Philippe Colin is a terroir-ist. He produces up to 25 wines a year, mostly drawn from 13 hectares (32 acres) of single plots in Chassagne-Montrachet: Burgundy’s central heart of golden, powerful Chardonnay (and some Pinot Noir). He would make more if possible. Colin has shifted from traditional 228 litres to 450 and 500 litres oak barrels, 20 to 25% of which are new, to not overwhelm the fruit with wood.
Today’s Les Chenevottes is one of Colin’s three Premier Cru parcels. Les Chenevottes sits low on flat land, producing more powerful, characterful, and spicier wines than his other sites, thanks in part to the high clay content of the soil. I held onto a bottle of 2012 for five years now. Let’s see how it shows:
Philippe Colin, Premier Cru, Cassagne-Montrachet “Les Chenevottes” 2012
The wine looks a clear, brilliant medium intensity gold color with brassy highlights.
Pronounced aromas smell of marzipan, pineapple, lemon peel, white melon, and vanilla bean husk.
The palate feels dry, with racy high acidity, medium but warm alcohol, a plump medium plus body, and a dual viscous yet crackling texture.
Pronounced flavors ring with the fruits: citrus, ripe pineapple, and melon. A delicate vanilla and nutmeg dusts around the edges. The long finish carries all these but tightens into a lemon, lime, and brine laser of light.
Colin’s 2012 is outstanding Chardonnay from a warm vintage and a stellar Premier Cru vineyard. It tastes brilliant alone but could stand up to a variety of Fall food faire, or chicken piccata, young bries, nuts, olives, and nearly anything with cream and a dash of lemon. It has enough ripeness to please your Chardonnay daily drinker but push them into a more demanding, intriguing realm. Meanwhile, your Chardonnay hater, fearful of butter and syrup, may just come back to the light side of the force.
One morning, while making coffee, I heard some clanking bottles. Panicked I ran into the living room to find this:
So she’s not yet four years old, but I think her “Disney Princess Collection” wine lineup has a great chance in the market. If Hello Kitty can have Prosecco, I don’t see the TTB objecting to Disney-themed vino.
JancisRobinson.com recently finished their summer 2020 Wine Writing Competition (WWC20) and published 75 entries on Sustainability Heroes in the wine industry. I was honored to have all three of my submissions published. Although, I did not win the final, the below article on Day Wines and Day Camp Cooperative made it.
MULTIPLYING SUSTAINABILITY: DAY WINES & DAY CAMP COOPERATIVE
We, especially in the West, tend all too often to isolate our narratives around an individual. Since before Homer’s Achilles or Odysseus, we think and write about onehero’s journey. The same goes for professions be they film directors, industrial moguls, athletes, politicians, and even sustainable winemakers. However, for any project to be truly sustained beyond its originator, it takes a village. Brianne Day has begun just that. Her Day Camp cooperative winery and tasting room constructs an ecosystem where multiple makers mingle, learn, and reinvent the ways we think about wine’s authorship and its sustainability.
But before the revolution, let us start with Brianne’s story. Her family moved to the Willamette Valley when she was 16. Wine-inspired, she then solo-traveled to study natural producers especially in the Loire Valley for nearly two years. She worked in France, New Zealand and Argentina, then returned to Oregon to work for sustainable producers like The Eyrie Vineyards, Brooks Winery, Grochau Cellars, Belle Pente, and Scott Paul, then retail at Storyteller Wine Company, then as a server at Portland’s French-inspired icon restaurants, Le Pigeon and Little Bird Bistro, then sold barrels for Bordeaux cooperage, Saury. In 2012, she made her first 125 cases from a friend’s family vineyard, which distributors in Chicago and New York City picked up and the RAW Natural Wine Fair in London invited her to pour. In 2019 her winery Day Wines made 6,000 cases, distributed to seventeen states and three countries, which broke a personal sales record, and received her first James Beard Award semi-finalist nomination in early 2020.
Day Wines’ fruit comes from exclusively sustainable single vineyard sources: Tannat, Syrah, Viognier, Marsanne, and Roussanne from Southern Oregon’s first Biodynamic vineyard Cowhorn and LIVE Certified Quady North, while Pinot Noir, Meunier, Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc, and Alsatian whites come from Boidynamic Johan, Twelve-Oaks, Belle Pente, and Momtazi vineyards in the Willamette Valley. Her methods are minimal: not filtering nor fining, adding no inputs aside from neutral barrels, occasionally cold-stabilizing, and minor SO2only after natural malolactic conversion.Many wines are co-fermented field blends or experiments with whole-clusters, pétillant naturel, or skin-contact Orange wines.
