The video above is from Jessie James Vineyard high up in Eola Amity Hills. If you look closely you can see the vineyard workers running down the rows. They are holding twenty pounds in each hand as they run…exhausting. I’m the one in the red shirt on the trailer being precious with my decisions about which grapes make the cut.
I make two different series of wines. The Retina wines are what I believe to be honest expressions of the varietal, whether from a single vineyard or composite of vineyards. If you buy them, 10% of your money will go the Foundation Fighting Blindness (see Causes). Wines in the single-vineyard series are often even smaller production and focus on vineyards/vintages that I believe to be extraordinary for their quality or individual expression.
2015 Retina Pinot Noir
The 2015 Retina Pinot noir comes from the organically farmed Jessie James Vineyard in Eola-Amity Hills. The low vines here are planted at close spacing, which (combined with the dormer-laden building on the neighboring property) reminds me of Burgundy. The vines have limited growth and are more akin to vines in Napa than the typical wet, vigorously growing vines of Oregon.
Other than the famed Ratio brand, fruit from the tiny Jessie James Vineyard goes to Grant Coulter at Hundred Suns Wine, Evan and Sarah Martin at Martin Woods, and Mikey Etzel of Beaux Freres and Coattails.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve immersed my enormous nose into a glass of the 2015 Retina Pinot Noir to attempt to describe the aromas. The nose is somehow evasive, exhibiting black pepper spice intertwined with a mix of red and dark fruits: black cherry, plum, and strawberry. But there is something else there that reminds me of fresh clay, or maybe something more like sourdough? The pepper is primary though, so hopefully you like that aroma. Meanwhile, the palate is soft and supple (silk) with a mellow, dark berry and vanilla disposition that comes from time in barrel. Black pepper and red fruit complete the wine on the finish, making it more apt to pair with chicken and pork than darker cuts of meat. This wine is infused with potential and should age quite nicely for the next decade.
Human retinal ganglion cells as drawn by Alexander Dogiel in 1891
Vineyard: Jessie James Vineyard
AVA: Eola-Amity Hills
Clones: 70% Pommard & 30% Wadenswil
Harvested September 21, 2015
Brix at harvest = 23
30% whole cluster
18 months in 30% new French barrels (Taransaud) combined with neutral barrels
168 cases produced
2015 Johnson Vineyard Chardonnay
The 2015 Johnson Vineyard Chardonnay comes from the certified-organic Johnson Vineyard in the Yamhill-Carlton AVA. Eric Lemelson owns the vineyard, having purchased it from the Johnson family, who famously farm grass seed across the Willamette Valley. I’ve worked with Johnson Vineyard for years and have come to believe in its potential as a great Chardonnay site.
The 2015 Johnson Vineyard Chardonnay was on the very earliest side of harvest to avoid the excessively tropical characteristics of clone 76 Chardonnay. The flinty nose still tends towards pineapple, but I prefer to call it (and think about it) as chamomile and Meyer lemon. With time in glass, more Chardonnay-ey notes of nutmeg and (very subtle) vanilla bean emerge. The palate is racy in its youth: electric and pure with hints of the power that it will have in a year or two in bottle. You can feel the potential in this wine and, if I were to (hopefully intelligently) guess, this wine will be beautiful in 3 years and will begin to show aged Chablis–like nuance in 5-10 years. I love this wine for its ability to draw you back for another sip.
Human cerebral cortex by Albert von Kölliker in 1893
Vineyard: Johnson Vineyard
Clones: Dijon 76
Harvested September xx, 2015
Brix at harvest = 20.9
14 months in 20% new French oak (Damy) combined with neutral Chenin barrels
97 cases produced