YAMHILL-CARLTON | THE AVA
Officially established as an American Viticultural Area in 2004, the sub-appellation of the Yamhill- Carlton District is located in the northwest corner of Oregon’s Willamette Valley, lying inland approximately 40 miles east of the Pacific Ocean. At one time the site of orchards, nurseries, wheat and livestock farming, grape grower and winemakers first took note of the regions suitability to cool-climate Vitis vinifera farming in 1974 when grapes were first planted within the south-facing bowl contained within a series of horseshoe-shaped eroded hills. The moderate growing conditions have proved excellent for the farming of cool- climate varieties and Yamhill-Carlton is noted for producing excellent Pinot Noir.
SAVANNAH RIDGE | GEOLOGIC ANOMALY
While surveying the district for new ideal viticulture site in 2000, a particular ridge at an elevation of 200 to 400 feet was noted as having great potential. Rather than the undulating hills of the surrounding area, the ridge consisted of one broad face that was naturally landscaped with the coarse grasses and scattered tree growth typically found in savannahs. These areas typically receive seasonal or less-than-average rainfall. Further, core samples revealed an astonishingly consistent soil depth of 30 to 36 inches before meeting the ancient marine sediments that are a key feature of the Yamhill-Carlton district. It is a highly unusual and extremely fortuitous soil depth. Combined with the east to west geographical orientation of the ridge, this feature makes the area markedly different in the quality of grapes at harvest. This unusual happening makes Angela Estate unlike neighboring vineyards where varying soil depth produces uneven ripening, which necessitates the use of some over and under ripe fruit in winemaking. Grapes grown in vineyards on the Savannah Ridge ripen at precisely the same time and are usually harvested in one day.
ANGELA ESTATE VINEYARD | 34 ACRES
The first 21 acres of the Clawson Creek Vineyard were planted in 2006 with Pinot Noir clones 777, Wadenswil and 115. An additional 13 acres were plantedin 2007, totaling 34 acres. Careful soil preparation, specifically designed to nourish the microorganisms located at the layer 30 to 36 inches below ground (where topsoil meets mother rock) – creates the critical component which gives expression to Pinot Noir. Labor-intensive shoot positioning (hand-straightening and pinning of individual shoot) along with exact canopy management ensure that every leaf of the vine is photo-synthetically active. Because of the uniqueness of the Savannah Ridge, the entire vineyard is usually harvested in one day.
The Wadenswil clone dominantly planted on this vineyard produces Pinot Noir with incredible aromatics that exhibit rose petal, tea leaf and lavender top notes. The Dijon 777 and 115 round out the base and middle notes with bright red fruits, soft, plush tannins and balanced with baking spice and pepper.
ABBOTT CLAIM VINEYARD | 16 ACRES
This site is a portion of the original John F. Abbott Donation Land Claim and lies in the middle of Savannah Ridge, a small east-west ridgeline of sedimentary rock just east of Carlton. This is a consistent broad face of land with soil depths of 30 inches to mother rock. Elevation ranges from 400′ to 475′ and the inclination is S-SE. Soils are mostly Wellsdale with some areas of Willakenzie, Melbourne and Peavine. All of them lie atop mother rock of fractured sandstone and siltstone. The planted acreage totals 16 acres. Vines are roughly an equal mix of Pommard clone on Riparia Gloire rootstock, 777 on 101-14 and 115 on both 101-14 and 3309. The vineyard is managed by Mark Gould of Ken Wright Cellars.
As would be expected from a vineyard in the Yamhill-Carlton District the wine is richly colored, savory and complex. Fruits tend to be darker such as plum skin, cassis and black cherry.
FARMING PRACTICES | “BEYOND ORGANIC”
We are totally committed to the next level of quality farming practices that go “beyond organic.” Ken Wright dubbed it “nutrition-based farming”. It emphasizes creating conditions in the soil that not only provide for the plant’s health, but also promote a thriving population of positive microorganisms. This positive population delivers minerals that the vine on its own is unable to uptake and ultimately affects the volume of aroma and flavor in the resulting wine. Continuous testing for plant and soil nutrition gives us the information necessary to develop a personalized farming plan that addresses a particular site’s deficiency.
