Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Brian's Fall Newsletter and wine release


Howdy all! I hope this finds you well.  Summer has always been my favorite time of year, it’s just too damn short.  I like the fall too, but it takes second place to the Oregon summer.  There is something about the energy that comes from the warmth and long days.

Nevertheless we are happy to present you with our fall release wines: Cattrall, Sunnyside Wirtz and Yamhill- Carlton.  I am sipping these wines as I write, each one is a stunner in it’s own way.  This missive comes to you in a precious moment as I prepare for bottling the 2016 wines and before harvest of 2017.

My overarching winemaking goal is and has always been to make delicious wines.  Complexity, age-worthiness and interesting wines are all also important, but if the delicious is not there, then all else is unimportant.  I mostly use my own palate. I taste and try and taste again, from the grapes in the beginning to each of the barrels before blending, sometimes until my mouth can take no more.  Each barrel is evaluated a multitude of times to make sure it finds the right home in one of our wines, or is even cast off. 



We drink all of our wines regularly because we make what we like and what we think is delicious.  I am sure you have all heard the expression “too many cooks in the kitchen spoil the sauce” -  small wineries like ours where the owner is also the winemaker are in a unique position artistically. We have no outside investors, owners or partners looking over our shoulders and the wines can truly reflect a singular focus. I certainly check in with clare to make sure I am not crazy, but she likes my wine too. Perhaps that’s why the labels are so great!  Or maybe it tastes good because the labels are so great!  OK – enough bullshit – here are the wines.


The Wines
I tasted them in this order... so here they are presented to you as well.

2015 Yamhill- Carlton pinot noir. 
Big Table Farm is in the Yamhill-Carlton AVA and the longer I work with fruit from Coats and Whitney and Kalita the more I appreciate the power, depth and dark fruit flavors that grow here.  Both vineyards are represented equally in this blend and maybe someday a little BTF fruit will join in.  We love old barns and the emotions they evoke whether you are viewing across the landscape or protected inside.  Pike Rd Barn on the label .303 cases made. 48 dollars/bottle.

2015 Wirtz Vineyard pinot noir.
These old vines have become my friends. We have made wine since 2010 and started farming it in 2013, so I have walked up and down the rows many times.  I have always loved the spice and red fruit that come out of this vineyard regardless of vintage.  Label isthe flat friendly fir.  368 cases.  48 dollars/bottle

2015 Sunnyside Vineyard pinot noir.
Vibrant and stalwart – this wine is always a reflection of luci and tom and the effort and enthusiasm they put into farming their vineyard.  I am honored that they continue to sell me their fruit, I do my best to let their work shine through.  Always savory, both red and blue fruits make this an irresistible wine.  One of Clare’s chickens on the label.  369 cases.  48 dollars/bottle

2015 Cattrall Brothers Vineyard pinot noir.
Fruit and humus and then some in this wine, definitely a pinot lovers pinot.  Bill and Tom broke the mold.  They have farmed cooperatively and organically since the 70’s.  Again I am honored that they continue to sell me the same rows of own rooted wadensville since 2009.  I always do my best and I think everybody will be happy with the 2015 version.  Tom’s grape delivery truck on the label. 202 cases made.  48 dollars/bottle.

2016 Pinot Gris.
Yet to be bottled this wine is last but not least. (It will be bottled in just a few days) This wine is made in the same fashion as all previous vintages. The fruit is macerated in its own juices until it starts to ferment with its natural yeast. It’s then pressed and finishes both primary and malolactic. The copper color and structure comes from the time spent on the skins. The result is a very full-bodied, luscious wine with lots of fruit and structure, and with the freshness of a white wine. We will rack 5 barrels today and bottle approx 125 cases. Queen Anne’s lace on the label. $32 dollars/bottle





The 2015 vintage was warm, then a little hot, then warm again and then thankfully cool in September.  It was large in terms of the volume of fruit, which was a good thing given the warmth, giving the vigorous vines more work to do and extending the ripening.   The cool September allowed us to make our picking decisions in a thoughtful way.  The resulting wines are beautiful, balanced and of course delicious.  The quintessential Oregon pinot noir in my mind.  They are drinking well now and conceivably for the next 3-5 years.






