Biodynamic wine anyone? Honestly, you may be sipping on more biodynamically farmed and made wines than you realize, as many who do don’t necessarily advertise it. (Hello, Tablas Creek.) Anywho, that’s not actually why I gravitated to this wine—it was the fact that Troon is consistently in pursuit of planting with vineyard specificity, replanting and grafting new vines appropriate to their Applegate Valley estate. Thus, more Rhone varieties are being planted, Rhone-style wines being made. This is the first release of this white blend, made in partnership with fellow biodynamic farmers and winemakers, Barbara and Bill Steele of Cowhorn Vineyard.
Vermentino — a grape predominantly celebrated in Italy, is a rare find in the New World of wine. Although a few West Coast producers (Bailiwick, Tablas Creek, and Uvaggio to name a few) are beginning to see the benefits of working with this sturdy grape variety. A vigorous grower, Vermentino does well in warmer climates: it’s resistant to drought, thrives on less fertile soils, and usually ripens at the peak of the harvest cycle. Vermentino vines are often planted along slopes facing a major body of water so they’re exposed to additional light and warmth due to the reflected light. In fact, if you look at those three major producers previously mentioned, you’ll notice that they source their grapes from similarly situated terroir, despite the fact that one sources from Lake County, while the others source from Sonoma Coast.
Troon Vineyard, located in the Applegate Valley of Southern Oregon also benefits from ideal Vermentino conditions. Situated amongst the Siskiyou Mountains, the lowest of Troon Vineyard’s vines sits at 1400 feet. Here, where the soil is predominantly granitic in nature, the vines will receive even more warmth, as granite is heat-absorbent. All this elevation and warmth is balanced by Troon’s proximity to the Pacific Ocean in relation to their position near the Rogue River Valley: the cool marine air funnels through the valley, decreasing the temperature of the vineyard up to 40 degrees Fahrenheit during the nights. Thus, the grapes are allowed to ripen while still maintaining a naturally high level of acidity.
I’m not going to lie, besides the chance to taste my first single varietal Tannat, one of the things that drew me to Troon Vineyard was the opportunity to taste my first “orange wine.” This, of course, refers to the wine’s color, achieved by keeping the grape-skins on during fermentation — much like the process used for making red wine. This can be done with any white grape, most commonly Pinot Gris, but Troon Vineyard takes an interesting approach with their whole grape fermented Riesling.
Applegate Valley is a sub-region AVA located in Oregon’s Southern Oregon AVA. The others include Red Hill Douglas County, Oregon AVA, Rogue Valley AVA, and Umpqua Valley AVA. As a whole, the Southern Oregon AVA stretches 125 miles north to south (from the southern tip of Eugene to the California border) and 60 mies east to west (from the Cascade Mountains to the Coast Range) and is planted to 6,000 acres of vines.
The Applegate Valley AVA is entirely inside the Rogue Valley AVA, and is named for Applegate River, which runs right through the area. It stretches 50 miles from California’s northern border to the Rogue River. This is actually where Oregon grape growing began back in 1852, with a settler named Peter Britt. In 1873 he opened Oregon’s first official winery in Jacksonville, called Valley View Winery. The winery closed in 1907 upon Britt’s death. (It has since been revived by the Wisnovsky family who planted their vineyards and established their winery in the same area.)
Today, Applegate Valley is home to just shy of 20 wineries. You could easily follow the Applegate Valley Wine Trail and taste them all in a day. For this introduction to Oregon wines and Southern Oregon, I’ll be focusing on Troon Vineyards, located just east of the Applegate River.
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