Technical progress makes it possible to always improve the quality of the wines, but it seems that this very technicality leads to a standardization of the product. With filtration and the imperatives of competition, it becomes difficult to say whether a Chardonnay wine has been made in France, Italy or California.
The professionals want drinks that are acceptable to everyone, so there is no longer room for the personality and originality of the scent – just as it does for whiskey, gin or vodka. Now, what makes a wine interesting is its individuality, and it is its unique aromas and taste that make it fascinating. The preservation of this character is therefore an absolute necessity, even if we must meet certain difficulties with some of the consumers accustomed to the so-called “international” style.
Since the beginning of my critical career, I have been fighting against excessive manipulation. If we study the methods of the best producers, we can draw up the following list:
1. Willingness to preserve the personality of the vineyard, the specificities of the grape variety and the character of the vintage.
2. Low returns.
3. Harvesting when the physiological maturity of the grapes is reached (except when the weather is at its peak).
4. Very simple winemaking and aging techniques, and minimal interventions: the wine is on its own.
5. Refusal to deplete or emasculate a naturally stable wine, made from healthy and mature grapes, by clarification and excessive filtration (these processes are obviously justified for unstable wines).
– Robert Parker, Guide to French Wine
Interview with winemaker Dan Duryee at Lady Hill Winery, Saint Paul, Oregon
I sat down today for an hour long conversation with our Winemaker, Dan Duryee on the subject of winemaking, Pinot Noir and the 2017 vintage of Three Feathers Pinot Noir.
Dan is a Kansas City native. He got a degree in Molecular Biology from the University of Colorado. He has been the winemaker at Lady Hill Winery since 2016 and before that he was eleven vintages (years) at Cana’s Feast in Carlton, Or. Dan has experience in winemaking with all the area’s Varietals from both sides of the Cascade Mountains.
We began our discussion referencing the quotes from the noted Wine Authority Robert Parker who, incidentally, is part owner in Beaux Frères Wine, an award winning vineyard only a few miles from Three Feathers Vineyard on the south side of Chehalem Mountain in the Ribbon Ridge AVA.
Dan agreed with Mr. Parker’s philosophy of minimal manipulation and allowing the wine to reflect not only the vine, the region and the soil but also the ups and downs of the climate from one season to another. In his opinion, the Pinot Noir grape produces an elegant wine that can easily be overpowered by over manipulation, blending or too much oak. Properly made, the flavor should strongly reflect the region and ground on which it was grown. The color is generally light and the flavor should be consistently even from start to finish.
The Pinot Noir grape generally produces a dryer, more acidic Red Wine. There is a tendency to want Pinot Noir to be a bigger, sweeter, more intense color and flavor and that desire leads some to pick later with more sugars and therefore more alcohol.
Dan brought samples from the 2017 barrels made in September. The wine had just finished the second, or malolactic, fermentation. At this point sulfur is added to protect the wine from any degeneration so this was not really the ideal point to sample the wine. However we were able to make several comparisons with the 2016 Pinot Noir that we brought along. The color of the wine made in 2017 was still a deep fuchsia pink whereas 2016 had become more of a brick red with a very slight orange tint. Dan remarked that the brick color was characteristic of Chehalem Mountain wines reflecting the Laurelwood Soils.
The 2017 wine had not yet developed the full berry aroma of the 2016 Pinot because the sulfur tends to mask that, but he did note some oncoming floral and mineral aromas coming from the roots as the aging vines reach new depths and acquire the flavors and scents from the soil.
A major difference in the two wines is the Yeast used. In 2016, Dan used a yeast called Assmanshausen which is a slow acting yeast that ferments at a cool temperature. It is usually used for White wine. The yeast used this year was RP15, also called “rock pile yeast”. This yeast heats the wine more, extracts more color from the skins and enhances and intensifies the flavor. As we continue to sample the barrel it will be interesting to see what difference these two yeast make in the final product.