On the farm

We will be attempting to AI our cows again this year – we have ordered some handling equipment to avoid the rodeo action of 2016.  Curley the bull did the job in the end last year and we had 6 healthy calves hit the ground this spring.  They are so fun to watch cavort, playfulness must be an attribute of all youth.   Our freezer is full of broilers that clare did another amazing job of raising and of course, thanks to shorty the steer, we will be well fed again this year.  My garden still takes more time than it should and of course the book titled “The $64 Tomato”  often rings in my ears.




Clare is still riding and driving her horses, but just realized that hummer is a little older than we thought and only has 4 teeth.  So of course he gets special treatment and I fear a third horse might be in the works.  Levi and Clementine are still happy to perform dog tricks if you have some treats and of course goatio still graces the place (and sometimes guest’s shoes).  And how could I forget the pigs – hibiscus and buttercup are cute as ever, love all the windfall apples and pears and their daily belly rubs. Buttercup will grace the 2016 Willamette Valley Pinot Noir label, and of course will make more delicious pork chops, bacon, prosciutto, lard, sausage, coppa roast… yes, we eat well.

My very best to all of you, thank you for enjoying our wine, making the trek out to see us or taking the time to say hi at an event.  We cannot do this without you.
cheers! Brian and Clare








buy wine

To get right to the wines, click here!

Note on ordering wine: we respect YOUR time.
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 - Clare and Elaine are always available to make sure you get the wines you love! If you want to reach out please just send an email to admin(at)bigtablefarm.com or call 503.662.3129 - and we'll follow up with YOU and get your order!

Wine orders will be shipped end of September or early October, when temperatures across the country are a little more consistent, we will follow up with your order's shipping details.


Monday, April 10, 2017

Royalty, Dirt, Romance and Rose


Howdy!
Spring has sprung here in western Oregon – we are so happy to see all of the blossoms and to have three more wines to offer!  Here are the latest versions of the Laughing Pig Rose, the Elusive Queen and of course, Earth!


The 2016 Laughing Pig Rose – wrongly or rightly I always use the rose as a bellwether for the latter bottlings of the vintage, what does the 2016 LPR say about it’s yet to come relatives?  Bright, intense fruit and good now but good later too… it really reminds me of the first Laughing Pig we made in 2007, which we surprisingly and recently tasted.  Clare found a forgotten case in our cellar (it is crowded, not big) and we apprehensively popped one open and lo and behold – still vibrant and completely drinkable.  I think its best days have passed, but this ten year old rose speaks volumes to maintenance of vitality through gentle handling in the winery.  
The 2016 vintage was almost a repeat of 14 and 15 but with a smaller crop load – smaller berries and clusters meant less saigne (bleeding of the red wine ferments to concentrate flavors) was needed so consequently we made significantly less rose.  This wine has energy and nerve beyond belief, red raspberry and floral on the nose and into the palate that continues for seemingly forever.  Only 129 cases bottled and I am reserving a couple to keep me company in the garden throughout the summer.  Get it while you can, 2016 Laughing Pig Rose, $32 



The Elusive Queen is a passion project for Clare and me – we seem to share a similar palate when it comes to chardonnay and it is really romantic when we can agree on something we want to drink together, that we made together.  Best on days that went a little sideways and a correction is needed, the EQ comes out and wow! – smiles happen and worries disappear.  The Elusive Queen and Earth represent what Clare and I feel epitomizes what we work so hard to achieve and we want to enjoy.  We hope that it raises consciousness in a moment for you too.



Earth is the Pinot noir counterpoint to the Elusive Queen.  I do the heavy lifting of the initial barrel selection with a piece of chalk in my pocket and notes at hand, tasting and marking each barrel.  This process takes over a month to accomplish.  Then Clare comes in and helps with the final decisions that make these wines happen.  They are the best in our cellar.  Any winemaker can/will tell you that there are always a few barrels that stand out from all the others, and we feel that we can skim a little of the cream off the top, for ourselves and those of you share our palates, without dramatically affecting the rest of our blends.  As I have said before – I treat all fruit and fermentations lots equally once they come into the winery.  I do my very best to guide each to dryness and then into barrel, using foot stomping and a simple basket press.  Malolactic is encouraged by maintaining conducive temperature, which is easy in our super efficient building.  Minimal sulpher is maintained and a small adjustment made at bottling.

