Tag Archives: Virginia

A Peacock’s Tail of Similarities within the Differences

What if our religion was each other,
If our practice was our life,
if prayer our words?

What if the temple was the Earth,
if forests were our church,
if holy waters—the rivers, lakes, and oceans.

What if meditation was our relationships,
if the teacher was life,
if wisdom was self-knowledge,
if love was the center of our being.

~Ganga White

The Pinot Noir grape has been called many names:  “finicky”, “changeable”, “heartbreaker”, “cantankerous”.  It is truly a grape that is an expression of its surroundings. Regardless of where it’s grown, the commonality inherent in each distinct region is its winemaker / vineyard manager:  determined, reckless, intuitive, passionate–with the slightest touch of “madness.”

2011 Ankida Ridge Vineyards Pinot Noir

2011 Ankida Ridge Vineyards Pinot Noir

Dreaming Quixotic

Christmas 2012 and I’m searching the antique shops for a Christmas ornament and not just any ornament. Each shop I entered the proprietor would ask, “May we help you find something?” and I would respond, “When I find it, I’ll let you know.” I was searching for a gift for my friends at Ankida Ridge Vineyards.

An-kee-da is an ancient Sumerian word that means “where heaven and earth join.” I first met Christine Vrooman and her family-run winery at the 2011 Wine Blogger’s Conference held in Charlottesville, Virginia. I’ll always be thankful to Virginia blogger Frank Morgan for suggesting I try Christine’s Pinot Noir, from her vineyard site lovingly called “Little Burgundy.”

Christine describes her winery as the “peaceable kingdom”—at over 1800 feet elevation, filled with granite and clay, cooling winds and fog and just under 2 acres under vine on the eastern slope of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

Blue Ridge Mountains

Blue Ridge Mountains

They employ “environmentally sensitive viticulture” by creating a microcosm of “biodiversity and sustainability”.  You’ll find sheep nourishing the vineyard floor, honeybees and hummingbirds, guinea fowl, chickens, a plethora of wildflowers and a menagerie of dogs, cats and children. Ankida Ridge also employs biodynamic practices as much as possible in the vineyard.

Against the Grain

The Vroomans wanted to grow grapes at their site, but they hadn’t set their minds on anything in particular, other than they knew they wanted to do something unique to Virginia.  Enter Lucie Morton, vineyard consultant and ampelographer, studied viticulture from the Ecole Nationale Supérieure Agronomique of Montpellier, France.  She trekked all over the world as advisor on what and where to plant grapes.  She’s also a Virginia native. Morton’s advice was stunning: Plant Pinot Noir.  That declaration would raise many a traditionalists’ eye.

Jim Law, owner and winemaker of Linden Vineyards located just two hours North along the same Blue Ridge Mountains, said when I visited last year:  “Terroir first, varietal second.”  Pinot Noir is now successfully grown all over the world from the United States (California, Oregon, Finger Lakes, Hudson Valley), Italy, Germany, Austria, New Zealand, Chile, Tasmania and of course to the Cote de Nuits, Burgundy.

Consider Francois Mikulski, owner and winemaker of Domaine Mikulski who tends vines spread out over Meursault, France. He’s of Polish descent and lacks the Burgundian upbringing of other French winemakers in the region. Nonetheless he produced his first harvest in 1992 and is now making his own praiseworthy wines.

The decade prior he spent a few years working in California vineyards. He says it was a shared learning experience, “They learned our [Burgundy’s] traditional ways and sprit of winemaking. While from them, we learnt the importance of recognizing the competition.” He continues, “We must prove that terroir is there [Burgundy] and is important.” Mikulski feels the New World approach seems to be of great benefit to Burgundy.  His view is that terroir involves three factors – “the vines, the ground and the people – it has to include the winemakers.” So I have to wonder, if California can learn a thing or two about Burgundy to produce its own unique style of Pinot Noir, can Virginia do the same?

