Tag Archives: chardonnay
WineBusiness Monthly to Honor Three of the Industry’s Top Leaders at Annual Wine Industry Financial Symposium Dinner
Posted on October 20, 2023 in Press
Oct 17, 2023
NAPA, CA — WineBusiness Monthly, the industry’s leading publication for wineries and growers, will honor three of the wine industry’s most influential and inspiring players at the WineBusiness Leadership Dinner, held Tuesday, November 14 at the CIA Copia in the Napa Valley. For more information on the symposium, please visit www.wineindustryfinancial.com.
The Wine Industry Financial Symposium Leadership Dinner celebrates those individuals who have made positive differences at their companies and in the wine community. Each year, WineBusiness Monthly names their Wine Industry Leaders in the November issue of the publication, and this dinner will honor a select few who have made the greatest strides in contributing to the wine industry’s collective success.
This year, WineBusiness Monthly is honoring David Duncan, proprietor, chairman and CEO af Silver Oak and Twomey Cellars; Emma Swain, CEO of St. Supery; and Ken Wright, proprietor and winemaker for Ken Wright Cellars. To obtain tickets, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
As proprietor/chairman and CEO of Silver Oak & Twomey Cellars, Duncan has been the driving force behind so much of the company’s growth and move toward sustainability. In 2015, Silver Oak purchased The Oak Cooperage in Higbee, Missouri to make Silver Oak the first North American winery to own and operate an American oak barrel cooperage. Just two years later, Silver Oak built a new winery in Alexander Valley, one that uses cutting-edge technologies and achieved Platinum LEED certification. All this, and Silver Oak & Twomey Cellars is well-known within the North Coast as a great place to work, and has partnered with The Veraison Project to bring new faces to the wine industry through a year-long apprenticeship program.
Duncan was chairman of the NVV Board in 2015 and co-chaired Auction Napa Valley in 2014 – it’s highest-grossing year. In 2008 David and his brother Tim also co-chaired the NVV’s Premiere Napa Valley, a wine auction for the trade. He served as board member and past Chairman of the St. Helena Hospital Foundation; in 2016 his fundraising efforts led to a banner year for the St. Helena Hospital Gala.
St. Supéry Estate Vineyards and Winery CEO Emma Swain has more than 25 years of experience in the wine industry. She started in finance, becoming a certified public accountant before joining Niebaum-Coppola Winery, working with the team to reunify the historic Inglenook properties. She then worked at Sebastiani Vineyards and Winery for 13 years as COO and helped reposition the fourth-generation family winery from its high-volume table wine to one of a respected high-quality producer. Swain joined St. Supéry Estate Vineyards and Winery and became CEO in 2009; during her tenure the winery has undergone a transformation in quality with extensive investments in the vineyard, winery and technology.
Swain is a current board member of Visit Napa Valley, the Wine Market Council and Napa Valley Vintners, having previously served a chair of the NVV, and continues supporting numerous local non-profits.
In 1986, Ken Wright moved to McMinnville and started Panther Creek Cellars. His concept of focusing on vineyard-designate bottling began during those years and was cemented as a core philosophy in 1994 when Ken Wright Cellars was founded in historic downtown Carlton. Ken now makes a single vineyard bottling from 13 vineyard sites and is known as a pioneer of Oregon Pinot Noir.
Ken and Karen continue to invest in their communities of Carlton and Yamhill through countless hours of non-profit volunteerism. The dynamic duo are also founding members of ¡Salud! A program that provides healthcare for the seasonal vineyard and winery workers. Their philanthropy & commitment to Oregon wine was recognized when there were announced as 2012’s Oregon Wine People of the Year.
For more information about the Wine Industry Leadership Dinner and the Wine Industry Financial Symposium, visit www.wineindustryfinancial.com.
Posted on June 29, 2023 in Reviews
We have been honored with the following scores from Wine Enthusiast on our 2021 AVA Series Pinot noir!
2021 Eola-Amity Hills AVA Pinot Noir
“This is a Goldilocks special, because the fruit, alcohol, acidity and tannins are just right. Rainier cherry and lavender aromas are joined by smaller notes of leather and a new cedar chest drawer. The wine’s cassis, orange pith and smoky Lapsang souchong tea flavors float on a soft, smooth texture. Editors Choice.” — Michael Alberty, WE
2021 Yamhill-Carlton AVA Pinot Noir
“Tangy boysenberries and raspberries mingle on the nose with aromas of cinnamon spice and orange zest. The medium-bodied wine’s strawberry pie, fresh basil and balsa flavors are supported by silky tannins and lemony acidity. Balanced refreshment.” — Michael Alberty, WE
Posted on May 12, 2023 in Reviews
We have been honored with the following scores released by the Wine Spectator on a selection of our 2021 vintage single vineyard Pinot noir! The tasting notes below were crafted by Tim Fish, the senior editor at Wine Spectator.
