Howdy from rainy western Oregon!
We hope this finds you healthy and happy. We are a little soggy after a very wet winter but looking forward to a great 2016 after an amazing 2015. We are excited to have new wines to show and sell this spring! Our 2013’s were well received and we watched the last of them walk out the door a couple months ago, so we have rested up and are ready for a (hopefully) busy spring and summer.
2015 ended with a bang for us. Harvest was fantastic; we had a great team, thank you to all! And especially Clare, who fed the whole gang. The fruit was perfectly ripe and bountiful and I hope/think we have succeeded in making some nice wines. I will let you be the judge of that, soon, our Laughing Pig Rose will be bottled April 8 and ready to ship shortly thereafter. And then… one rainy December morning our phones started ringing… and didn’t stop for two days. Our 2012 Willamette Valley Pinot noir had been selected as #11 on the Wine Spectator top 100 wines of the year – we had no idea this was coming until the first congratulatory phone call. I am still stunned and honored to be estimated for inclusion on such a list, and so near the top.
Additionally we have received tons of great press from many others, best to check it out on the website lest my head get to big recounting it all.
We have settled into the winery nicely, our second vintage was much smoother than the first, the kinks have been ironed out and all the details that make a difference were in place.
2014 — An Early Harvest
The wines we have to present to you this spring are the 2014 versions of wine we have been making for a few years now – Willamette Valley Pinot noir, Chardonnay, Pelos Sandberg vineyard Pinot noir and one new addition, a southern Oregon Syrah.
The 2014 vintage was early, warm and large… and fantastic! An early harvest is usually determined months in advance by early bud break and bloom, so we knew it was coming. We had great fruit set, so we left a little more fruit on the vines to lengthen the ripening process – which was aided by the warmth. A timely rain at the end of September gave the vines just enough of a boost to finish ripening and toned down some of the sugar that accumulated during the warmer days in the beginning of the month. The resulting fruit was perfectly ripe - skins, seeds and stems, all of which come into contact with the juice, which was an equal perfection of sugar sweetness buffered by acidity, fermenting together to bring a sensorial exuberance to the final wines. My concern during the vinification process was too much of a good thing, so a gentle hand was used to extract enough but not too much. The resulting wines are rich and powerful and at the same time balanced and delicate. As young wines they are still evolving and are very exciting – they have much to offer and can differ dramatically from moment to moment as they open in your glass and through out the evening in bottle. We have enjoyed getting to know the 2014 wines, we hope you will too!
The bounty of the 2014 vintage has given us the opportunity and fodder to select and blend a few barrels each of chardonnay and pinot noir that exemplify what Clare and I feel represent our best efforts. These barrel select wines will be available in the near future.
The Wines of Our Spring 2016 Release
2014 Willamette Valley Chardonnay – warmer vintages present great opportunities to capture the best that chardonnay has to offer. 2014 saw the addition of fruit from the Shafer Vineyard, planted in the early 1970’s. I have finally convinced Miki Shafer that we are worthy of her fruit. The older clone planted on her property maintains it’s acidity as it ripens, much like the chardonnay from the Wirtz vineyard. I think these older clones blend amazingly well with the newer plantings found at Durant, Yates Conwill and Bieze vineyards. Our basket press was used along with piseage a ped (foot stomping) which has changed the nature of our wine. The brief contact of skins, stems and juice has given our white wines a slight “grip” that I think has taken them to a whole new level of delicious. All other aspects have remained the same – barrel fermented, some new but mostly used, batonage, malo lactic complete and the wine went from barrel to bottle as directly as possible. The chardonnay offered today is sure to please. 680 cases of our Willamette Valley chardonnay produced – adorned by bee boxes. 45 dollars/bottle
2014 Willamette Valley Pinot noir – this wine is a stunner, which is good because it is our largest production to date! There should be enough for everybody at 2200 cases, yet I can already hear the pleas come July of “are you sure you don’t have anymore?” Per usual this wine exemplifies the maxim the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.
While anchored by amazing pinot from Bieze, Johan and Coats and Whitney vineyards, it sees additional barrels from all the vineyards we work with, so it is a true Willamette Valley blend. One of our cutest pigs to date will make you smile on the outside as you grin ear to ear on the inside while drinking this wine. Bert, an American Guinea hog, 42 dollars/bottle
2014 Pelos Sandberg Vineyard Pinot noir – working with my friend Don Sandberg is just plain old fun. He is a constant perfectionist yet doesn’t take himself too seriously. Consequently he grows damn good grapes and shares them with us. I try not to fuck up his good work. In 2014 he offered us half an acre of Wadensville, in addition to the acre each of 777 and Pommard we have been buying since 2010. I was so excited I didn’t even check with Clare, I just said yes. The addition of the wild and brambly Wadensville clone has given this normally hedonistic wine an air of nobility – but don’t worry – it still has all the fruit, spice and silkiness of past vintages. Don got a new tractor that he was proud of so we put it on the label. 334 cases produced, 48 dollars/bottle
2013 Syrah – we have always had a soft spot for syrah, maybe even an Achilles heel, so we jumped when the opportunity came to work with Oregon fruit. The Rogue valley in southern Oregon is much warmer and dryer than our home in the northern Willamette, and gives this thick skinned variety what it needs to ripen. The 2013 vintage was an entirely different animal is southern Oregon - long and warm – the fruit came in well after we had put all the Pinot into barrel. Dark fruits, balanced acid, tannin and richness make this a beauty. And back to the beginning, knife, fork and spoon on the label. 195 cases produced, 48 dollars/bottle
Over the past couple of years most of you have come to know Tiffany Stevens and her adept abilities of seamlessly getting your wine to you, navigating each of your state’s shipping, licensing, taxing and weather intricacies. Sadly she is moving to greener pastures, we wish her only the best.
We hope that 2016 is fruitful and fun for all – we look forward to seeing you at one of the many events we are participating in (or hosting). July 9 we are hosting Outstanding in the Field again. We will host a spring release dinner again at Simpatico dining hall, date still TBD. Clare will be in Chicago and the Midwest this spring and I will head to Atlanta for the High Museum wine auction end of March. There is more in the works that we will apprise you of in our next missive for the Laughing Pig Rose early April.
Thank you for continuing to enjoy our efforts, we cannot do it with out your buying and drinking our wines. We are truly amazed at the success of our Oregon adventure, thank you again. From our table to yours, cheers! Brian and Clare
ps. You can read more about our 2016 spring release by clicking here.