2021 Estate Vineyard, Etzel Block Pinot Noir
95 Points - Vinous
Vivid ruby-red. Powerful, finely detailed black raspberry, cherry cola and mulberry scents are complemented by building spice and floral notes. Palate-staining red and dark berry preserve flavors deftly blend depth and energy while betraying no rough edges. Closes extremely long and precise, with reverberating floral and cherry notes and smooth, even tannins that come in late. All de-stemmed fruit and 27% new French oak.
Winemaking and Notes: Named as such because this section of our vineyard planted in 1986 slopes to the northwest directly toward our neighbor Beaux Freres. The name is an homage to the owner and winemaker there: Mike Etzel. This wine has always pulled some of the most interesting characteristics out of the site and that is its reason for existing on its own. For some reason this has always been the most nuanced and most mineral-driven of all our wines. There are 2 sections within the East Etzel Block as we interplanted rows in this block the year after we arrived. The rows were still 12 feet apart and we wanted to have tighter spacing so Dijon 114 was interplanted to make more efficient use of the land. The older Pommard (planted in 1986) was fermented in a single 1.75-ton open-top fermenter and went through a standard cold soak of about 5 days before being pigeaged 1x/day, pressed, and allowed to settle for 3 days. The Dijon 114 was fermented in three separate 1.75-ton open-top fermenters before going through a standard cold soak of about 5 days. It was only pigeaged 1x/day before being pressed and allowed to settle for 3 days. The wine spent a little less than a year in 33% new barrels along with a combination of a one time- and a four times-used barrel. This wine is aromatically extremely complex and nuanced to a fault. Minerality and seductive dark fruits combine with great complexity on the palate to create a wine that shows how elegant, intricate, intense and soil-influenced older vine Pinots from the Ribbon Ridge can be.
Wine history: In 1980, Harry Peterson-Nedry planted the first wine grapes on Ribbon Ridge at his Ridgecrest Vineyards. Two years later, the first commercial vineyard was established with the planting of 54 acres of Pinot noir and Chardonnay. It was Yamhill Valley Vineyards who first used these grapes to make wine in 1985. Other vineyards were soon planted in this relatively small ridge. The appellation became official in 2005.
Climate: Protected by geographical features to the north, south and west, Ribbon Ridge's grape-growing hillsides are slightly warmer and drier when compared to the adjacent valley floors. Ribbon Ridge's moderate climate is well suited for early grape growth in the spring, consistent and even ripening over the summer and a long, full maturing season in the fall.
Soils: The Ribbon Ridge region contains primarily sedimentary soils that are younger, finer and more uniform than the alluvial sedimentary and volcanic soils of neighboring regions. These moderately deep, well-drained silty-clay loam soils are part of the Willakenzie soil series and are of low fertility and ideal for growing high-quality wine grapes.
Topography: Geographically, Ribbon Ridge is a 3.5-mile long by 1.75-mile wide ridge that extends from the Chehalem Mountains. The ridge rises 683 feet from the Chehalem Valley floor, giving it an island-like appearance.
Site Characteristics: There are no other vineyards we work with that are as difficult to summarize in a neat package than our Estate Vineyard. There are 18 sections of Pinot Noir based on vine age and clone (as well a section of Sauvignon Blanc), elevation ranges from 250’ to 475’, Pinot Noir plantings were done in ten different vintages ranging from as early as 1984 to as recent as 2010. The vineyard is mostly Pommard but there is also 3 acres of Wadensvil, 3 acres of Dijon 114 and an acre of Dijon 777. Spacing varies from 5 x 6 to 5 x 8. Some blocks are inter-planted with every other row being of one age and every other a quite different age. Two blocks are inter-planted with two rows of the same age followed by one row of a different age. To add a greater level of confusion the vast majority of the site (the 25 acres at the higher elevation) is planted directly on top of the hill with a 360 degree aspect to the vineyard. Then there is the geology of the site which is an extremely sandy Marine Sedimentary soil sitting atop a large bed of sandstone sub-soil with a water table that is very deep and highly mineralized. This is a unique site to say the least.
Relatively early on into our time here we began to conclude that there were different natures not only to the separate blocks but a distinct stylistic difference between the two sets of plantings (vines planted between 1984-1990 and the vines planted between 1997-2001 along with the new 2010 planting). Since we dry farm here to encourage the downward growth of roots the older plants and the younger plants are at different root depth levels in the sub-soil and consequently have access to different levels and types of water, nutrients and minerals. The root system is what feeds the plants and ultimately the fruit on the vine and in this soft Marine soil this translates into very different flavor and texture profiles in the grapes.