Month: October 2011

Harvest Excitement

Harvest time is filled with excitement, anticipation, and anxiousness. It is the same at every vineyard and Youngberg Hill is no exception.  We are taking in several pieces of information when deciding when to pick the grapes. Much is talked about the brix (% volume of sugar in the grapes) because it is an easy quantifiable number. However, there are many other more important factors to consider.

The first is fruit flavors. Every year is different in terms of when the flavors set into the fruit. Sometimes it may be ahead of brix and fruit ripening, other times it may not come until the very end of ripeness.  The flavors are one of the most important components. Next is the actual ripeness of the fruit as viewed by the pulp, seeds, and stems. The pulp will get more liquid and the seeds and stems will turn brown as the fruit ripens. This change will result in more developed and mellower fruit tannins in the wine.  Then, along with brix, we are looking at the acidity of the fruit. Acids are important because they aid in structure of the wine and crisp, bright characteristics. Too little acid can make a wine too soft or flat. Acidity also makes wine more food friendly. However, if there is too much acidity, the wine may seem harsh not as appealing on the palate.

It is a delicate dance indeed.  We are dancing to get balance as the sugar content is going up, the acidity is going down, and the fruit is ripening. We are working toward that perfect balance that will carry the fruit into the winery to produce the best wine possible. All the while, we are looking over our shoulder to see what weather is coming. We are hoping for dry, sunny days and moderate temperature. Too hot and the fruit may over ripen or raisin. Too cool and the fruit may not ripen completely. We hope to get every day of sunshine on the grapes before the rains start to come.  Yes, this dance is done every year at every vineyard and every one of us dances to a slightly different tune.  Youngberg Hill’s tune after 22 years is easy to hear and even easier to dance to year after year.

If you have never seen a harvest or been to a winery during crush then we welcome you to join us.  If you have been involved with harvest then you automatically become part of the harvest story.
What is your most memorable/funniest harvest story?

¡Salud! And Make A Difference!

As the national debate on health care and insurance continues, the Oregon Wine Industry does something about health care for the community. It all started with the unnecessary passing of a young girl named Virginia Garcia, a child of one of the vineyard workers.  At the time there was no insurance for injured or ill workers or their families. This incident deeply affected the leaders of the Oregon wine industry along with Tuality Healthcare physicians and was the catalyst for an event and organization now known as ¡Salud!.  ¡Salud!’s mission is simple and straightforward: “We work to provide access to healthcare services for Oregon‘s seasonal vineyard workers and their families.”

Funding is raised at an annual auction called ¡Salud! “The Oregon Pinot Noir Auction”.  Invited wineries prepare wines specifically for Salud! that are only available during the “Big Board Auction”. In addition there is a dinner and auction held the next day with wines packaged with events and or trips for the successful bidders. Leveraging the funds raised from the auction and grants provided over $500,000 of services to clients last year. Anyone can use the services of the Garcia Clinics.  They are billed for services based on their ability to pay and no one is refused care.

The highly anticipated 20th anniversary celebration for ¡Salud! Oregon’s premier Pinot Noir auction will take place at Domaine Drouhin  winery AND at Portland’s historic Governor Hotel on November 11 and 12, 2011. Marking this milestone, forty-two of Oregon’s most respected winemakers have created small lots of unique, hand-crafted premier cuvees from the 2010 vintage, exclusively available during the two days. Youngberg Hill has been a proud supporter of ¡Salud! and we would encourage you to be part of the solution while having an amazing time.  This special event makes the wine you purchase have meaning beyond what you can see and taste.

Have you made your reservations?

Cow Therapy On The Vineyard

Meet Beauty  and Beast.
These two 8 month old heifers are the latest addition at Youngberg Hill and come from totally different backgrounds. Beauty is a friendly Black Angus from Crescent Farms, owners of the Crescent Café in McMinnville. Beast is a shy pure bred Scottish Highland from Belle Pente Vineyards in Carlton.  Both girls will be groomed over the winter to be impregnated next summer for calving in the spring of 2013. One of these new calves will be raised for meat; the other will most likely be sold or kept to increase the herd.

Why did we bring cows onto Youngberg Hill? The primary reason is to improve our farming practices. How so? We have been farming organically for over 8 years and have sustainable practices in place. We have seen the results of these better farming practices in the quality of the grapes we are growing and the wine we are producing. We also know that we can do even more to protect and improve the health and quality of the soil and grapevines. That is where the cows come in.  As we move toward more biodynamic farming practices, we will continue to balance all the life forms (both plant and animal) on The Hill to be in sync with nature. Bring the cows onto the property, using their manure for composting and their foraging in the pasture, will all contribute to those balances of life on The Hill.

If you would have asked me 8 years ago if I would be having cows at Youngberg Hill I would have said ‘no’.  Now that they are here I could not imagine life without them.  I love going out every day and interacting with them.  I call it my cow therapy.  They are small enough to not be intimidating but by next spring they will look like they could crush you with one ill placed step.  My original goal was to just get them use to being around people.  I never thought that I would enjoy being around them as much as I do.  Beauty loves being scratched under her chin and by her ears just like a big dog.   Cows can be a beautiful thing.  Even the hairy Highlander grows on you and becomes quite charming.

What do you think of our latest addition?

