Working with a new vineyard has all of the excitement and anticipation of starting a new relationship. The first phase is full of wonder as you get to know one another, discovering the nuances and idiosyncrasies while exploring the chemistry between the site and vintner. By the time the barrel aging process is complete… that’s when the relationship starts to get serious. You have to decide if you’re in it for the long haul. Our relationship with Menefee Vineyard began in 2017 and quickly blossomed. By the spring of 2019, we were smitten.
Located in our home appellation of Yamhill-Carlton, Menefee Vineyard could not be more different than our own. Our estate, fondly referred to as Finn Hill, is on the easternmost edge of the Yamhill-Carlton AVA. We are directly on the boundary between the Yamhill-Carlton and Dundee Hills AVAs. Our site produces dark, brooding Pinot Noirs with robust tannin. They often look more like Syrah when they are young. Menefee Vineyard, on the other hand, is situated on the western edge of our AVA. Menefee is tucked far into the foothills of the coast range mountains and has a very different terroir than our own vineyard.
Terroir describes the distinct set of growing characteristics including soil, climate, wind and rain pattern, and other conditions that characterize a vineyard. Menefee specifically is rich in ancient, weathered basalt. This ancient volcanic soil usually allows for a little more water access and helps create a tannin structure that is softer and a wine that has more delicate characteristics. Despite this softer structure, we usually harvest this vineyard later in the season and on average lower in Brix— which means the natural acidity in the grapes is preserved. This site is what we consider the exact opposite of our own, as the wines usually showcase elegant red fruit, are more plush than angular, and feature refined, supple tannin. We usually find our Menefee Vineyard Pinot Noirs ready to be enjoyed at a far younger age than our Estate Pinot Noirs (although they both age splendidly).
On the wine making side, when we are tasting and blending our Pinot Noirs, we will only bottle a single-vineyard wine if we feel that it has achieved a Reserve-level of quality. For us, that means the wine showcases not only its terroir— but also its vintage. We are looking for exceptional and unique characteristics that define the wine, and we will only select the top four to ten barrels for these showcase bottlings. We know a vineyard is of exceptional quality when we are able to capture its distinctiveness year after year in the bottle.
We are on the cusp of releasing our third vintage from this single vineyard site— the 2019 Menefee. If you have visited one of our tasting rooms over the last three years, you will have undoubtedly seen or tasted our enchanting 2017 or 2018 Reserve Menefee Pinot Noirs. In honor of our third release from this vineyard, we have put together a limited edition vertical of all three vintages. Whether you open them together to explore the wonderful subtleties between the years, or save them to enjoy on their own special occasion, you will not be disappointed in furthering your connection to and understanding of this charming site.
Photography: Shane Farnor