May 07, 2010

Armstrong Vineyard, Ribbon Ridge AVA

For 2010, Vincent Wine Company plans to source pinot noir grapes from two vineyards. One is the Zenith vineyard, which I've worked with for the previous two years. I'll write about that site soon enough. Today's focus is the Armstrong vineyard, a new site in the smallest of the Willamette Valley's AVAs, Ribbon Ridge. Here's a map of the region new published by the Oregon Wine Board and the Map Store. Armstrong is in D11 quadrant.

Armstrong is owned by Doug and Michele Ackerman, longtime wine friends who purchased and planted nearly 15 acres of a neighboring horse farm in 2007. The vineyard is on Lewis Rogers Lane, just below Ayres and Brick House. I was working harvest in the area that fall and watched the land being prepped and planted each day as I went back and forth to Portland. I remember thinking how great it would be to somehow purchase grapes from the site for my own project, just a dream then. How perhaps this could be a site I worked with for many years.

Now in 2010, the vineyard will produce its first commercial crop of grapes. To this point, the farming goals have been to grow roots and strong vine trunks. Now, the trellis wires will be raised and the vines allowed to produce a full canopy and a modest crop. I and two other producers, Ayres and Seven of Hearts, will split the anticipated 12 tons of grapes three ways this year, with more buyers likely in future years as the vines continute to mature and larger crops can be expected. Doug worked with us to divide up the blocks this year, and I'll be getting approximately equal amounts of pinot noir clones 115, 667 and 777 from various sections of the vineyard. The idea is to have enough of each to ferment them separately to assess each, then likely blend into one wine. We'll see. Perhaps there will be more than one wine here?

Recently I stopped by the vineyard to check out the early growth and I managed to take some barely decent pictures with my phone. I must do better, but for now here's what I have.

This view is from the 777 block at the northeast corner the vineyard, looking due south. This area is flat as you can see, but the vineyard slopes to the south just beyond our perspective here. In the distance, notice the back of the Dundee Hills. Just over the ridge is Domaine Drouhin and its neighbors.

From a few rows over, still in the 777 block, Here a view back to the northwest to the 667 block. In between there's a swale where the gravel road from Lewis Rogers Lane comes up to the vineyard barn. Notice in the distance a nice looking chunk of unplanted land. I've heard people breezily suggest that all the plantable land in Yamhill County is pretty much taken. Uh, no. It might not be cheap any more, but there are several empty spots where I'm sure grapes would thrive.

Because of some rain showers, I didn't make down to the 115 block on the south end of the vineyard. Instead, I headed over to the 667 hill. Here's a shot from the top looking down to Lewis Rogers Lane with the Yamhill-Carlton District in the distance. As with most pictures, you don't get quite a sense of how steep the slope is.

So what was I looking for in this vineyard? A few things. One, there are some replantings happening where original vines didn't take. Replants are anywhere you see milk cartons, which protect the tiny new vines. Two, I wanted to see how uniform the new growth is. To my slightly trained eye, things looked really good. And I wanted to see how much growth there had been since my last visit two weeks ago. One of my goals this year is to visit the vineyard a lot and gain more knowledge of how the vines progress through the season. I'm no farmer, so I have lots to learn on this end.

Here is a shot of a particularly strong vine in the 667 block, which seemed the most advanced area of the vineyard that I saw. If you look closely, you can see the primordial grape clusters already emerging. These clusters will flower sometime in June, to begin the fruiting phase of the growing season.

So, what's growing in between the vine rows? Lots of beautiful cover crop, which is plowed under to provide green manure for the vines, but perhaps more importantly serves as competition for the vine roots, forcing them down into the soil rather than faning out on the surface. Deeper roots are better, we'll just leave it at that.

Finally, these pictures were taken before a potential frost yesterday morning. I haven't heard anything, and I haven't asked, but temperatures yesterday morning were down to 30F in selected areas of Yamhill county. The 300-400 foot elevation of the Armstrong vineyard plus amateur weather station readings nearby that showed lows in the mid-30s lead me to believe there wasn't a frost issue, or any significant if there was any frost. Here's hoping the axiom that frost danger is done after Mother's Day holds true this year. (Saturday morning update: indeed, no frost damage at Armstrong vineyard. Lots of warmer weather on tap so let's hope frost danger is past.)


Byron Dooley said...

Actually, very nice photos, Vincent, and as always a thoroughly enjoyable read. Looking forward to working along side you, Doug, Michele, and Brad to capture the special character of this site in our wines.

Vincent Fritzsche said...

Thanks Byron, I'm really glad to be part of this group.

Portland Charcuterie Project said...

Great pics Vincent.

Looking forward to meeting you, tasting your wine, and sharing my charcuterie and pickles with you.

josh? said...

Looking forward to drinking what you and Byron produce with this fruit!