History with my Wednesday night dinner

So… I’m moving house and clearing out the wine cellar,. And as part of the clearing out I am working my way through the “mystery bottles”. I assume every winemaker has them - the bottles with no label. There were probably first or last off of the bottling run, maybe samples that were pulled before the wine was labeled after bottling. You have a vague idea of what they might be, but you’re not certain. You can’t sell them because you’re not sure what they are. You could give them away to your neighbors, but they might be really good…. 

So, last night, with my Wednesday night dinner, I opened one and I’m pretty sure it was a 2011 Willful Pinot Noir and I, of course, got nostalgic. 

Pinot NoIr, more than any other varietal, expresses not only the vineyard that it comes from, but also the vintage.  This wine was a moment in history, a subtle encapsulation of a specific moment in life. 

2011 was my first vintage as a winemaker and the first time we got grapes from the vines that Aron and I planted on the property in Dundee. That summer, the lovely Lucie, out first intern from France, stayed with us. She helped me position every shoot perfectly to take advantage of whatever sun was available. It was a cool summer, the last cool summer that we’ve had in Oregon.

We noodled the vineyard to perfection, and harvested 7 tons at 23.5 brix on 26thOctober, ludicrously late by today’s standards. I remember walking down the hill, drenched, as it started to rain as we were finishing up picking, and coming in to my tiny house in Dundee with a room full of friends that were there to help me celebrate the first pick, and a huge pot of beef stew on the stove. It was a special day.

I made the wine because I loved the vines, and I couldn’t bear the idea of handing them over to a consultant or someone to make it for me, but I didn’t decide to follow through and bottle under my own label until the following year when I had to bottle it. I wasn’t even sure whether it would be any good.

Eight years later, the wine is gorgeous – a perfect balance between fruit and acidity, with more complexity than it should have, given the youth of the vines. I love wines from the cooler vintages in Oregon. They tend to be a little more reticent early on, but they tend to age beautifully, and I really enjoy the lighter weight and the brightness of them.

This harvest will be my 20th vintage in Oregon. Life goes by quickly, and seems to speed up as I get older. I can hardly fathom, that it’s been 20 years already. But the baby that I used to carry around in a sling as I visited accounts in Portland, is now a 6ft tall sixteen year old, and living proof that time moves on.

On Saturday June 22nd, I’ll be doing my first winemaker dinner in Dundee, at the Balanza Vineyard in the Dundee Hills.  They have a beautiful, covered outdoor space next to the vines and we’re bringing in a chef to create a menu to pair with my wines. I’ll bring a bottle of the 2000 Daedalus Cellars pinot noir as a treat too. The Balanzas have a three-bedroom B&B to anyone that would like to stay the night in Dundee. We haven’t confirmed the chef yet, but I encourage you to save the date and come and join us for a magical night in the hills of Dundee.