Oregon Rainfall

Elise StimacBlog article, Growing, Seasonal WeatherLeave a Comment

Black and white pinhole photograph of snow-ladden formal gardens at Three Feathers Estate.
Block 3 flooded before the drain was fixed
Block 3 flooded before the drain was fixed
Kicking off the 2021 Vineyard Growing Season with Rain

Oregon and Washington have a reputation for rainy weather.  I have never lived anywhere where there is such a preoccupation with rainfall.

The truth is that here in the northern Willamette Valley we have a wet season and a dry season. Normal rain patterns are wet winters and dry summers. Average temperatures range between 32-50 degrees in the winter and 60-80 degrees in the summer.  We do not have many extreme temperatures. These are ideal conditions for the Pinot Noir grape that prefers cool nights and warm days.

Dam overflowing during rainy winter season
Dam overflowing during rainy winter season

Rain begins in October and can last off and on into July. Our annual rainfall average is 43 inches which is not exceptionally high, however we often get periods of light rainfall lasting for weeks at a time.

When the rains stop, they stop for months at a time. It is not unusual to have dry conditions from early July until the end of October.

After the rain, spiders weaving their webs at Torio Vineyard

All of this creates our lush green colors, grows our timber high and fast and grows moss and mold on everything. The chief concern is that dry conditions in the winter lead to annual forest fires. We have teams of forest fire fighters who make a good living going up and down the west coast fighting fires. The more winter rains and snows we get affect the severity of the summer fire conditions. Certainly these fires were on our minds in 2020.

This winter we are experiencing heavy rainfall events and mild temperatures. The conditions in the Pacific Oceans create weather patterns called El Niño and La Niña. We have received over half of our normal rainfall already since October and it is early in the season. There has not been a killing frost and I still have vegetables in the garden and flowers in the planters.

Block 3 wet marshe that floods in wintertime
Block 3 wet marsh that floods in wintertime

Last night winds up to 17 miles per hour and driving rains broke limbs from the 100 foot Douglas Fir trees around our house, sending them flying into the yard and around the house. We received 3 inches of rain in six hours. Power was out all over the mountain as trees blew down onto power lines.

You don’t want to be out in a storm like that as the velocity of the branches embed themselves eight inches into ground. We have had occasions when the flying branches dent the metal siding and put holes into the stucco exterior walls.

This is all very dramatic, but I guess we won’t have to worry about wildfires this summer.

The mild temperatures are a mixed blessing as the weeds keep growing and bugs winter over. The rains will nourish the vines well into the summer making irrigation unnecessary, and we have not had to shovel snow……yet.

Snowing at Torio Vineyard March 2019
Snowing at Torio Vineyard

Clementine Cake, a Winter Delight

Elise Stimac2018, 2019, Blog article, Pairing, Recipes, Red WineLeave a Comment

Step by Step Clementine Cake Recipe with Three Feathers
Step by Step Clementine Cake Recipe with Three Feathers
Three Feathers Clementine Cake
Clementine Cake, a Winter Delight | two recipe versions, including gluten and dairy-free

Winter is upon us and the markets are full of zesty organic clementines, mandarins, kumquats, juicy oranges and lemons in all sizes. Clementine Cake is unique in that it uses the entire fruit, including peel, pith and pulp. We have experimented with different types of citrus fruit, including lemons (yuzu, bergamot, etc) and pomegranates. One of our favorite combinations is kumquat and yuzu (Citrus junos).

Lemons picked from the tree, Naples, Italy in Winter © Elise Prudhomme

The advantage of this particular recipe (modified from a Cook’s Country recipe), is that the whole citrus fruit is lightly cooked in a covered Pyrex dish in the microwave – a real time saver that does not spoil the flavor or composition of the fruit. You can mix equal weights of oranges, kumquats or lemons. Depending on the acidity of the citrus fruit, you could increase the sugar to 1 1/2 – 2 cups.

This “one-bowl” delight can be easily made in a food processor, tastes great when made a day in advance and freezes well.

