"Bergström Winery: Intensely-farmed vineyards = big wine for young winemaker"
by Christina Kelly, Avalon Staff Writer
NEWBERG-Josh Bergström hovers over his plot of vineyards and meticulously prunes the vines like a bonsai grower.
One of Oregon's newest winemakers, Bergström learned earlier on, from studies in France, that intense farming of grape crops produces the best wine. And Bergström's wines are lovely and intense with plenty of fruit flavors lingering in the mouth.
The wines are surprising for such a youthful winemaker. At 27, Bergström is one of the youngest winemakers in Oregon, a fact that usually produces a grin on his face and a slight shrug of the shoulders. Bergström learned his craft well, and continues to learn from such winemakers as Lynn Penner-Ash, Dick Ponzi, Eric Hamacher and Mike Etzel from Beaux Freres.
"We know exactly what's going on in our vineyards," said Bergström, who works the fields with his assistant, Anthony Filiberti. "We're farming all the time and in the vineyard all year long.
"It's in the vineyard where we make our wines."
The Bergström family moved out to Dundee from Portland in 1997, with the idea of producing wine from 15 acres in the Red Hills on Worden Hill Road. Bergström's father, a Portland surgeon, and sister, a real estate agent, became Bergström's financial partners in the venture.
Bergström studied with wine growers in the area before purchasing fruit to make his first wine in 1999. He and Filiberti sourced grapes from Archery Summit, Wahle Vineyards and Highland Vineyards.
"We were blessed to work with such vineyard managers," said Filiberti. "It is nice to sit down and have a good relationship with the growers and managers." The two winemakers estimate they make at least 25 trips through each vineyard every year, positioning leaves for maximum ripening, color and tannin development. Certain rows of grape vines are dedicated to Bergström, and the two winemakers watch over the crops like a mother bear with cubs. The same goes for the estate crops on the Bergström land.
As crop managers, Bergström and Filiberti do not use any herbicides or insecticides in the field.
"We look forward to using biodynamic practices in our vineyards, which include more composting and working with different natural preparations of plant and rock matter to help feed our soils," said Bergström.
The Bergström 2000 Pinot Gris, a hugely successful wine, is no longer available. The 2001 Pinot Gris will make its public debut at the Bergström Winery open house on Memorial Day.
The 2000 Chardonnay comes from 30-year-old vines with sandy soils and low yields. The wine first exhibited pear, apple and pineapple and originally had a green hue for about eight months. Now, the wine is showing honey, vanilla and a little spice. With a 14 percent alcohol content, this is a big, beautiful wine.
"We rely on the purity of our fruit and let it speak for itself," Bergström said.
Bergström's 2000 Pinot Noir has a wonderful smoky flavor. It is still a little tight in the bottle, but a few more months will give it time to expand into a dazzling wine. The fruit is rich, with plenty of spice. (Bergström's 1999 Pinot Noir received 91 points from Wine Spectator).
The 2000 Arcus Vineyard Pinot Noir is, by far, Bergström's most structured wine, with a alcohol content of 14.5 percent. This wine has big, beefy tannins and is a great candidate for aging. In a few years, this wine will rival any Pinot Noir out on the market. It just needs a little time, but it has the staying power to cellar very well.
Bergström says the 2001 crop was a struggle to get color. He believes the wines made from 2001 grapes will "show who is farming correctly."
"There is a huge amount of wine made from 2001," Bergström said. "But when you taste the wine, you'll know who is true to their vineyard."
The wine produced in 1999 was very good, Bergström said. The crop from 2000 is tannic and should age well. The 2001 vintage will be somewhere in between '99 and '00.
Because of limited production, Bergström's wines are hard to find. The winery is built to produce about 5,000 cases, but is currently producing around 2,000 cases. Since he is picky about his crops, Bergström is also picky about who sells his wines.
"We only sell to places that hand sell our wines," Bergström said. "We have a handful of dedicated retailers that know the industry well."
One of the few places to sell Bergström is Avalon. But supplies are very limited, and the wines will go quickly.
A Bergström wine in the cellar is a great treasure to open a few years later. Since Bergström is finding his stride at such a young age, it can only bode well for those of us who get to taste his progress over the years.