From Dirt to Wine: Patricia Green’s Willamette Pinots

Patricial greenNot surprisingly for someone who wants to make “wines from dirt to wine,” Patty Green has worked from the ground up. After a stint doing reforestation work (which sounds better than “planting lots of trees), Patty began in the wine business by picking grapes at Hillcrest Vineyard in the mid-1980s. By 1987 she was Assistant Winemaker there, followed by some consulting work in the early 1990s.

In 1993 she became winemaker and sole employee of Torri Mor where Jim Anderson eventually signed on as employee number 2. After a fine run there (including plenty of highly rated wines and a bunch of local and national acclaim), she and Jim left to form Patricia Green Cellars in 2000.

A 2013 Rollercoaster. With 25+ Willamette Valley vintages under her belt, Patty’s had the chance to see pretty much everything the Willamette Valley has to offer. So she was ready for the rollercoaster 2013 campaign. The vintage started off early and then got warm, sunny, and dry and stayed that way. Visiting Willamette Valley vineyards in July 2013, the main concern growers had was that ripeness would come too early for flavor development.

Things slowed down a bit as the summer went on, though, and most sites were entering their harvest windows a tad early in September when remnants of a Pacific typhoon arrived and dropped four inches of rain on the Valley in only two days. For many, this was a disaster, with bloated grapes cracking and rot beginning to spread. Some were forced to pick right after the rain, giving them diluted grapes to work with in the winery and requiring a lot of winemaking to save the vintage.

Patty and Jim were more fortunate – or, rather, their approach to winegrowing was especially well suited to deal with the rain. All of their vineyards are dry farmed and on free-draining sites, and they only use vines 20 years old or order for their estate bottlings. The old vines and loose soils shed the rains easily, allowing them to pick ripe, healthy fruit a week or more after the rain.

A Light Touch with Great Sites. It helps that their vineyards are some of the most outstanding in all of Oregon and that their winemaking is careful and restrained. The heart of their operation is their 30 acre estate vineyard in Ribbon Ridge, right next door to Beaux Freres and not far from Brick House. The wines featured today include some juice from the Estate vineyard (you’ll find that in the Reserve) as well as wines from the benchmark Freedom Hill vineyard down South and the unique Chehalem Mountain sites called Lia’s and Olenik Vineyards.

The recipe in the winery is simple – there is no recipe! Before and during harvest, Patty tries to match soak times, maceration lengths, and barrel programs to the specific character of each site and vintage. Only three things are constant for every wine: native yeast fermentation; all barrels from Cadus, a premier Pinot Noir barrel house; and tasting, tasting, and tasting some more as the wines evolve to pick the right time and best blend to bottle.

The goal is to produce wines that deliver great pleasure young and old while telling the unique story of each vineyard and vintage. This set of outstanding 2013s does that in spades. Do not miss them!

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