2016 DV “La Frontière”
2016 Division-Villages “La Frontière” Sauvignon Blanc
Willamette Valley AVA Redford-Wetle Vineyard
It’s no secret that within the Willamette Valley the Eola-Amity Hills is one of the most special places in the U.S. for growing cool climate Pinot Noir grapes. It is definitely not and area very well known for growing Sauvignon Blanc, well, not yet. Myron Redford is as great a legend in Oregon’s wine industry as they come. He founded Amity Vineyards back in mid-1970s as a part of a group of pioneering young wine entrepre- neurs that were building the start of the Oregon wine industry, including the likes of David & Diana Lett, the Casteel & Dudley families, Pat & Joe Campbell and David Ad- elsheim. While many of these names focused most of their energies on Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris, Myron was experimenting, sometimes successfully and sometimes not, with grapes like Gamay Noir, Riesling and yes, Sauvignon Blanc. He sold the original Amity Vineyards, but wasn’t quite done wine grapes yet. He and his partner Vikki Wetle planted a small 7.5 acre certified organic vineyard on Jory, Yamhill & Woodburn soils at their home property in the Eola-Amity Hills in 2006, which includes the Sauvignon Blanc we sourced for our “La Frontière” debut.
We are usually some of the first to make picking decisions each year as we seek to
make wines that are lighter, more finessed, vibrant, but still with intensity and com-
plexity. Sauvignon Blanc was a bit of a conundrum for us as it is notorious for
demonstrating very green tropic and grassy “cat pee” like aromatics when not
completely ripe. For this reason and because we just hadn’t tasted many versions made in the New World that were that compelling, we eschewed making Sauvignon Blanc in the past. Our success with making Gamay from the Redford-Wetle Vineyard and our faith in Myron’s growing abilities led us to take a calculated chance on the grape. Ultimately, this meant we would need to harvest at a more ripened level than is typical for us, in this case on September 20th. What we did not expect was while the sugars were a bit higher than we typically seek in white varietals, the acidity balance was perfect (!) and we im- mediately knew we had something special.
We created a pied de cuve (early native ferment) with a small amount of grapes to build a strong yeast population from the native flora at Redford-Wetle. The wine was fermented “sur lie” in one puncheon (500L), two neutral white Burgundy barrels and a 75-gallon stainless barrel. The ferments took off quickly and completed quite quickly in the puncheon and stainless barrel, while the oak barrels lingered and finished in January of 2017. All were fermented dry, while malo-lactic fermentation was only partially completed. We were definitely nervous, but ultimately quite excited to release our first Sauvignon Blanc, which we named “La Frontière,” after the French word for “frontier.” We felt that our winery, much like Myron and the other noted early pioneers of Oregon wine, is helping push the new frontier of Oregon winemaking.
This inaugural wine demonstrates the clear Sauvignon Blanc characteristics, led by grapefruit, yellow mango and some matchstick/flint like aromatics that are intense, but not over the top. We thankfully stayed away from the dreaded “cat pee” notes, as well as the Dole tropical fruit cup tendencies that seem to dominate the domestic Sauvignon Blanc scene. The palate is full and vibrant, with secondary notes of wildflower honey. The wine is drinking very well out of the gate and is quite pleasurable. We’re looking forward to seeing the future of this bottling also, as we feel the higher acidity will lend itself to a nice long life for our first Sauvignon Blanc.
Alc 13.7%, 150 cases produced