I finished another memoir this week from Stanley Tucci. It wasn’t your ordinary memoir about life. It was a food memoir. Stanley would go into stories about his life that led to food and recipes. For example, one story was about how his mom cooked all the time, except for Friday evenings when his Dad took over. After talking about the food, the recipe followed, leaving your mouth watering for pasta, a martini, a cocktail, or more stories. When Stanley finished his tale of Timpano, I knew what Thanksgiving dinner was going to entail. More than likely, my feeble attempt will fabulously fail, but I have to try!
Thank you to everyone who gave me feedback on my story last week. I wish I had 3,000 words instead of 1,000. I feel so many details were left out.
Did you listen to the Drinking on the Job Podcast last week? If not, John dropped the 00 Wines interview on Monday. Give it a listen and dive further into the story of Chris and Kathyrn Herman (Apple, Spotify).
Did you hear the devastating news of the Domaine de Broglie? Halloween night, the tasting room caught fire, and as of right now, I can’t find any information on how it started. The comments on Domaine de Broglie’s post concerning the incident are filled with comments of heartbreak and offers to help in any way possible. It is a tragedy on so many levels, but it’s also amazing to see the spirit of the Oregon Wine Community alive and kicking.
I read an email from Josh Bergstrom reflecting on the 2021 vintage. Of course, he mentioned the hot days over the summer, and overall the Willamette Valley picked fruit sooner than previous vintages. Unfortunately, when the “heat dome” topic of summer 2021 comes up, the inevitable issue of climate change ends up being the enormous pink elephant in the room. No matter what your politics are or your stance on climate change, it is impossible to deny something is happening.
This week, Mimi Casteel was featured in Wine Enthusiast talking about the “No Till” approach to viticulture. If you are not familiar with Mimi, think about the deep roots Bethel Heights has in Oregon wine history. The Casteel family has been producing killer wines for a long time.
In Mimi’s interview, she talks a bit about how a “No Till” approach helps in combating climate change, leading to Regenerative Farming. Jaime Goode, a blogger superstar from London, also released a piece about Regenerative farming. To sum up Jaime’s article, he talks about how we need to farm the soil and the life that thrives in that soil. Taking care of the soil overall helps the vineyard thrive, which produces a higher quality of the wine.
I feel if Mimi and Jaime were to sit down and chat, they would agree on most points. Farming in general in the vineyard is a bit of a hot topic, just like the percentage of new oak used in the winemaking process can ruffle many feathers. Everyone has an opinion, and everyone is correct.
If you aren’t aware, there are a few different methods of farming. First, there is the traditional method of using chemicals to spray down weeds. These vineyards are easy to spot when driving through wine country. There is zero grass between the rows. BTW, the grass is called cover crop, but to call it grass is super simplistic. A big step up from traditional is Organic, or you might see a certification called LIVE Certified. Continuing up the path is Bio-Dynamic which can take on all sorts of flavors and implementations. It’s a fascinating topic, and you should read Katherine Cole’s book called “Voodoo Vintners”. Think of Bio-Dynamic farming as staying in tune with nature. The phase of the moon comes into play, along with teas for the vineyards and compost. Here is a good YouTube video from Kiss the Ground. You can also watch the complete movie on Netflix.
There are certifications for Orangic and Bio-Dynamic farming. Some wineries choose to abide by these practices but feel paying for the certificates isn’t worth the money. Other wineries think it is essential to be certified, assuring their customers of the farming practices. I could go endlessly about this topic, but I need to get to my story this week.
Providing all the background behind farming practices sets the foundation for my story this week. Troon is one of only two wineries in the world to be Regenerative Organic Certified. I was fortunate enough to visit over the summer.
In 1972 Dick Troon planted 10 acres of Cabernet Sauvignon and Zinfandel in Southern Oregon’s Applegate Valley. Over the next 35 years, he expanded to 32 acres and passed away at 83 in 2011. The current owners Bryan and Denise White, took over in 2017. They grew to 100 acres with 19 grape varieties, including Vermentino, Tannat, Malbec, Priorat, Marsanne, Malbec, Sangiovese, Tempranillo, orange wines, and more.
Outside of this brief timeline, there is one moment in time I feel needs to come to the surface, and that is when Craig Camp came to Troon as General Manager. Here are Craig’s words from his blog when he started at Troon.
