Posts Tagged ‘biodynamic’

My third and final day in the Willamette Valley brought me back to the Dundee Hills, for what turned out to be one of the most interesting and personable events at Oregon Pinot Camp.

Far from being a competition or wine scoring “taste off” as the name might imply, “East Side vs. West Side” was a fantastic opportunity to really understand and taste the differences between to different terroirs within the same AVA or mesoclimate.

Winderlea: In the heart of the Dundee Hills AVA

The plan was for our group to convene at Winderlea Wine Co. before heading up the hill to our first vineyard stop. I was 20 minutes late..and got a ride up in the vineyard truck. Authentic! Our expert hosts for this in depth tour and tasting included:


Representing the East Side:

 Winderlea Wine Co:  owners Bill Sweat and Donna Morris;  Robert Brittan winemaker  

 Erath:  winemaker Gary Horner    

 Representing the West Side:

 Stoller Vineyards:   winemaker   Melissa Burr  

Gary Horner of Erath..breakin' it down

First on the agenda, our group of 10 or so were treated to the different soil profile of the Dundee Hills AVA. Gary explained that east side of the region contains high degree of volcanic basalt, the reddish lava-based soils known as Jory soils. This soil type is moderately fertile, drains fairly well, and exhibits light to moderate erosion levels.

 It is this eastern side of the where another legend of the Oregon wine industry first set down roots.  In 1972 Dick Erath of his eponymous winery produced the first commercial wine from the eastern side of these Dundee Hills. A whopping 216 cases!

In contrast, the western side of the Dundee Hills is comprised of a different soil makeup. Gary explained that further west, the sedimentary Willakenzie soil series covers the slopes of the Dundee Hills. More specifically, rather than decomposed volcanic basalt produced from igneous rock, Willakenzie soil is derived from sandstone, siltstone and tuffaceous materials. Great you might be saying, but really…

 How does all of this soil stuff translate to how a wine tastes?

We’ll find out later at our East Side vs. West Side comparative tasting!


Bill Sweat and Robert Brittan in the Winderlea Vineyards

After our soil tutorial, our group headed back to Winderlea Wine Co. , where we met co-owner Bill Sweat and winemaker Robert Brittan for a tour through the vines. Winderlea is the realization of a shared passion and dream between Bill Sweat and Donna Morris.

Originally from Boston MA, Bill and Donna move to Oregon in 2006, purchased the famous Goldschmidt Vineyard, and renamed their new venture “Winderlea”. This name was inspired after a Vermont  farm founded years ago by a Jewish/German family, for which “Winderlea” meant “a valley protected from the wind”.

a gopher's eye view of the vines

Winderlea Vineyard was originally planted in 1974 by owners John and Sally Bauers, and represents several blocks of the oldest own-rooted Pinot noir vines in the Willamette Valley. Bill explained that some of these old vines may eventually succumb to phylloxera.

 In 1998 ex-Oregon Governor Neil Goldschmidt purchased the vineyard and re-grafted existing parcels of chardonnay, gamay and cabernet sauvignon with pinot noir. David Adelsheim of Adelsheim Vineyards (link) was hired to manage the re-plantings. 

Today, 16 acres at Winderlea is comprised entirely of pinot noir on 13 separate blocks.

Winemaker and viticulturalist Robert Brittan explained that high density planting, the introduction of Dijon clones, and biodynamic viticulture are practices that the winery are employing in order to produce high quality site specific wine as well respectful stewards of the land.

Next: lunch @ Winderlea and a comparative tasting of East Side vs. West Side!


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In one of my first posts on the Jura, I alluded to the fact that this region is a veritable rainbow coalition when it comes to wine colors, styles and flavor profiles. In addition to exploring the regions main appellations, we’ve gotten familiar with red, white, rose, sparkling, fresh and super oxidative wines. So I thought it appropriate to conclude our journey through the Jura on a sweet note. Yes, there are some super tasty ones made here, although they may be somewhat difficult to obtain stateside. Like this sweet and rare gem from Bénédicte et Stéphane Tissot..

Mout de raisins partiellement fermente issu de raisins passerilles -right on!

If you are ever in the Jura, and you can only make one stop, I recommend that it be at Tissot’s tasting room, conveniently located in the center of Arbois.  Here you will learn about and taste what makes the region so special. The Tissot’s are true “terroir-ists” and farm all of there vineyards naturally and biodynamically.

Several years ago I was fortunate enough to visit and taste with Stéphane Tissot at the  domaine in Montagny-les-Arsures. This family run enterprise is one of my top picks in the Jura. After being over 90 minutes late, (I miscalculated how long it would take me to devour the Bresse chicken that I had for lunch in the Savoie) a very patient and understanding Stéphane took me on a tour of the vineyards and led me through a comprehensive tasting of 19 wines.  It is here that I experienced the BEST chardonnay that I have ever tasted- a 1986 single vineyard “Les Bruyères” vinified by Stéphane’s father.

If getting to taste the best chardonnay of my lifetime was not enough of a treat, at the conclusion of the tasting, Stéphane slipped me this parting gift (see pic above) Witness Tissot’s 2000 PMG, a late, late, late harvested wine made from partially dried poulsard and savagnin grapes that is only produced in select years and in miniscule quantities.


PMG stands for “pour ma gueule”.. French slang that literally translates to ‘for my gullet” or  perhaps more appropriately in English terms to “for my mug”.  Although the expression is rather casual and commonly used, Tissot’s PMG is a precious creation in the wine world that is anything but common.

I held on to my bottle of PMG until 2 months ago, when I shared it with a group of very special friends on my birthday. What a revelation! Thick, rich and at 400+g/l residual sugar..sweet..oooh wee! With notes of citrus, nuts, honey and dried golden figs, this is not a wine to pair with dessert, this is dessert! O.K., maybe a biscotti for dipping would be nice..

Au revoir Jura!

Prochain arrêt..Spring Mountain!

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