Summer 2017

In addition to bottling up our 2015 reds, we are also running the tasting room on weekends and trying to keep up with the vines.

Our Lewman VIneyard and Nuestro Sueno Vineyard single vineyard wines are already bottled and tucked away in storage at the Abbey. Our Havlin Vineyard and Willamette Cuvee will be bottled over the next couple of weekends.

Record amounts of precipation over the winter and some hot days this spring have sent both the vines and the surrounding ground cover into impressive growth spurts. Keeping everything under control and healthy is a full time job for Akiko. She switches between ground cover control, cleaning suckers and shoot thinning daily.

We will be open for tasting on an "irregular" basis all summer. The plan is for either one of us of someone from Timothy Malone Wines to be up at the Medici Vineyard tasting room every Saturday all summer. Tasting room Link.

2015 Vintage Blending & Bottling,
February 12, 2017

As soon as Akiko returns from a long visit to Japan we will begin making the final blending decisions. We have 17 barrels of 2015 red Pinto Noir from which we have to come up with 4 different wines. For the 2015 vintage we will have three single vineyard wines: Havlin, Lewman and Nuestro Sueno. Of course, we will also be making our Willamette Cuvee blend. Once we taste through the barrels a couple of times, decide on the blends, change our minds five times and then finally come to an uneasy truce about what the blends will be (deciding on blends should be contentious and passionate), we will start bottling.

Bottling will take place over two or three months with the final bottling probably being in early May. After that the wines will rest in bottle until at least after harvest this year.

Harvest 2016

Whew! Harvest has come and gone. We picked almost 6 tons of grapes from our two sites and everything is fermenting nicely along.

We had a lot of help this year. So thank you to all.

2016 Vineyard Details

For the 2016 Vintage we will have vineyard suppliers: Lewman Vineyards and Nuestro Sueno Vineyard (NSV), both from the Eola-Amity AVA. We have about an acre of vines at each vineyard that are contracted exclusively for Shiba Wichern Cellars. At Nuestro Sueno we have 3 rows of Pinot Noir 115 clone and 2 rows of the 114 clone. Tom, who is the owner and vineyard manager at NSV, is meticulous in the vineyard and as far as I can tell spends every daylight hour tending the vines. We consult closely with Tom regarding canopy management and yield planning, but our work in the vineyard is limited to some thinning and then picking at harvest.

At Lewman Vineyard we have 10 rows of Pommard clone, 12 rows of 777 and 16 rows of 115each of 115. Dennis, owner and manager at Lewman, planted his vines very densely and with very low heads -very much in the Burgundy tradition. Dennis is kind enough to allow us to control and perform all aspects of canopy management in our blocks -with his consultation, of course. This means that from pruning to picking Akiko and I (mostly Akiko) perform all of the work. This arrangement gives us two big advantages. First, we know exactly what is happening in the vineyard at all times. We can react to changes as necessary and know exactly what kind of fruit is coming in at harvest time.

Secondly, we can experiment with small tweaks. This year in several rows Akiko pruned with the so called gentle pruning method. This technique is supposed to prevent the development of excess dead wood in the vines trunk and promote good circulation in the canes, particularly those around the head of the vine. On the other hand, this technique is more labor intensive and requires careful thinning to prevent to much foliage and fruit around the head of the vine. It might not seem like a big deal, but it is the small incremental changes that add up to large differences in quality.

Below are some pictures and updates from both vineyards at different stages of development so far this year. I will try to keep the section belupdated as the fruit develops.

June 2016

Akiko is in the vineyard daily watching making sure everything is going as planned. Everything is still looking very green and in great shape, but it is heating up here quickly. We had a little hail damge, but it should not affect yield.

In the picture below you can almost feel the heat and it is clear that some of the grass is already drying out. Hedging and mowing coming soon.
Lewman June 2016

The vines are getting pretty tall. Almost time to hedge.
Akiko at Lewman in June

A little bit of hail damage is visible on exposed clusters, but nothing serious.
Minor Hail Damage

May 2016

Lewman Vineyard

The picture below is April 13th -a couple of weeks after bud break this year. Both of these vines are pruned in the traditional manner. You can also see how short the baguettes are (by most American standards) and how low the heads are. I really struggle to work in this vineyard with such low vines! Although there are irrigation lines in place, this vineyard is dry farmed.
Lewman post bud break

Here is a photo of the 777 vines at Lewman on April 20th. As you can see there has been quite a bit of growth in one week! I think Akiko was already starting the shoot thinning process at this point. These vines are also pruned in the traditional method: the baguette is bent to the wire so that it does not cross over the head. One of the results of this is that the shoots at the tip of the baguette tend to grow faster than those at the bottom (near the head). This is a result of apical dominance.