9 ounces (260g) clementines (seedless variety is best), unpeeled, stems removed
2 1/4 cups (280g) sliced almonds
1 cup (227g) all-purpose flour
1 1/4 teaspoon baking power
1/4 teaspoon salt
10 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1 cup (227g) granulated sugar
5 large eggs
Candied Clementines

4 clementines, unpeeled, stems removed
1 cup water
1 cup (227g) granulated sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
For the Glaze
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 tablespoon clementine juice
1 teaspoon clementine zest


We substitute Pamela’s Baking & Pancake Mix for the flour in even quantities and omit the baking powder since this gluten-free mix contains baking powder in it already. This particular mix is made with almond flour and makes a moister cake than the regular flour version.

You can also omit the flour altogether and use only toasted almonds. Our gluten and dairy-free version below uses less sugar and no butter. We have added dried clementines as an optional garnish.

1 lb clementines (seedless variety is best), unpeeled, stems removed
6 large eggs
2 1/4 cups (280g) sliced almonds
2 tsp baking power
1 tsp salt
1 cup (125g) coconut sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
Dried Clementines
4 clementines, unpeeled, stems removed


  • Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat the oven to 325 degrees.
  • Line a baking pan with greased parchment paper, or simply grease with vegetable oil, or use a silicon baking mold.
Step by Step Clementine Cake Recipe with Three Feathers
  • Microwave the citrus fruit (clementines, kumquats, lemons or a mix) in a glass dish with a lid until softened and some juice is released, for about 3 minutes. Discard the juice and cool the fruit for about 10 minutes.
  • Toast the sliced almonds in the oven until golden brown, let cool for about 10 minutes, then process in a food processor with the flour, baking powder and salt until finely ground – about 30 seconds – and transfer to a separate bowl.
Step by Step Clementine Cake Recipe with Three Feathers
  • Add the citrus fruit to the empty food processor and process until smooth, about 1 minute, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.
  • Using a handheld or standing mixer, beat butter and sugar until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes.
Step by Step Clementine Cake Recipe with Three Feathers
  • Add the eggs to the sugar mix and beat until incorporated, about 2 minutes.
Step by Step Clementine Cake Recipe with Three Feathers
Step by Step Clementine Cake Recipe with Three Feathers
  • Incorporate the citrus fruit puree to the egg and sugar mix.
Step by Step Clementine Cake Recipe with Three Feathers
  • Add the dry almond mixture to the wet clementine mixture in three additions, until just combined, scraping down the bowl as needed.
Step by Step Clementine Cake Recipe with Three Feathers
  • Mix the final batter quickly with a rubber spatula and transfer to the prepared baking pan, smoothing off the top.
Step by Step Clementine Cake Recipe with Three Feathers
  • Bake until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, about 45 minutes to 1 hour, depending on your oven.
  • Cool the cake completely on a wire rack.


  • Whisk sugar, clementine juice and zest in a bowl until smooth. Adjust the consistency with a 1/2 teaspoon of water at a time, as needed, until the glaze has the consistency of glue and leaves a visible trail in the bowl when drizzled from a whisk.
  • Pour the glaze over the cake, previously dried on a wire rack, and let sit for 1 hour.
  • Top with candied, or dried, clementine slices and serve.
  • This cake can be stored at room temperature (up to 2 days), frozen, or kept in the refrigerator.

Candied Clementines:

  • Slice clementines 1/4 inch thick perpendicular to the stem, discarding the rounded ends.
  • Line a baking sheet with several layers of paper towels or use a wire rack.
  • Simmer water, sugar and salt in a small saucepan (throw in a few crushed cardamom pods or a stick of cinnamon for more flavor) over medium heat until the sugar has dissolved.
  • Add sliced clementines to the sugar water and cook until softened, about 6 minutes.
  • Using tongs, transfer the clementines to the baking sheet, or wire rack, and let cool for at least 30 minutes. Flip the slices over halfway through cooling to absorb excess moisture.

