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Archive for November, 2008

 

Kate and Baylie selecting Christmas trees for harvest

Kate and Baylie selecting Christmas trees for harvest

About a half mile up the road past Bethel Heights Vineyard, directly above Temperance Hill Vineyard, is the Feldman family tree farm.  And that’s where you can find our tasting room and Cellar Club manager, Kate Crowe (née Feldman) and her daughter Baylie these days, getting ready for the Christmas Tree harvest.  Visitors to Bethel Heights know Kate as the very personification of hospitality in our tasting room, but there is more to Kate than meets the eye.  We finally convinced her to tell you a bit about the other side of her life:

I have spent the last 14 years working part time in the Bethel Heights tasting room.  I get an immense amount of satisfaction pouring wine and visiting with guests from all over the globe.  I have told many visitors that it is how I travel.  It’s great for me because I can learn about so many different places and not have to leave my neighborhood. (I am not a great traveler anyway.) 

View of neighboring vineyards from Feldman farm high above

Looking down at neighboring vineyards from Feldman tree farm high above

 

 

 

 

Speaking of my neighborhood, what many of you who have met me in the tasting room may not know is that I grew up right here in the Bethel Heights neighborhood.  It is such a beautiful area and a perfect place to raise kids that my husband and I moved back to the farm I grew up on 15 years ago.  My mom and dad were gradually working their way toward retirement and decided they needed someone to run the Christmas tree operation that my family started in 1976.  I seemed to be a good fit since I had continued to work on the farm helping with harvest and other tasks after I had married and started my family.

Oak savannah preserved!

Oak savannah preserved!

 

 

We own 350 acres of land here in the beautiful Eola Hills, 45 of it is in Christmas trees. My role is to manage the Christmas trees while my father manages the 150 acres of timber that is on the property. He has also recently started an oak savannah restoration project of which he is extremely proud. About 2 years ago after becoming a certified tree farm we learned that we had a piece of property that was one of the last oak savannahs in the Eola Hills.  There are many species of wildflowers growing there that are considered extremely endangered here in the Willamette Valley.  

Grazing cows complete the ecosystem

Grazing cows complete the ecosystem

 

 

 

 

 

 

My father was a bit hesitant at first about starting the project thinking that we may not be able to allow our cows or my small flock of sheep to graze in that area.  But after discussion with the gentleman from Oregon State University that is guiding us with the project we learned that it is very healthy to have grazing animals on the piece of property because it does not allow the grasses to die and build up. Thus, allowing the wildflowers to germinate.  That was exciting news because I was not about to give up my flock of sheep!

Trees the old-fashioned way

Trees the old-fashioned way

 

 

We have always tried to be good stewards of our property by using the “old” farming practices. (Now being called “sustainable farming practices”).  We use little or no pesticide and herbicide on our trees or around our property.  I have had visiting tree farmer’s comment on the amount of weeds we have in our trees or the bees that they see buzzing through the fields.  I just smile and ask them how many times a year they have to spray for aphids or other nasty insects that can damage the trees?  Their answer is usually “as many times as we need too”.  My answer to them is “we never need to”.  The bees take care of the aphids; the skunks take care of the bees and so on and so forth.  The fields don’t always look as well groomed as theirs but I think the weeds are beautiful!

Kate's Tipper would love to help you pick out a perfect Christmas tree

Kate's dog Tipper would love to help you find a perfect Christmas tree

 

 

 

I guess the marketing part of me is now kicking in and I want to invite you to visit our farm and pick up an extremely fresh cut, pesticide free Christmas tree for your holiday décor!  We grow Noble fir and Douglas fir and have all sizes available, and wreaths as well.  We will be open from 9:00 to 5:00 daily from November 28 through December 21. We also give walking tours of our tree farm: just call ahead and be prepared to hike! You can contact me at (503) 363-9919 or kate@feldmantreefarm.com.

I’m second generation on our farm and hope that one day one of our children, Josh, Ethan or Baylie (most likely the latter) will be interested in a role here when I am ready to retire.  I think that may come quicker than I think!

Tasting room manager Kate signing off! 

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Hooray for 2007 from Terry and Ben

Hooray for 2007 from Terry and Ben

You can safely ignore any rumblings you may have heard about Oregon’s 2007 vintage being less wonderful than 2006.  We did have rain in September last year, and there are some people who think rain in September spells disaster for a vintage, but as I said back on October 5, Oregon winegrowers know how deal with threats of rain.  Ask any Oregon winemaker about 2007 and he or she will tell you, it was a classic Oregon vintage, a real winemaker’s vintage. And if you don’t believe the winemakers, here is what Jay Miller had to say about it in the October issue of The Wine Advocate:  

The vast majority of [Oregon’s] 2006s are enjoyable now, but Burgundy fans who prize elegance will have to wait for one more year when what looks to be a superb 2007 vintage is released . . . Although there was never a clear window for picking, with some growers continuing to harvest well into October, the results were terrific.  This was not immediately apparent but after malolactic fermentation was complete, almost everyone was thrilled with what they achieved.  These wines will be lower in alcohol than the 2006 but with better concentration, more elegance, and very good aging potential.  In other words, it will be a vintage to please both the intellect and the senses. 

