Probably a better look to take things in stride and let them be, but I want to share our first press mention! Follow the link below to read about the Alt Wine Fest and our participation. The Oregon Wine Press highlighted our 2017 Grenache Blanc as a particular highlight amongst the over 100 wines presented. We’re honored that it was well received. The festival was a lot of fun - but the ‘highlight wine’ can still be yours ;)
I can’t say we’re all done - in fact we’ve still got three lots in primary fermentation. But I can say that Harvest 2018 is at the bottom of the downward slope. I’ll try to give you a summary of what has been a very exciting vintage, without getting too geeky. You’ll have to forgive me though, I get really excited about this kind of thing.
Harvest started slightly later than last year for us, but it’s hard to know year over year as we sadly did not take fruit from Wirtz Vineyard this year, which was our first pick last year. It’s a bit of a long story, but suffice to say old vineyards with mostly white grapes and not very efficient spacing are a hard business case to make. Not for us necessarily - we would have loved to get that fruit, but the vineyard is up for sale and a bit in limbo. It’s a bit sad to come face-to-face with the economics of it versus the heritage, so I am hoping for good things for that amazing piece of land - we’ll try to keep tabs on what happens.
But we got in our first load of pinot noir on 9/30 for a miniscule batch of rosé. It continues to ferment even still, slow and cool. The flavors are great, the color is quite intense, but we are excited about it - although there won’t be nearly enough!!
A few days later we picked our pinot noir out of different blocks for our red wine. The fruit was nice and had great flavors. We fermented it in several batches so we could see how the different clones we purchased this year behave - namely 777 and 115. I won’t go into clonal differences here, but if you ever want to go down a fascinating rabbit hole Pinot clones and their introduction to Oregon is a great topic to explore. We did some whole cluster and are excited for the results. The acid this vintage was awesome, as well as the flavor development. It may have taken a bit longer for full ripeness than the last few years, but these grapes held on to the elements we wanted.
Next came the Grenache Blanc and wow was it reminiscent of last year - a bit riper in it’s sugar levels, which I think is a good thing. We treated it very similar to last year, although are completing the fermentation as an entire lot in a stainless steel tank so we can have a bit more temperature control and consistency. This lot too is still ticking through it’s sugar nearly two months later, but it has gone very smooth and is retaining all the aromatics we hope for. Soon enough we’ll get it racked into barrels and see how much further it needs for malolactic. We are in no rush with this delicate wine - want to make sure we let it bring out it’s beauty through it’s inherent subtlety.
And then we waited, and waited. The syrah was just taking it’s own time. In fact it was taking so long I started to worry a bit if it would get ripe this year, and I started to field calls about the lack of trucks coming up the valley this late in harvest to bring the fruit safely to the winery. I wasn’t sure what to expect. When we finally got things sorted and the fruit arrived I was thrilled. Small berries, intense savory aspects but beautiful blue fruit flavors, and great acidity. It looked amazing coming out of the field, and it has fermented like a dream. I am very excited about how the syrah is doing, and can’t wait to tuck it into barrel and let it start developing. In fact we press tomorrow, and get to clean the press for the last time. It’s fun to see the lone fermentation bin containing this syrah sitting in the cellar that had seen over 75 bins come through this year.
Overall this was a good year, but the thing across the board I am most excited about was the balance between ripeness in the sugars, flavors, skins, etc and the retention of acid. We use fruit throughout the state or Oregon and this held true for all of our lots. We have a long way to go before any of these wines will be available, but this harvest is almost in the bag, and I am a happy camper.
Maybe way overdue, maybe just indicative of trying to keep a blog up during harvest. Either way I’m happy to announce the bottling of our 2017 Willamette Valley PInot Noir. This is a blend of some barrels of our Wirtz Vineyard Pinot with some barrels of a few other vineyards near the winery, including Champoeg right next door. We were aiming for a more every day wine that shows the vintage, is true to Willamette Valley character, and is fun to drink. We think we nailed it, but are happy to get you a few bottles for you to decide. It shows pretty bright red fruit, some watermelon honestly, certainly cherry, a bit of tasty herbaciousness, and has good taught acidity. We find it incredibly easy to drink.
You’ll see (as soon as I get the bottle shots done and up on the site) that we put this in a screwcap and inverted our typical label colors. We want this wine to stand out as unique from our more focused lineup, but still entirely true to our goals. If you are interested in trying it send me an email and I’ll get it right out to you.
It is time to empty the barrels in anticipation of 2018 harvest. Lucky for us we have several barrels currently filled with red wine, and that means we need to get them into bottle and soon enough out for your consumption. Since we've settled on blends and are moving things into the final stages, I want to let you know what is ready and headed into it's long term, glass bottle, home.