Dried Clementines:

  • Slice clementines 1/4 inch thick perpendicular to the stem, discarding the rounded ends and dry off as much of the juice as possible with paper towels.
  • Lay the slices on a wire rack and place in oven at 90ºC/190ºF oven for at least 3-4 hrs or overnight until they are perfectly dry. Store in an airtight container until the cake is ready.
Step by Step Clementine Cake Recipe with Three Feathers

We find that this tangy slightly sweet cake is good for breakfast, an afternoon snack or after dinner. When accompanied by a bottle of our Three Feathers Pinot Noir or Cuvée Virginia, the citrus flavors really stand out to their best advantage.

Wrapping up Three Feathers Harvest 2020

Elise Stimac2020, Blog article, Growing, Harvest, Our Wines, Red Wine, Vineyard, Vintages, White Wines, Wine makingLeave a Comment

These hands were made for picking - Three Feathers grape harvest 2020.
Formal garden and architects residence at Torio Vineyard
Formal garden and architect’s residence at Torio Vineyard © Elise Prudhomme, with a large format pinhole film camera
Three Feathers Harvest Report 2020

As I write this, sitting in a comfortable chair with my feet up, it is hard to believe that the Harvest was a mere month ago. I have only now started to calm down and not feel that I must leap out of bed at 5 AM to work.

The rains have finally arrived in Oregon. The grapes are picked, the rows are limed, tilled, and planted with a cover crop of crimson clover which is beginning to germinate despite cooler temperatures. There are still rows where netting needs to be rolled up, a tricky job that requires three or four people and a lot of patience.

Removing bird netting from Torio Vineyard, a real team effort.

Our season started at the end of April with bud break. Situated at a higher elevation, we avoided the problems experienced in the lower Willamette Valley where bloom coincided with a very cool moist June and seriously reduced pollination. Our crop, although slightly affected, for the most part was looking excellent.

Following bud break, we had dry weather for the next 10 weeks; the only rain came mid-September.

Dew covered Pommard clone Pinot Noir at Three Feathers Estate.
Dew covered Pommard clone Pinot Noir

Late summer fires in Oregon sadly created a lot of problems in the valley. On Labor Day, a strong windstorm whipped up an extinguished bonfire on a neighboring property that swept up a nearby canyon at 40 mph. It took four days to extinguish and required tankers of water air-dropped from planes.

Naturally, the smoke lingered for weeks afterwards and although our property came away without fire damage, we were concerned about its effect on the grapes. Laboratory testing by Oregon State University revealed minimal results and I think our high elevation was again a saving factor. The heavy smoke settled in the valley below us. While many grape growers lost their crops, there does not seem to be any impact on our wines and for this we are very fortunate.

Overview of Block 1 at Three Feathers Vineyard
Overview of Block 1 at Three Feathers Vineyard

Just one month ago we were picking our largest harvest ever; 12 tons of Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris. We left roughly 5 tons on the vines. Grape vines take roughly 5 years to fully mature, although they will continue to increase crop loads over and above what most winemakers desire for quality fruit. Our plants have finally reached that point; we have more than we need and we can sell grapes to other wineries.

This harvest we happily concluded our first sale of four tons of Pommard and Dijon Pinot Noir to a local winemaker who specializes is making sparkling wines. As it is our ambition to create our own sparkling wine one day, our still White Pinot “Blanc de Noirs” being the first step in this process, we are greatly looking forward to tasting the results.

The most noteworthy Success of this season is the harvesting of grapes from every block of both our vineyards – all six blocks, including our first harvest of Pinot Gris, and the first grapes from Pinot Noir clones Précoce and Dijon 115.

Down at the winery, all 9 tons of fruit have fermented and are in their respective barrels creating magic.

First time harvesting Block 3 of our Pinot Gris.
Christine and Victor harvesting Block 3 of our for the first tim
Christine and Victor harvesting our Pinot Gris for the first time.

We are excited to be making our first small-lot Pinot Gris – roughly 75 cases. Thanks to our netting strategy, the berries came to perfect ripeness and the resulting wine is a warm gold color. We can’t wait to taste it in another month and give a full report.

Elise Prudhomme harvesting Pinot Noir Précoce at Torio Vineyard
Elise Prudhomme harvesting Pinot Noir Précoce at Torio Vineyard.
Pinot Noir Précoce varietal at Three Feathers Estate just befor
Pinot Noir Précoce varietal at Three Feathers Estate just before harvesting.

