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.