What makes it “beyond organic?” Rather than simply avoiding the use of a list of unacceptable chemicals, our approach proactively addresses the needs of each vineyard with the aim of getting each site to its optimum nutritional balance point. All of the amendments we use are natural preparations. Because soil is inherently dense, these preparations may take years to get the desired effect as they work their way through the soil profile. It is common for a farming plan to need three years for the results to be realized.
“Our approach is a combination of organic and conventional chemistry,” said vineyard manager, Mark Gould. “We practice responsible diversity. If we can spray less and treat specifically, we can create a healthier property. If we protect the land, it will provide a crop.”
Truly healthy vines have an amazing ability to resist disease, abide adverse weather and perform at a high photo-synthetically active level that promotes true physiological ripeness of the fruit. This ultimately results in incredibly expressive wine.
DR. ARDEN ANDERSEN | BIOLOGICAL FARMING
Dr. Arden Andersen is a medical practitioner, Air Force surgeon, agricultural consultant, lecturer and published author. He has applied his expertise to the field of sustainable agriculture. Dr. Andersen is a world-renowned influence in biological farming and well-versed in the connectedness of soil and plant balance, which leads to plant superiority.
“Fundamentally, what we really have to understand is that all life really is about microbiology,” he says. “If you take care of the microbiology in your gut, they take care of you. The same principle holds true in the soil. If we take care of that probiotic population in the soil, it will then take care of us. Because fundamentally, if we study microbiology and then subsequently biochemistry, what we understand is that those microbes are the ones that are really sequestering nutrients for us, digesting food for us, and then making those things available for our stimulation, whether it be amino acids, trace minerals, vitamins, or whatever that vital nutrient might be.”
Essentially, Dr. Andersen recommends that farmers treat the soil like a digestive system. If you promote healthy bacteria and microbiology in the soil, it more effectively sources nutrients to feed the plant. In our vineyards, we utilize this method to treat the vines for the nutrition and microbial health where it needs it, versus a blanket approach. Our vines are ultimately healthier and the wine produced more exceptional.
According to Dr. Andersen, in order for plants to flourish, the soil must first be made hospitable for beneficial microorganisms. To accomplish this, you need to:
- Have the right nutrient balance in the soil.
- Inoculate the soil. This can be done by adding soil probiotics or basic fermentation products such as compost tea.
- Apply proper food (fertilizer) for the microorganisms to consume and thrive. The microbes in turn will then feed the proper nutrients to the plants grown in that soil. The better you’re able to fertilize the microbes, the healthier your plants will be, and the fewer plant diseases, pest infestations and weed problems you’ll have.
Dr. Andersen is the author of three well known publications specializing in spreading the awareness and necessity for the practice of healthy eating and wholesome farming practices, including: “Science in Agriculture”, “Real Medicine, Real Health” and “Anatomy of Life and Energy in Agriculture”.
HARVEST & WINEMAKING
HARVEST | PHILOSOPHY
The decision of when to harvest remains solely in the hands of Ken Wright. He feels that the choice of when to pick is critical to creating consistency. “If you pick your fruit by number, more often than not it will be a poor decision,” said Wright. “It is essential to be in the field, tasting constantly and observing the physical changes that take place in the berry. There are no instruments in the lab that can replicate the sensitivity of the human palate.”
WINEMAKING PROCESS | TECHNIQUES
All of the fruit is picked first thing in the morning and placed in shallow 14” totes to prevent juicing of the berries. Once in the winery, the fruit is delivered to a sorting line attended by 16 people who remove absolutely everything leaving only clean, healthy clusters. Dry ice is used to immediately chill the fruit as the fermenters are filled. This chilling prevents the onset of fermentation allowing for a five-day “cold soak” period. An aqueous-based rendering of the grape skin tissue increases aroma, flavor and color without unduly rendering seed tannins and other bitter compounds.
At the end of the cold soak, fermentation commences and most often continues for a two-week period. Pressing takes place just prior to cap fall and is limited to one atmosphere of pressure. Once the newly pressed wine has settled clear it is moved to its French oak home in barrel (about 30% new) for the remainder of the year. Other than the occasional stirring, the wine is left undisturbed. Over time, it becomes enhanced by the complex qualities that are derived from the incremental oxidation that takes place during barrel aging. Bottling takes place just prior to the next harvest.