Here is an excerpt from today's blog post by Sustainable Seattle featuring our winery:
A recent trip to Southern Oregon brought me to visit quite a few of the plentiful wineries exploding in the Umpqua River Valley. I tasted quite a few great wines, but wanted to pass on three wineries to our readers who are really doing things the right way. Not only making great wine, but practicing sustainable farming and taking great care of the earth that supplies them with their grapes. Definitely worth a trip to visit. Or pick up a bottle from your favorite wine retailer, or ask them to procure one for you if they don't yet carry it.
I hold on for dear life as Earl Jones’ tractor careers along the steep grade of his Umpqua vineyards, and he explains to me why he and his wife decided to set up a winery in this little known corner of Southern Oregon:
He was sipping a phenomenal little Ribera del Duero (Spanish wine made from the Tempranillo grape) while eating chorizo cooked in a hormo—Spanish slow cooked stove –while in Spain on travels, when he suddenly became incredulous. “It is criminal for America to not produce a great Tempranillo!” he thought to himself, and thus the search was on.
It took almost ten years from that moment to the first planting of grape vines, but after researching sites throughout the US, he found a little spot of very hilly land in the Umpqua Valley that mimicked qualities of some of Spain’s top Tempranillo producing regions. He and Hilda set up about ten acres and slowly over the years, the winery has expanded and production now includes Tempranillo, Malbec, Garnacha, Dolcetto and Syrah for reds, and Albarino and Viognier for whites. They also make a lovely port style wine out of traditional Portuguese varietals like Tinto Roriz, Bastardo (my favorite name for a grape!), Tinta Cao and Touriga Nacional.
Earl and his wife’s backgrounds were in medicine, not winemaking. So the start of this new venture led them to both learn a lot about the geology and growing conditions of their little microclimate. The vineyard land sits on a fault line of the Juan de Fuca plate in between the Klamath and Oregon Coast Range mountains, and causes intense variety of soil types and steep hillsides. Blue schist and volcanic soils mix with jasper on the incredibly steep terrain. The challenge of growing grapes in such conditions has created the need for innovation as well as the replacement of many tillers on the tractor! Because dry farming is not possible on such a rocky site, they take extreme measures to conserve water use. They have developed a modified sprayed irrigation system that diversifies the water to the perimeters of the vine roots in order to spread the depth and increase tenacity of the vines in such rocky soil. He experiments with different clones of the Tempranillo variety, looking for those that will grow with the most ease to make great wines on the site, and plans for a clonal test vineyard are already underway alongside the plans for the newly expanding winery.
The viticultural practices are sustainable, though not certified, and Abacela joined LIVE (Low Input Viticulture and Enology liveinc.org) this year. He works with the neighboring Wildlife Safari to obtain “zoo doo” as compost in trade for the pomace from the winery which is used in the elephant bedding materials.
Between the Fault Line and Chaotic Vineyards, Hilda works with orchard experts to help retain some of the property's extremely old apple and pear trees. This natural preserve within the vineyards also acts much like a biodynamic wineries “wild space” allowing various birds and wildlife to create homes and diversify the ecosystem.
Tasting Notes of some of my favorites:
Albarino 2009 – dominant peach flavors are enhanced by early removal of the North slopes leaves to allow full ripeness of the grapes. Great acidity and subtler mineral notes. Versatile white, especially with seafood—crab!
Garnacha 2008 – overwhelming fruit on the nose with lighter color and bright acids. Lighter bodied red for early in meal—seafood.
Tempranillo Reserve 2005 – really dark color, incredibly complex nose. Spice and chewy cherry and fruit leather with a velvety mid palate. Roast and braised meats, charcuterie and pork.
Read the full post.