Soil is a living system. We believe that a vibrant, emphatically alive place is the defining foundation of terroir. We have grown to understand that most practices accepted as sustainable are actually quite destructive to the life of the soil and to the character of the vineyard.
We have forged a new system of wine growing we call Grazing-Based Viticulture. Through this paradigmatic shift in philosophy, we seek new answers to an age-old question: What endows a particular site with its personality, its soul, its terroir? Certainly, it can’t be the arithmetic ratios of nutrients and minerals relayed in the results on a lab report. Conventional viticultural theory tells us it’s the topographical orientation of the slope combined with the elemental and structural composition of the soil. Then again, are there not many vineyards all over the world with similar or even identical slope angles, aspects, and soil types as their neighbors?
At Antiquum Farm, we believe this commonly held conception barely scratches the surface of terroir while disregarding two of its most important determinants: the microbiological community in the soil and their interactive relationships with the beings living on that soil.
We believe in a deeper, more wholistic conception of place. Individual expression is articulated by the unique signature of an infinitely complex web of life beneath the surface working in harmony with the creatures on the ground and in the air. Where these elements are considered in total, therein lies the soul of the vineyard. Over the years, we have only sought to allow our vineyard the space and ability to become what it wishes to be, and even now we are still watching the process unfold.
This freedom has allowed Antiquum Farm to become unshackled from preconceived and long accepted expectations of region, soil type, and grape variety. The results have been pleasantly unexpected as the vineyard continues to hone its voice. We do not expect this process to reach a point of stasis as life itself is not static. While there is an emphatic presence and distinctly recognizable personality in all Antiquum Farm wines, we celebrate these shifts and fully embrace them in the cellar.
Our 14.5-acre vineyard is one of the most unique sites for the variety in all of Oregon. At 800 feet above sea level, it sits at the very threshold of elevation for Pinot Noir in Willamette Valley. Even so, our vines display a remarkable capacity for ripening, regularly achieving maturity rarely seen elsewhere. Perhaps the most astounding feature of the site is its ability to retain abundant acidity at levels usually found in cold climate white wines. Simultaneously, the site exhibits an intensity of fruit not usually associated with Oregon Pinot Noir. The dual expression of these elements reveals a personality that is simply not supposed to exist. We truly see the best of both worlds from our vines.
The broad, south-facing slope of our Pinot Noir vineyard overlooks an expansive vantage of the valley's southern end. Far below the ridge are Turnbow, Owen's, and Bear Creek drainages. The top portions of this high-elevation ridge contain the Willamette Valley's thinnest layers of bellpine soil, a unique composite of volcanic and sedimentary materials.
Before the American west was thrust upward from the ocean floor, ancient lava flows poured over much of the sea bed. These decomposed lava flows are now our topsoil. Beneath the volcanic material is a sandstone mid-layer that becomes denser as depth increases until finally meeting the basalt parent material. The topsoil layers of bellpine are typically 36" to 120" deep. The volcanic layers at Antiquum Farm are a mere 7" to 24" deep and in the largest section of the vineyard no deeper than 14".
As Grazing-Based Viticulture freed our vineyards from the constraints of typical farming practices, we began to see extraordinary physiological transformations and genetic mutations occur. Our berries are no longer the "correct" color or skin composition for the grape variety. Instead, our Pinot Noir is a pure blue tone more akin to Syrah or Nebbiolo. The grape skins are thicker, more like Cabernet Sauvignon than Pinot Noir, aiding in resistance to pests and mildew pressure.
A large percentage of our Pinot Noir vines grow with an upright and rigid habit much like Riesling, with a number of vines producing clusters growing perfectly inverted, pointing their cone tips to the sun. All of these changes occurred in concert with the profound changes in the ripening pattern of the fruit, and the resulting wines have come to reflect this dramatic evolution in our vines.
Today the vineyard clearly speaks with three distinct yet harmonious voices through our wines. Like the vineyard, the wines themselves are uncommon, driven by both powerful depth and graceful finesse. Delineations among clonal selections soon became irrelevant as we saw differences in soil depth, elevation, and aspect combine with changes in soil microbiology to reveal each of our Pinot Noir wines in its turn. These three personalities inform our thought process in creating a diverse line-up of Pinot Noir that presents the incredible depth and breadth of Antiquum Farm.
We firmly believe that when you farm Pinot Gris in a serious fashion, it will make a serious wine. This grape variety has been misunderstood, under-appreciated, and treated primarily as a cash cow by the majority of producers. We grow Pinot Gris with the same care and attention we afford our Pinot Noir, because we are excited about the extraordinary voice we see emerging from this tiny site. Pinot Gris is capable of great articulation and terroir expression when farmed with curiosity, love, and respect.
Our six-acre Pinot Gris vineyard is perhaps the most obvious example of the propensity of Antiquum Farm's Grazing-Based Viticulture to create a crystal clear series of transformations in the fruit and wines, and to give distinct voice to individual parts of the vineyard. These voices are interpreted into three different wines as the vineyard continues to reveal our path forward in the cellar.
Situated only a half-mile from our Pinot Noir vineyard, this site is nonetheless a world apart. Temperatures here are typically four to six degrees cooler than the Pinot Noir site on any given day, despite the Gris vineyard being approximately 150 feet lower in elevation. The soils are heavier and considerably deeper, a result of Turnbow Creek carving its way to the bottom of our local valley floor and depositing remnants of stream bed cobble.
The entire site is planted to one clone on a single rootstock. Typically, a vineyard of this size planted to a single clonal selection would express a rather one-dimensional profile. Yet, as the vineyard adapted to Grazing-Based Viticulture, we saw three very different ripening patterns emerge, along with a few startling and unprecedented developments.
Typical Pinot Gris berries are a light purple/grey color. Our fruit ranges from green/yellow (like Chardonnay) to dark purple (like Pinot Noir), sometimes with multiple colors contained on a single grape. Further, we have seen a significant slowing of our ripening period on this site. We are now picking our Pinot Gris weeks behind harvests of the past, yet still within the same grape maturity parameters. The resulting fruit is not riper, technically speaking. Rather, it is considerably more physiologically mature. This translates into a broader aromatic and flavor spectrum, and soft, textural layering that is offset by abundant, mouth-watering acidity. We taste grape skins in the vineyard that are nothing like typical Pinot Gris. We see tones ranging from tropical pineapple and mango to lithe, ethereal hibiscus and rose hip tea. These remarkable physiological changes are evidence of adaptive mutation and a clear indicator of terroir staring back at us.
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