Tuesday, March 3, 2020

Happy Spring from big table farm .. 3/4/20

Happy Spring from big table farm ..

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.
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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.
The Wines!
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 admin@bigtablefarm.com 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   

Fall 2019 Special Magnum release

Fall 2019 Special Magnum release 

Happy Harvest from big table farm!!
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Brian and I and the whole big table team hope this finds you well. We’ve been enjoying some stunning fall harvest weather as we press off the 2019 wines! We have picked all of our fruit and the winery is humming with a great crew and VERY happy fermentations. 
We have some beautiful 2017 magnums for you. The number of bottles is low, so don't delay. These bottles are now available to you on our web site, via the link below. Earth and Pelos Sandberg as many of you have been sad to hear are sold out but there are magnums of both these wines available if you missed out on the 750’s.

click here to go to the magnum offering

The 2019 vintage is shaping up to be another good one. Cooler weather allowed the grapes to ripen while maintaining lower brix. Nice thick skins had time to ripen and the ferments all smell gorgeous. We are excited and optimistic for these 2019 wines! We have been enjoying more than our share of farm meals as we diligently make some great wines for you to enjoy in the future. If you don't follow me on Instagram you might enjoy doing so - I'm often post my recipes from harvest meals along with pictures of the farm and winery during this vibrant time of year.
We were honored to be named in the top 100 wineries of the year by Wine and Spirts and pour at the event in SF this fall. Brian and I will also be at Pinot Fest in SF November 16th at Farallon we’d love to see you there.
Fall ground shipping will last for a few more weeks, take advantage of it and stock up now for the holidays! (complimentary case shipping 12 - 750’s or 6 magnums)
May I suggest buying a three pack of magnums - a chard magnum for thanksgiving, a willamette valley for your winter holiday table and a single vineyard to stash away!
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For those of you would would like to have some of my label art the 10 year anniversary label collections is available - This is a special 22 page box set is my labels hand letterpress printed by Emily Johnson and features the drawings of our labels over the course of our first 10 years, and the associated stories of each. This first edition is a limited run of 200 signed box set of prints. Click here to order. 
 Cheers!! and thank you ALL! Clare and Brian
- give away hugs and share that bottle you've been saving! --

End of summer, beginning of fall 2019

End of summer, beginning of fall 2019

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Howdy from western Oregon! 
We hope this finds you well, we have had a fantastic summer here with all kinds of things to report.  We also have three more 2017 Pinot noirs for you and for the Oregon chardonnay lovers we have 2 new chardonnays, one from Yamhill Carlton and other from the Eola Amity hills, both are delicious! And of course the 2018 version of our skin fermented Pinot Gris
Our 2019 has been amazingly busy with so many things to tell – goats and a donkey! Fencing! Vineyard progress! A bull! And maybe the most amazing – biochar! Biochar? What the hell is biochar?   Basically charcoal, but when produced in a specific way it has amazing properties that can have all sorts of applications, including agricultural.  Last spring we began preparing ten or so acres for vineyard which produced about 200 piles of biomass.  Conventional practice is to push these piles into larger piles and then light on fire.  Clare and I sought a different approach that would create a product from the harvested biomass, chipping and composting was a potential solution but would have been energy, time and space intensive.  I had read about biochar and even made some on a very small scale, this is the direction we wanted to go.  It took us over a year to find the right people and machine, but with the help of Blackwood solutions we turned all 200+ piles of scotch broom, blackberry and immature douglas fir into 100+ 2 yard totes of biochar, reducing greenhouse gas emissions and sequestering carbon in the form of biochar that will be with us for centuries.  Clare and our friend Jeremy Fenske created a video that is on the front page of our website (the second now down) that explains the project in greater detail.  Regardless, we consider our biochar project as the first step in establishing our vineyard in a thoughtful and environmentally low impact way.  Stay tuned, more wackiness to come!
In the meantime the vineyard site is being prepped and seeded with cover crop in anticipation of planting in the fall of next year or spring of 2021.
Thanks to Dan Hoecker and his crew at Results Partners, perimeter fencing for vineyard (think elk!) has been completed as well as some livestock fencing.  This has allowed us to get back into the goat game and made managing our cows A LOT easier.  We have about a 3 acre part of our property that is really steep and severely overgrown with blackberry (invasive species).  We have put 6 Boer goats (a meat breed) and a guard donkey in the area and let them go to town.  Yes I did say guard donkey, his name is Sal, and from my perspective he is still very suspicious, but Clare is thrilled by his addition to the menagerie.  The goats have thrived on this otherwise unusable parcel, they LOVE to eat the blackberry and we will enjoy eating them this fall and winter.  Don’t worry Goateo is still around and won’t be on the menu!
Our attempts at artificial insemination with the cows has been a dismal failure, despite the handling equipment and our best efforts.  One for six for the past 2 years doesn’t cut it, so we are now the proud owners of a red Devon bull, named Red Fred.  We hope Fred will produce a few more calves for us than the turkey baster did.  
In other farm news, American guinea hogs Sam and Rick are happy and thriving under Clare’s care, layers are mostly contained  and another year of broilers have made it from post office (as chicks) to pasture to freezer. Bees are thriving and Bob the cat continues to charm everyone along with Clementine and Levi who advise us to the comings and goings of the life here at BTF.
I spent the month of July tasting the 2018’s and preparing for bottling mid august.  Everything went like clockwork and I am really happy with the wines.  We look forward to sharing them with you next year.  2019 harvest is right around the corner, it has been a delightful summer, I call it a good sleeping summer, only one hot spell early on that was uncomfortable and more rain in July and August than most years.  Keep your fingers crossed for more great weather as the grapes ripen in the coming weeks.

