A winery dedicated to avoiding convention

Winemaker Journal

Hi! I’m Eric Eide, founder/winemaker at Aberrant Cellars, in Oregon's Willamette Valley, and this is my “Winemaker Journal.” Each month I'll share what’s happening in the vineyards, the winery, and other activities here at Aberrant Cellars. We hope you enjoy hearing about what goes into the passion and inspiration that I have for making great wine!

 

 

Eric Eide
November 21, 2017

2017 Harvest

Since our grapes come from two regions, I’ll discuss the north and the south separately. Overall, the 2017 harvest was a very successful one for us.

North

The grapes that we received from our northern vineyards, in Willamette Valley, arrived about two weeks later than average. Some were even a little bit later than that. The exception to this was the Chardonnay, which was the first variety that we pulled in this year. It arrived at our winery on September 30. This is our first time working with Chardonnay. It’s from Havlin Vineyard, located in the AVA of Van Duzer Corridor, in central Willamette Valley; and, we plan to bottle it under our Sidecar label. This Chardonnay possesses a style like Chablis – it’s got plenty of fruit and mineral characteristics. This will be a great complement, to our over-all mix of wines.

Chardonnay Grapes

The Pinot Noir from Willamette Valley arrived beautifully ripe. The signature of the 2017 Pinot Noir from Willamette Valley will be great flavor dynamics and development, with lower potential for alcohol. This will likely be a welcome break for winemakers and consumers, from the higher-alcohol vintages we’ve seen over the last few, warm growing seasons. I expect this vintage of Pinot Noir to be light on its feet and aromatically pure. The tannins are very fine, and the acidity is fresh and balanced. There will be many fans of this vintage.

Pinot Noir Grapes

South

The grapes that we received from our southern vineyards, in the Rogue Valley and also the Applegate Valley (which is technically a sub-district of the Rogue Valley), had the potential to be affected by smoke from the forest fires. We had all of our grapes tested, and fortunately none of our grapes demonstrated any signs of smoke taint. The grapes we received from this region include: Cabernet Franc, Petite Sirah, Roussanne, Carménère, Malbec, and Cabernet Sauvignon.  These grapes arrived about one week later than they did in 2016. I’m extremely excited about the wines we will make from these grapes! So far, the wine is showing itself to be full, dark, intense – demonstrating varietally classic characteristics. All of them were gloriously ripe and pure, and very intense.

Carpenter Hill Vineyard Petite Sirah located in the Rogue Valley which is five miles southeast of Medford, Oregon. This vineyard has a south facing slope with 20-year-old vines and 1600 plus feet elevation.

Present and Future Winemaking Activities

We’re currently working on a 2016 vintage of G-Force, which is a blend that we produce under our Sidecar label. Like the 2015 vintage, the 2016 vintage will include Gamay Noir, Cabernet Franc, and a small amount of Pinot Noir. Unlike the 2015 vintage, the 2016 G-Force will also include a small amount of Malbec. The Malbec should add an element of dark richness to the wine. It will spend 12 months in barrels, and I expect it to be out in the spring of 2018.

We’re about to bottle a small lot of Gamay Noir, from Havlin Vineyard. It will spend 13 months in barrels. For the fall of 2018, we’re also working on a small lot of Cabernet Sauvignon. These grapes came from Serra Vineyards in Applegate Valley, and will spend a total of 20 months in barrels. Finally, we’re preparing to assemble a Bordeaux blend, which will include Carménère, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and Malbec. It will spend about 14 months in barrels. For each wine, I’ve carefully considered the influence of the time the wine will spend in oak, looking for the right time that will impart the most positive influence on the developing wine. Then, I rack the wine and put it into tanks, where it usually re-groups for about a month, before I bottle it.

Serra Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon in the Applegate Valley which is a sub-district of Rogue Valley. This vineyard has 25-year-old vines, a south facing slope, 1300 feet of elevation, and it’s surrounded by the Siskiyou Mountain range.

New Vintages

Our 2015 Confero is now out, and it’s been very well received. We produced three Pinot Noirs in 2015, plus the Sidecar G-Force. We plan to release the 2015 Carpe Noctem, in April of 2018.

Since the volume of fruit was a little lower than usual in 2015, we only have one single-vineyard Pinot Noir, from the Block B3 Old Vines Pinot Noir, from Chehalem Mountain Vineyard. It was warm and dry in Willamette Valley that year, and these grapes were the darkest hued and most intense of the 2014-2016 years. Of the three Pinot Noirs from 2015, this is the most masculine-styled wine. This vineyard is dry-farmed, with the vines dating back to 1968. Because the root system is so deep, the vines can thrive no matter what Mother Nature throws at them. This wine spent a little extra time in barrels and a little extra time in tanks, and then was bottled in June of 2017. It needed a little extra time, to truly showcase itself, and I’m quite pleased with the results.

