October 9, 2022
First and foremost, we finally have some Pinot Noir to sell and I’m so excited to share these wines with you. As you know from my earlier letter about Vendange 2021, these are the last wines I made at my old site, and for that their stories carry special meaning, of endings and beginnings, of patience and endurance, and of loss and longing.
I hate telling people what they will taste in any wine; you’re all intelligent and possessed enough of your faculties to decide what strikes your chords, so here are the links the wines, and then we can crack on with a letter from the edge of one thing, leaping onto the next.
2021 Hope Well Pinot Noir
2021 Hope Well Strings Pinot Noir
2021 Hope Well Sunday’s Child Pinot Noir
2021 Hope Well Monday’s Child Pinot Noir Rosé
2021 Hope Well Tuesday’s Child Pinot Noir Rosé
2021 The Three Children
2021 Hope Well Chenin Blanc
2021 Hope Well Hunter’s Moon Chenin Blanc
Suffice it to say, 2021 for Hope Well was full of the same volatility we see in our society, climate, and health. The ending was not so much a moving away as it was a tearing apart, and the wounds are many and hidden. However, nothing worth doing is going to taste like a piece of cake, so facing the crashing waves was part of what I signed up for.
Upon harvesting the last grapes for my 2021 Hunter’s Moon Chenin Blanc on October 20, it seemed moments before we had to pack and move animals and home – where? You may have heard there was a bit of a housing bubble happening again…so there was a brief period of great uncertainty where and how we would land. I’ll spare you the long version of the story, but in the end, we knew when we had found what would keep us whole. Our family settled on 10 creekside acres in the foothills of our coast range mountains, outside the town of Sheridan. We are in the woods, my first love, and I can be deep in the forest without getting in a vehicle, as we are adjacent to both public and private forest land. I can grow all the food, keep my animals, and do all the forest cavorting I long for. But no vineyard.
And for Hope Well, this could have been enough, as it was always philosophy first and wine second, but you know I can’t quit wine. Even before we found our new home, I was negotiating for a long-term lease on 3 acres tucked between Bethel Heights, my family’s Estate, and the Jackson Family’s Zena Crown vineyard.
The acreage was planted in 2015 to two clones of Pinot Noir common in California, Swan and Calera. This was actually my idea, back when I still worked with my family, as I liked both clones a lot and felt we should be diversifying our clonal selection in Pinot Noir. As it turns out, both of those clones have since become notorious in Oregon for laughably small yields, like, it’s-not-even-a-good-story-small-yields-because-you-can’t-fill-a-bucket-with-an-acre. And as such, they were delighted to sign it over to me because they had never gotten enough grapes to even make it worth picking, and you know I love a challenge!
You would be right to be thinking / asking: what are you thinking? What about white wine?!!! How is three acres even viable, especially with those clones?
Yes, yes. Let me finish.
The benefits were too vast to turn down. Three acres at this density will be able to support my (very small) production, without needing to take on any extra acres or sell any fruit. The stand is right next to a small field that has the most wonderful Oregon White Oaks. It is very easy to bring my sheep in to graze several times a year, when the time is right, and they spend the rest of their time here at the home farm. Already farmed organically by my family, there wasn’t anything to keep me from maintaining that standard and adding to it.
The vines themselves were in mostly great shape, the clones were the problem. There were a few dead vines from vole girdling (ah, yes, my old friends) and those will be replaced with other, non-grape plants to bring some diversity to the rows and provide refugia for insects and pollinators. I’m still working on my plant list as I intend to also install some hedgerows along the fence lines, but I’m really excited to get into that this winter.
As our problem was largely the plant material, I decided to graft the entire stand to clones from my old site. Alas, the size of the plot meant I had to focus down on two things, and after great deliberation I decided to go all in for Pinot Noir and Chenin Blanc, and in April I was fortunate enough to have the unparalleled grafting crew run by Angel Arias come and do the grafting. This crew is responsible for most of the grafting that happens in vineyards on the west coast. I remember Angel coming to graft at Bethel Heights when I was a girl, and the service and quality that comes with the devotion to a craft cannot be understated. It is a gift to work with them.
Grafting the entire stand meant an imposed year off from fruit and wine. This was a very daunting prospect for me, but I wasn’t even sure I would be able to find a way to continue making wine, and grafting half the stand wouldn’t have helped because then I would only have half a bucket of grapes to make wine with. So it seemed appropriate to go all-in, and that’s just what we did.
And then it was spring, budbreak happening in vineyards all around me, and I was checking daily on the wood to see if there was any action in the buds. The grafts looked good, but nothing…..was…..happening. I kept sending texts to friends and colleagues like, ‘are your grafts pushing yet?’ and thinking about what I would do if the whole thing didn’t take. I mean, at this point, nothing would shock me.
And then it was May. At this point, I’m not texting anyone anymore. I’m looking back through pictures of my previous grafting projects to time stamp when they came out. Not good. But, hey, it’s a cold spring, late year, never give up hope, right?
So, yeah, hello June, how are you? Oh, I’m fine, nothing to see here, literally. Seriously, the surrounding world has FULL CANOPY and this vineyard looks like January. And at some point, you have to stop watching the pot, if you will, because it may boil or your pilot light may be out but watching it isn’t doing any good. Whatever was going to happen was already decided, written, impassive, unaffectable, punto final. And I had promised myself that I would take advantage of the forced pause to put more intention into the work that I never had enough time for before, to find ways to stretch and expand my work outside of the insular world of wine into the chasm of industrial agriculture and its war with the natural world. This is work I am so excited to tell you about, but that will be in several upcoming posts, because even I cannot ask you to follow along when I keep throwing squirrels in your path to distract you. But that was what I needed, the best kind of distraction from what appeared to be project DOA.
How about this suspense? Is this some kind of cliffhanger or what?
The one thing I kept saying to myself while I adhered to my self-imposed month-long hiatus from daily if not hourly visits to my vineyard check for a pulse was: nature bats last, so you should never think you know how this is going to end. And fittingly, upon my eager return in July, in her own time, she had put one in the outfield while I wasn’t looking. Not only was there life but there was FRUIT!
June 16, signs of life
July 1, looks like May
August 26, all caught up
And here I am, so grateful to be chastened by the tenacity of plants, so excited to learn this new place and grow with it. When I had believed we would have no fruit to harvest and therefore I could go do any number of things one does to absorb this most magical of seasons, I found I most wanted, I longed to have grapes in my hands. The music of the season, the animals hastening to fatten and line nest and den, the entire kingdom of life accelerating its activity before the great rest, I hear it most clearly when I am making.
Now, it is not at all clear that the season will give us the time and the grace to get this most improbable, and very small crop to ripeness. We were a solid month behind what was already a very late start for Oregon. And that is ok. If I don’t make wine, I can put my hands in to help my friends, and it will still be so sweet, because this is the long game, and now we have players on the field. However harvest 2022 ends, it will be with the promise of 2023 on its hopeful lips. I hope you will come along for the ride.
All current wines are available for purchase here.