However, Day Wines often looks beyond profit to support its community. For instance, she donates all proceeds to breast cancer research from sales of 2016’s “Vicis” Momtazi Vineyard as “a tribute to a dear friend’s courageous struggle with a deadly disease”.Meanwhile, in response to the Black Lives Matter movement, $10 of every bottle of 2016 Pinot Noirs, “Broken Destemmer” Johan Vineyard and “Two Pretty Barrels” Cancilla Vineyard have gone to the NAACP in support of disadvantaged minorities “to create a more equitable America”.Brianne uses her wine to make the world a bit better.
Brianne’s commitment to community crystalized with her creation of cooperative Day Camp in 2015. She states that “I feel like American culture encourages separatism for the most part”.So she took her first work experience with her construction company dad, bought a large former vitamin factory in Dundee, and hiredFieldwork Design. Brianne guided them with her value of nature and organic and biodynamic farming. In 2017 they opened Day Camp’s tasting bar, which starts with a large raw timber screen entrance modeled after wine barrels, a tasting courtyard, fire pit, and patio surrounded by floor to ceiling cedar panels and giant windows that allow natural light in and views out. In this large inclusive space, she finds that “the efficiency of communal living became really appealing”.
Day Camp winery houses up to 11 producers. It has provided equipment, mentorship, and marketing support for a diverse range cutting-edge naturalists, including Ross & Bee Maloof, Jackalope, Granville Wines, Fossil & Fawn, Script Cellars, Adega Northwest, Burner Wines, Montebruno Wine, William Marie Wines, Yamtunk Wine Company, Bud’s Bloom, Hooray for You!, J. Douglas Wines, and Ricochet. Already, many of these young guns have now found their footing in Oregon’s highly competitive wine industry. In just five years Brianne’s pride shows, “Day Camp is a cooperative in every sense of the word: It has brought together smaller producers who work side-by-side and collaborate throughout the year”.
However, when COVID-19 shut down most tasting rooms, she feared, “if it drags on for months there are many, many small makers like my winery that aren’t going to make it”.Brianne took over all online sales, customer service, while also winemaking. She kept adapting by posting online sales, free shipping nationwide, participating in online tastings, and slowly, safely bringing staff back.
Luckily, Day Camp’s large communal area allowed it to open for tastings earlier than most. The future for her small family growers, distributors, and customers remains uncertain. Yet, months later Brianna and Day Camp’s family of producers have adjusted. Two of Day Camp’s producers, Fossil & Fawn and Ross & Bee Maloof have joined forces and bought their own collaborative winery and vineyard No Clos Radio in August.Her dream of creating a collaborative community of producers under one roof will continue to shake and complicate our hero worship paradigm. Regardless of the pandemic, sustainability will never look the same.
JancisRobinson.com recently finished their summer 2020 Wine Writing Competition (WWC20) and published 75 entries on Sustainability Heroes in the wine industry. I was honored to have all three of my submissions published. Although, I did not win the final, the below article on Illahe made it onto the shortlist of 18. For your re-reading pleasure, I will re-publish each over the following days.
Making And Moving Wine Without Modernity: Illahe Vineyards’ “1899” Pinot Noir
It begins with draft horses. Next come bicycle-powered pumps, then a stagecoach, then canoes. By the time bicycles deliver the wine, Illahe winery has not only created a sustainable wine but reinvented a complete cycle from production to distribution that predates electricity or mechanized shortcuts. Sustainable certifications may litter many a bottle’s back label. Illahe too flaunts their environmental accreditations as much as anyone. But beyond being earth-friendly, winemaker Brad Ford manages to keep one grape-stained foot in the scientific present and the other in a slower past. Illahe’s “1899” Pinot Noir recreates a time when winemaking was hard work that latched its maker not only to their land but to the challenging network that shipped and sold wine.
Even the name “Illahe” (pronounced Ill-Uh-Hee) means “earth”, “soil”, or “place” in native Chinook. That place sits smack dab in the middle of Oregon’s Willamette Valley: one hour’s drive south of Portland and a mere twenty minutes west of capital Salem.It runs up an eighty-acre, south-facing slope of clay, first planted in 2001 by Brad’s dad and now hosts sixty acres of seven varieties with Pinot Noir dominating fifty-nine of them. Their three-story gravity flow winery, and rain catch, allow no new-fangled electricity or gas for production (although the winery has solar panels). Brad even crafts his own clay fermenters from scratch.
