Chehalem's Ridgecrest Vineyard, planted in 1982
Smart winemakers agree great wine is grown, not made. Although the wine business is equal labors of growing grapes, making wine and marketing wine, the most important differentiator long-term between wine and great wine is the grape.
As owners, Bill and I appreciate this foundation, both being born into farm families, spending early years becoming attuned to cycles of nature: a hot, bright, lazy summer with workers trying to stay ahead of vegetation, trying to stay cool until evening coastal breezes help set a 10pm sun—an orange sun lighting shorter days as harvest sounds from machinery deep in the rolls of hillside orchards and vineyards continue into night, driven by rains not yet seen but certain, and signaling extended periods when repairing equipment or staring out of raindrop splayed windows, coffee cup in-hand, captures the day.
Once calibrated to the cycles, you can't escape, as we found, returning in the midst of careers in business and industry to the land, and to a sense of regularity and connection to nature.
Today, compared to plantings twelve years ago, we are emphasizing rootstocks, slightly denser plant spacings of meter by two meter (recognizing our 1989-90 plantings were double the density of our original 1982 plantings, and 2003's are almost triple), mechanical and mulch weed suppression rather than herbicide, compost not chemical fertilizers, and non-petrochemical sprays deemed Organic. Ridgecrest is now being farmed Organically and others are being moved in that direction.
We have used a little drip irrigation to address problem soil shallowness at Corral Creek and Stoller has drip available to all vines, but ideally we want Mother Nature to determine how hydroponic a vintage will be. Vintage differences enhance appreciation of wine for many, so long as the quality level is high. New Ribbon Ridge plantings will have drip plumbed in, but our intent is to not use it, partly due to the totally dry-farmed history of Ridgecrest and its success, partly to be stubborn.
Probably most significant over the years, we Oregonians have developed knowledge of viticulture that permits harvesting of impeccably ripe and disease-free fruit before significant rains signal an end of the growing season. Restricting yield through crop-thinning, planting more densely so that each plant ripens less fruit, encouraging uniformity of clusters through leaf removal pre-bloom and during ripening, plus through intelligent cluster selection at crop-thin, and improved canopy and spray management have made significant strides.
Every step we take, and change we implement in our vineyards is significant, for as we all know, how wine tastes depends on where and how it is grown.
106 South Center Street • Newberg, OR 97132
Tasting Room (503) 538-4700
Winery (503) 537-5553
Fax (503) 537-0850
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