2021 Bonnie Jean Vineyard Pinot Noir
Refined and polished, with elegantly structured raspberry, fresh violet, sandalwood and other dusky spices, finishing with fine-grained tannins. Drink now through 2032. 679 cases made.— Tim Fish, WS
2021 Carter Vineyard Pinot Noir
Graceful and polished, with multilayered cherry and blueberry flavors that take on cinnamon and fresh earth accents. Ends with refined tannins. Drink now through 2031. 667 cases made.— Tim Fish, WS
2021 Latchkey Vineyard Pinot Noir
Snappy with tension and lively acidity, this red bursts with raspberry, cherry blossom and spice flavors that glide toward refined tannins. Drink now through 2031. 390 cases made.— Tim Fish, WS
2021 McCrone Vineyard Pinot Noir
Well-sculpted and expressive, with detailed raspberry, pomegranate, orange peel and dusky spice flavors that gather richness and tension on the finish. Drink now through 2030. 538 cases made. — Tim Fish, WS
2021 Shea Vineyard Pinot Noir
Handsomely structured and detailed, with expressive rose petal, raspberry and blueberry-and orange-tinged tea accents that build tension toward medium-grained tannins. Drink now through 2030. 1,432 cases made. — Tim Fish, WS
Posted on April 14, 2023 in Uncategorized
With over 19,000 acres of Pinot Noir planted, Oregon’s Willamette Valley has become one of the United States’ premiere growing regions for the red grape from Burgundy since it was first planted there in the 1960s. That is more than double the amount of all other varieties combined growing there, highlighting the fact that this 100-mile-long region between the Cascade Mountains and the Coast Range is prime Pinot Noir country. In fact, more than 80 percent of all the Pinot Noir cultivated in the state is grown in the Willamette Valley, which is home to over 700 wineries.
To the west, the Coast Range shelters vineyards running along the Willamette River from frigid Pacific air and rainstorms, while on the opposite side the Cascade Mountains provide a barrier to the arid, desert-like climate of eastern Oregon. Temperate summers with cool nights, sunny autumns, and a combination of volcanic and sedimentary soils offer perfect conditions for ripening grapes with complex flavors and vivid acidity. Thanks to the number of French families who have put down roots here, Willamette has been called the Burgundy of the Pacific Northwest, producing New World versions of Pinot Noir that have been likened by many to those from their home region. Concentrated yet elegant, these will pair well with roast or fried chicken, grilled pork, risotto with mushrooms, or pan seared veal chops.
Ken Wright and his family founded Ken Wright Cellars in 1994 in downtown Carlton, and since that time he has been very involved in town planning for this historic community. He currently makes 13 different single vineyard bottlings in the northern Willamette Valley. The 2018 Shea Vineyard Pinot Noir is ruby colored with aromas of blueberry, dried herbs, cinnamon, and freshly picked black cherry. It has flavors of cranberry, pomegranate, and red raspberry with pleasant touches of creosote and licorice. Drink now or through 2033.
Posted on March 23, 2023 in Press, Reviews
The winery tells me that all the 2021 single vineyard wines will be released over the next few months. Carter and Canary Hill may already have sold out. It’s worth a special salute to Ken that his prices have barely budged in years and a further discount (down to $55) is offered to club members. As always with young wines, let ‘em breathe!
Here are my notes and scores:
Ken Wright 2021 Bonnie Jean Vineyard Pinot Noir
Young as it is this wine already has the rich, dense and expressive aromas of a wine with a half decade behind it. The alcohol remains low, which allows more subtlety and elegance across the entire 2021 portfolio. Lightly cooked cherries, baking spices and delicate touches of floral highlights cut across the palate. One fifth of the barrels were new. The youth shows mostly in the edgy tannins, which will smooth out with another couple of years in the bottle or aggressive aeration.
679 cases; 12.8%; $65 (Yamhill-Carlton) 92/100
Ken Wright 2021 Carter Vineyard Pinot Noir
Tart, racy raspberry fruit shines here, backed with juicy acids that mix Meyer lemon and blood orange. Beautifully defined and precise, this wine should cellar quite well indefinitely. Meanwhile, decant it and enjoy it for its ebullient youth.