Natural, Organic, Naked wines… What does it all mean?

In previous Youngberg Hill blogs, we have discussed the practices of organic, sustainable, and biodynamic farming; and how they translate to the vineyard and in the wine. There are many terms flying around these days (natural, organic, naked, etc.) trying to describe grape growing and wine making that is “unmanipulated” by man. Well, good luck with that one. If the grapes are grown in a vineyard, if wine is made in a winery, if the wine is bottled, or any number of other actions, then the wine is manipulated and not an exclusive product of nature. We are pretty confident that any wine anyone has tasted has been manipulated in one way or another both in the vineyard and/or the winery by man.

So what are we really after? We are trying to make the best wine possible from the best grapes possible that best reflect the soil, weather, climate, and environment.  The “nature” from which those grapes are grown is the goal. We are not trying to make a wine to have certain characteristics, to be consistent from year to year, or to be more “point” attractive. For example, we can never make a wine that is “Burgundian”. We may make a wine that is similar in style, i.e. lower in alcohol, higher acidity, more earthiness, and more age worthy. It will however, like a Burgundian wine, reflect the “terrior” from which the grapes are grown, not Burgundy.

That is why Youngberg Hill makes two different wines from our estate. Even though the two blocks of the vineyard are only 200 yards apart; they are on different soil, at different altitudes, have different temperatures, and different air currents. As a result, the wine from the grapes from those two blocks present very different flavors and characteristics.

That is what Youngberg Hill is doing, produce wines that are reflective of where the grapes are grown and what the growing conditions were like in that year.

What are your thoughts on “natural” wines?


Dinner in Oregon's Wine Country

When you’re in Oregon’s wine country you know you’re going to taste some amazing wines but you’re also going to taste some amazing food.  Willamette Valley is a small Mecca of great restaurants and food.  The fresh organic and diverse produce coupled with grass fed livestock and passionate chefs is a match made in heaven.  Some of our guest favorites are:

Bistro Maison  for their NW French inspired cuisine.  Debora and Jean-Jacques have been tantalizing our guest with a French Truffle Fondue and profiteroles that make even the non-desert lovers take notice.  And if I talk about the appetizers and deserts you can imagine how lovely the entrees are. Next is the Joel Palmer House.  Now Jack Czarnecki is legendary for his masters’ degree in mushrooms but his son, Chris, has taken over the helm and taken it to new heights.  I always tell guests to try to forgo their homemade breads so they have room for all the food they don’t want to leave on the plate. A local favorite is  Nick’s Italian Café  which has been a staple in McMinnville for over 35 years.  The culinary Team of Carmen and Eric have transformed this historic dining to modern and new heights.   The addition of a wood burning oven and a back of house lounge makes for an either formal dining or casual experience.  If your into sharing food then LaRambla  is the place for you.  The food is a blend of Spanish tapas influence and fresh local ingredients.   The atmospher is wonderful and the bar conversations are always fun. You can’t talk fine dining food without mentioning the Painted Lady.  Allen and Jessica have taken their San Francisco style into a Victorian home and reinterpret classic dishes with a twist of color and vibrancy.  The photos on the website are just your first taste of this wonderful dining experience.  And last but not least, Thistle  may be the new kid on the block but they are making their mark with a no nonsense approach to farm to fork local food.

If you have tried any of these let us know what your experience was.  If you have been to more than one, which one is your top pick?


Biodynamic Farming: A GREENER approach for your wine

In a previous Youngberg Hill blog we discussed organic and sustainable farming. Today we will discuss biodynamic farming.  Biodynamic farming is farming practices that provide a holistic foundation for growing products, including wine grapes. It is based on the studies of Pfeiffer and his work on natural farming. The basis of his work is farming practices that have been in practice for hundreds of years, prior to the industrial revolution and its effects on farming.

Biodynamic practices are a combination of balancing all live forms on the farm, using only products and processes from the farm on the farm, and executing those practices in time with nature. Let’s take each practice separately. Taking a balanced approach means that all life forms; animal, insect, & plant will exist in a natural balance on the property. With everything in harmony, good will balance out bad and the outcome will allow nature to keep everything healthy. The second is utilizing the natural resources on the farm of animal by-products (yes, I am referring to cow dung) and plants to assist in putting nutrition back in the soil and to the plants. Finally, executing the above in concert with the natural timing of nature. This may mean applying certain elements at particular times of the year, specific times of plant growth, or specific signs of the moon.

While some of these practices may seem a little unorthodox or “voodoo” as some have suggested, they are in essence man’s way to accelerate or emulate what mother nature does over a longer period of time. By working in concert with nature, we are more able to assist nature in keep the soil and plants healthy.  Youngberg Hill has already seen improvements in the biodynamic practices we have in place.  The vines are healthier and the grapes are more uniformed and more resistant to the elements. The idea of improving and raising the vitality of the soil and its produce gets us very excited.  We want the vines to be doing better 50 years from now then they are today and with the ability to actively heal the soil we have aspirations of greatness at Youngberg Hill.   Two certified biodynamic are Maysara and Brickhouse. Others practicing are Belle Pente, Montinore, Beaux Frere.

When your wine tasting would it matter to you if they farmed biodynamically?  Would you pay more for a wine that is farmed this way?

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