Another new 2020 wine for us is our single-clone Whole Cluster Pinot Noir Précoce. Also known as Pinot Madeleine, or Frühburgunder – by growers in the Ahr Valley, Germany – Précoce is believed to be a spontaneous mutation of Pinot Noir rather than a clone of such. This extremely unusual early ripening varietal gave us significant yields this year permitting the production a deeply flavored wine with a small amount (25%) of whole cluster to add depth and acidity. A Limited Edition of Three Feathers Whole Cluster Pinot Noir Précoce will be available next year.

Going Whole Cluster, decision making with winemaker Dan Duryee
Going Whole Cluster, decision-making with winemaker Dan Duryee
Going Whole Cluster, decision making with winemaker Dan Duryee
Part of the whole cluster process is tasting the stems… are they bitter, fruity, how will they add to the flavor?
Going Whole Cluster, decision making with winemaker Dan Duryee

We have been very fortunate to survive several close calls this year. As the years pass it becomes increasing apparent that tending a Vineyard every season is different; there are new challenges, new achievements and the persistent learning curve propelling us forward to find new solutions. The best part is that we learn from our mistakes and get to start afresh every year.

We extend heartfelt thanks to Scott, David, Vitis Terra, Olmedo and crew, Dan, Hattie, Laura, Sandra, Denis, Chris, Bronwen, Nina, Sarah… Three Feathers fans and clients for your help and support. We could not have done this without you.

Christine testing for sugar levels, Brix, with a refractometer.
Sunset looking out over Torio Vineyard and beyond to Mount Saint Helens

Three Feathers Harvest Open House & Club Member pick-up

Elise StimacEvents, Local Venues, Our Wines, Wine Distribution, Wine making, Wine TastingLeave a Comment

Three Feathers Estate & Vineyard 2020 Harvest Party invitation

Harvest Open House & Club Member pick-up | Invitation only

Sunday, October 18, 2020 from 11 am to 4 pm | Tasting fee $15

As October approaches, it is time once again to select wines for your Three Feathers Flight Club shipment.

This fall we are offering the 2018 Reserve 667 exclusively to Club Members.  A luscious Pinot Noir of the 667 clone, aged in neutral oak for 18 months, it is a sophisticated addition to our wine portfolio.  The 667 Pinot Noir grape is characterized by deep notes of cherry, honey and black pepper.  Only 50 cases were made – we hope you enjoy it.

Our 2019 wines are also available for the first time.  We have a Blush wine, a repeat of the Blanc de Noir, and a 2019 Pinot Noir, also a single clone, made in our conventional style. All three wines will be available for tasting at our Pick-Up and Harvest Party being held on October 18.  We hope that you will join us for a tasting, substantial hors-d’œuvres and a great day in the gardens and vineyards. You are welcome to bring your friends.

Be sure to contact us and confirm your reservation.

Three Feathers Flight Club Promo Piece for the Wine Club Launch

Three Feathers wines are the product of our unique location, soil, elevation and micro climate. These elements combined make our wines different from any other. Every vine is nurtured on wind blown soil high in the Chehalem Mountains.

Terroir – what defines us.

Geologically speaking | Three Feathers terroir

Elise StimacBlog article, Soils, Terroir, VineyardLeave a Comment

Color photograph taken by photographer Elise Prudhomme at the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument, Oregon, USA in 2014.
Painted Hills
The Painted Hills, John Day Fossil Beds National Monument, Oregon © Elise Prudhomme

More about the Geology at Three Feathers

I have always had an interest in Geology and Natural History but it was only moving to The Pacific Northwest, where evidence of geological turbulence is all around us that I more fully appreciated the instability of nature.  “Solid as a Rock” is a complete falsehood.  We see around us the constant changes in the landscape from the geologic history of the region.

Take Chehalem Mountains in general, and Three Feathers Vineyard in particular.  We have mentioned in previous articles the Laurelwood soils but the creation of this particular bit of earth is very interesting.