667 cases; 13.3%; $65 (Eola-Amity Hills) 92/100
Ken Wright 2021 Savoya Vineyard Pinot Noir
This fresh and berry-laden wine bursts forth with a mix of rhubarb, cranberries and raspberries. The acids are softened and smooth, underscoring a palate-prickling hint of jicama. Complex and captivating, this elegant wine continues to expand and add layers as it breathes open.
503 cases; 13.2%; $65 (Yamhill-Carlton) 93/100
Ken Wright 2021 Shea Vineyard Pinot Noir
Now more than three decades since it was first planted, the Shea vineyard is as iconic in Oregon as any site can claim to be. Dozens of wineries seek these grapes, and it’s a pleasure to see what a veteran such as Ken Wright can do with them. He keeps the alcohol low, yielding a bright, savory, spicy wine anchored in brambly berries and tannins reminiscent of herbal tea. Complex and a bit unyielding, this is a wine to aerate aggressively if you are planning to drink it any time soon. Tasted on the second day it was slowly gaining volume. My 3/3/23 Wine of the Week.
1432 cases; 12.8%; $65 (Yamhill-Carlton) 94/100
Ken Wright 2021 Canary Hill Vineyard Pinot Noir
Among the oldest vines (planted 1983 in Ken Wright’s single vineyard series, Canary Hill also benefits from its Pommard clones. It’s juicy and fresh, crisply defined with flavors of just-picked wild berries backed with vivid citrus. Aging in 20% new French oak puts a lightly toasty frame around it, nicely balanced against the ripping acids. I would guess its best days are a half decade away.
608 cases; 13.5%; $65 (Eola-Amity Hills) 94/100
Posted on March 9, 2023 in Reviews
March 3, 2023 | Wine of the Week
Ken Wright Cellars 2021 Shea Vineyard Pinot Noir
Now more than three decades since it was first planted, the Shea vineyard is as iconic in Oregon as any site can claim to be. Dozens of wineries seek these grapes, and it’s a pleasure to see what a veteran such as Ken Wright can do with them. He keeps the alcohol low, yielding a bright, savory, spicy wine anchored in brambly berries and tannins reminiscent of herbal tea. Complex and a bit unyielding, this is a wine to aerate aggressively if you are planning to drink it any time soon. Tasted on the second day it was slowly gaining volume. This has a long life ahead. 1432 cases; 12.8%; $65 (Yamhill-Carlton)
Posted on March 2, 2023 in Uncategorized
BY STACY BRISCOE | Wine Enthusiast
“Liquor is worth fightin’ for, but water is worth dyin’ for.” Such is an old adage Ken Wright, owner and winemaker of Ken Wright Cellars in Carlton, Oregon, remembers from when he first came to the West Coast in the 1970s. “Water was already an issue,” he says. “When the population of an area cannot be supported by the natural annual rainfall, things get serious very quickly.”
As the climate continues to change, drought conditions throughout the U.S. West Coast continue to get worse and, as a result, growers look for ways to decrease their water use—with some switching off the irrigation hose altogether and turning to dry farming.
What Is Dry Farming?
“Dry farming means that we do not use irrigation and rely on the residual moisture in the soil received during the wet season to supply the vines with water,” explains Dan Warnshuis, proprietor of Utopia Vineyard in Newburg, Oregon. This means that any kind of stored water—even pond water or captured roof-structure water—cannot be used to water crops, whether by hand or through an irrigation system. “Dry farming is particularly important in areas that have a paucity of aquifers.”
To be clear, it’s very uncommon for any vineyard planted to young vines (three years or less) to be dry farmed. “If you did, the plants would die,” notes Wright. “[But] in almost all cases, two years of root development both in spread and depth (average is a foot of depth annually) will allow a grower to then farm without any ‘applied’ water.”
The Role of Soil (and Soil Series)
Whether or not soil is an important component in determining if a vineyard is suitable for dry-farming is almost impossible to evaluate “without knowing the full picture,” says Wright. “The reality is that soil is only the upper horizon of what we are farming. Of equal—and eventually greater—importance is the parent material or ‘mother rock,’ which is completely different than soil,” he emphasizes.
That “upper horizon” of topsoil is where what is referred to as “water holding capacity” is determined by that topsoil’s specific structure. Large-particle soil (like sand) is loose in structure, thus has limited water-holding capacity; small-grain soil (like clay) is densely packed and thus there’s very little space between particles for water to run through—it has a high water-holding capacity.
But, once vines establish their roots, they’re reaching past this top layer. “Vines at maturity (in our area of the Willamette) are 25 to 30 feet deep with soil being as much as 10 feet of that to as little as two feet,” explains Wright.