The wines!

2018 Pinot Gris – this is our second year working with fruit grown by Brian O’Donnell of Belle Ponte.  We were super happy with the 2017 and are equally delighted with the 2018.  Fermented on the skins per usual, with just the right amount of tannins and acid and sweet fruit.  I can’t wait to have this wine with a seafood meal, oysters on the half shell and Dungeness crab immediately come to mind! Bottled without fining or filtration, just like all the other wines I make.  Theses are maybe some of my favorite labels that Clare draws, this year thimbleberry and fescue. 133 cases produced, 32 dollars a bottle, and don’t forget, complimentary shipping on case orders!
Attention! All Oregon chardonnay lovers!  We have 2 new bottlings for you!
2017 Yamhill Carlton chardonnay – we realized last year that we work with 7 different chardonnay sites and that after we make the elusive queen there was still an opportunity to make some regionally focused wines, hence this wine and a second from the Eola Amity hills.  Several sites in each AVA comprise both wines.  The YC is mineral driven, some fruit of course, very dry with some tannin – delicious now but will also reward if cellared.  I hope you love these chardonnays as much as we do!  Blossoms on the label, 91 cases produced, 48 dollars a bottle.
2017 Eola Amity hills chardonnay – companion to the YC – slightly more fruit forward and generous, same winemaking but clearly very different fruit sources make distinctly different wine.   We hope you enjoy them both for their individuality and reflection of time and place.  This wine has a nice sweetness on the palate (although completely dry) and a finish that lingers and lingers.  We look forward to enjoying this wine this fall, and watching it develop in the coming years.  We just had a 2014 BTF chardonnay at a wine dinner (thank you Q!) and it was a standout for the evening.  
2017 Cattrall Brothers vineyard – spicy, earthy and a healthy dollop of fruit thrown in – Bill and Tom work together to farm their neighboring vineyards, certified organic since the beginning in the 70’s and 80’s.  700’ elevation and direct exposure to the Van Duzer corridor winds make this our most restrained and delicate pinot noir year in and year out.  Vineyard runabout on the label, 136 cases produced, 62 dollars a bottle.
2017 Sunnyside vineyard Pinot noir – It is important to me to be present during the growing season to understand what and how the conditions the grapes have been created in.  I spent a great deal of time visiting each site as the grapes ripen to access and evaluate what will eventually come into the winery and decide when to pick, the most important decision I make.  For this reason I choose vineyards that are close by.  Sunnyside is my furthest flung, just south of Salem and takes me about 45 minutes to get there.  Lucy and Tom’s fruit and resulting wine is so compelling that the extra time to get there is well worth it.  Elegant and yet still muscular, this vineyard produces amazing wine year in and year out.  Label is one of Clare’s laying hens, 245 cases, 62 dollars per bottle.  Shipping is on us when you buy a case!
2017 Yamhill Carlton Pinot noir – Now comprised of 4 vineyards here in the YC AVA – where Big Table Farm resides – each brings a slightly different element to create a wine with the power the area is known for, but also the finesse that makes Pinot noir so beautiful.  I visit these sites as often as all the others, but their proximity makes it just a little bit easier.  Three are early ripening (warmer) and the fourth is one of the last to be picked.  Clare has chosen to honor the area’s history by drawing local barns for the labels.  239 cases produced, 62 dollars per bottle, and yes of course we will cover the shipping when you order a case!  
A general note on these wines, we opened them to inspire us to write you several days ago, because they are young and energetic they have continued to develop and become more expressive with time open.  Gentle winemaking, youth and vivaciousness give them the ability to be enjoyed over several days time, if possible.  Decanting may be another option, but we have not tried this recently.

Our Magnum release is end of September and we still have 2017 Willamette valley Pinot noir and a little bit of the 2017 Pelos Sandberg vineyard left.  And please remember – complimentary shipping on all case orders!
Cheers! From Brian and Clare and the whole team at BTF