This post tells the story of our wine. If you’d like to know how to purchase wine, click here.
Both our winery and vineyard are known as the Hundredth Valley. The name comes from The Hundred Valleys of The Umpqua, a phrase used by locals and poets to describe the many small, secluded valleys within the larger Umpqua River Valley. We are nestled into our own little valley and like to think it was one of the last such valleys that remained unspoken for when we found it. So we named it the Hundredth Valley.
We hand craft small quantities of wine under two labels, Hundredth Valley and Big Leaf. What’s the difference? Hundredth Valley is a big Pinot that leans more towards a classic Pinot Noir while the Big Leaf is a really big Pinot Noir. Bob, Nathan and I all love Cabernet Sauvignon, which is considered by most to be a big red wine. In making our Pinot Noir, we use some wine making techniques typical of making Cab, such as cold soaking the juice on the grape skins prior to fermentation to extract maximum color and aromas. With the Hundredth Valley vintages, we nudge the Pinot Noir in the direction of a Cab. With the Big Leaf, we push it. Truth be told, this approach is a bit controversial, especially among Pinot Noir purests. But it is in our nature to be rebels. And people really like the wine.
Our 2011 Hundredth Valley, which was our first vintage, was intended as a learning experience. Our vines were far too young to produce fruit that year, and we didn’t have a winery yet, so we bought a ton of grapes from a neighbor and made the wine at The River’s Edge Winery in Elkton. Mike and Vonnie of River’s Edge were kind enough to let us experiment with our own wine making ideas in their winery. We made just sixty cases that year, all of which has been given away or sold. We learned a lot and ended up with a very nice wine.
In 2012, we stepped things up a bit. We bought enough grapes from our neighbors to double our production! As with the 2011 vintage, we were still without a winery. So once again, Mike and Vonnie opened their winery to us for crush and fermentation. We can’t thank them enough for their help and hospitality.
2012 was an exceptional growing year and we noticed that about a half-ton of the grapes we bought were super ripe and sugary. When analyzed, they came in at 25.4 Brix! Typically, you’d harvest Pinot Noir between 22-23 Brix. We knew these grapes would make a meaty and robust wine that would be off the charts compared to a classic Pinot Noir.
At first we thought we’d blend the wine from these grapes into our Hundredth Valley. But the more the wines matured, the more we realized the Hundredth Valley was coming along nicely as a classic Pinot Noir on its own. And, we had something kind of special and revolutionary in the wine from the super ripe grapes. And so, the Big Leaf label was born. We had two very good but very different wines that demanded their own identities.
Towards the end of 2012, we thought it was time for us to have our own wine making space. So we applied for a winery license and Bob, Nick and Nathan started to convert our garage into a small winery. In January of 2013, we were street legal and ready to go! We moved our 2012 vintage, which was in barrel, from River’s Edge to our little winery. All of our wine making has happened here ever since.
The 2013 vintage is the first made entirely in our winery. It is also the first vintage made with our own grapes. We harvested about four tons, and expect to have about 240 cases, split between the Hundredth Valley and the Big Leaf labels. Bottling is set for September 2014, with release dates in 2015.
We are quickly outgrowing our little winery. Bob and Nathan have designs on remodeling the donkey barn into a larger space. Of course, Luigi, Emma and Jenny D. would have to be consulted and a replacement barn designed to their satisfaction. We are sure if we come up with a barn grand enough, they will agree.
Our winery is located within the American Viticulture Area, or AVA, of Elkton, Oregon. An AVA is a grape growing region of distinct characteristics that is recognized by the US government. Elkton was granted AVA status in February 2013. We are excited to be part of this growing wine region and proud to be able to label our 2013 and future vintages as coming from the Elkton AVA.
Our 2012 Big Leaf is now on tap and available by the glass at Tomaselli’s Pastry Mill in Elkton, Oregon. Come for the wine, stay for the excellent food! It’s well worth a trip to Elkton. (Closed Mondays and Tuesdays).