I recently tasted a 1985 Clos de la Roche, and my first sip solicited an exaggerated eyebrow raise. Before I knew it, I had finished the glass and instinctively I pushed glass forward for another. I had trouble expressing what I was tasting.  And now I realize it was because I had nothing to compare.  I’ve tasted Pinot Noir, but nothing like this, so…elusive.  Within a 20-minute span it changed completely. It felt as though I was chasing a moving train. If wines from each of the above regions were tasted side by side, would we know where each originated?

With Pinot Noir, we typically love or hate it. But is this judgment a byproduct of our expectations? Traditionally we know what this wine should taste like and which ground it should originate.  But does this expectation cloud the way for making new discoveries? What if there was no singular profile for Pinot Noir?

No Easy Pass on the Mountain

Pinot Noir is notorious for acting the “diva.” Each growing season a winemaker expects to find a new foe to battle. Add a commitment to sustainable farming and we have quite the challenge to produce quality grapes.

The 2012 growing season brought Ankida Ridge the Spotted Winged Drosophila, which had made the long journey from Japan via Hawaii. Normally, the “peaceable kingdom” inhabitants, this time the guinea fowl and chickens, would earn their keep by consuming the pests, but they were overrun. Dr. Pfeiffer, entomologist at Virginia Tech’s quick solution: a mixture of cider and wine in cut plastic water bottles to catch the insects. Dr. Pfeiffer will assess the situation for next season.

And then there is the ever-present east coast threat of black rot. The humid weather has always been a bane to the winemaker and yet here we have Christine and her team producing quality juice, gaining praise after praise. What’s her secret? Could be La lutte raisonnée, or “the reasoned struggle,” which is the norm at Ankida Ridge.  It’s the less-often and less-aggressive approach when battling unwanted insect guests. Or is it Christine’s absolute joy and love for her little vineyard, where she has been known to go walking between the rows, whispering encouraging words during any and all parts of the season.

Whatever the secret, the work of Ankida Ridge Vineyards is a testament to how striking out against the norm with a commitment to a particular methodology, in this case sustainable farming, can produce exciting results.

Petit Mouton

I eventually found that ornament I was searching for—an exquisitely-crafted fuzzy little sheep. After presenting my gift, I sat at the tasting bar and sipped the 2011 Ankida Ridge Vineyards Pinot Noir–a distinct core of minerality and acid, cranberry and cherry tartness, very slight barnyard earthiness and a mouthfeel of little gardenias, with a slight tannin edge for support.

As I sipped I watched Christine flittering about, so ecstatic at their first holiday celebration at the new site.  Family and friends, eating, drinking, talking, laughing—and glasses in hands, raised to lips. I glanced over to Petit Mouton, lovingly named by Christine and I knew he would settle in nicely.

Petit Mouton

Petit Mouton

Tina and GUY, Partners
PROTOCOL wine studio

Note:  Research for this article has elicited a wealth of information from new and exciting sources.  As such, we have decided to follow up in the following week with another article loosely titled:  A Peacock’s Tail of Similarities within the Differences Part Deux that focuses on a term that has been used much as of late and what it means for winemakers.  Stay tuned.

Website Coming Soon!


Lenné Knows

I attended a wine bloggers conference in Portland, Oregon earlier this year.  I was quite eager to go since GUY and I had written a proposal for the Virginia wine industry and our main selling point was the fact that Oregon went from fringe wine to the #3 wine producer in under 30 years.  Although I had researched the subject, I had never visited Oregon, but of course I’ve tasted many wines from all over the state.

For this trip, however, I was seeking a more philosophical approach; I reached out to those wineries that I felt embodied PROTOCOL’s organic and grassroots mentality.  Enter Lenné Estate, and proprietor Steve Lutz, where dry farming and recognizing terroir is the norm.  Steve says of his wine, “Being organic isn’t a goal, making great wine is and doing it in a sustainable way is just common sense to us.”