Our mountain is the creation of the Pleistocene Era that started 1.8 million years ago and ended roughly 12,000 years ago although some accounts feel we are still in that era.  This is the most recent of several Ice Ages.  The underlying structure of the range is described by various accounts as the result of uplift or plate activity.  Indeed, we are told that there is a seismic station on the mountain to register any seismic activity.  In 1991 we experienced a minor earthquake.

During the Pleistocene the Earth experienced large fluctuations in temperature.  Glaciers expanded and contracted. Ellen Morris Bishops states in her book In Search of Ancient Oregon: A Geological and Natural History:

“For most of the 1 million years of the Pleistocene, an unremitting battle was fought between Cascade eruptions that sought to build a mountain range, and Cascade glaciers that worked to wear it down”. 

– Ellen Morris Bishop, In Search of Ancient Oregon: A Geological and Natural History

During this period there were frequent tremendous unimaginable floods that were created by either lava or ice damming in the region. Millions of tons of mud, gravel and boulders were washed into the area from the north- called the Missoula Floods as some of them originated as far away as Montana. Underlying our soil at Three Feathers are massive basalt boulders worn round by flooding. You can see these boulders were used to create the retaining wall at our barn. Some boulders were too big to move and are found on the property. Regionally called “dirty basalt” these rocks are reddish from the iron ore found in them.

Wall made of flood boulders at Three Feathers
Wall made of flood boulders at Three Feathers

On top of the boulders is layered our Laurelwood soil.  Described by PinotFile as: “…silty, nearly ashy, rock flour deposited on the mountains from powerful winds from the surrounding landscape during the last Ice Age……” This type of soil is called Loess – or windblown.  This red soil is high in iron and very acidic.  Naturally as the particles are fine enough to be blown it is extremely delicate.  The six to ten feet of Loess soil at Three Feathers is designated “highly erodible” so we much be careful not to overwork it.  It also lacks humus or organic material that characterizes soil that has had long periods of vegetation on it.  If left alone Douglas Fir trees sprout like weeds- as close as 6 inches apart.  To sweeten the soil, we add ground limestone to help the vines absorb nutrients.

Laurelwood soil example of Loess in Block 3 of Three Feathers
Loess in Block 3 at Three Feathers

All of these factors contribute to the unique production that are the Three Feathers grapes and wine.  The combination of the soils, the aspect of the vineyard and the individual grape clones contribute to the mineral and spice flavors in our wines.   As we say on our bottles:

Terrior – What Defines Us

Support your Local Vineyard… or Think Small

Elise StimacBlog article, Growing, Our Wines, Wine DistributionLeave a Comment

Christine Stimac working in Torio Vineyard on Three Feathers Estate
Precoce varietal Pinot Noir ripening for harvest at Three Feathe
Precoce varietal of Pinot Noir ripening for harvest in Torio Vineyard
Support your Local Vineyard… or Think Small

This has been a challenging time for those in the Wine and Vineyard business – especially for the small producers.

Undoubtedly you have not noticed any shortage of wine in the big box stores and supermarkets. Unlike the toilet paper aisle, the wine aisle has been fully stocked throughout this pandemic. It has been stocked mainly by wines from the larger producers who can afford to take the 20-30% reduction in their prices.

Three Feathers and other small vineyards and wineries, however, are completely cut off from the market place. Even if we had a tasting room, it would have been shut down for the past two months. The State of Oregon closed all businesses and events on March 12, a day before one of the largest tasting events in the valley; the McMinnville Wine and Food Classic, a three day extravaganza of area wines – also known as SIP. We had a booth reserved for the second year and had been awarded commendations for wines we submitted to the juried competition.

Other public tasting events on our summer calendar were shut down. Restaurants and wine bars who buy our wines were also shut down and all small local tastings were cancelled. Except for repeat business from loyal followers – some nice sales and a small custom order (photo below) – wine sales have taken a hit.

Custom label for Pokey Notch

We did hold a lovely open house over Memorial weekend and had a terrific day hosting a small gathering of wine groupies who braved the virus to enjoy a day in the gardens with a good bottle of wine.