Illahe’s hand-printed, hand-applied labels show off a quilt of sustainable plaudits. One, the LIVE (Low-Impact Viticulture and Enology) certification program demands a “whole-farm and whole-winery approach to sustainability. The entire property, including non-grape crops, landscaping, building operations, labor practices, even packaging must be managed to LIVE standards”.Illahe also ties in LIVE’s Salmon-Safe certification, which protects water quality and restores watershed health and habitat.They are also members of Oregon’s Deep Roots Coalition, (humbly referred to as “drc”), which argues that, “wine should reflect the place from which it emanates: its terroir. Irrigation prevents the true expression of terroir. In most cases, irrigation is not a sustainable method of farming”.Thusly, Illahe proves their ongoing adherence to sustainability.
Illahe’s farming blends ancient methods, like selection massale, dry farming, hand pruning and green harvesting after veraison, with modern sustainable standards, such as cover crops, minimal sulfur sprays, and leaf pulling. But more indicative of their sustainability is the lack of any machinery in the vineyard. Instead, two Percheron draft horses, Doc and Bea, pull an amish mower to cut the cover crops and, at harvest, transport grapes to the wineryin short totes or five-gallon buckets.
Once the horses bring in the grapes, the human appendages get to work: hands sort, destem or dump grapes into a feet-powered bicycle destemmer, which then pumps grapes into open wood fermenters, where foot stomping or manual punch downs begin. Native ferment carries through a ten-day soak. Instead, hands press must with a wooden basket press, then the bike pumps wine into barrel, where malolactic conversion carries on without inoculation. Later, horses Doc and Bea transport the wine to age in their 200 case cave. After two years, hands bottle the wine without gas, add cork, wax top and the letterpress label. Illahe’s “1899” Pinot Noir never touches dry ice, canned nitrogen, enzymes, stainless steel, forklifts, packaged yeast, electric pumps, or filters.
But many sustainable wineries attempt variations of the above. What makes Illahe’s “1899” the most sustainable wine is what comes next. They put the wine in a mule-drawn stagecoach, which carries it to the river. Then, finally, they float 96 miles in canoes up the majestic Willamette River. After four days they reach their distributor, Casa Bruno, in Portland, who carts the wine to warehouse with cargo bikes. Even the distributor’s sales representatives, I hear, are instructed to bicycle the wine to tastings with prospective buyers.
Illahe’s process may seem inefficient and impossible on a large scale. However, by keeping small, stripping away modernity and nullifying carbon concerns, as Brad sees it, “historical winemaking slows down the process, makes it more romantic, it also gets you involved with the materials you’re using”.But beyond production, Illahe renders distribution, an oft forgotten but deep damage to the environment, sustainable as well. For $65 you and your wine glass can time travel over 150 years to when only human hands (and a few livestock hooves) helped make and deliver our wine.
Illahe Website “Illahe 1899 Expedition”, Sunday, 12 August 2018https://www.illahevineyards.com/events/2018/8/12/illahe-1899-expedition
It’s time. My backyard row of vines survived a week of smoke from Oregon’s fires and now face a deluge of rain. Rains last year waterlogged vines, berries split, fruit flies moved in, leading me to triage the harvest. Luckily, through obsessive sorting, SO2, and a year of lees aging, my few bottles of 2019 turned out pretty crisp, clean, if a bit low in alcohol (10% abv).
This year, with iPhone forecast in hand, I pick for healthy fruit.
Watch the me and the Pinot Blanc in action:
Once in the carboy, another light dust of SO2 and Lavlin EC-1118 yeast drawn from Champagne for neutral, variety correct wines that clarify well (I don’t trust my native yeasts, which probably include toddler).
The next day, I picked and squeezed some vibrant Riesling and overripe Chardonnay into separate baby carboys (carbabies?) and inoculated them with the same EC-1118. Lastly, begrudgingly, came the reds. Birds had eaten most of my 777 and Dijon Pinot Noir (I netted the vines far too late), but my Meunier had dodged the winged ones.
I hand-crushed every decent looking cluster into open top fermentor, then pulled out th stems, peppered the few inches of skins and juice with Lalvin Bourgovin RC212 a Burgundy isolated strain used by everyone. Next year I will net all the vines before veraison starts to avoid the avian pests. Without expensive tests, fermentation will have to reveal the grapes suffered from smoke taint or not. Everyone is bubbling away now. Fingers crossed.