influence (remember the Van Druze from an earlier post?) vs. none, elevation and aspect.  As we tasted the spice and dark fruit leather in the Freedom Hill PN of the Eola-Amity AVA, the brighter red fruit and smooth but acidic finish of the Savoya PN, onto the earth Meredith Mitchell PN, these middle two from the Yamhill-Carlton AVA, and the Canary Hill PN with its moderate nose and palate back into the Eola-Amity AVA.  Two were volcanic based soils and two were sedimentary based, one of each in the two AVA’s mentioned.  To have this opportunity was incredible!  Clones are very prominently discussed, soils and climates are explained, but until this experience it wasn’t clicking how each part of the puzzle fit together with this grape.  There is no problem understanding terroir, clone differences, and wine making practices in the general sense, but to have the ability to see them all in action in a grape we were struggling to grasp was fabulous.  Our biggest regret of the trip is not having the storage at home for the half case of Ken Wright Wine we would have had to purchase while there.

My partner-in-wine appreciated different wines than I did here, but we were both intrigued with the clarity that came with this lesson.  On a return trip through Carlton we will return to have a go at more of their wines and bring home some of these highly regarded, well decorated wines.

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Anne Amie Vineyards, Carlton, Oregon

Anne Amie Vineyard in the Yamhill-Carlton AVA of Oregon from outside the tasting room.

Anne Amie Vineyard in the Yamhill-Carlton AVA of Oregon from outside the tasting room.

We had heard nothing but good about Anne Amie Vineyard, there was no doubt we were headed there as soon as practical, like right from Stoller Vineyard and Winery.  Climbing the hill to the tasting room, passing the vineyards, was beautiful,  I wished for a nicer day to spend some of it outside.  Alas, we were between the Coast Range Mountains and the Cascade Mountains, not likely in late June.

The tasting room is called Chateau Benoit after the previous winery at that site sold in 1999 to the owner of Anne Amie.  A large, open French farmhouse feel with simple curtains beside the west-facing, vineyard-side, windows.  A brick hearth and long tables with bench seating through the center of the space.  Cheerful gold accent walls, stylized portrait and landscape paintings, gilt mirrors, but mostly wood with white provide the backdrop for tasting these wines.  The original vineyards were planted in 1979, used in the production of the Chateau Benoit wines and have now been expanded to accommodate the production of Anne Amie wines.  Another vineyard, Twelve Oaks Estate is on Chehalem Mountain, relatively steep terrain.  All are LIVE and Salmon Safe certified vineyards.

We were treated to three Pinot Noirs: a Double Gold (Oregon Wine Awards) ‘Best of the Best’ award winning 2011 Winemakers select with cherries, strawberries and tobacco, 2010 Cube Project PN with spicy nose/palate and a tart finish, and the 2009 Reserve Series L’iris PN with spicy dark fruit scents and plum and pomegranate palate.  The Cube Project is a collaborative effort between wine makers for Anne Amie and two California wineries (Bouchaine and Santa Rita Hills) to explore terroir vs winemaking efforts.  This is a three-year project with each vineyard supplying six tons of grapes picked at the discretion of the winemaker in the region, each winery receives two tons to make wine, when the finished products are compared there should be similarities as well as distinct differences.  There were so many differences in the mouth feel, aromas and palate between these three wines that we were again perplexed as to the definition of ‘Pinot Noir’.  We had to admit we were enjoying all of them; probably easier to process after so many different manifestations of the grape during the last couple of days.

Riesling, Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc and Muller-Thurgau wines book-ended the Pinot Noirs being both dry and dessert wines.  It was another level of exploration of Pinot wines, wonderful people and breathtaking views.

Cheers!

Anne Amie main label.

Anne Amie main label.

The Cube project is a collaboration between Anne Amie, Bouchaine (Napa Valley) and Lincourt Vineyards (St. Rita Hills).

The Cube project is a collaboration between Anne Amie, Bouchaine (Napa Valley) and Lincourt Vineyards (St. Rita Hills).

A reserve Pinot Noir, 2009 L'iris from Anne Amie Vineyards.

A reserve Pinot Noir, 2009 L’iris from Anne Amie Vineyards.

 

 

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Stoller Winery & Vineyard, Dayton, OR

Stoller Family vineyards and winery are at the site of the family's turkey farm that this bronze statue in the winery pays homage to.

Stoller Family vineyards and winery are at the site of the family’s turkey farm that this bronze statue in the winery pays homage to.

On the same hill as Sokol Blosser, Stoller planted their earliest vineyards at the family’s old turkey farm in 1995 beginning with 10 acres of Pinot Noir and 10 acres of Chardonnay.  There are currently 190 acres of vines, primarily these two grapes, planted for estate use.  Devoted to sustainable farming, Stoller is certified LIVE (Low input viticulture and enology), Salmon Safe and LEED Gold, the first facility in North America to be rated so – and it is the whole facility that has this rating!

We arrived and got a preliminary look around the large, open tasting room before a bus load of visitors arrived behind us.  Apparently this tasting room, right beside the production facilities, is just over 18 months new.  Reclaimed wood from a closed Powell’s Book Store provide the giant corner posts for the tasting room.  The Biscuit Ridge fire supplied the ceiling boards.  The views from the tasting room into the vineyard were lovely, even as the clouds crowded together in the sky and the rain pelted everything in sight.  The place is beautiful, but the glass and wood only echoed the noise from the many people moving and talking.

Gerry poured for us; we discovered each of us was in a community college wine program – his, I believe, is the Chemeketa CC for a wine business and marketing.  Fellow students and devotees to wine, we chatted and tasted the wines with as much conversation as the situation allowed.  He is familiar with Walla Walla & our wines, so I look forward to seeing him and his wife when they visit our territory.

The tasting began with Chardonnay.  The first is a stainless fermented, ML-completed Chard with mouthfuls of apple and apricot while the second is oak fermented Chard, a Reserve, with vanilla and apples in a well-rounded wine.  Both were great, my hubby preferred the second while I enjoyed the first.  A Pinot Noir Rose’ was a nose full of rhubarb and strawberries while on the palate rhubarb and ripe peach.

The first Pinot Noir being tasted was from young vines with about eight months on oak creating a bright, light,very subtly spiced red currant and ripe gooseberry wine.  The second 2011 PN, a Reserve, was full of cassis and leather, so very different from the first!  Conversation was limited enough that I wasn’t able to ask questions about the clones or locations within the vineyard.  The tasting was rounded off with a 2011 Tempranillo and 2011 Syrah, each from 1 acre estate blocks.

As we left we remarked that this was another candidate for a repeat visit since the experience was less than we could have hoped for.  Walking to the car, with blissfully no rain falling at that moment there was a posse of horses coming around the edge of the parking lot; the woman in the lead had a white veil on – a bridal party on horseback!  Our departure was none-too-soon, the staff had their hands full that day.

We have already begun planning another visit to Oregon’s wine country – we also have the middle section of Oregon’s HWY 101 to visit – not sure when, but it will happen.

Cheers!

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