Three Feathers Memorial Day Wine Tasting event
Three Feathers Memorial Day Wine Tasting event

In the meantime, our French crew consisting of Elise Prudhomme, her husband Francois and their son Felix were unable to fly to Oregon in June to help with the vineyard work as their flight was cancelled. We have been working 4-5 days a week with just three people to maintain 15 acres of grapes for the past two months.

Despite the challenges we are facing, it has been a perfect season in the vineyard. We had quite a lot of spring rains. June was cool and often overcast, but we protected the plants from any disease. Now temperatures have risen and it has dried out just as the fruit is developing. So far we can’t ask for better growing conditions.

The plants are responding and to prevent them from getting too big we have been making several passes to cut off excess growth and thinning. In contrast to previous years, when we wondered if we would have enough fruit, this year looks to be a bumper crop. An oversupply in a year of reduced demand. Some growers are planning on not harvesting and prices per ton are down. The good news is that we are fairly confident that we will be able, at long last, to produce our first Pinot Gris and also harvest our Block Two of Pinot Noir – the Dijon Clone 115 – that has taken longer to mature.

The conclusion to this article is that we need your support. If you are receiving this newsletter it is because you have expressed an interest in our repertoire of wines that continue to grow every year. From our aromatic and elegant 2016 Pinot Noir to our latest Cuvée, the luscious and smooth 2018 Cuvée Virginia Pinot Noir, or our crisp dry Blush the 2018 Blanc de Noirs, we have a great selection of superior wines on offer at reasonable prices.

Just bottled our Three Feathers Reserve 667 and Blanc de Noirs 2019
Just bottled Three Feathers Reserve 667 and Blanc de Noirs 2019

If you are in the Portland area we can make arrangements to deliver your order, or come up to the Vineyard for a personal tour when you pick up your wine.

If you are not in the area you can order online and we will ship your order as soon as the temperatures go down.

Thanks again for your Support.

Here’s to the Little Guy!

Christine Stimac working in Torio Vineyard August 2020
Christine Stimac working in Torio Vineyard August 2020

No Clue about Clones

Elise StimacBlog article, Growing, VineyardLeave a Comment

A branch of Pinot Noir vine, during it's full growth phase at Three Feathers Estate.
Three Feathers Pinot Noir post-harvest
A branch of Pinot Noir Pommard cultivar during it’s full growth phase

No Clue about Clones

It is common knowledge that the wine grape, Vitis vinifera, has many different varietals; Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot to name a few.  But many people are not aware that there are many cultivars within each varietal family.

The Pinot grape, now known to be one of the oldest varieties, has several different family members: Pinot Noir, the red varietal, Pinot Blanc, the white, Pinot Gris, a pale red grape, Pinot Meunier.  Additionally, each varietal has many different “clones”, or sub species. These plants are created by taking cuttings from a mother vine so as to be genetically identical to the mother plant – thus cloned – and most often grafted onto a rootstock to protect against disease.

The Clone Short Story

Excerpt from our previous article A Tale of Two Vineyards

The phylloxera story is a cross-viticultural one that intimately links France and the United States from a rootstock perspective. Exchange between France and the Oregon is at the root of vine planting in this State since the mid-1800’s when early Oregon vineyards were planted on their own roots, before the arrival of phylloxera, by European settlers. This contrasts with European vineyards, where all wine grapes have been necessarily grafted onto Phylloxera-resistant rootstocks since the nineteenth century. Since phylloxera was discovered in Oregon in 1990, most new vineyards have been planted on phylloxera-resistant rootstocks. Agricultural engineers without borders, in true botanical spirit, have been sharing, comparing, grafting and testing since ocean transportation made it possible way back when….

In the early 1960’s, only one virus free University-certified Pinot Noir clone was available in the United States, brought to the University California Davis from Burgundy although certified in Wädenswil, Switzerland – UCD 1A / 2A.  This particular clone, first planted in Oregon in 1965 by David Lett, won international acclaim in 1975 with his Eyrie Vineyards South Block Reserver Pinot Noir.  In the 1970’s, only a small selection of clones were available to Oregon growers; Wädenswil, Pommard and Coury “clones”, however newer clones were being produced in France.  Oregon growers obtained an import permit from the USDA via Oregon State University with mitigated results. 