Bethel Heights new releases from the 2007 vintage

Bethel Heights current releases from the 2007 vintage, ready to please both the intellect and the senses!

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gold-vines-long-row

 img_0473 img_0446img_0436Last Saturday turned out to be the last sunny day of the season, and luckily it was the very day of our Cellar Club fall party.  Club members got to soak up the sunshine and the golden glow of the vineyard in the full glory of its fall foliage, taste the first wine of the 2008 vintage (very raw!), and sample new releases from the 2007 vintage paired with special treats from the local harvest bounty  (roasted tomato soup shooters, butternut squash croquets, chocolate covered cherries. . .) 

 

Vic Winquist catching up with Terry

Vic Winquist catching up with Terry

We had a surprise guest at the party, an old friend whose daughter is a new member of our Cellar Club.  Vic Winquist is the genius who spotted Bethel Heights Walnut Groves back in 1975, while flying over the Eola Hills in an airplane looking for the perfect vineyard site.  He bought the property and lived here for two years in a trailer, while he cleared and planted the first 14 acres of grapes at Bethel Heights.  In 1977 he sold the property to us, but he stuck around for our whole first year to help us figure out what we were doing.  After that he went on to find and develop quite a few more of the most famous vineyards in the Eola Hills, including Temperance Hill, Canary Hill, Cristom (originally called Mirassou), Witness Tree (originally called Gentzkow), and Zenith (originally called O’Connor), before moving on to another career in Arizona.

img_0454Vic made a little speech during the Cellar Club party, about how he’d splurged on a recent major birthday, going to see Jimmy Buffett in Las Vegas and then dinner at the Bellagio, and how thrilled he was to see Bethel Heights Pinot Noir on the wine list there.  In many ways, Bethel Heights is his baby too!

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img_0396Last week the first-picked lots of 2008 Bethel Heights Pinot noir finished fermenting, and on Saturday the first barrels of the new vintage were filled.  Terry and Ted and Ben were having a hard time curbing their enthusiasm as they tasted little beakers full of the new wine (“incredible color,” “fantastic fruit flavors”).  It’s not considered very wise to make these kinds of comments at this stage in a new vintage, so I’ll leave it at that.

img_03721Jim Lee, eponymous co-owner of Jessie James Vineyard, has been helping out throughout this crush by monitoring the progress of fermentation in each tank and bin daily, to make sure the temperature is warm enough and the yeast is active enough to make a clean job of it.   At peak fermentation in Pinot noir, the temperature should be between 75° and 80°, and the Brix should drop 5 or 6 points a day. If this isn’t happening on its own, the guys wheel in the heat exchanger and make it happen.

Torpedo with Alanna's crush-colored hands

Torpedo with Alanna's crush-colored hands

When the yeast finally finishes its work and all the sugar in the juice has been converted to alcohol, it’s time to press.  First, most of the juice is drained off by inserting the torpedo into the bin, or opening the screened valve at the bottom of the tank, and pumping out the “free run” juice, which is kept separate. Then all the remaining juice, full of skins, seeds and stems, is dumped into the press and slowly drained – this is also part of the free run. 

 

from the press into the press pan

from the press into the press pan

 

some goes into the discard bin

some goes into the discard bin

After the free run is finished, the bladder inside the press is very slightly inflated, and the resulting “light-press” juice is also kept separate. Finally, the air pressure in the bladder is gradually increased and someone who  knows what to look for stands there and tastes the “hard press” wine frequently as it drains into the press pan.  As soon as they taste astringency, the pressing stops and whatever is left in the press is discarded.  The hard press wine is used for topping barrels through the year. Perhaps surprisingly, it sometimes becomes a prized component in the final blends.

 

 

From the press pan, the juice goes to a settling tank for at least three days so the heavy lees (dead yeast cells) sink to the bottom.  Then the juice is racked off the lees into another tank and settled again to make sure it is as clean as possible before it goes into barrel.  The fine lees that remain in suspension stay in the barrel and settle out over several months.

Don pumping lees out of the bottom of the settling tank

Don pumping lees out of the bottom of the settling tank

Don with hose and flashlight

Don with hose and flashlight

Getting the settled wine into the barrels is a matter of very long hoses snaking through the entire length of the building from the fermentation rooms to the barrel cellar below the tasting room.  Someone stands down in the cellar and watches the holding tank fill up, then yells “Stop” very loudly to the guy running the pump upstairs.  Then the barrels are filled from the holding tank using a flashlight to see when the wine reaches the top of the barrel. This is nerve-racking work, but it smells really good – all that lovely fresh pinot noir fragrance mingling with the aroma of brand new French oak barrels. 

Finally each barrel gets a tag that tells the entire history of the wine inside:  picking date and block; yeast used; date pressed; date barrelled.  Over the next twelve months we will get to know each of these barrels very well.

Pat Dudley

bhvcellar2008

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