Antica Terra Wines
The Antica Terra vineyard has an extremely distinctive terroir. The fruit is instantly identifiable, according to winemaker Maggie Harrison, with a signature stony, earthy, soily, mushroom quality. But the site only accounts for around 50% of the main bottling’s blend. In order to flesh out the wine, Maggie also uses purchased from vineyards like Shea, Cherry Grove, and Johan Vineyards.
Maggie’s winemaking techniques include aging wines on the lees, including 20-30% of pressed juice in every barrel to add complexity and aromatics, an unusually hot fermentation temperature, stirring the wine while in barrel, no racking, and employment of 25-50% medium toasted new French oak.
The 2011 Harvest:
According to one horticulturalist at OSU, 2011 was the coldest growing seasons in fifty years. What does that mean for the wine crop? That depends on a variety of factors including location. "While the Antica Terra vineyard is a nail-biter to farm in a hot, dry season, it fared beautifully in this cold vintage year. The extremity of the site actually gave Harrison an advantage; thanks to the shallow soil and heat-reflecting rock, the Antica Terra vineyard ripens more readily than other spots. And the harsh conditions make for small, thick-skinned berries. In a late harvest season, when autumn rains threatened rot and splitting, the Antica Terra grapes' thick skins protected them. "The odd weather conditions this year made for uneven ripening within fruit clusters. And because the season ran so late and the fruit continued to hang through some autumn rainfalls, most vineyards did develop some -- or a lot -- of botrytis, or rot. When the fruit comes into the winery, the harvest crew sorts through the grape clusters looking for initial debris (leaves, twigs, bugs) and signs of rot. Anything that doesn't look perfect is tossed out. At Antica Terra, the bunches proceed through a destemmer. Then -- and this is the unusual part -- the fruit hits a second sorting line, where Harrison examines each individual berry, tossing out any single grape that doesn't look perfect. This doubling-down on the fruit is time-consuming, but it ensures that the wine will be flawless. "It's just a matter of knuckling down and doing the hard work at the tables," said Harrison. "I get to handle this fruit one day for the whole entire vintage. This is our only chance, so we are fairly maniacal about handling this fruit with rigor." - Oregon Live.com
Improving the Vineyard:
Starting in 2005, the Antica Terra partners started the process of adding five more acres of Pinot Noir to the original plantings. During the process, they discovered that the entire plot was sitting on top of solid parent rock composed of marine sediment and alluvial deposits. Vines could not penetrate the rock, so they had to excavate the site, pulling up and crushing much of the vineyard’s subsoil. (In addition to the new 5 acre block, they are also planning to plant 8 additional experimental acres to Loire, Northern Italian, and Hungarian varieties, among others.) The partners worked to refine the varietal mix and upgrade clone-rootstock combinations.
Vine yields are kept low to develop concentrated flavors as well as to hasten ripening before the fall rains. They strive to maintain an ecological balance between the vines and the surround oak trees, while emphasizing techniques that enliven the soil and nurture the overall health of the vineyard.
Antica Terra did not make wine in 2005. Maggie declassified the entire estate vineyard and sold the wine as bulk. In general, Maggie plans to make one or two wines from each vintage. The Antica Terra Pinot noir Willamette Valley is made in most years, while the "Botanica" is made only when the fruit meets Maggie's demanding standards.
In 2006, 1100 cases of the Antica Terra Willamette Valley and less than 100 cases of Botanica were made. In the 2007 vintage, 20 cases of Botanica were made as well as 1280 cases of the Antica Terra Willamette Valley.
While the 2006 vintage at Antica Terra was ideal, 2007 gave Maggie a big dose of the difficulties created by Oregon's truncated growing season.
She says: "The 2007 vintage in Oregon was a challenge. It was the coldest growing season at Antica Terra in fifteen years. It took a lot of extra work in the vineyard, but we brought in fruit that I was impressed with, both before and after the rains began. The fruit we harvested after the rains started was completely different than what we harvested before. That's Oregon. Every fall, you have to decide whether to wait for that final bit of ripening and risk it raining, or to harvest a bit early and get 90% of what might be possible."
Antica Terra's 2007 Willamette Valley Pinot noir is a blend of 53% Antica Terra Estate fruit, 28% Shea Vineyard (Wadenswil and Dijon 828 clones), 9% Croft Vineyard, and 9% Cherry Grove Vineyard.
The unique Antica Terra terroir speaks as the main note in a chord of flavors that Maggie blended to create the wine. The Antica Terra Vineyard's terroir, according to Maggie is just like the winery's name -- "old earth". "To my palate, the Antica Terra vineyard signature has this stony, earthy, soily, mushroom quality - whether you call it peat, soil, humus, or whatever. And it's unique." Other qualities mentioned in reference to the Antica Terra terroir include umami, slate, and mineral.
The Shea Vineyard Wadenswil component of the 2007 Willamette Valley Pinot noir adds black fruit (blueberry, blackberry) to the wine, and the Shea Dijon 828 provides red fruit components.
Cherry Grove Vineyard fruit adds its character to the wine. Cherry Grove adds "pure cherry", says Maggie. And whole cluster fermented Pommard fruit from Cherry Grove adds "spice cupboard, asian spice, star anise, and clove" to the blend.
Antica Terra was founded in 1989 with the purchase of a rugged 28 acre parcel in the Amity Hills region of the Willamette Valley. The vineyard sits on a gently sloping hillside of well drained soil, underlain by sandstone and siltstone, formed from old alluvium- la antica terra. A variety of Pinot Noir clones were densely planted in 1990, and the vineyard significantly expanded in 1999 (they planted over 10,000 vines).
Founders Marc Peters and Marty Weber sold the winery and vineyard in 2005. The wines are now made by the most able and experienced Maggie Harrison, who was previously at Sine Qua Non in California for eight years. This wonderful winery's exceptional vineyard makes one of our favorite Pinot noirs. The wine is usually black, plush, huge, dark, rich, complex, and very very limited.
Yields are kept low to develop concentrated flavors, as well as to hasten ripening before the fall rains. The first release of Antica Terra was in 1994 and the 96 Pinot Noir was the first commercial release.
Current production is extremely limited.