Overall Winemaking Philosophy
My goal is to create wines with balance, showcasing an element of restraint; I strive for an old-world style of wine. I’m not attempting to push boundaries, with the up-front personalities of the wines. I aim for my wines to be elegant, though powerful, in the same breath.
I only make Pinot Noir with grapes grown in three of the six (soon to be seven) AVAs, from Oregon’s Willamette Valley. The different dynamics of these AVAs are apparent, in the resulting wines. I showcase wines that are from a specific vineyard, which I feel presents the best of a given region’s attributes. For example:
- The Chehalem Mountain Vineyard
- Yamhill-Carlton Gran Moraine Vineyard
And, I also choose to blend different vineyards and AVA’s, within an offering. This allows us to focus on a particular style of wine that I’m striving for, as opposed to a region’s unique qualities. Within my offerings, I present two examples of each theory:
Confero is always our most elegant, precocious offering. With this wine, we strive to provide an outstanding value to our audience while maintaining the highest quality standards.
Carpe Noctem, our top offering, is a very strict barrel selection. It showcases the darker, more powerful side of a given vintage – where style overrides source. While certainly enjoyable upon release, it will reward a decade or more of aging in the cellar.
Then, at Aberrant Cellars, we also bottle two single vineyard wines. I feel that both illustrate distinctive wines, from within their respective AVA’s:
- Gran Moraine, from Yamhill-Carlton AVA
- Chehalem Mountain Vineyard, from the Chehalem Mountains AVA
The Philtrum Pinot Noir Blanc is an opportunity to turn heads for what can be achieved if imagination is allowed to roam freely.
Though I particularly like the styles of Eola-Amity Hills, Chehalem Mountains, and Yamhill-Carlton, each one yields grapes that give different dynamics. When evaluating a new grower as a potential partner, after location, I look at clones, since there are specific that I prefer. Next, I’ll look at where they’re growing the grapes- elevation, slope, aspect- to get a sense of the general style of wine the grapes will produce. I evaluate whether they’ll farm to my specifications for quality versus quantity, in terms of yield and canopy management, etc. For me personally, it’s also important to know if my growers implement organic or sustainable practices. I really strive to work with dry farm vineyards, though many new vineyards are installing irrigation – even in Oregon. I prefer dry farming. It’s more sustainable for our environment, but it provides an element of the unknown. Each growing season in Willamette Valley brings unique potentials and challenges. That we must “adapt to whatever comes our way” is a welcome test, as a winemaker.
2016 Vintage Assessment
The 2016 growing season was absolutely beautiful, in Willamette Valley. In fact, I’ve been very fortunate for the past three years: 2014 and 2015 were also beautiful, and they delivered excellent fruit. Though the weather was similar, each year’s crop had a slightly different personality. The 2014 crop was excellently pure and honest. In 2015, it was more powerful, with dark-hued fruit that I believe to be long-lived wines. Then in 2016, it was the most elegant and delicate at the outset. It now has put on considerable depth and dimension, while progressing through malolactic fermentations. These are exciting times!
Present Winemaking Activities
The 2015 single vineyard offering, from Chehalem Mountain Vineyard Old Vines, and our 2015 Carpe Noctem are in tanks waiting to be bottled. This is coming up, at the end of June. I decided to give both a couple more months longer in the barrel than normal. The boldness of the 2015 vintage demanded this. Both wines have been in the barrel for 18 months on gross lees, for the duration. This practice is quite uncommon in this day and age. This process of maturation on “gross lees” (gross lees refers to the size of the lie debris) provides a natural protection against oxidation and allows for a lower level of reliance from sulphur. They also act as a natural buffer between the wine and barrel; and, when given proper time, contribute a significant boost to the mouthfeel of the wines. This is a very “old school” technique…which we love and abhor!
Of the original 18 barrels in the running for 2015 Carpe Noctem, I ultimately chose seven. Noctem is one of the most challenging vintages I’ve ever made. Because of the overall uniformity of the vintage, it really made me earn my keep to designate barrels, which I’m a head and shoulders in quality above the norm- a good problem to have, I can assure you!
Future Winemaking Activities ~ Sidecar
I’m excited to announce that I’m working on a new project here, at Aberrant Cellars. It’s a new label called Sidecar! Our first release will be a red wine called G-Force. It’s a blend, whose primary variety is Gamay, with some Cabernet Franc, and a very small percentage of Pinot Noir. I chose to work with Gamay, because there’s a great deal of interest surrounding this variety. Yet, it’s still a rarity in Willamette Valley. Cabernet Franc also has a lot of momentum, and I thought it would be fun to put them together. Cabernet Franc tends to be dominant; so, it’s taken a lot of blending trials, to get the correct blend. Gamay is bright and focused, Cabernet Franc can be dark and demanding; so I added a splash of Pinot Noir, to be used as a “silk liner.” This gives a deft touch to the wine. I’ve bottled this Sidecar in April, and I’m releasing it this June. Though it’s a different style for Aberrant Cellars, I’m very excited with the results. And, I think it will be easy to see a balance of philosophies, between Aberrant and Sidecar.
Much more to be announced in regards to Sidecar in the coming months and years.