Raptor Ridge Shea Vineyard Pinot Noir 2015
In each vintage year, Raptor Ridge produces about 1000 cases of wines using traditional Burgundian winemaking techniques. High quality is the focus, not higher quantities. Raptor Ridge shares a twelve-acre estate with families of Raptors (buteos and accipiters)- birds of prey such as Red Tail Hawks, Kestrels and Sharp-Shinned Hawks. We are nestled atop a heavily forested ridge in the Chehalem Mountains 25 miles southwest of Portland, Oregon. Our foggy ridge is ideally suited to a naturally cool winemaking regime important in capturing delicate aromas and flavors. Our wines age in French oak with racking in synchrony with the full moon. Our goal is to deliver in our wines all of the natural flavor, delicate aromas and beauty offered by Oregons Willamette Valley winegrowing region.
Our winemaking philosophy has two tenets: one committing the winemaker to deep personal involvement with the vines and every barrel of wine; the other balancing science with tradition. Our approach to winemaking focuses as much on the vineyard as it does the cellar. Winemaker Scott Shull is personally involved alongside growers and field hands in pruning, trellising, cluster counting, cluster thinning, leaf pulling, quality monitoring, and all harvest decisions. Uniquely- during harvest, Scott is in the field picking fruit alongside seasonal workers, and personally transports the wine grapes back to Raptor Ridge were he oversees the "crush." Family and friends are involved in processing the fruit into fermentation vats while Scott personally adjusts nutrients, inoculation, fermentation processes, and wine handling procedures. Its Scotts philosophy to intervene as little as possible in the miracle of wine, while employing a full knowledge of fermentation science only to avoid diminishment of quality or removal of flaws.
Yamhill-Carlton, characterized by pastoral, rolling hills composed of shallow, quick-draining, ancient marine soil, is ideal for Pinot noir and other cool-climate-loving varieties. It is in the rain shadow of the Coast Range to its west, whose highest point climbs to an altitude of 3,500 feet. Yamhill-Carlton is actually surrounded by mountains on three sides: Chehalem Mountains to the north, the Dundee Hills to the east and the western Coast Range to its west, which, when it lets Pacific air through, serves to cool the region.
Vineyards grow on the ridges surrounding the two small communities of Yamhill and Carlton and cover about 1,200 acres of this 60,000 acre region, which roughly makes a horse-shoe shape on a map.
One of the most finicky yet rewarding grapes to grow, Pinot Noir is a labor of love for many. However, the greatest red wines of Burgundy prove that it is unquestionably worth the effort. In fact, it is the only red variety permitted in Burgundy. Highly reflective of its terroir, Pinot Noir prefers calcareous soils and a cool climate, requires low yields to achieve high quality and demands a lot of attention in the vineyard and winery. It retains even more glory as an important component of Champagne as well as on its own in France’s Loire Valley and Alsace regions. This sensational grape enjoys immense international success, most notably growing in Oregon, California and New Zealand with smaller amounts in Chile, Germany (as Spätburgunder) and Italy (as Pinot Nero).
In the Glass
Pinot Noir is all about red fruit—strawberry, raspberry and cherry with some heftier styles delving into the red or purple plum and in the other direction, red or orange citrus. It is relatively pale in color with soft tannins and a lively acidity. With age (of which the best examples can handle an astounding amount) it can develop hauntingly alluring characteristics of fresh earth, savory spice, dried fruit and truffles.
Pinot’s healthy acidity cuts through the oiliness of pink-fleshed fish like salmon and tuna but its mild mannered tannins give it enough structure to pair with all sorts of poultry: chicken, quail and especially duck. As the namesake wine of Boeuf Bourguignon, Pinot noir has proven it isn’t afraid of beef. California examples work splendidly well with barbecue and Pinot Noir is also vegetarian-friendly—most notably with any dish that features mushrooms.
For administrative purposes, the region of Beaujolais is often included in Burgundy. But it is extremely different in terms of topography, soil and climate, and the important red grape here is ultimately Gamay, not Pinot noir. Truth be told, there is a tiny amount of Gamay sprinkled around the outlying parts of Burgundy (mainly in Maconnais) but it isn’t allowed with any great significance and certainly not in any Village or Cru level wines. So "red Burgundy" still necessarily refers to Pinot noir.