First up on the bottling line will be our 2017 Syrah from Steelhead Run Vineyard in Applegate Valley. We love this vineyard, and love this wine. The vineyard is towards the west end of this rather small AVA, and tucked right up in the flood plains of the Applegate River. Farmed by Ron and Laurie Burley, the vineyard is getting more and more attention for the lovely wines produced from several wineries throughout Oregon. In particular the viognier and syrah are continuing to impress, but I've also loved examples of the Merlot I have tasted out of this vineyard. It is a unique site in it's proximity to the river, and endless amounts of gravel that the vines struggle through to produce concentrated fruit. The vineyard is LIVE certified and Salmon Safe, so you can trust it is being raised in a healthful way for you and for the environment it sits in.
In 2017 there were several fires in this area that not infrequently filled the vineyard with a difficult, smoky, haze. I think you will find that smoke had some impact on many of the Southern Oregon wines in 2017, and I won't say that I don't detect a hint of smokiness in this wine. Thank the stars we're dealing with syrah here, and as it is not at all overwhelming or tipping the wine out of balance, I find it a pleasant aspect.
The grapes were picked on 10/12/17 and delivered up to us in a refrigerated truck. We had them throw in a couple hundred pounds of viognier, and if you care to track clones, we ended up with primarily 383 with some Hermitage and 470 to boot. The fruit was really clean and required minimal hand sorting, before we destemmed it completely into two fermentation bins - 1 with the viognier, and the other pure syrah. This wine took a minute to kick off, the weather had cooled down and it was content to sit in it's sugar saturated state for a few days. However when it did initiate it fermented in a very straight line, through what I would call it's tutti-fruiti stage and straight into dryness. The savory, peppery, smokey aspects were there from the start and continue to dominate this wine. After integrating in neutral oak for most of a year, I really think this wine brings interest and pleasure.
In the end everything went into the blend, the wine with no viognier needed a lift, and the wine with the viognier was too floral and light. Together they are just what we were aiming for. I hope you will find a syrah that is truly cool climate, restrained, refreshing, savory, a hint meaty, and really versatile. We'll send a note when it is ready to be released, but for now get your early Winter stews and braises planned, because this will fit perfectly.
Next post we'll talk Pinot!!
We will be participating in The Great White Wine Festival at Left Coast Estate in Rickreal. It's gonna be a blast and considering our current situation (you know, first vintage making it so we only have white wines in bottle) a perfect opportunity for us to fit right in. I find that I can make very good arguments that there is no 'season' for a given wine, just an opportunity. But the heat this week certainly lends itself towards stocking up on white wines to enjoy between now and Halloween. That's a long time, you should stock up well.
There are a couple of things you can participate in as a part of this festival. First up, Friday night July 13th is the Winemaker's Dinner. The dinner consist of multiple courses made by the chef at Left Coast, served alongside wines handpicked by the participating wineries. This dinner is not limited to white wines and will be an amazing and delicious summer evening at a beautiful property. Seating is limited, so if you are wanting to attend make your reservation now. Tickets are $70, but my mailing list can purchase tickets for $60. You will need a code, which is on it's way to existing members. If you aren't a part of the mailing list sign up below and I'll make sure you get it. Reservations can be made by sending a mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or calling them directly at (503)831-4916.
Saturday July 14th the festival runs from 12:00 - 7:00. Designed to highlight some of Oregon's outstanding and unique white wines, the festival features tastings, glass pours, live music, and lots of outdoor games and activities. Even prizes I've heard. Admission is $25, but you get into the festival, tasting tickets, game tickets, and a GoVino tasting glass to keep. The festival will be held on a big lawn under some gorgeous old oaks, and is family friendly - bring the kids. I have a very good discount (as in complimentary tickets) for my mailing list on this event too, so same as above - you should have it in your inbox or sign up below and I'll make sure you get it.
So we hope you are enjoying your summer. As always we're happy to get you some white wines to accompany that enjoyment. Call or email and we'll get them right out to you. And we hope to see you in Rickreal in a couple of weeks. Feel free to reach out if you have any questions.
Since last posting we have bottled our 2017 whites, received our liquor license, and have finally become an organization that has products to sale! It is in no way unique to my experience, but making wine is an exercise in patience and inevitably takes a long time to get to market. The journey of planning, financing, sourcing good fruit, and making/aging the wine has been incredible, but I am beyond thrilled to now be at the stage where the realized product gets to be put out into the world.
So we now enter a stage where we get to go out and experience the ups and downs of essentially being a door-to-door salesman. The response has been great, and I remain excited about both 2017 white wines.