Finally, in 1984, Dr. Raymond Bernard (a Burgundian clone developer who knew David Lett) sent Pinot Noir clones 113, 114, 115 and later in 1988, clones 667 and 777 to Oregon State University where they were labeled “Dijon clones”, after the return address on the shipping container.  They are now known as the “Dijon clones” and originate from plants that grew in the vineyards of Jean-Marie Ponsot of Morey-Saint-Denis.  Dr. Bernard’s donation of high-quality and varied cuttings contributed significantly to the success of Oregon’s wine industry.

Clones at Three Feathers

A black and white still life of a cluster of Pinot Noir, Pommard clone, during it's full growth phase at Three Feathers Estate.
Leaf and grapes pre-veraison on a Pommard cultivar

The selection of clones for the production of Pinot Noir combined with the soils, micro-climate and growing strategy create the flavor profile of Oregon wines.  It is difficult to generalize about Pinot Noir clones except when comparing them under similar growing conditions (ie comparing clones grown in the same AVA).

At Three Feathers we grow only Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris. We grow only one clone of Pinot Gris, but we grow several cultivars of Pinot Noir; Pommard, Précoce and Dijon clones numbered 115, 667, 777 and 828 (the latest Dijon clone to appear in Oregon). The reason for this is that each clone has its own unique characteristics. Different ripening times, size of cluster, fruitfulness, drought tolerance, flavors.  Even the vines themselves show subtle differences in the shape and size of the leaves and how they grow.

Some clones make good wine by themselves and others are better blended or put into a Cuvée (a blend) with other clones. For example, a Pommard is known for its fullness and depth of flavor but it is slower ripening than the Précoce which is remarkable for ripening as much as two weeks before the other clones.

We have had good success making a single clone wine with our block of 667.  This clone, when grown in Laurelwood soil, produces a peppery flavor and a complexity of fruit and herbal flavors that stand alone.  When we combine it with Dijon clones to make our Cuvée, we get deeper colors and more floral notes with less acidity.

Eventually, as all of our vines produce to their full potential, we will have many choices for our wine making and we will continue to explore the Pinot possibilities.

Wine Enthusiast Ratings and the NEW Laurelwood AVA!

Elise Stimac2017, 2018, Blog article, Locator Maps, Our Wines, Ratings, Red Wine, Vintages, White Wines, Wine making, Wine TastingLeave a Comment

Newly created Laurelwood sub-ava in the Chehalem Mountains AVA of the Willamette Valley in Oregon, United States.
Three Feathers Cuvee Virginia Pinot Noir 2017 vintage
Three Feathers 2017 Cuvée Virginia
Three Feathers Blanc de Noirs 2018
Three Feathers 2018 Blanc de Noirs

Three Feathers Wines rated by Wine Enthusiast

Three Feathers Estate submitted a selection of wines to critics at Wine Enthusiast for their rating this spring.

Their response was an 89 point rating for our 2017 Cuvée Virginia Pinot Noir and an 86 point rating for the 2018 Blanc de Noirs.  Although we would love to have been in the 90’s, we are happy to figure in the category of “Very Good – a Wine with Special Qualities” along with other more famous vineyards in our region.

Contributing Editor and wine critic, Paul Gregutt, described our 2017 Cuvée Virginia Pinot Noir as “A pretty purple-red color, the flavors push Marionberry fruit up against astringent black-tea tannins….” and found “… autumnal fruit flavors of apricot and peach, playing out broadly across the palate….” in our 2018 Blanc de Noirs.

Three Feathers Estate is part of the NEW Laurelwood AVA!

We are also pleased to announce, in the wine-making news department, that on June 3, 2020 the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) approved a new American Viticultural Area (AVA) that encompasses our vineyards; the Laurelwood AVA – a sub AVA of Chehalem Mountains.

New Laurelwood District AVA approved June 3, 2020
© Oregon Wine Board

The designation is named for the unique Laurelwood soil profile of our area and its contribution to the characteristics of our wines. 

