Failla Bjornson Vineyard Gamay 2019
Bjornson Vineyard, established in 2006, is positioned in the heart of the Eola-Amity hills. Situated at 450-560 ft. elevation with a mix of Nekia and Jory soils, this rocky, windblown outcrop hosts tiny clusters, ripe stems, and dense tannins.
Failla is the project of winemaker and farmer Ehren Jordan, focusing on cool climate sites on the Sonoma Coast and world class vineyards in Oregon. Eschewing traditional routes to a winemaking education, Ehren instead worked his way up the vertical integration ladder. After graduating from college in 1989, he left for Denver, Colorado where he worked briefly as a sales rep for a large wine distributor. But the siren song of ski season in the Rockies grew louder as winter approached and Ehren headed for the restaurant scene in Aspen. Skiing by day and bussing by night, the 21-year-old would-be winemaker went from wine steward to sommelier/manager by the end of the season.
As the snows and drinking crowds melted, Ehren headed to the Napa Valley with a posse of associates from the restaurant on the first leg of what was to be an extended journey during the Aspen off-season. However, finding the funds low, he presented himself on the doorstep of Joseph Phelps Vineyards looking for a temporary job as a tour guide. Three years later, after stints giving tours, working in the cellar, making sales calls with then VP, Bruce Neyers, and managing retail sales, Ehren finally left Phelps to try his hand at winemaking in the venerable vineyards of the Rhône Valley. Celebrated oenologist Jean-Luc Columbo took a chance on the erstwhile Ehren, whom he had met the prior year. A Francophile since adolescence, Ehren threw himself into all aspects of what seemed like turn-of-the-century winemaking in age-old caves and endurance-sport viticulture on the terraced hillsides of Cornas. During the sodden 1992 and 1993 vintages Ehren helped make Les Ruchets, Columbo’s own label, and visited many of Columbo’s clients, among some of France’s most esteemed wine brains.
With 34 harvest under his belt, Ehren has now paved an influential path in the California winemaking world with his long resume of notable winemaking and viticulture jobs, leading to the honor of Winemaker of the Year in 2008 and continual high scores from critics. Marcassin, Neyers Vineyards, Turley Wine Cellars (winemaker for 18 years), and of course his own labels, Failla (established in 1998) and Day (established in 2011), all make up his versatile journey.
Running north to south, adjacent to the Willamette River, the Eola-Amity Hills AVA has shallow and well-drained soils created from ancient lava flows (called Jory), marine sediments, rocks and alluvial deposits. These soils force vine roots to dig deep, producing small grapes with great concentration.
Like in the McMinnville sub-AVA, cold Pacific air streams in via the Van Duzer Corridor and assists the maintenance of higher acidity in its grapes. This great concentration, combined with marked acidity, give the Eola-Amity Hills wines—namely Pinot noir—their distinct character. While the region covers 40,000 acres, no more than 1,400 acres are covered in vine.
Delightfully playful, but also capable of impressive gravitas, Gamay is responsible for juicy, berry-packed wines. From Beaujolais, Gamay generally has three classes: Beaujolais Nouveau, a decidedly young, fruit-driven wine, Beaujolais Villages and Cru Beaujolais. The Villages and Crus are highly ranked grape growing communes whose wines are capable of improving with age whereas Nouveau, released two months after harvest, is intended for immediate consumption. Somm Secret—The ten different Crus have their own distinct personalities—Fleurie is delicate and floral, Côte de Brouilly is concentrated and elegant and Morgon is structured and age-worthy.