Preparing to Bottle Whites - Part 2

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 if you have any questions or interests.

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Preparing to Bottle Whites - Part 1

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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.

Harvest 2017

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.)