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Teutonic Bergspitze Weisse Pinot Noir 2013
Without a clue as to how to start or find investors for financial backing, we (Barnaby and Olga) started on a long journey into one of Oregon’s most difficult industries- the wine business. As our luck would have it, a friend of ours offered her fallow farm land in Alsea, Ore., to start a vineyard. So in 2005, along with a handful of good friends, we put 2000 vines into the ground, mostly Pinot Noir and some Pinot Meunier and Pinot Blanc. As we were learning how to manage the vineyard, Barnaby left his restaurant career and started as a rookie at a shared winery facility in Carlton.
Because we love the wines from the Mosel Valley so much, we began traveling there every summer and have met many local producers who make superb Rieslings. As we got to know them, we convinced some of them to let us import small quantities to the U.S. [Most local wineries in these small villages sell directly to customers and don’t bother exporting their wines out of the country because of the hassles associated with the paperwork and delayed payments.] Through time, we have made good friends there and look forward to our annual visits. In addition to importing their wines, these winemakers have been very helpful with sharing their winemaking techniques with us. Thanks to this exposure, our wines, especially our Rieslings, are known for being stylistically close to the wines of the Mosel, Alsace and other old world winemaking regions.
We produced our first commercial vintage in 2008: two barrels of Pinot Noir from our estate vineyard and three barrels of Pinot Meunier made with fruit from a U-pick vineyard. From there, we have increased our production by purchasing fruit from vineyards in colder sites, higher elevation and always look for dry-farmed vines that are ideally 30 years old or more.
Today, Teutonic Wine Company produces roughly 5,000 cases of wine per year, including a rich variety of wines that are typical to the Germany’s Mosel region. These varietals include Riesling, Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc, Chasselas, Gewürztramer, Silvaner, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier. All the wines we make, with the exception of one blend, are single vineyard wines.
One of Pinot Noir’s most successful New World outposts, the Willamette Valley is the largest and most important AVA in Oregon. With a Mediterranean climate moderated by a Pacific Ocean influence, it is perfect for cool-climate viticulture—warm and dry summers allow for steady, even ripening, and frost is rarely a risk during spring and winter.
Mountain ranges bordering three sides of the valley, particularly the Chehalem Mountains, provide the option for higher-elevation, cooler vineyard sites. The three prominent soil types here create significant differences in wine styles between vineyards and sub-AVAs. The iron-rich, basalt-based Jory volcanic soils found commonly in the Dundee Hills are rich in clay and hold water well; the chalky, sedimentary soils of Ribbon Ridge, Yamhill-Carlton and McMinnville encourage complex root systems as vines struggle to search for water and minerals. Silty, loess soils are found in the Chehalem Mountains.
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. 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 Villages or Cru level wines.