Some barrels just stand out, some we just like more than others, so we select and blend and bottle to our own taste.  If no one else likes them, no problem, we will happily enjoy them ourselves.  We are so happy with the 2014 versions of these wines, it would be embarrassing to admit how many bottles we consumed ourselves.  We are in the lucky position that we can make what we truly enjoy, as Clare and I are solely responsible, and therefore free to make wines we chose.
The labels are wacky but beautiful, you will have to ask Clare what they signify.

2015 Elusive Queen Chardonnay, 119 cases, $85 bottle
2015 Earth Pinot noir, 117 cases, $105 bottle

I hope you have already popped a few corks of the 15’s we have just made available, Willamette Valley and Pelos Sandberg Pinot noir and Willamette Valley Chardonnay.  If you liked these then Earth, and the Elusive Queen should please as well, and hopefully even more!  All of the above are available on our website.

We have thoroughly enjoyed the 14 versions of these wines and we are thrilled to be able to present the 2015 versions to you!  We hope that the enthusiasm the 2014 EQ and Earth (both sold out) received will extend to the 15’s.  We have started to drink them now, and like all our other 15’s they have surpassed my expectations.  I am still stunned by what they have evolved into.

Thank you again for continuing to enjoy our wine, we love what we do and are so grateful for your continued support.  Cheers from our table to yours! Brian and Clare



Saturday, March 4, 2017

Happy 'almost' spring


 



Happy spring!  

From wet western Oregon – we are thrilled the days are getting longer and warmer with a bit more sunshine.  We are also thrilled to have some terrific wines from 2015 to offer – our 2015 Willamette valley Pinot noir and Chardonnay with of course the Pelos Sandberg Pinot that always shows well as a youngster.



Ten years into this crazy Oregon adventure Clare and I still shake our heads in disbelief at who and what surround us – We have great team here at the farm, our winemaking/winegrowing community, the vendors we work with and of course our customers, YOU!  Who keep coming back for more is most humbling and encouraging at the same time – motivating us to continue to strive to do our best.


We began labeling the 2015 wines Feb 6 and just finished – 3.5 weeks to apply art to the front of each bottle and wrap to protect it. The first couple years Clare and I did this together, maybe with a friend or two, and then even just 150 cases took forever, but we felt then and still do today that dressing each bottle shows how important they all are to us.  Now that we are making a bit more wine we hire a small crew, train them and then work with them every day to ensure all goes well.

So you may say “the wine looks good – how does it taste?” my easy response is the wines are stunning, I am stunned by them.  I put the blends together end of August, bottled them and sent them to the warehouse and promptly put them out of my mind to focus on the 2016 vintage.   We just recently began to try them and I am truly amazed at what they have blossomed into, both Chardonnay and Pinot alike.  Certainly a knitting together and development is to be expected.  I knew the blends were well crafted and would be very approachable, pleasing wines, but as one mentor told me – winemaking is part art, part science and part magic, and certainly there is a lot of magic at play as part of the 2015 vintage. I have embraced this way of making wine – I think it gives me the license and ability and boldness to capture the moment of each vintage, at each vineyard and at BTF.

As shepherd of each vineyard, each block within and then each small fermentor I use all of the art and science I know to push the magic in the right direction – shoving doesn’t work nor does being timid.  The results of all the coercion in 2015 are magical, you have already had a few – the LPR, Pinot Gris and Edelzwicker. If you like these then the Pinot noir and Chardonnay are sure to please (hopefully) as well – lithe, taut, plenty of fruit and tannins that will make you remember it is wine for a couple years.  Not surprisingly the benefits of magic can also have unintended consequences – the unforeseen drawbacks, and while the 2015’s are delicious they have decided to deposit more of a sediment than I would like or we normally see in a young wine.  I do not know why this has happened, the racking (moving the wine out of barrel, off the lees) went really well. I rack every barrel myself while Jeff is close at hand and does all the many other important tasks.  We plan and prepare for the prebottling racking and yet with true magic there is always mystery.  This sediment is really only a small inconvenience and most wines eventually throw some as they age, but for some reason our 2015’s have chosen to do so a little bit sooner than we expected – yet please believe me they are DELICIOUS!

