15 Nov “IT’S HANDS ON, IT’S INTIMATE AND IT’S OLD SCHOOL”
It’s Tuesday afternoon. I have arrived in Oregon to a heavy and persistent haze and a familiar smell in the air. The area just outside Portland has been experiencing severe bush fires for the past two weeks. There are concerns about smoke taint in the vintage to come.
The harvest has crept up fast on the winemakers here. After an unusually long and cold winter, the spring was mild and cool hinting towards a very late vintage. So late, that my host winemaker is actually in Burgundy, France doing some training and learning of his own. With him away, I head out to a number of our source vineyards to start grape sampling so we can get an idea of just how quickly we’re going to need to get started when he arrives home in 3 days time. Turns out, it’s going to be a hit the ground running situation and we’re picking the first of our Chardonnay within 36 hours of Ken’s return.
It’s a different world to Rob Dolan Wines, but that’s why I’m here. To learn, to absorb. What I love about Oregon and the reason I returned, is the small scale of many of the operations here. Sure they have their big players, but there is an artisan feel to wine production in this region. It’s hands on, it’s intimate and it’s old school.
Over a seven week period, our little team of three people have processed 120 tonne of fruit. All picked by hand, all sorted by hand, all closely observed in small 1 tonne lots and managed according to the individual behaviour of each one. I have met all of the vineyard owners and managers, many of them having personally delivered their own fruit to us. Their passion for the quality of the fruit they deliver gives you a sense of responsibility to make great wine. You owe it to them. From this beautiful fruit, we’ve created 7 single vineyard Chardonnay, 8 single vineyard Pinot Noir and a cheeky little Gamay.
I’m excited to be heading home in a few short weeks, not only with a bank of new knowledge, but with an ever increasing zeal for this job, that isn’t work, because there is nothing else I would rather do.
See you soon! K