When Charlie Foss purchased this property in 2005, it was an aging plum orchard. He had the novel idea of planting several different clones of Pinot noir. When all was said and done Rob chose the Pommard clone from Block III. Elkhorn is a very warm site on Willakenzie soil and planted North/South. It’s on a bench just South and West of Monmouth. It is “dry land” farmed, water is limited. We chose the Pommard because it tends to still retain its finesse even on a warmer site. As to be expected from a warmer site, the wine tends to be very soft and round in texture, with nice soft tannins and very delicate acid.
When the fruit comes in from the vineyard to the winery, the first thing we do is destem it – without crushing – into small 1-ton fermenters. The next day we add proprietary yeast, which we’ve cultured from that year’s vineyard samples. Then we add cultured yeast strains from Melrose vineyard. We want to add strains from our many vineyards for complexity.
We’re punching down twice daily at this point. When we reach about 5-7 brix, it’s time to delestage. We want to remove some of the seeds that are just now falling to the bottom of the fermenter and allow the skins exposure to oxygen, thereby removing about 65% of the harsh seed tannins and polymerizing the skin tannins early on the game. The result is large, soft tannins – just the kind we like – rather than small, harsh tannins. We then put the juice back into the fermenter until it finishes primary fermentation.
We then press off the juice and let it settle for 3 days, then get it into barrel (95% of the time that is neutral French oak). Typically, we will rack off the lees within about 30-45 days from that point and then rack 2-4 times prior to bottling. For our Reserve Pinot noirs, we typically don’t filter. Our goal for each wine is just the right amount of soft tannins, balanced with luscious fruit and bright acidity.