In addition to the magic, I have always believed that wine has vitality to it, that like all life, is finite and therefore I take a less is more approach once we have guided the fruit from vineyard to barrel.  Once in barrel the wine continues to ferment until all the sugar and malic acid are consumed, hopefully by late December or early January, but sometimes not.  We add a little sulpher and top the barrels regularly, but mostly we just let the wines rest and settle in barrel.  As the bottling date nears we gently move the wine out of barrel into a blending tank, mix and we are ready to bottle, no filtering or other processing that might take some of the nourished “vitality” away.

2015 was a large (volume of fruit) and warm vintage, with a nice cool September.  Early bud break and flowering with good set, set the stage.  We knew we would have a long growing season ahead so the prudent gamble was to leave a little more fruit on the vines to slow maturation down so we could finish ripening in the shorter cooler days of late September and early October.  This gamble paid off and as I believe you will taste, exceptionally balanced Pinot noir and Chardonnay with amazing aromatics, mouth filling flavors and yet the ethereal feeling of weightlessness.

2015 Willamette valley Chardonnay –
we just poured this wine at the Oregon Chardonnay Celebration with 40 other Oregon wineries – what a fun Saturday afternoon! Our ’15’s showed beautifully and were well received.  Selling Oregon Chardonnay today reminds me of our early days with the Laughing Pig Rose – I often had to cajole people into trying it, because I know it is great and it is different that what they expect it to be.  Now, dry rose has many fans and I hope that we continue to build the same understanding and enthusiasm for Oregon Chardonnay.  I enjoy making it and Clare and I both enjoy drinking it.  As I have said many times, if we can make decent Pinot noir we should also be able make Chardonnay.
Sourced from the same 6 Willamette valley vineyards as 2014, barrel fermented in French oak (about 10% new) with yeast that blew in the door.  We bottled after 11 months of aging without filtration or fining.  I think this wine will steal your heart, it has a special place in mine. The label is one of Clare’s honey bees humping a thistle, 950 cases produced, $45

2015 Willamette valley Pinot noir –
This wine leaps out of the glass with fruit and spice and doesn’t let up until long after you have set your glass down – unless of course you take a perfect bite of anything – it will ALL taste better!  This wine is a true representation of the northern Willamette valley as all 8 pinot sites I work with end up in this bottling, from south of Salem to north of Forest Grove.  It would be arrogant of me to think I could predict which fruit will turn into the best wine (that magic, remember?) so I treat all with equal diligence.  I think this approach makes this bottling different but on par with our vineyard designates – it is more affordable because we make a lot more of it, but it gets the same care and handling as the rest of the wines.  Kirby and Pickle saunter on the label, they were super cute American guinea hogs and now they are super delicious.  We hope this wine is regular on your table.  Please don’t be afraid to open it and drink it over several days (if possible).  I regularly drink our wines leftover from tastings 2, 3 and even 4 days later.  This is a benefit of youthfulness and the maintenance of vitality.  Regardless, Enjoy!  2393 cases produced $42.

2015 Pelos Sandberg vineyard Pinot noir
Year in and year out the wine that comes from Don Sandberg’s hard work in the vineyard is always delicious and 2015 is no exception.  As the vineyard matures its’ wines continue to develop even more complexity and depth, with 2015 at the forefront.  My memory says past vintages are fruit forward and plush (it’s been awhile since I’ve had an older vintage, even the 14,  it has been sold out for quite awhile), while this wine still has the fruit but maybe more tension, tannin and acidity to balance the fruit, potentially a more age worthy PSV than past vintages by my hand.  Don is a tremendous farmer and a great friend. He also makes wine under his own label, from his own fruit, called IOTA.  Clare chose his 3 n’ 1, a cultivation implement, to adorn the bottle.  402 cases bottled, $48

On the farm! 

We are still eating brussel sprouts! We have had multiple days of single digit weather this year and a few frozen pipes (none broken though, that we know of yet) and the brussel sprouts survived.  Most everything else in my garden perished, even the kale.  The barn is full of Clare’s menagerie, dry and warm, 1 cat (Winston), 1 Goatio, 2 horses, 10 cows, 6 of whom we hope Curley (the bull) was able to romance and we will have baby calves romping in the spring grass soon.  We attempted to use artificial insemination for the first time this year but it was an utter failure without proper infrastructure, it was a fucking rodeo.  We have learned our lesson and we will invest in some panels and a crowding pen and give it a try again in 2017, and hopefully Curly can stay home.  He is a nice guy and all but he is still a bull, big, strong and unpredictable.  Clementine and Levi still let us know when you have arrived most of the time, although Clementine is almost 11 and has let us know she is definitely only interested in working part time.  Instead of running out to greet you she compromises by barking at you from the porch… we are still in negotiations regarding this new protocol.