Nov 21, 2017 at 6:42 PM
Eric Eide
July 28, 2017

2017 Growing Season ~ Vintage Assessment
Bloom occurred mid-June in Willamette Valley, which is traditionally when we reach this milestone. The past two years were hotter than average. As a result, everything happened earlier than it typically does. So far, the fruit looks very good and there hasn’t been any frost or rain issues. Let’s hope that Mother Nature allows this trend to continue. Based on the progress I’ve seen so far on the vines, I anticipate this year’s yield will be average, or perhaps a little above average.

Ideal summer temperatures, for wine grape growing, are mid-to-high 80s during the day; and we like to see a 20 to 30 degree downward shift in temps overnight. This allows the vines to rest and recharge. Overnight lows depend on where in The Valley the vineyard is located and elevated at a particular site.

In Willamette Valley, we usually get ten or so days in the 90s, and occasionally it pokes above 100 degrees. Photosynthesis shuts down in the vines, once temperatures exceed 88 degrees. Prolonged heat spikes can be very detrimental, as the grape skins take a beating. This is caused by the vine being unable to protect the clusters. If skin development gets ahead of the ripening process, unbalanced wines can be the result.

Present and Future Winemaking Activities

Just recently, I bottled the 2015 Chehalem Mountain Vineyard Pinot Noir and the 2015 Carpe Noctem- both of which I’m very excited about because they’re potentially the two best wines we’ve made to this point. I’ve included some images here in order to help demonstrate, or deconstruct, the process visually. Even after years of making wine, I find it fascinating to see how everything comes together.

Both of these wines are aged in barrels from 17 to 19 months old. Then it goes in tanks for another three to four months. Additionally, they’ll both continue to age in bottles for many months, before they’re released for sale and consumption.  Old Vines will be released in November of 2017; Noctem in March of 2018.

I prefer to treat the upbringing of Carpe Noctem in a manner similar to a Reserva style wine, either from Spain and/or a Brunello from Italy, since it is a big, beefy Pinot Noir. I feel it warrants the extra time it takes for the wine to be ready for enjoyment when it’s released; though, it will certainly reward many years in the cellar, if one chooses to do so. The “Old Vines” process is a little different, in that it was not aged in barrels for quite as long, and I used less new wood in the aging process. These practices are still my overall philosophy for drinkability and ageability.

I’m happy to announce that the Sidecar G-Force wine has been released and is now available. You may recall from last month’s Winemaker Journal, that G-Force is a blend of Gamay, Cabernet Franc, and Pinot Noir. The Gamay is sourced from a really beautiful vineyard called Havlin Vineyard, in Willamette Valley. I started by using their Gamay in this blend; but, I intend to also bottle the Gamay varietally, at some point in the future. So far, the response to the spin that we put on these varieties has been very positive.

  • The Gamay is a chameleon of sorts – it can be bold or soft
  • The Cabernet Franc is powerful
  • The Pinot Noir gives a silky elegance to the mouth feel

This project is about introducing people to different styles and varieties aside from Pinot Noir. And, I’m very optimistic from all the positive feedback we’ve received, about G Force thus far.

Our next, immediate project will be to assemble the blend for the 2016 Confero Pinot Noir. This is the wine we consider to be our “workhorse,” and it’s a blend of a number of vineyards and clones. I expect to bottle it at the end of August. We also plan to conduct blending trials for additional upcoming Sidecar projects. For example, I’m exploring the idea of an old-school styled Bordeaux blend.  This includes Carménère, Malbec, Cabernet Franc, and a small portion of Cabernet Sauvignon. The trials will involve seeing what percentages of these varieties play together best, and ultimately sing in harmony. I expect that this blending trial will be my focus for the next couple of months, prior to the start of the 2017 harvest.

New Offerings in the Wine Shop & Accolades
We were recently notified by Wine Enthusiast Magazine that three of our offerings are going to be showcased in the August and October issues: 

The 2015 Confero is now available. It will be a couple of months before this wine is available in local markets.  It’s a glorious follow-up to the highly touted 2014, with slightly broader shoulders and a little more richness than its predecessor.  If you like a deep, dark, savory style of Pinot, the 2015 vintage is for you!

Be sure to check out our new “tasting room” inspired offerings.  With these, we want to 1) Provide easy options for our guests to discover our latest releases, and compare our single vineyard selections. 2) Or, give a client a memorable gift, with one simple click.

And, both offer great savings, to boot…  

“Fabulous” 3-Pack: $75.00 (save $12.00)
One bottle each ~ 2015 Philtrum Blanc, 2015 Confero, 2015 G Force

Acquire Here...

“Ultra-Fabulous” 3-Pack: $125.00 (save $25.00)
One bottle each - 2014 Gran Moraine Vineyard, 2014 Chehalem Mountain Vineyard B3 Old vines, 2014 Carpe Noctem

Acquire Here...

 

Jul 28, 2017 at 3:02 PM
Eric Eide
June 20, 2017

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.  

Grower Relations

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.

Jun 20, 2017 at 2:49 PM