In one sense it’s simple. Great wine begins in the vineyard. For Patton Valley, optimization of four factors yields the best possible fruit: vineyard site characteristics, vine clones and rootstocks, viticulture practices, and sustainable/organic practices.
Site Characteristics — The ability of a vineyard site to support production of high-quality fruit is determined by its terroir – the unique character of its soil, topography and elevation.
Soil — The Laurelwood soils of the upper 40 acres at Patton Valley are well drained, with low to moderate fertility, perfectly suited for growing grapes. READ MORESedimentary, silty clay loam, or loess, soils were transported to the northern Willamette Valley over 10,000 years ago via wind storms at the end the Pleistocene period. Grapes grown in Laurelwood soil, which is found primarily in Washington and Yamhill counties, tend to produce wine with red fruit flavors rather than black, emphasizing finesse over power.
Topography — The manner in which a site slopes toward the sun has a significant influence on the wines that are derived from it. READ MOREVines grown on east facing slopes get full sun only in the early morning when it is cooler. Wine made from these grapes tends to be more elegant. Slopes to the south and west receive the afternoon’s full sun and produce bolder wines. Northern exposure is typically avoided. Patton Valley’s site bends from the east, around to the south, and over the hilltop to the west, providing a variety of exposures.
Elevation–The best vineyard sites in Oregon are on hillsides above the overly fertile soil of the valley floors. READ MORE
Wine grapes produce more complex, intensely flavored fruit when grown in less fertile soil. In the cool Willamette Valley, spring frosts pose a significant threat to young vine shoots. Risk of frost is lower on hillside locations where cold air is forced to flow down to the valley floor. Elevations between 300 and 700 feet are considered ideal. Patton Valley Vineyard spans 350 to 500 feet.
Clones and Rootstocks— Most modern vineyards plant grafted grapevines, grafting old world clones to North American rootstock. READ MORE
Clones— Clones are grape vines with small but distinct genetic differences that impart unique characteristics to the fruit. READ MOREClones may have differences in time of budbreak, time of ripening, cluster architecture (loose versus tight), fruit yield, fruit quality, or other characteristics. There are numerous Pinot noir clones to choose from, with clones isolated in Dijon (113, 114, 115, 667, 777), Pommard and Wadenswil (a Swiss clone) being most popular in Oregon. Patton Valley is planted to all of these clones (see Vineyard map), providing a wide selection of fruit characteristics that increase the overall complexity of our wines.
Rootstocks — Like clones, there are many rootstocks from which to choose. All North American rootstock resist phylloxera, but have distinct ripening profiles. READ MOREPatton Valley is planted with three rootstocks—3309, 101-14 and Riparia Gloire—in combination with different clones (See Vineyard Map) to enhance complexity. The different combinations also serve to hedge our bets should a mutated form of phylloxera emerge, potentially harming previously resistant rootstock.
Patton Valley Vineyard as seen on Google Earth
Viticulture Practices – Vines require timely guidance to assure that they reach their full potential. We employ various canopy management techniques, including shoot positioning, leaf pulling and cluster thinning, to ensure healthy, ripe grapes.
Shoot Positioning – If vines are left to grow untended, their shoots will twist and turn into a tangled mess. READ MOREIn order for each and every shoot to intercept the sunlight efficiently, they must be trained in a vertical position, which we accomplish with time-sensitive interventions like moving catch wires throughout the growing season.
Leaf Pulling — Powdery mildew is the nemesis of every vineyard. Organic fungicides are useful to combat it, but good airflow in the vineyard, particularly around the fruit zone, is the best defense. READ MOREOptimal airflow is achieved by pulling the leaves in the fruit zone, opening the fruit up to breezes. We also use strategic leaf pulling to manage cluster sun exposure. Grapes tan in the sun like we do, producing tannin. And while a proper amount of tannin is desired, too much is not a good thing. We pull more leaves on the east side of the vines exposing the grapes to direct sun in the cooler first half of the day, and remove less on the west side of each row, shading the clusters from the late afternoon sun.
Cluster Thinning – Maximum yield is usually the goal of farming but not when it comes to top-quality wine grapes. READ MOREEarly in the season we remove clusters to decrease the target yield to approximately two tons per acre. Sometimes, in years of heavy fruit set or large cluster size, we might discard more than half of the fruit over several thinning passes during the growing season. With less fruit to ripen, the vine concentrates all of its energy on the remaining clusters, resulting in more concentrated and complex flavors.
Sustainable/Organic Practices– Running a sustainable operation, from vineyard to tasting room, is the cornerstone of our philosophy. READ MORE
Our goal at Patton Valley is to carry the distinctive qualities of our estate-grown fruit through to the finished wine. By marrying traditional winemaking techniques with a sensible dose of technology, Patton Valley’s terroir shines within an elegant and balanced framework. Crafting a complete wine calls for just the right balance of fruit and acid, complemented by tannins. We achieve this harmony by constantly supplementing the old with the new.READ MORE
The Old World approach is “hands off,” allowing the fruit to speak for itself. Indeed, Pinot noir requires a light hand, including hand-harvesting into small totes to avoid bruising the grapes. We eschew commercial yeasts allowing the natural yeast found on the grape skins to initiate fermentation. We use small, open-top fermenters, and punch down the grape caps by hand twice a day. Once fermentation is complete, we press the wine using a centuries-old technology: a traditional basket press. Though it is a more arduous and time consuming process than using a modern bladder press, we believe the aromatic and expressive qualities that result in our wines make the extra time and energy worthwhile. Similarly, rather than relying on modern pumps, whenever possible we utilize gravity and inert gas to move the wine to French oak barrels, the nuance of which we prefer to more aggressive American wood.
New World technology is indispensable when it comes to addressing the shortcomings of an Old World approach to winemaking. Of the many favorable qualities that recommend traditional, old techniques, sanitation isn’t one of them. Stainless steel and sophisticated sanitation practices enhance wine consistency. The conveyor table we use for hand-sorting grapes to remove under-ripe and damaged fruit, and the de-stemmer, which removes the stems without crushing the fruit, are examples of other tools that enable us to produce a more stable, higher quality wine, without sacrificing the personality of the fruit.
Screw Caps Lock in the Quality
Customers have further assurance of receiving excellent, age-worthy wine since corks were replaced on all Patton Valley wines with screw-cap closures.READ MORE
The Seranex-lined screw caps, which allow small amounts of oxygen to get in like cork does, eliminate the possibility of cork taint and ensure customers a bottle of wine that retains quality as it ages. Before the change, a variation in cork-finished bottles of between 8 and 10% was not unusual. Such variation can usually be attributed to contamination by TCA, the substance that causes cork taint. Not all impacted bottles were recognizably “corked”, but low-level TCA contamination can cause a loss of fruit flavor without the moldy cardboard smell of an obviously contaminated bottle. With the switch to screw-caps, bottle-to-bottle variation of Patton Valley wines has vanished.
Beginning with the 2004 vintage–the first to be finished with screw caps–the maturation of the wines with both closures have exhibited similar profiles, with screw caps maintaining freshness of fruit flavors slightly longer than cork-finished bottles. Patton Valley will continue to use materials that guarantee customers receive the purest expression of Pinot noir.