Are you following along on my exploration of the Willamette Valley via Panther Creek Cellars? If not, check out these single-vineyard offerings from Kalita, Schindler, and De Ponte vineyards. (And why not take a peek at their Chardonnay and Pinot Gris for a few Willamette Valley white wine options?) Next stop: Carter Vineyards…
Today we’re taking a venture over to the Eola-Amity Hills AVA of the greater Willamette Valley, Oregon. Another beautiful Pinot Noir from Panther Creek and—sorry, no—this one does not come with a slice of pizza. (Though, it totally could.)
Pinot Noir from Willamette is old news now. I know. And yet when you’re craving that style—aroma, flavor, texture—there really is nothing else like it. I’m not saying it’s better than RRV or Mendo, just different. And when you can get the distinction across several different single-vineyards, so much the better to explore the terroir of the Willamette via wine. Over the next few weeks I’ll be featuring various single-vineyard offerings from Panther Creek. (Please check out the previously reviewed 2015 Kalita Vineyard Pinot Noir). Today, we visit De Ponte Vineyard in Willamette Valley’s Dundee Hills…
As I mentioned in my review of the Emeritus Vineyards 2015 Hallberg Ranch Pinot Noir, this is my first time tasting from this winery. One of the things that intrigued me about Emeritus Vineyards is their story surrounding dry farming. According to the winery, dry farming Pinot Noir is common in Burgundy, but rare in California. But because of the Goldridge soils found in Emeritus’s Hallberg Ranch vineyard, located in the Green Valley AVA of Sonoma County, owner and vintner Brice Cutrer Jones decided to dry farm his vineyards since he purchased the land in 2007, planting the original apple orchard to grape vines.
The Goldridge soil with the underlying clay loam forces the vines to dig deep (nearly 20 feet) into the soil for water. This is something you may have read about in conjunction with the heartier Bordeaux varieites (Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, even Petit Verdot and Malbec), but is — at least to me — a funky concept for the delicate Pinot Noir grape. According to Jones, this actually gives his Pinot Noir more complexity, a noteworthy minerality, and also allows the grapes to develop fully matured flavors at a lower Brix. Jones’s partner, Kirk Lokka notes, “Most growers pick at higher sugar levels because modern irrigation practices dilute the grapes with an excess of water. This is not the case with dry farming.”
The Pinot Hill Vineyard, located in Sebastopol, is also dry-farmed. And, again according to the winery, once Jones and Lokka purchased this property and instigated their dry farming methods on this Pinot-centric plot of land, Emeritus not has the largest dry-farmed estate in Sonoma County “and possibly California.” There are 107.76 acres planted on Hallberg Ranch, 30.68 acres planted on Pinot Hill.
Ok, that was a lot of talk about soil and stuff. But what does that all taste like in the glass?
Emeritus is a new winery for me, but has a 10-year Sonoma-based history. Emeritus was founded in 1999 by Brice Curtrer Jones after he purchased the 115-acre parcel named for previous owners, Don and Marcia Hallberg. The land was planted as an apple orchard, but Curtrer knew the value of the land in terms of grapegrowing and saw the potential for beautiful Pinot Noir.
Hallberg Ranch is located in the cool, Green Valley region of the Russian River Valley—an AVA that, in my opinion is an up-and-coming one, and one that is producing some of Sonoma’s most interesting Pinot Noir as of late.