Howdy all from western Oregon! Happy spring!
Spring is in the air here today, cold but brilliant sunshine and we are all trying to soak up as much as possible, the weatherman says more rain on the way.
We just finished our spring staff tasting of 2018’s and some library wines from 2012,14, and 16, and I am happy to report the 18’s are fabulous (Clare wet her pants) and we are excited to share them with you!
We have been busy since my last missive and I am looking forward to updating you to all the changes happening in the world of Big Table Farm.
The 2018 growing season was much like 2014 and 2016 producing ripe fruit, and particular to 2018 and unusual for Pinot noir, thicker than usual skins- these required patience to allow to ripen, and we did wait, and I think the results are fantastic and hope you will too. Harvest went smoothly, it was drawn out, so the fruit came in to the winery at an even pace allowing us to mind every detail. I think the 2018’s are delicious now, but will continue to prove their worth over time, just like the 2012’s, 2014’s and 2016’s we just tasted. The 2018’s have started to land on our table and I hope that when they land on your table you will enjoy them as much as we do.
Other than the 18’s being released (and the 17 syrah!) the biggest news is that we have leased a building in nearby Carlton to serve as our public front for both BTF wine and Clare’s art. We have used our home for our business since 2006 as it was really our only option for our fledging enterprise. Thankfully we have met with success and while have enjoyed sharing our home with so many wonderful people (over 2500 last year) the time has come to return some semblance of sanity to our lives. I literally had a ladder outside of my office window so I could move in and out of the house freely.
The building in Carlton has been dubbed the Atelier. Clare uses the space for painting when she has a moment, and of course most of her available works are there. The space has a long history in Carlton, first as a creamery until the 40’s, then as the office for Madsen feed and mill, until recently. Our tastings are still by appointment and with a slightly more convenient location and a little more space we hope to be able to accommodate more of you in 2020 – and beyond. For those of you who absolutely need a farm fix we will be doing an event here with outstanding in the field in July - tix go on sale via OSITF in March.
The farm! So much to tell! The biggest question now has an answer – after harvesting the biomass, conversion to biochar – we have begun the plant ordering process, so spring of 2021 we will put in our first pinot noir and chardonnay in the ground! Last fall we prepared the ground, planted a cover crop that we will graze this spring and summer. It will lie fallow through the winter, and then next February/March vines will be put in the ground and we will see the beginning of vintages to come! Exciting and anxious at the same time!
We have begun experimenting with the biochar we produced with very promising results. Since we built the barn and winery in 2014 we have been composting the pommace from the winery and the deep bedding from the cow’s winter stay in the barn together and then spreading on our pastures in the fall. This summer we divided the compost in thirds, treating 1/3 per usual, added 20% biochar to a third and 50% biochar to the last third. We spread the mixes on pastures in the fall, and even though grass grows very slowly in the winter, we could still visibly see differences. The real test will be this spring and summer, and the cows will be the ultimate judge, telling us what is tastiest. We still have enough biochar to add to our compost for the next couple years, so we will see where this takes us! Believe it or not it IS fascinating to watch grass grow.
Solar! Last fall we fulfilled a lifelong dream and added solar panels to the winery. I have been enamored with the idea of sunlight producing electricity since I was a little kid. We finally put all the pieces together to make it happen at Big Table Farm, along with a couple batteries to keep our wine cool should we lose power in the middle of summer. This compliments the Chevy bolt (all electric and super fun to drive) electric forklift we recently acquired and the Polaris (American made) electric ATV.
Last but not least – the animals! More goats and pigs are set to arrive in 4-5 weeks time, last year’s have filled the freezer and deliciously sustain us and friends throughout the year. Our laying flock has remained predator free through the winter thanks to a new super hot electric fence, and are beginning to reward us with a spring flush of eggs – if you visit the Atelier ask Clare if she has any for you. We are unsure of Red Fred’s abilities – several of our cows he was supposed to have knocked up appear to be open (not pregnant) hmmm – we thought a bull would solve our breeding problems. We will know what he is made of by July/August when calves are due. Clementine is mostly deaf and probably a little blind and a little dingy, but at 14 years she still gets excited about treats and meals and her tail keeps wagging. Levi is doing great and Bob the cat still mouse’s but seems to have taken adorable to a whole new level – the dogs now have to share his spot in front of fire.
