- Wine & Spirits Magazine, October 2015
Time is a most critical element when it comes to vinegrowing and winemaking. Planting and growing cycles, optimal fermentation periods and the best moments to open one of our wines, are all a function of the relationship of time to everything else. Time is, as Einstein said, a critical dimension in any discussion of physical reality and so we thought it appropriate to place a clock in the heavens over our winery. Dozens of small jeweled movements working through interdependent action just to let us know exactly what time it is — at least for an instant.
Chapter 24 takes its name from the Last Chapter of Homer’s epic tale, The Odyssey. Often referred to as Reunion and Resolution, Chapter 24 of The Odyssey, resolves the conflict between Odysseus and the Gods so that Odysseus’ narrative with his Wife, Son, Father, Poseidon, Athena and Zeus himself can be reset to begin again.
Some scholars maintain that Chapter 24 was not composed by Homer. Rather, they maintain that it was added to the poem, after Homer died, in an effort to more clearly resolve Odysseus’ story and provide the listener, (The Illiad and The Odyssey were originally sung, not read), with a clear glimpse into the story’s unwritten future.The power in a great ending is not what it says about the past but what it promises for the future.
– Richard Feynman
Not all grape varietals grow equally well in every climate. Soil, sunshine and temperature mean very different things to every different grapevines. Plant a particular varietal where the vine has the opportunity to live, grow and produce fruit in the manner that is most natural to the plant. The fruit, the part we care about as vinegrowers and winemakers, given the right conditions, will naturally synchronize its sugar production and phenolic ripeness by the time we harvest. Vines planted in the right place will naturally harmonize ALL of the elements we value as winemakers and we will not have to impose our will on the plants to insure specific characteristics in the wines we make. This is the essence of authentic vinegrowing and winemaking. If the varietal you want to grow does not cooperate: The answer is quite simple, move. Nature, it seems, is just as interested in delicious as we are.
Wine is made from only one ingredient. Grapes. As vinegrowers and winemakers our job is to transform the solid into liquid and turn the simple into the complex with the minimum amount of human intervention or imposition. Fortunately we have a remarkable collection of “change agents” that come into the winery clinging to the grapes. Yeast and the other microbial actors make it all happen and we think they are undervalued. When offered the right encouragement these remarkable little critters will literally change water into wine.
At Chapter 24 we are only interested in the wild, ambient yeast that attach to our grapes in the vineyard and we do everything possible to encourage the health of the widest diversity of yeast strains in the vineyard by farming our vineyards organically. In the Winery we insure that all of our ferments provide the healthiest environments for all of the various yeast strains that walk in the door and we think that this, more than anything else, lends our wine their unique flavor, texture and personality.
– Robert Louis Stevenson
A complex wine pulses with life. Our oxygen rich, cold, whole berry infusion creates a unique ecosystem that embraces the chaotic and unpredictable actions of the natural world. We do not impose our will on the fermentation but rather try to persuade. We create “initial conditions” that encourage the thousands of small chaotic but natural actions of the microbial population to amplify themselves through interdependence and networking. What emerges from the chaos is, we hope, the thing we after in the first place: Delicious Pinot Noir.
Complexity results from dozens of small entities that are on their own unique and independent but given the right ecosystem produce interdependent payoffs that emerge to produce one large result: Delicious Oregon Pinot Noir. The whole must be greater than the sum of the parts. The greater the diversity of these small actors the greater complexity in the wine and the experience of drinking the wine. We maintain 29 vineyard sites in 29 distinct micro-climates and soil types. We have a multitude of Pinot Noir clones which are harvested both early and late in the season. We farm and ferment to insure the greatest bio-diversity possible and present our wines in the broader context of life whenever possible. Diversity produces complexity and harmonious complexity produces pleasure.
Richard Feynman, the 1965 Nobel Laureate in Physics has said that: “All life is fermentation and when you look closely enough at a glass of wine you can see the entire universe.” The universe is full of asymmetries and imbalances and is not in any kind of equilibrium. In fact all life is the evolutionary product of billions of years of change that occurs because of the natural imbalances and asymmetries. From the big bang to the creation of life on earth we owe it all to imbalance and the energy that comes from these imbalances. Our job as winemakers is to celebrate these asymmetries, at least the delicious ones, by trying to find the harmonies and patterns in the teeming chaos. Chaos is not always unpredictable. Find the pairs of opposition and find a way to harmonize these pairs. Endings that could be beginnings, the loud whispers, taut and generous, focused and wild, grippy and lithe, fresh fruit sweetness electrified by lemony acid, high notes matched with low, engaged in a evolving ballet of flavor, texture, color and pleasure.
– Eduardo Galeano
The last chapter of our story is simply the beginning of yours… until we begin again.
Great Pinot Noir should be an imminent experience. Each sip will provoke new expectations and a new experience. Pinot Noir keeps the dialog evolving in a curious game of liquid hide and reveal. It is a restless wine focused on possibility not on what is or what was. Ultimately, well-made Pinot Noir is solely concerned with the pleasure of the person drinking it. Curious stuff.