When I first visited Troon Vineyard in 2016, I felt a connection to the vineyard from the first day because I could feel the potential of this site. I can still clearly remember that day as I stared at the vineyard with the dramatic backdrop of Grayback Mountain and the Siskiyou Range. I felt that this was not only a site with potential, but with soul. The serene beauty of the Applegate Valley is unmatched by other American wine regions and, while the site and the valley were beautiful, the condition of the vineyard was not. This was a vineyard that needed to be born again.
Troon Vineyard had been in a dark period for some time. To say the brand was tarnished would be an understatement. I was brought in to put a bandaid on it and then to move on once first-aid was applied. That’s all the owner at that time wanted, and I just wanted to get out of Napa and have some time to find a compelling vineyard in the Willamette Valley. It did not take me long to realize I had found that vineyard, but it was in the Applegate Valley. Without an owner that is connected to the vineyard and the soil, there is no hope. The vineyard convinced me to hope anyway.
What is now Troon Vineyard was divided at that time. The west ranch was being farmed using the nuclear option by the family that had purchased it in a sale that had broken the property apart. Knowing little about farming, they pushed the vines to their limit using every chemical trick and allowing the vines to overproduce and exhaust themselves. I’ll always remember reading their spray list and seeing a product called Venom. Any product with such a name needed to be checked out. The first thing I saw on the product label was that it killed bees – all of them. These poor plants would never completely recover from this abuse, but, hopefully, the soils and the bees could. Fortunately, the east ranch was still under our control, and there I pulled the plug on chemicals in the vineyard and the cellar. It was not an easy task as the winemaking and vineyard team at the time had never been asked to aspire to make great wines, so they had not.
There is so much more from his blog post, but these excerpts give you an idea on where Troon was at from a farming aspect. Craig spent countless hours working with the new owners to turn Troon around to where it is today.
In September of 2020, Troon was Demeter BioDynamic certified, and as I mentioned earlier, they are now Regenerative Organic Certified. Having both certifications is a testament to the land and the people who work at Troon. The RGO certification focuses on the land and the people to ensure both are exceptionally well taken care of.
Let’s talk about my visit a bit. Craig met our group outside the tasting room and broke us into several groups to traverse the property. Our group started with the winemaker Nate Wall who came to Troon in 2018. He spent ten years in the Willamette Valley and some time in Virginia. I asked where in the Willamette Valley Nate worked, and his reply was, “Day Wines in Dundee.” He has seen firsthand the transformation the vineyard has taken over the years, and you could hear the excitement in his voice along with his body language.
Nate likes amphora. 2019 was the first year amphora arrived on-site, and today, they have 5. I am not sure if all five came from Andrew Beckham from Beckham Estates (located on Parrett mountain), but Nate did name drop Andrew’s name. They don’t use any new oak at all. The youngest oak they use is on its third fill.
Touring the vineyard itself was a blast! The dogs wanted nothing to do with us with Craig around. Guess they know he always has a treat or three in his pocket. Riesling is planted, but they are ripping it up since it doesn’t grow well at Troon. So the past year, Nate ended up making an Orange wine from Riesling.
After touring the vineyard, we got the chance to try some wine along with a killer dinner. Here are the wines we had
- 2020 Piquette
- 2020 Pet tanNat
- 2020 Vermentino
- 2020 FIZZante
- 2020 Glou Glou Grenache
- 2019 Estate Syrah
- 2019 Siskiyou Syrah
- 2020 Kubli Bench Amber
Upfront, I am going to say I am not a fan of natural wines. However, many people within our group thoroughly enjoyed the natural wines. Maybe I haven’t found an appreciation yet. Perhaps I am too old school and not in the hip crowd. I enjoyed the Grenache, the Estate Syrah, and my favorite was the Siskiyou Syrah.
It is charming visiting Troon. Unfortunately, I left my drone on the bus, and even as I am writing this, I am kicking myself for not getting some footage.
Lastly, this past week Troon announced the opening of their new tasting room in McMinnville. The address is 620 NE Third Street, McMinnville, OR 97128, and you can make a reservation for either the vineyard or the wine bar. If you want to tell them, “A.J. sent me” when you make your reservation thank you, but they might politely say, “Ok,” in an awkward manner. They have no clue who I am. I plan to visit the McMinnville wine bar soon and work on making more of a connection!