I am sure I missed a few things, but maybe that is what Clare’s instagram account is for, she loves taking photographs and uses that to document all that happens here.
2018 Wild Bee chardonnay – Delicious! Is anything else after that important? What more needs to be said? This is the highest compliment a wine can receive.
Chardonnay has been part of the BTF portfolio since 2011, and I worked with it extensively during my early days in California as well. I pick my chardonnay when the fruit tastes good, flavors developing and seeds browning and starting to crunch. I like fruitiness, as well as other components, in my wine. Barrel fermented in French oak, mostly used but some new. Fermented with whatever yeast blows in the door, minimal sulpher added and the wine basically goes from barrels to bottle with only a short stay (2-3 days) in a blending tank. Filtration, fining and other nonesuch are completely left out of the program. Simplicity at its finest! 819 cases produced, 28 dollars per bottle, same label and price as last year, and complimentary ground shipping on case purchases!
2018 Willamette Valley Pinot noir – as always this wine is a true Willamette Valley blend. Some of each of the 8 pinot noir vineyards we work with end up in this wine, making it a true representation of the 2018 vintage and the Willamette valley as a whole. Winemaking has remained the same as past vintages, as well as volume produced. We have always focused on quality verses quantity and we believe we have reached an equilibrium of both. Same price as last year, but different pigs – Sam and Rick, had a great life, one bad moment and live on as they grace our table and hopefully yours.
2503 cases produced, 45 dollars per bottle, and yes of course, if you buy a case I will pay for the ground shipping.
2018 Pelos Sandberg Vineyard Pinot noir – Don Sandberg continues to farm diligently providing Big Table Farm as well as his own brand Iota with exceptional fruit. As I make my vineyard visits as fruit is ripening, I often save my visit to PSV for last, so I can walk the blocks with Don and then linger, drink a beer and discuss the progress, share ideas and thoughts. The 2018 from his vineyard is true to past presentations – fruit driven but balanced with bright acidity and present but pleasant tannins. 254 cases produced with a hat on the label you might recognize. 62 dollars a bottle and yes case shipping included on this one too!
2017 Funk Estate Vineyard Syrah – at our staff tasting the other day this wine was tasted last, it was almost lunchtime, so my tasting notes consisted of ‘WOW’. Clare asked me what I did differently and the answer was same same, same winemaking, same vineyard as last year, just a different vintage. Sometimes everything just falls into place and you end up with ‘WOW’! Working with Rich Funk is a pleasure, he is one of the nicest, positive people you will ever meet and he makes his own wines under his Saviah label in Walla Walla. Same price and same label as last year – 145 cases produced, 48 dollars a bottle. Ground shipping covered by yours truly, Don’t walk, RUN! This wine will be gone quickly.
2020 is off to a great start and we look forward to seeing you in Oregon or across the country. Clare is hosting a dinner at the Fig in Charleston SC as part of the Food and Wine event. We both are headed to ATL for the High museum wine auction later this month and Big Table Farm will be participating in the International Pinot Noir Celebration in McMinnville Oregon at the end of July. Clare will also be hosting a wine dinner at the Minam River Lodge in min July. All great events and we looked forward to seeing you!
Also, we are scheduled to bottle 2019 Laughing Pig rose April 6 and will be available shortly thereafter, along with the 2018 versions of the Elusive Queen chardonnay and Earth Pinot noir!
** a note on ordering wine - If you're super busy - please let us help you order wine in whatever way is EASIEST for YOU! We are happy to assist. Call, email - We are available to make sure you get the wines you love! If you want to reach out please just send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or call 503.852.3097 - and we'll follow up with YOU and get your order. You can also Click here to go right to the buy wine page.
Thank you to our in house team for all their work, Laura, Laura, Lilly Gray and Jeff, all the growers and vineyard owners and managers who grow the great fruit that make our wines what they are.
And of course, thanks to all of YOU who buy and enjoy our wine, all of the above is possible because of you. We love what we do and highly value your continual participation in helping us make delicious wine. THANK YOU!!!
From the table at Big Table Farm to your table – Cheers! Brian and Clare