Only once vines are “engaging” with the parent material do they begin to take in trace elements—magnesium, phosphorous, zinc, iron, potassium—that is then broken down and transported to the plant. “It is only when the root system is past topsoil and engaging [or mining] parent material that we begin to see incredible detail in our wine.”
David Lattin, winemaker of Emeritus Vineyards in Sebastopol, California, illustrates this concept by describing his vineyard’s unique soil series, which he says is ideal for dry farming. “The Goldridge soil at Emeritus has a very permeable sandy layer sitting on top of absorbent clay loam,” he describes. “Rain during the winter and spring percolates through the top layer and is trapped within the clay of the loamy second layer. As the clay loam dries out during the season, the roots follow the water downward.”
As roots penetrate deeper and deeper into the soil series, they’re able to take up more of those trace minerals. “The trace minerals are what make a specific site unique,” adds Lattin. “These minerals have direct and indirect effects on the basic chemistry of the fruit and increase the likelihood of making a more complex wine.”
Effects on the Vine and Wine
Compared to dry-farmed vines, vines dependent on drip irrigation have a high concentration of roots in the less complex topsoil.
“Dry-farmed vines have roots that are more broadly distributed, allowing the vine roots to seek out the nutrients they need using the full area of the vineyard,” explains Ames Morrison, founding partner of Medlock Ames in Healdsburg, California.
By creating a root system that is forced to dig deep for water, the vines become less dependent on a regular water source and thus are less impacted by day-to-day temperature fluctuations and suffer less during extreme heat. Further, less water limits excessive shoot growth, meaning the vine focuses its energy on ripening, rather than producing green material. “Which is important for wine quality,” notes Morrison, adding that less water for green material also results in slightly tougher leaf tissue, making the leaves less prone to insect and disease damage.
Having healthy vineyards that can focus their growing energy on fruit ripening means that dry-farmed vines tend to ripen earlier in the season and at lower Brix, resulting in wines with naturally high acidity and lower total alcohol.
Dry-Farming Is Not for All Soils or Sites
“Dry farming, while common and even mandated in much of the Old World, can be hard, if not impossible, to achieve in climates like California’s,” says Emeritus Vineyards President Mari Jones. Further, the subsoil, the parent material, must be able to hold enough moisture for the vines to grow in the summer when there is no rainfall.
And even if a specific soil series may seem idyllic on paper, a vineyard’s suitability to dry farming is impacted by a whole host of other environmental factors that affect soil absorption and rate of drainage—among them, slope, aspect, temperature and winds.
“Evaluating suitability based solely on the composition of the [soil series] profile, be it volcanic, calcareous or marine sediment is impossible without knowing all of the environmental factors in play,” says Wright. “Any of those compositions could produce world-class or dismally inferior wine depending on the sum of the environmental influences.”
Of course, creating a quality product is always front and center for vintners, and while limiting water intake may strengthen the vine and increase the complexity of resulting wines, as Lattin points out, dehydration events during the growing season can actually do more harm than good to the fruit. “Flavors are created, and real sugar accumulates when leaves are hydrated and healthy,” he says. Therefore, where dry farming is not possible, irrigation is in fact needed to produce healthy grapes and quality wine.
When irrigation is employed conscientiously, in a way that mimics a normal rainfall pattern and does not provide a constant, oversupply of water, the effects can be just as successful as dry farming.
“People often state that they believe irrigation promotes surface rooting that develops at the expense of a deeper root system. This is not my experience,” comments Wright. “We have had the opportunity to see vine profiles that reveal root depth of irrigated vineyards that have proven in every case to be as deep as dry farmed.”
So, in the end, do dry-farmed vines make better wines? Each grower and vintner has his or her own opinion on the topic. But, in the end, as Wright so succinctly puts it: “It’s situational.”
Published on February 10, 2023
Posted on November 15, 2022 in Announcements, Harvest
Mother Nature never ceases to amaze.
When one’s business is farming, you are by necessity acutely aware of and impacted by every subtle change in the weather. You feel the shifts in wind direction. You notice changes in humidity. With every step on your property you subconsciously sense the tilth of the soil profile below you.
This year… Mother Nature wasn’t so subtle.
April brought the first significant event. Beginning with the “Ides of April” our temperatures dropped precipitously. From the 13th through the 17th the recorded lows at most of our sites were below freezing. This was far more than a typical frost event. It isn’t uncommon for us to see damage to vines planted in low-lying areas at or just above 200 feet during Spring. This was a cold front from the Pacific that affected vineyards as high as 600 feet in elevation.
