Tuesday, August 26, 2008

The Fruits of our Labor

Bottling 2006-Ash Hollow Vineyard-Walla Walla-Cabernet Sauvignon
In early 2004 it was my fortune to meet Tom Harvey. I had ordered some 2000 Bordeaux futures a couple of years earlier and the wine was getting ready to be delivered. Tom is the co-owner of Portland Wine Storage along with his wife Andria Shirk and his business partner Joe Padulo. The facility they own is a self storage temperature and humidity controlled wine cellar. A person can rent a small locker or in some cases a large room to house a fine wine collection.
When I met Tom, he and Andria were just dating. Another person I met about the same time was Sam Sundeleaf. I met Sam at a wine tasting event in Portland and we discovered that we both stored wine stored at PWS. Soon, Sam, Tom, Andria and I were holding informal wine events and as fall approached in 2004 we discussed actually making wine together. Andria had made wine at home and had a small hobby vineyard in her parents backyard. I had made wine the two previous years as well. My first batch was from a wine kit and my second was from fruit a friend had given me from Seven Hills Vineyard in the Columbia Valley.
In October we went out to a small vineyard site just outside of Beaverton, Oregon and picked about 1200 lbs of fruit. The four of us thought that picking 1/2 a ton would be a snap and we would be out of the vineyard by noon. By 2:00 we still needed about 200 lbs. more and we all agreed at the days end that picking grapes was some of the most strenuous work any of us had done. I had picked apples as a teen, moved sprinkler pipe, bucked hay and I will testify that I have never been so sore and tired.
Our 2004 Pinot Noir ended up being a light colored (quails eye), high acid wine that had a Burgundian edge to it.
In 2005 we found a much better fruit source for our Pinot Noir and we were able to buy grapes from Allen Holstein. Allen owns a vineyard in the Dundee Hills and he also happens to be a vineyard manager who has worked with the likes of Argyle, Stoeller, Domaine Drouhin.

Making wine is easy, making great wine is difficult. The better the fruit is, the higher your odds are of making a truly exceptional wine. If you start with bad fruit it doesn't matter how phenomenal of a winemaker you are, the end result will still be average at best.
One thing that we have understood from the beginning is that wine is made in the vineyard and the less you manipulate it, the better your results will be. Since our equipment is makeshift, we essentially are making wine as the French did 50 years ago. Hand harvesting, hand sorting, and hand crushing. We use older French barrels for our wine so the fruit isn't overpowered by the wood of the barrel and we allow the wine to barrel age a bit longer than a commercial winery would. Our results have been beyond our wildest dreams
2005-Dundee Hills-Holstein Vineyard Pinot Noir
It started out of a curious interest, but since 2004 we have made a Pinot Noir in every vintage. Our 2005 Pinot was an exceptional wine and the 2006 Holstein Vineyard Pinot Noir promises to be even better.
In 2006 we were able to source Cabernet Sauvignon fruit from Ash Hollow Winery in Walla Walla. The resulting wine was bottled in July of 2008 and the wine shows the characteristic chocolate and cherry flavors that are prevalent in wines from that appelation. This wine was a top ten finisher in the 2008 Oregon State Fair competition.
Tom and Andria have both taken Oenology course work and Andria has worked crush for Joe Dobbs and Shea Vineyards. This year Dick Shea has even offered us a small amount of his vineyards fruit. Shea Vineyard is widely accepted to be a Grand Cru (highest classification in Burgundy) vineyard site and our little group is very excited. An interest that turned to a passion that someday may become even a small business venture
. We are making the kind of wines we want to drink and since we don't have stockholders or a board to please we are free to make wine with integrity.

Andria and our hand crafted bottling line
Our hope is that we can share wine with all of our friends and that someday we can share our wine with people whose palate matches our own.


Heather said...

That cab was really something special.

Norm Schoen said...

Play your cards right and we will slide you some more : ) I think I have 5-6 cases left.

dustin said...

This looks like an awesome deal and if you ever need a couple more strong backs to help picks grapes I'd love the experience of making my own wine.

PS. That wine storage link is giving a 404 error.

Norm Schoen said...

Thanks for the heads up. I think those guys are working on their website. Are you from Portland?

dustin said...

Yeah I found out about you from corkd.com and i live out in Hillsboro.

dustin said...

Well i bought 100 lbs of Merlot grapes on saturday. Its all your fault :)

Well yours and Gary Vay... Ner... Chucks..