So, what does a pelican-laden harvest following a dry, uniquely hot summer bring in terms of the wines? The answer is perhaps not what you would expect. It wasn’t what we were expecting and the surprise is very pleasant one. When we began picking, the two initial surprises were the moderate sugar levels and higher than expected acidity level in the fruit. Regardless of the location or the variety, we encountered sugar levels that were only slightly higher, on average, than in 2019 which is widely seen as a cooler vintage (it wasn’t, really) and a very good vintage as well. Overall makeup of the acidity profiles in 2021 were similar to, and in many instances, higher or at least more robust than in 2019. We joked that people simply are not going to believe us when we start talking about the lower alcohol, higher acid Pinot Noirs from the 2021 vintage.
Fermentations were exceptionally active, volcanic even, with nearly each fermenter having large amounts of frothy, pink foam at the height of their activity. This is a very good sign. Every year some small percentage of fermenters will have this sort of rollicking action going on, but the only other vintage I can recall seeing this across the breadth of fermenters was 1999. Many who read this may not know the history of Oregon vintages well enough to know what that means around these parts. 1999 was a late vintage where an epic October allowed for picking into November. The wines from the 1999 vintage were, by many in the business, considered to be the strongest batch from the decade and on any Oregon wine historian’s list of great vintages it is going to be listed somewhere.
This bottling allows us to accomplish two things that are very important to us as a winery. The first thing is that it allows us to be incredibly detailed about the barrels we select for our vineyard designated wines, so they true expressions of the site on a year in and year out basis. The Willamette Valley Pinot Noir bottling “Reserve” is almost entirely made up of barrels that simply were not included in a more prestigious bottling, which allows us to choose from larger sections of our diverse vineyards. Secondly, it allows us to create a blended wine that has a degree of consistency to it each vintage that is of incredibly high-quality and will retail for under $30.
In short, this wine is a smoking deal! The 2017 Willamette Valley Reserve was rated as the #39 wine by The Wine Spectator and 93pts because of its unusual combination of quality, price and availability.
This bottling comes from terrific sources. The 2019 has a make-up of unique pedigree for a wine at its pricing. Slightly over 33% comes from our Estate Vineyard from which we bottled 4 individual single vineyard/block bottlings in 2019. Other sources of significance are Freedom Hill Vineyard which is one of the most famous (and deservedly so) sites in the state, Corrine (formerly Olenik) Vineyard which we have bottled single vineyard Pinots from since 2009, Wind Ridge Vineyard which is an older Ribbon Ridge AVA site, Anderson Family Vineyard which is new to us but is a 30 year-old organically farmed site in the Dundee Hills (and we are making a vineyard designated Pinot from it in 2019) and a vineyard so famous that the winery that owns it won’t let us put the name of the vineyard on the vineyard designated bottling of it that we do let alone tell you it is one of the mainstays in our least expensive wine! You get the picture. This isn’t throw away stuff mixed together and then hope for the best. This is an intentional wine filled with basically declassified single vineyard quality wine in it.
This wine carries the breadth of the winery in other ways as well. From completely destemmed grapes to 100% whole cluster fermentations, all winemaking stylistic decisions are represented within this bottling. The two most important AVAs in the Willamette Valley to us (and likely the two most prestigious and sought after) are Ribbon Ridge (where we are located) and the Dundee Hills. 75% of this wine comes from those two AVAs. To show those in their pure fruit form about 75% of the volume of this wine comes from neutral barrels while less than 3% of are new barrels.