We have already seen a few of you with a great trip to Texas and Clare to the Carolinas for dinners and the Triangle Wine Experience in the beginning of Feb this year.  We are participating in IPNC July 28-30, a fabulous event, definitely a great weekend of Pinot noir in McMinnville.  We will also be doing a spring release dinner in Portland late March, the date TBD, so stay tuned!
Also coming mid April – 2016 Laughing Pig Rose, 2015 Earth and Elusive Queen!
2016 Laughing Pig Rose – bottling is scheduled for April 4.  2016 was a ‘normal’ sized vintage, so there will be significantly less rose than the last two years, also it will be a little more intense, rich but still all the same tastiness as past vintages, just a little less of it to go around, so please act quickly once released if you want some.  We will also release 2015 Earth and Elusive Queen mid April – we are also extremely happy with where/how these wines are and look forward to sharing them with you.
Thank you again for all your support and enjoying our wines.  We look forward to continuing the adventure! CHEERS! Brian and Clare.

To get right to the wines, click here!

Note on ordering wine: we respect YOUR time.
If your super busy - please let us help you order wine in whatever way is EASIEST for YOU! We are happy to assist. Call, email - Clare and Elaine are always available to make sure you get the wines you love! If you want to reach out please just send an email to admin(at)bigtablefarm.com or call 503.662.3129 - and we'll follow up with YOU and get your order!

Wine orders will be shipped towards the end of March early April, when temperatures across the country are a little more consistent.





Sunday, November 6, 2016

the time change - taking stock


 
There is something about the time change that I think has made me take stock today. Today is Sunday and Brian and I take Sundays off - today I slept in went for a run and did some post harvest light housekeeping type things... not super exciting... but necessary.

 It's days like this give you a moment to catch your breath. I walked my horses back to the barn in the dusky evening feeling so damn grateful for all we have had the ability and support to build here.

From the dream followed by lots of talking and drawing and planning, to the actual fruition was an amazing journey. I was stretched in ways I never imagined I would be and it pushed me to my limits many times. Today as I thought back over those years, I felt nothing but gratitude to all those that worked with us and especially for those that stuck by us. I look around now and remember the scrappy place that Big Table Farm was when we started and feel both pride and gratitude for what it is today.

As I came back to the house this evening I could hear a flock of geese in the dark sky as they called to each other I thought about there amazing drive and sense of direction. I sit here this evening wondering about next steps and organizing myself and re-gathering my energy. The upcoming year will hold new projects. I know I have learned many lessons in the last few years about how to enter into this next phase mindfully, being careful of the people I work with, of my husband and of myself. Here's to accomplishment but also doing so mindfully and carefully.


 






Monday, October 10, 2016

2016 Harvest!

2016 end of summer brought us bottling the 2015 wines, quickly followed by getting into the vineyard to sample the grapes that came in just a week later for a very early 2016 harvest! 




the very first grapes of 2016!


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the old meets new in grapes delivery vehicles

  

 
Jeff is the master of the basket press 

  

 
brian checkin' the fermet
 
The 2016 vintage came fast but we had an amazing crew this year and I think we made some pretty great wines!  

  
there were a few long days ... but we ate well and also got 'rewarded' by the media this fall as well with a nice spectator score of 93 for our '14 sunnyside, a New York times review of the willamette valley and a stunning 12 page article in the October edition of Sunset!!! the affirmation of our work is awesome and we are once again grateful!!
 

 -  

We also got some great harvest from the farm ... the big table farm cider project continues and the horses helped out with that!! and the garden just gave and gave and filled our table with some pretty stunning harvest meals! Thank you brian


 
just some of the 240#'s of taters brian pulled in : )   

  


   
even the pigs ate well ... 

 
   
  
  

  
  
 
  
  
  
and Tim came out and cooked our harvest meal! it was an amazing celebration as always!
 

 
and now we all sleep !!