Switching gears from the frantic action of harvest to the beginning of the fall season, I would like to take a moment and explore some of the great vineyards that we work with. And I would like to start with Le Pre du Col.
Le Pre du Col, which means “the meadow (or field) on the mountain pass” is owned by David and Valerie Hill. Bergstrom Wines has been in partnership with the Hill family since 2008 when we asked if we could lease the entirety of their 8 acre planting (at the time) on the Ribbon Ridge. In return we promised to bring Biodynamic farming to this newly planted parcel and excellent stewardship of such a promising sight. They said yes and a great partnership and friendship was born. We have gone on to plant another 8 acres and Le Pre du Col is now a 16 acre estate farmed vineyard with 7 different clonal blocks of Pinot Noir and one small acre of Chardonnay.
The Ribbon Ridge is Oregon’s and more specifically, the Willamette Valley’s smallest and most precious appellation for Pinot Noir located within the larger Chehalem Mountains AVA (both of which are within the Northwestern quadrant of the Willamette Valley AVA.) At only 3.5 miles long and 0.25 miles wide, with only 500 acres of vines planted and less than 10 brick and mortar wineries on the ridge itself, the Ribbon Ridge is indeed one of the most sought after appellations for very special Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays.
Growing up tasting the wines of our great friends and neighbors at Beaux Freres, Brick House, Patricia Green Cellars and Chehalem Winery, I had long wanted to gain access to a vineyard on the Ribbon Ridge as we were fine tuning our purchased fruit and moving more and more towards estate-farmed vineyards. So, when we met the Hill family and saw the land, we jumped in feet first so to speak.
The soils at Le Pre du Col are ancient marine sediments that were uplifted meaning that, at one time a very long time ago, this vineyard land was at the bottom of the sea. So, the sand content is quite high at Le Pre du Col. The sands here are different than our other marine sedimentary sights in that they are quite white in color and thus very reflective. We have found chunks of rock in the vineyard that would point to bedrock that is sandstone and/or shale driven with pockets of quartz rock.
The vigor in this vineyard is moderate; definitely not poor but not overly vigorous and vines here can definitely handle and ripen a natural yield of 2.75-3.5 tons to the acre although we tend to fine tune the crop in most years to 2.25 tons to the acre in years where we have a choice. In years where rain or hail or frost affect bloom, we get what we get and it is usually on the lower side of desirable but that, in turn, lends itself to greater concentration, extract and flavor intensity from this site.
We pull leaves on the East side of the canopy as this site can be prone to botrytis in wetter years. The tall stands of Douglas Fir trees on the West and East sides of this vineyard block the early morning sunlight and the late afternoon sunlight which stretches out the ripening period for this vineyard. However, its exposure is due south at a steep angle (reminiscent of a solar panel) which makes this an ideal site for ripeness each and every year.
I don’t like to put too many descriptors to a wine or a terroir expression from a vineyard, only because I think that it is really up to you to discover something special from a place. But if I were to try and put some grammar towards this wine from this special place, I would use the words: blueberry, cinnamon candies, Matsu take mushroom, fresh turned earth, reduction, incense and spice. These are the tasting notes that recur time and time again when I taste the wines from this vineyard without a winemaking manipulation that might forcefully try to bring forth such aromas, flavors or imagery. And a true terroir does just that, it gives a fingerprint each and every year, regardless of warm or cold or happy or challenging. And Le Pre du Col is a truly great terroir for just that reason.
Sixteen acres gives us an average of 32 tons of fruit per year which yields a potential of 2,000 cases of wine. We only bottle 500 cases of the Le Pre du Col single vineyard designate which is allocated to wine club members and fine dining restaurants across the United States and in select foreign markets. Le Pre du Col is also a major player in our Cumberland Reserve Pinot Noir.