The timing of that freeze caused extensive damage. It coincided with the point in time that we have “bud break”, which is the first appearance of green tissue from the dormant buds. Each dormant bud is in fact three buds that coexist within the same bud case. The primary is the first to develop and without damage will generally produce two clusters in a growing season. If the primary is damaged the secondary bud develops. A secondary bud would be expected to develop one smaller than normal cluster during the growing season. If both the primary and secondary are completely destroyed by freeze then there is a third or tertiary bud that will likely produce a somewhat underfed shoot with leaves but generally no clusters.
The cold of mid-April caused losses of primary buds in our sites that varied from 40% to 80%. It was the worst damage our industry has ever seen due to Spring freeze damage. We looked at the experience of other regions that are prone to freeze damage to understand what we could expect in crop level. It wasn’t pretty. If we had a typical year going forward we would likely have 1 to 1.5 tons per acre. At those levels it is virtually impossible to cover your farming expenses…..much less have any profitability. The prospects were grim.
The freeze damage essentially caused a restart of the season. During May we finally began to get development but as a rule, we were 3 weeks late and remained so through the rest of the season.
Each berry begins life as a flower. Our flowers have both male and female parts so we are self-fertilizing. No bees necessary. We are, however, dependent on good weather during flowering to achieve good levels of fertility. Cold and wet weather would result in poor fertility with perhaps 40% to 60% of the flowers becoming berries. Warm temperatures and clear skies would likely bring 65% to 80% fertility. Due to everything happening later in the calendar our period of flowering took place in early July rather than June. The weather was stunningly perfect.
Testing for fertility is done 10 to 14 days following full flower. It’s a simple concept. You simply cup the cluster in one hand and gently brush the cluster with the other. The berries that have fertilized remain on the stem (rachis) while those that did not fall off into your palm. A percentage level of fertility is easily calculated knowing the counts of each.
When we walked and checked our sites, virtually nothing was falling off into our palms. The perfect weather of last July had provided the highest level of fertility that I have seen in my 45 vintages. Probably 90% to 95%. So…though we had fewer clusters the clusters we had were twice the weight typical of Pinot noir.
That was Miracle Number One.
Miracle Number One gave us hope that we could still succeed in the 2022 vintage. But we continued to be weeks behind and the expected rain events and cooling of mid-October were looming. We would need an amazing fall to pull this rabbit out of the hat.
September was dry as dust and exceptionally warm. We had a total of less than 1/2 inch of rain for the month. 17 of Septembers’ 30 days had temperatures well above the normal range for our region. Then the vines were clearly accelerating ripeness now and the 3 week delay we had been seeing during the season was shrinking quickly. Now onto October and we are knocking on wood.
October blew our minds. We had zero rain until October 21st and by then we were in the barn and out of harm’s way. Of those first 20 days of October fully 18 days were above the normal range of high temperatures. Nine of those days were in the 80’s! To say we finished with a flourish doesn’t begin to describe how fantastic October was for us.
That was Miracle Number Two.
We are close to our grape-growing brethren all over the world and none can recall such an incredible recovery as we saw this year in the northern Willamette Valley. It defied all prior recorded experience. When you are working hand in hand with Mother Nature the lessons just keep coming.
We are very excited to show the results of this dramatic vintage to you at our upcoming Open House. The detail, complexity and balance of the vintage are classic World Class Willamette Valley Pinot noir. Please join us on November 19 or 20 from 10am- 4pm, at the winery, you can RSVP by visiting our website.
Posted on September 8, 2022 in Press, Reviews
Ken Wright Cellars 2021 Chardonnay, Willamette Valley, $38
The Wright family creates this Chardonnay from two of their estate sites — Haakon Lenai Vineyard, a Dundee Hills site owned by Cody and Marque Wright, with Savoya Vineyard in Yamhill-Carlton owned by founder Ken Wright and his soccer-coaching wife, Karen. Both vineyards are certified organic, and clone 548, which has found a home at each site, forms the foundation of this 50/50 blend of vineyards. That Djion clone, known at KWC as the “Cruz Clone,” has a reputation for low yields and high aromatics, the latter quality helps explain the remarkably tropical nose that hints at guava, mango, pineapple and jasmine. And yet, the eight months in neutral French oak adds a very light note of butter. On the palate, it’s deliciously brisk with its citrusy theme. There’s lemon oil, then a return of guava ahead of a food-friendly finish of lemon pith and jasmine. Such complexity and remarkable mouthfeel, in part from eight months on the lees, makes it a fun yet serious example of Chardonnay from the Willamette Valley. And as part of the Oregon Promise® movement, it is guaranteed to be 100% from the American Viticultural Area listed on the bottle.
Rating: Outstanding! — 94 points
Production: 135 cases
Posted on July 20, 2022 in Press, Reviews