It’s All in the Peavine

I visited Steve and his gorgeously intimate tasting room not far out in Newberg, Oregon. He hadn’t let on when we spoke a few weeks prior, but Steve arrived this day just for our tasting. He laid out a spread of charcuterie and fresh, chewy bread. And sitting contentedly right next to that plate was a glass jar full of this clay-like, rocky soil called Peavine.

This soil would become Lenné’s bread and butter.  Mountain-made, the Peavine series consists of well-drained soils made from a clayey colluvium and residuum soils derived from sandstone, siltstone, basalt, tuffaceous rock and shale. This poor, gravelly Peavine is ideal for the intense flavor development of Pinot Noir.

Peavine Soil at Lenné Estate

Peavine Soil at Lenné Estate

Whatever Lenné Estate’s doing up there, it’s working.  Steve was gracious enough to send samples of his 2008, 2009 and 2010 Estate Pinots. For a region like Oregon, it’s extremely important to communicate the vintage characteristics because they are slaves to climate, much like Burgundy.  And knowing what went on in the vineyard gives us a better understanding as to what will happen in bottle.

A little Shy for a Burgundian

We started our tasting with the 2008 bottling. Steve told us that this was a stellar vintage, “It is an epic vintage for Oregon and in my opinion will be the longest lived vintage ever.” He went on to describe the details of the vintage, “The temperatures were moderate, with slight heat in early September and then cool, dry weather. All this created fruit set characterized by small clusters with tiny, thick-skinned berries.  And just like fine Burgundy, the 08s are showing a little shyness of late, with acids up front and fruit waiting until ready to be seen.”

Finally Steve nailed his point home with the decisive remark, “I have a strong sense that they [08s] will be legendary when they emerge and I have held back 25% of the vintage betting on that idea.”

As I tasted his Pinot Noir from 2008 his words hit home.  It’s a restrained wine, no doubt, but there’s impacted depth within this restraint, biding its time to unravel its true story.

We moved on to the next vintage and as restrained as 2008 was, 2009 struts in like the naughty girl at the party: big, bold and showy. The vintage was hot and as such, the fruit developed large, thin-skinned berries, prone to dehydration. The resultant wines have higher alcohol and super ripe fruit and although Steve says it’s his “least favorite vintage…” folks do love it because of its intensity.

Finally we finished with the 2010 vintage. Where 2008 was brooding and 2009 bold, 2010 was recorded as one of the coolest in the Northern Willamette. With a cool Spring came worry that grapes wouldn’t ripen fully. But the rains held off until late October and the result was a remarkable vintage. Steve says of the wine,  “The 2010s are right up there with my favorite wines Lenné has ever produced. The wines have density and are still light on their feet which is rare and something I hope I experience many more times in my lifetime.”

 I Grew up Here

Tasting the wines at the winery I noticed a distinct moist forest soil characteristic within all the wines, something akin to a particular guitar riff or drum solo—a “tell” about the wines that says this is where I was grown.  Indeed, Lenne’s wines are known for a mocha aromatic and a denseness in the mid-palate. These characteristics are in direct correlation to that Peavine, Yamhill County’s poorest soil type and Lenné’s terroir signature.

It Takes only One

That signature terroir palate has proven a winner for Steve and Lenné.  Recently, a Spanish restaurant representative had the opportunity to try the wines at a tasting. Immediately the rep saw the value in his glass and summarily bought 50 cases of wine.  Of course Steve was skeptical of the whole thing, but the rep later disclosed that Lenné is the favourite wine of the Spanish Prime Minister’s wife. I imagine Steve closed shop early that day.

Vintage Selection of Lenné Estate Pinot Noir:

2008 Lenné Estate Pinot Noir
2009 Lenné Estate Pinot Noir
2010 Lenné Estate Pinot Noir

Lenné Estate Pinots

Lenné Estate Pinots

Lenné ~ 18760 NE Laughlin Road ~ Yamhill, OR 97148 ~ 503-956-2256


Tina and GUY, Partners
PROTOCOL wine studio


Steve Lutz



Lenné Estate Vineyards


Developing Cover


Dry Farming at its best








Gratuitous Rooster Sculpture

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