I want to let everyone know about a couple of opportunities to come out and experience Oregon wine culture, as well as taste these beautiful wines. FIrst up, Friday May 4, we will be participating in the Downtown Albany Wine Walk in Albany, OR. From 4-8 you can walk around beautiful downtown Albany, visiting local businesses and the wineries that have been paired with them. Admission, a glass, and your first 5 tastes will cost you $15, and additional tastes can be purchased for $1. We will be at Revolution Academy of Dance, at 305 W 1st Ave and will have both of our released wines available for tasting and purchasing. This night only we will be doing 15% off purchases of 6 bottles or more. In that spirit, if you are not able to attend but would like to purchase 6 bottles this week, we will extend the same discount!
Memorial Day Weekend is a big event for Willamette Valley wineries, and we are going to participate. Saturday and Sunday of that weekend we will be pouring our wines at our production home, Lady Hill Winery, at 8400 Champoeg Rd NE in St. Paul, OR. If you have never visited, it is a stunning place, located on a cooperative, working farm, and offers the opportunity to taste from a number of wineries with a wide variety of styles. Come out and enjoy a beautiful afternoon, you are sure to find something that you like.
So we are busy getting our wines out into the world, confirming our farming contracts for 2018, and trying to soak up the patches of sun that are starting to peak out more frequently. Thank you for your responses to our wines so far, we look forward to what comes next!
Second up on the bottling line will be our 2017 Grenache Blanc from Southern Oregon's beautiful Applegate Valley. We are incredibly excited about this wine as it is developing and can not wait to share it with you. The fruit comes out of Eevee's Vineyard, farmed by Herb Quady of Quady North. Herb is a real leader in the Southern Oregon wine region, and we could not be happier with the fruit coming off his vineyard. He is also a talented winemaker, making great wines under his own label, and we appreciated the insight he provided on this specific lot and how it has performed in past vintages.
There is not a lot of Grenache Blanc planted in Oregon, and the few that are made annually have proven to develop an almost cult like following. An important piece of Southern Rhone blends in France, Grenache Blanc is rarely bottled on it's own outside of the U.S. Even in the U.S. it is a fairly recent occurence, although its popularity has been growing in Paso Robles and Santa Ynez/Santa Barbara areas over the last decade. These bottlings are what first peaked our interest, and certainly sent us searching to see what could be done with this variety in Oregon.
The fruit was picked on 10/02/17 and brought up to us on a refrigerated truck. It looked beautiful and had great flavors. We did a light sorting and put the fruit directly into the press. The juice was delicious with a very prominent mandarin orange note. After a day of settling the numbers came in at 19.4 brix, and a pH of 3.16. The juice went into neutral oak barrels to ferment. The fermentation went beautifully, without innoculation. It was slow and cool which allowed us to retain the delicate aromas and flavors that this wine produced. The barrel fermentation meant that we had little choice but to allow for malolactic fermentation to occur, but we are so glad that it did. The wood exposure and long secondary fermentation really rounded this rather light wine out and combined with the relatively low final alcohol content gives it a really delicious and unique texture. The final wine certainly retains beautiful acidity and tasty citrus flavors, but it hints at the richness that this grape often produces. We like to think of it as a great middle road between the clean acidity we often get from Riesling in Oregon and the beautiful unctuousness we get in Chardonnay. What excites us the most is how obviously well this wine will fit with a wide variety of food and settings. Add in that this wine was grown in LIVE certified vineyard, and produced with absolutely no additives (there will be a small sulfur addition before bottling) and we are quite proud of this wine. Unique, delicious, interesting, natural, of all our 2017's we might be the most excited about this Grenache Blanc.
We are bottling this in early March and will release it shortly after, as soon as it is ready and rested from the bottling process. Sign up for our newsletter to be notified of release, or in the meantime feel free to e-mail us email@example.com if you have any questions or interests.
As we prepare to bottle our two white wine offerings for 2017 I thought I should take a minute to give a bit more information about each of them. As our overarching, if lofty, ethos is to craft wines that are indicative of Oregon's unique environment, land, and culture we aim for our whites to highlight inviting aromatics, retain the acidity that our vineyards are capable of, and fit in to a variety of settings. We find Oregon to be laid back, easy, friendly, but also inspired by quality and committed to uniqueness. If we craft wine that is by no means a trophy piece, but rather something that you feel enhances your connections with people and place then we have accomplished what we set out to do.