The vines below are also from the 777 block, but are pruned using the gentle pruning method. The baguette is bent across the head and then tied to the wire. The theory is that the harder bend needed for this technique inhibits circulation to the tip of the baguette and thus suppresses the apical dominance. However, this is not the only goal of the gentle pruning method. Learn more here: Gentle Pruning Method.
Lewman - gentle pruning method

A healthy vineyard has all sorts of critters living in it, but there are some you don't want like voles, moles and mice. Luckily for us these guys help keep the unwanted critter population under control at Lewman Vineyard. Nature.
Lewman critter population control agent
Jump ahead about a month and we are almost ready for bloom. The ground cover between rows and under the vines is getting pretty tall, but to me it looks so much better than the scorched-earth look after round-up gets sprayed. There are also a lot of people that argue very strongly against use of herbicides. The argument is that a vital and living soil, which over application of herbicides prevents, is of significant benefit to wine quality. Below is an image from our 115 block at Lewman Vineyard looking south.
lewman 115 may 25

Looking southwest in the 115 block. Getting close to the point where we need to cut back the ground cover, but everything looks nice and healthy.
Lewman May 25 115

Here in the Pommard block landscaping sheets are used to physically suppress growth under the vines. This makes working on the vines a little easier and keeps taller ground cover out of the fruit zone without the disadvantages associated with herbicides.
pommard block looking to 115 block

Finally a close up of a developing grape cluster in the block of Pommard clones. Pretty soon the calyptra, the little green pea-looking things that are covering the flowers, will be shed and the clusters will be full of flowers.
Lewman cluster

Nuestro Sueno Vineyard

These photos are from Nuestro Sueno Vineyard - our other single vineyard sites. The green ground-cover and the canopy look great in our rows of Pinot Noir 114 clone.
NSV 114 May 25

You can see that the flowers are about burst here in a Pinot Noir 115 clone bunch. We have three rows of 115  and two rows of 114
at NSV.
NSV 115 May 25

December 2014

Since Harvest 2014 has wound down we have been doing some serious thinking about our blends for the 2013 wines. In the end we came up with three blends. Two of the blends are single vineyard blends and the third is our Willamette Cuvee. This is also a single vineyard blend, but has its own unique profile that is very different from either of the two single vineyard blends.

Tasting to determine the blends is surprisingly tiring, if not very hard, work.

Willamette Cuvee Label

Havlin Vineyard single vineyard label
Yamhill Springs Vineyard single vineyard blend label.

Silver script and silver logo are how we plan to designate our single vineyard blends. We will use gold script and logo to designate our Reserve wine. There will not be a Reserve in 2013, but maybe there will be one in 2014...or not. We don't expect that every year will produce a wine that is superlative and as such we will reserve this designate for our "best ever" wines only.

November 2014

Below is a pretty superficial, but nonetheless unexciting to all but the geekiest amongst wine lovers, explanation of what went down during this year's harvest. Please excuse my (mis)use of the french language, but that is how all the cool kids talk.

We brought in about 9.5 tons of grapes this year from Havlin, Barrett Hill, Eola Springs and Nuestro Sueno vineyards. The weather this year was hot and dry; making the harvest fairly easy, if exceptionally heavy. Our biggest challenges were choosing the optimal picking dates and finding room for all the grapes.

Most of our grapes were used for red Pinot Noir, but about 1.5 tons of grapes from Havlin Vineyard were pressed immediately for use in Rose from Pinot Noir. These were fermented in two batches both in stainless and one with native yeast. Both were fermented at as low of a temperature as we could manage in the warm weather. These will be blended and bottled after going through malo-lactic fermentation.

The first batch of Rose ready for pressing.

The grapes to be used for red wine
, most of which were destemmed, but some were left as whole clusters, were subjected to a short cold soaking. After cold soaking the grapes were heated as quickly as we could in order to start the fermentation process. Barrett Hill and Havlin vineyards were fermented using native yeast.

During cuvaison all fermenters were subject to very light pigeage and occaisional delastage cycles. Delastage was done as much as possible without using a pump, which is no mean feat. Once fermentation was finished, the fermenters were gently pressed. Subsequently the wines were allowed to settle and in some cases continue fermenting for a few days before barrel down.
Akiko sitting down on the job while doing a light pigeage.

Barrel down was performed once the wines were deemed to be well settled and alcohol fermentation was finished. Racking and barrel down was performed via siphon and gravity. A total of 19 barrels were filled, 3 of which were new and the rest of which were either 2 fill or neutral. All barrels were french oak. The barrels are currently resting in the cellar.

Akiko filling the hose to start the siphon process before barrel-down.

July 2014

Sneak peek at the Rosé label. Some minor changes still to be made and the color appears more purple on the monitor that in print.

June 2014

Pinot Noir Rosé is in the bottle. 57 cases and 11 bottles total. It is waiting patiently for labeling and then release to the world. We are very excited about this wine, because it will be our first release, but also because it turned just like we hoped it would.

We had some help with high tech and fancy bottling system. Thanks Ben!

Progress. New Bunches in the Vineyard.

"New" used-barrels for the Winery.

December 2013

Six barrels of Pinot Noir red wine and two barrels of Pinot Noir Rose are in their barrels working their way through secondary fermentation. Other than topping and the occasional tasting, we are trying not to disturb them too often.

Another 500 l or so of Pinot Noir Rose that will not undergo secondary fermentation is peacefully resting in its stainless tank. Filtering and bottling are the next steps for this wine.