During the Missoula Flood period, dating back more than 10,000 years ago, strong winds blew in an exceptionally fine soil, known as Missoula Flood loess, to this area.  Loess is silt-sized sediment formed by the accumulation of wind-blown dust produced by the grinding down of basaltic and other volcanic rocks by glaciers during the last ice age. It is particularly rich in iron, giving the Laurelwood soil a reddish color and contributing to the particular flavor of our Pinots.

Laurelwood soil produces more Burgundian style Pinot Noir wines – light and elegant in style and texture with well-defined tannins, whereas Oregon’s sedimentary soils typically produce earthy, robust and black fruit centered wines. 

Wines from young vines grown in Laurelwood soil will have bright, spicy flavors such as cherry, blackberry and white pepper.  As the vines age, the wines will take on deeper notes of dark fruit, violet and black tea, as confirmed by Paul Gregutt in his review of our 2017 Cuvée Virginia Pinot Noir.  A rainy and cooler growing season on Chehalem Mountains will also contribute to darker fruit flavors and violet or lavender aromatics.

Three Feathers Estate as situated in the Laurelwood AVA
AVA Map © Ponzi Vineyards

Lines on the Vines

Elise Stimac2018, 2019, Blog article, Growing, Red Wine, Vineyard, White WinesLeave a Comment

Torio Vineyard growth and a new tenant
Torio Vineyard growth and new tenant
Torio Vineyard growth and new tenant

We must cultivate our own garden…

Voltaire, Candide

Lines on the Vines | Spring 2020 Season

Already June 1st! Where did the spring go?

Despite the situation worldwide with the Corona-virus, which meant for us that our schedule of wine tasting events was cancelled, the grape vines continue to grow and need tending and we have maintained a strong focus on the plants.

Everything is going well. We have had varied weather from dry in April, to wet in May. Some heat but mostly cool and damp. This brings on growth but also the possibility of molds and Mildew on the plants. We have to be diligent with our spray applications to prevent disease.

We have been developing our human resources, notably creating a crew to help with the pruning and canopy control so that we can do our work in a timely manner and not when others are available. Right now is the most labor intensive time. The shoots are growing rapidly and need to be controlled as they grow in order to keep them out of the way of tractors and train them for maximum production.

Ironically, we spend a lot of time creating healthy and strong plants and the rest of the time pruning off excess growth to create the best possible harvest. We seek a balance between foliage and fruit.

Torio Vineyard growth and cover crop grasses
Torio Vineyard growth and cover crop grasses

We have been letting grasses grow in the aisles – as a cover crop – and are now ready to cut them. This will mulch the plants and add nutrients to the soil in a natural way. This year we are attempting to grow our own clover seed on an extra field to use in the aisles next year. We will harvest the clover hay in the spring and spread it in the rows to help with nitrogen fixing.

Three Feathers Memorial Day Wine Tasting event
Three Feathers Memorial Day Wine Tasting event

Our annual Memorial Day Wine Tasting Open House took place as scheduled on Sunday May 24. Friends of the vineyard and a couple of newcomers gathered at the house and enjoyed a sunny day of tasting, kicking back at an appropriate distance, and feeling a sense of normalcy that we all crave. We sold some wine, added a couple of Club Members, and enjoyed the gardens in full bloom.

Just bottled Three Feathers Reserve 667 and Blanc de Noirs 2019
Just bottled Three Feathers Reserve 667 and Blanc de Noirs 2019

Additionally, we just bottled our 2018 Reserve 667 and our 2019 Blanc de Noirs! These wines will be released in a couple of months once they get used to their new bottles and we will publish an article about them at that time.

We include some photos of our garden topiaries getting a much needed haircut. We all need a haircut right now, but in this case these 25 year old trees have never been properly pruned.

Three Feathers topiary trees getting a haircut
Our 25-year old topiary trees get a haircut

Jose is a professional from a local wholesale nursery who has come in his spare time to prune. They look fabulous and add so much to the landscape. Thank you so much, Jose.

Three Feathers topiary trees professionally pruned
Three Feathers topiary trees professionally pruned