Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Abacela 2011 Grenache Rosé in Food & Wine magazine!

Our 2011 Grenache Rosé is the Wine Pick "Juicy, fruit-forward rosé" for the "Tangy Sort-of Jerk Chicken" recipe in the Food & Wine August 2012 issue. Sounds yummy to us!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Abacela in Southern Oregon Magazine

Abacela is mentioned in the Summer 2012 issue of Southern Oregon Magazine. Pick one up today to read why the "Land of Umpqua" should be your next vacation or stay-cation for that matter...

Notice the picture of our Vine & Wine Center's plaza. It's a great place to enjoy a picnic! We are now open until 6:00 pm through the summer. www.abacela.com

Check out a full size image of the magazine. 

Monday, July 2, 2012

Abacela... IS an experience!

The Umpqua Valley is a three-dimensional mosaic. Not actually a ‘valley' it is a network of hundreds of microclimates, some many square miles in size, others no bigger than an acre. Comprising river valleys and mountain ranges it makes up what the locals more popularly call ‘The Hundred Valleys of the Umpqua'.

Described by nationally syndicated wine columnist Dan Berger as America's ‘last great undiscovered wine region', within this patchwork, at the point where the Cascade, Klamath and Coastal Ranges collide, lies Earl and Hilda Jones' dream – Abacela, a 76-acre vineyard that in 2012 celebrates its 20th year.

In those 20 years Abacela has become one of the finest wineries in the country, received international acclaim for its world class Tempranillo and is a testament to the scientific discipline that has been used to understand every undulation, every aspect, and every variation of temperature that makes up the landscape.

It is no secret that many vintners, especially in the Umpqua Valley have come to winemaking after successful careers in completely different industries. Sometimes they are able to use some of their career skills, but in many cases they cannot. Most simply jump in and their journey is a rollercoaster ride of grand accomplishments and disappointing failures, yet is always rewarding in its own way.

Earl and Hilda Jones were different. They began their journey in the late 1980's with the quest to produce the finest Tempranillo in the United States. Just where they were going to achieve this though was still a mystery.

What followed was vast amounts of scientific research on everything from growing season lengths to heat indexes and by 1991 they had identified a perfect Tempranillo region in the Umpqua Valley. As Earl describes it, it was an area right on the edge. Too far north and the climes of the Willamette, while perfect for Pinot Noir were too cool for Tempranillo, yet too far south into the Rogue and the temperature was too warm.

So, what was the first thing he built on this site? A weather station. It's gone through several iterations in 20 years but it remains today a key factor in how Abacela is run.

Earl and Hilda's son Greg adds further insight to the quest and yet another interesting piece to the mosaic that is Abacela.

At 29 after a variety of eclectic jobs he had gone back to studying, gaining a B.A. and then a Ph.D at the University of Virginia. His original plan was to study hydrology, believing there was a growing need for skills in water management, but Earl's frequent probing questions only helped to pique his interest further. As the two men bounced ideas off each other across the country Greg soon realized there was no serious research being done on the viticulture industry from the climate perspective and only a handful of vintners were even looking at the data.

Speaking to Greg, hours before he was to fly off to Dijon in France for the 9th International Terroir Congress, he gives all the credit for Abacela to his father's passion and drive but admits that the two men spurred each other on. Success has visited both father and son though for in 2009 Dr. Greg Jones was named to Decanter Magazine's 2009 Power List representing the top 50 most influential people in the world of wine and according to Emmanuel Le Roy Ladurie, a professor at the University of Paris and a famous wine historian and author “Professor Gregory Jones is the greatest and best connoisseur and historian of vine quality in the world”.

In 1995 Earl and Hilda planted their first Tempranillo vines and in 1997 made the first commercial varietal in the Pacific Northwest. In 2000 their 1998 Estate Tempranillo, only their second year of production, won double gold and defeated 19 Spanish wines at the 2000 San Francisco International Wine Competition. Earl's meticulous attention to detail had already begun to pay big dividends.

As we drive around the vineyard I can't help but feel Abacela is one giant lab experiment, albeit an incredibly successful one. We pass vines that reflect spacing trials, others with sophisticated moisture and transpiration meters and still more that are recent trial plantings from Spain via UC Davis.

Every few acres sports a different varietal, Grenache, Syrah, Tempranillo, Albarino, Malbec, all carefully aligned according to the terroir profile and the microclimate in which they reside. A slightly lower heat index here, a more porous soil there. The different sections are no more apparent than along the natural fault line that cuts through the vineyard on an east west plain and gives the Fault Line Vineyard its name. To the north in the ‘younger' soil pebble like rocks litter the ground and provide a dryer bed where the water rapidly soaks through the ground, and yes Earl has even done water permeation tests on his blocks to make sure water consumption like everything else is optimal for the grape growing in that location. What better place for an award winning Syrah like the 2005 South Face Reserve that Earl achieved the first 95-point wine in the Umpqua with.

To the south in the older Klammath Range soils are larger more jagged rocks, some of which remain in the same spots they've been for tens of thousands of years, too large to move.

In the relatively young wine industry of the Umpqua Valley, 20 years puts Abacela as one of the first modern wineries, but Earl is quick to refute my comment that he is seen by many as the patriarch of the local industry. Ask any local involved with the wine industry who the principle movers and shakers are and Earl's name is almost always at the top of the list.

“No, they've been growing grapes here since the 1880's, all I've done is bring to the industry scientific discipline” he responds almost apologetically.

That scientific discipline, evident at every stop along our tour of the vineyard is now benefiting winegrowers all over the world, even in Spain where Earl's original journey began, and is the reason Abacela has been so successful in such a short time. It is perhaps a fair assessment to claim that Earl has achieved in 20 years what has taken many in Spanish regions like Ribera Del Duero hundreds of years to achieve.

Earl Jones has almost completed what he originally set out to achieve. I asked if they are planning to expand further and he is content that with the final planting near their new tasting center, the vineyard will be where he wants it, at a comfortable 12,000 cases of quality award winning wine. That doesn't mean he can slow down for I doubt Earl even understands what that means. He still makes it out among the vines every day when not travelling between speaking engagements across the United States and Europe, or playing host to doctoral students from around the world, a true indication of the standing that Earl Jones and Abacela hold in the wine industry.

With Earl's continued research and his son's tenure at Southern Oregon University's Department of Environmental Studies, Oregon and the Umpqua Valley are blessed to have two of the world's premier wine authorities so strongly connected to them.

Abacela is not just a winery, it's an experience that every local and every wine enthusiast needs to have. This is how fine wines are made, before you even place one foot on a crush pad.

Abacela Vineyard can be found at 12500 Lookingglass Rd a few miles south west of Roseburg. Visit their tasting room in summer between 11.00am and 6.00pm for what can only be described as a true wine education. You will like me leave there disappointed the adventure is over.