As a winemaker, I have a philosophy that guides my choices from vineyard to vine to wine. I do not have a "recipe" and I do not make wine the same way each year. Yes, my basic choices are similar from vintage to vintage, but as they say, the "devil is in the details".
Two things fascinate me about the grapes from Burgundy and Alsace. First is how well they go with food. The other is the ability of those grapes - Pinot noir, Chardonnay, Riesling - to capture a "Sense of Place".
It is well know in the Old World that the large majority of vineyard sites are not capable of revealing a Sense of Place. Only 16% of Burgundy is Premier or Grand Cru. It is generally accepted that Village level vineyards are best blended from multiple sites. There is no evidence that the New World is any different. The first challenge is to find a site that makes this possible. In Europe you just look at a map; after centuries of growing wine grapes, the great sites reveal themselves. There is no map in the New World. Especially in Oregon which is barely into its second generation of winemakers and grapegrowers. We, amazingly, have found a handful of sites that do reveal a Sense of Place. In the article "Five Great Oregon Vineyards", it was noted that I was the only winemaker that made wine from all five sites: Freedom Hill, Shea, Momtazi, Temperance Hill, and Zenith.
This expression of Place is not found in how big the fruit is or in the sweetness of the oak the wine was aged in. It is mostly expressed in the secondary notes: spicy, floral, earthy, and savory facets. Texture is paramount. The way a wine feels on your palate, where you taste it, how it lingers, its density all reveal the expression of a specific place.
The unique characteristics of each of our vineyard sites create the distinct personalities in my wines. It enables me to make distinctly different wines from the same varietal. The type of soil, the orientation to the sun, the altitude, the relative daytime and nighttime temperatures all affect the way the vine grows and the way the grape transforms into wine.
I make wines to enjoy with food. Although it might seem obvious that wine goes with food, many New World winemakers have gravitated toward producing wines that deliver immediate appeal. These wines are often tasted by consumers and wine writers in the absence of food. They emphasize power, richness, fruit, and oak; all things that result from winemaking and none from terroir. From my perspective these wines do not work well with food because they lack both balance and nuance.
I work with new oak. However, I find that the sweet and smoky oak aromas and flavors from a barrel can obscure terroir. Modest use of oak can help support a wine and create a clearer expression- it is my intention that you taste the wine and not the oak.
Vintage is another expression of personality: some are more flamboyant and others more charming. I believe it is my job to make lovely wines in every vintage. I do not see a particular vintage as “good or bad”. It is harder to make lovely wines when the conditions are difficult. However, some of my favorite wines came from vintages that were challenging. For more details on the style of specific vintages, see our Ageability section.