Our first white wine offering is the 2017 Gentil d'Oregon, a white field blend from Wirtz Vineyard in the Northern Willamette Valley. This vineyard is really old by Oregon modern viticulture standards. It's first plantings were in the late 1960's, and while additional plots have been planted since, it's age and non-irrigated status are what draws us to this special place. Access to vines at that time was certainly less standardized than it is in today's industry - clonal material was less available and less understood, for example. As such there is a very fascinating mix of Alsace white varieties in the vineyard, and many misplantings, meaning that a random Pinot Noir vine in the middle of a row of Sylvaner is not uncommon. There are several large plots of beautiful old Pinot Gris, and a signifcant section of Gewurtzraminer, and in this vintage the fruit on both was beautiful and ripened earliest. We knew that we wanted to pick and co-ferment a batch of these white wine grapes all together. As initial ripeness ensued it was obvious that the Gris and Gewurtz were ahead and developing great flavors. We went forward with about 65% Pinot Gris, 25% Gewurtzraminer, and 8% Sylvaner. Due to the misplantings we also picked some Riesling, Muscat, and Pinot Noir as we went down the rows.
We harvested on 9/29 under a little bit of drizzle (it had been dry for several days prior), and pressed the fruit whole cluster in one light pressing. The combined juice came in at 20.5 brix, and a pH of 3.21 after it settled a bit. We racked it into 65% stainless steel, and 35% used French oak and it let it begin fermentation spontaneously. With this wine we did end up inoculating part way through fermentation, but have been very happy with the results - a slow and steady fermentation completed in about a month.
After primary fermentation we racked the wine once more to a large stainless tank, where it has settled (with no fining), gone through cold stabilization, and proceeded with malolactic fermentation. While a wine of this character would possibly have malolactic halted with a large sulfur addition, we did not want to do that. The combination of the racing acidity in the initial fruit, and the elevage in stainless have maintained a beautiful and linear acidity that we are really happy with.
I tend to shy away from precise tasting notes, I think the overall experience in a given wine is more valuable than any interest a specific note might peak. Or maybe I'm just terrible at deciphering a specific variety of apple over another, or don't care if there is a hint of marzipan. That said, I do like to have an idea about a character of a wine before I want to spend my dollars on it, so here goes. From the grapes in the vineyard to the finished product this wine had a distinct Fall aspect to it - apples, warm spiciness, almost like a dry cider quality. As it settles down all of this is on a rather light frame, which gives it these beautiful aromatics but a refreshing and drinkable quality. Mid-palate it heads in a savory direction but ends really clean and long due to its very linear acidity. We are thrilled with how this wine turned out. It feels versatile, interesting, reminiscent of Alsace and Oregon wines before it. We are bottling early March so after a bit of resting we'll make an announcement of its availability. In the meantime please don't hesitate to reach out with any questions or inquiries. We'll introduce the 2017 Applegate Valley Grenache Blanc in a post here soon.
Our first harvest as Sis and Mae Wine Co. is well underway. We could not be more excited about the fruit and the vineyards we are working with this year. They all have a story and we are honored to be another paragraph in that story. Over time we will further highlight the vineyards as it is an integral piece to what we strive for here at Sis and Mae, to understand the people and places that make Oregon what it is.
Further to that I want to comment on why we highlight being minimally interventionist in the cellar. We spend much of the year tracking down and developing relationships with the farmers who will provide us with grapes. If our goal is to create wines that truly show the natural and cultural influences of our own environment, it is of paramount importance to us that the fruit we work with stand up to that tall order. We look for sustainable or organic farms, strong preference towards non-irrigated, and love if we can find healthy vineyards with some significant age.
The actual picking of those grapes is a story for another day (maybe, kind of a boring story, but not a boring job). When the grapes come in we do a careful sorting, crush or press immediately, and then let them sit in order to initiate fermentation spontaneously. There are certainly pros and cons, even controversy to some extent, to 'native' fermentation. It is our philosophy that it is well worth the uniqueness we find in spontaneously fermented wines to encourage this to happen. This allows the yeasts from the vineyard and winery to kick off the fermentation and contribute their interesting and unique elements to the wine as it develops. That said, it is almost a certainty that cultivated yeasts will be responsible for the finishing of our ferments, so as we approach the midway point we are not afraid to give our wines a safe and healthy boost across the finish line.
We follow this philosophy further with minimal sulfites, no additional chemical additions, and restraint from fining or filtering whenever possible. We want our wines to express their sense of place as much as possible, while staying drinkable and delicious, and feel the best way to do this is to stay as out of their way as we can. If it's possible to have an approach without a dogma, that is what we try to do.
So that is where we are at today, fruit is in, ferments are completing, and we are standing by making sure things go as planned as possible (ha, as if nature doesn't have it's own course.)