2018 Marine Sedimentary Pinot Noir
93 Points ~ Wine Enthusiast
92 Points ~ Wine Spectator
AVA: Chehalem Mountains
SOIL TYPE: Marine Sedimentary
PRODUCTION: 434 cases bottled
Site Characteristics:While this wine falls outside of our normal winemaking pattern since it is from an assemblage of vineyards as opposed to one specific vineyard site, it still retains the idea of place as important in the overall context. The approach to bottling certainly began with the same philosophical principles we apply to our vineyard designated wines. Ribbon Ridge is a small hillside stretch winding up against a steep, narrow valley that essentially winds its way out to the Oregon Coast. This valley was created thousands of years ago when a huge flood rolled through leaving this area under water for a considerable period of time. The eastern side of the valley’s hills generally face south and southwest at elevations of up to around 600 feet. With the Chehalem Mountains to our east, the Dundee Hills to the south and the Coast Range only a few miles to the west this is an isolated area where you can often times actually see the weather systems go around us in a variety of directions. This little area has its own microclimate. But what truly sets it apart is the soil. The years of being under water created a soil classification known as Marine Sedimentary of which there are several sub-classifications. This is a talc-y, dry soil set atop a sandstone sub-soil. Drainage is nearly instantaneous and special efforts have to be made to aerate, feed and nurture the soil so as to promote more moisture retention. Since we do not believe in irrigating our vineyards, we have needed to be very proactive in addressing the relationship between soil management and vine health that is an everyday part of farming in Ribbon Ridge.
Winemaking and Notes: The Marine Sedimentary bottling takes wine from selected blocks and barrels from multiple sites. Our entire Estate Vineyard, all three blocks, Pommard (Anklebreaker Block), Wadensvil Clone and Coury Clone from the Olenik Vineyard, Dijon 115 and Mariafeld Clone from Lia’s Vineyard and Pommard from Lichtenwalter Vineyard and Wind Ridge Vineyard were blended to show how the silty marine soil both drives our plants lives and produces wines that are distinct on their own.
This is such a huge contrast to the Dundee Hills wines that we produce and in particular the soil-based Volcanic bottling that we also make. The interaction of dark fruits, stony/earthy-driven characteristics from the Pommard, sweetness from the Dijon 115, acid and tannin from the Mariafeld and a little bit of je ne sais quois from the Coury Clone produce a wine that will appeal to those that want secondary characteristics, structure, cool minerality and restraint. This is the inherent nature of wines from vineyards planted in these soils.
Over the years this wine has seen a distinct evolution. Part of it is the inclusion of a greater number of vineyards and blocks which, certainly at a very fundamental level, would obviously create a different nature for the finished wine. However, the real changes are far more important. We started making this wine in 2005 but it was only our 6th vintage farming a marine soil site and making wines from marine soils. Now, as this is being written in 2019, we receive fruit from four Ribbon Ridge AVA sites and four Chehalem Mountains sites that are just off the eastern edge of Ribbon Ridge. That’s eight vineyards all within less than 4 miles of each other. Our understanding of the farming required to grow excellent fruit in these sites has increased dramatically over our 20 years here. Likewise our ability to nudge the fruit toward its best wine self has seen a corresponding rise. Just because we likely source fruit from more sources in this very focused area does not make us THE expert on marine soil wines but it does make us uniquely qualified to produce a wine that shows off the excellence and potential of this small part of Yamhill County. In 2018 we have most assuredly hit the high water mark to date with this bottling. The 2018 vintage will likely go down as a terrific vintage in the annals of Oregon wine but I think it particularly shines with these marine soil wines. There is no doubt the best wines we produced in 2018 come from these eight sites. That the best Marine Sedimentary bottling is the most dramatic and profound bottling of the fourteen vintages we have made because it comes from seven of these eight sites should not be surprising. You should revel in it, but not be surprised. This is everything a marine soil Pinot Noir should be.