THE JOURNEY TOWARD “MEMORABLE”
BY MANAGING PARTNER, BRET CSENCSITZ
WINE MAKING… MOTHER NATURE, MAN, AND MAGIC.
Indeed, there is magic in every bottle of wine.
Each time you pull a cork a little bit of history is released–the age of the vine, the climate, the yeasts that found their way to the vineyard, and the winemaker who did more or less to influence the contents inside. It’s a wild journey that begins with the capturing of sunlight and ends years later when that final drop is poured and savored.
We have so many questions about the 750ml of nature and nurture that fills each wine bottle. What makes one wine so different from another? What makes some wines good, some great, and others so incredible they can only be described as memorable? Is it grape variety, location, winemaker?
Chapter 24 Vineyards of Willamette Valley, Oregon has been writing its own wine-story for just a short time (since 2012). Its narrative is driven by the desire to create Memorable Wines, something founder Mark Tarlov and winemaker Louis Michel Liger-Belair are going to great lengths to achieve.
For some 10,000 years, the transmutation of grapes into wine has captivated and intoxicated mankind. It is imagined that the discovery of wine happened by accident when grapes stored for future consumption broke their skins and fermentation occurred. Man found his happy companion. It seems simple enough: the natural sugars in the fruit meet naturally occurring yeasts on the grape skins and the sugar converts into alcohol and carbon dioxide. Wine at its most basic level is a miracle of micro-organic process.
So why do wines vary so greatly? What variation does it take to create not just great wines, but Memorable Wines that demand attention? That is what Chapter 24 is exploring through intuition, science, and trial upon trial…
After an untimely departure from his first wine-story at Evening Land, Mark Tarlov set out to find the magical place and elements that would earn him the elusive prize of Memorable Wine. Taking his cue from one of our first narrators, Homer, he called the venture Chapter 24 Vineyards, a reference to the final chapter of Homer’s Odyssey. I have had the pleasure of joining Chapter 24’s quest and Gotham has produced and poured our own wine — 12 East 12 — with Mark and his team for the past two years. (Next month we will blend our third vintage.)
Mark Tarlov and Louis Michel Liger-Belair’s journey started with a commitment to making wines from vineyard to bottle, controlling the entire process. Realizing that decisions in the vineyard were the beginning of winemaking, they engaged a vineyard farmer Ryan Hannaford, who would farm with organic practices, dry (or limited irrigation) and even incorporate a few bio-dynamic tricks. Next was a geological exploration of the Willamette Valley where the two felt great American pinot noir could be made. The geology led them to experiment and create their first wines, Fire, Flood, and Last Chapter. Fire and Flood were expressions of soils derived from volcanic (Fire) and sedimentary (Flood). Last Chapter was a blend of selected lots from both vineyard types. The critics responded with warm reviews, in 2014 Last Chapter was the highest rated American Pinot Noir in Wine & Spirits Magazine.
BUT WHAT ABOUT MEMORABLE?
While pleased with the wines, they still were not entirely satisfied. They pressed on to find more specific expressions of the Willamette Valley. To do that, they focused on the potential simmering in volcanic soils. Louis Michel, coming from Burgundy where, “you can’t throw a stick without it landing on limestone,” felt that volcanic soil was Oregon’s closest equivalent to limestone.
Working with a Professor at M.I.T., the Chapter 24 team discovered the effects on flavor and taste created by the interactions of micro-biology or the microbiome. Meanwhile in their vineyards, terroir expert Pedro Parra was using electro-connectivity analysis and digging 5-foot deep ditches to discover the true soil composition, not just on the surface but where the roots of the vine seek nourishment.
The result has been an impressive line-up of wines and now after 3 vintages, some scientific research, accolades, and plenty of intuition, Chapter 24 is releasing their Rose and Arrow Estate Wines. A collection of seven micro-vineyard sites with a geological backbone of volcanic soil, each is a unique expression that Louis Michel compares to Premier Cru Burgundies in their reflection of what Oregon has to offer.
Making great wine it would appear is the product of nature, man, experiment, and the magic that happens in between. Judging by Chapter 24’s wines — and the critics agree — there is plenty of magic in Oregon. You can find their wines on the Gotham winelist, or the Chapter 24 website.
To taste the extremely limited Rose and Arrow Estate Wines, we invite you to join us tomorrow evening – the longest day of the year – here at Gotham Bar & Grill.
Wednesday, June 20th
Tickets are $150 and available HERE
Try something Memorable, and add another chapter to your own wine story.
THE ROSE AND ARROW ESTATE WINES FROM CHAPTER 24
“This is unlike any other wine I have tasted from the Willamette Valley
and is quite exciting in its transparency, complexity and sense of clarity.”
– Elaine Brown // Jancis Robinson’s Purple Pages
“Brilliant, complex, and succulent, they’re among the best,
most arresting Oregon pinot noirs I’ve tried in the past few years.”
– Elin McCoy // Bloomberg News