Domaine Coteau is a new Oregon winery founded in 1997. The winery is located 45 miles southwest of Portland, at the northern terminus of the Eola Hills. The vineyard parcels reside on hillsides that slope south and east (considered the best aspects for growing Pinot Noir). The sites are approximately 500 feet above the floor of the Willamette Valley. The vineyard currently consists of over 17 acres of vines.
One would think that with 6,000 or more years of viticulture experience, Western civilization would have an immediate answer to the seemingly simple question of "How many vinesshould I plant per acre?" Yet vine density is a hot topic in modern viticulture and is replete with new and on-going research from New York to California to New Zealand.
At Domaine Coteau a vine density of 2,437 vines per acre (row spacing of 5.5 feet and in-row spacing of one meter) was selected. This spacing is quite dense when compared to traditional spacing of Pinot Noir vines in Oregon vineyards.
High density allows each Pinot Noir vine to carry less than two pounds of grapes and still the vineyard manager can harvest two tons of fruit per acre (the target goal of the winery). Crop reduction is usually necessary to achieve this low yield.
Domaine Coteau has put a great amount of thought and expertise into the development of their winemaking methods. The Domaine's approach to winemaking begins in the vineyard. Good terrain, healthy vines, and ripe grapes are pre-requisites for producing great Pinot Noir.
Ripe fruit contains more, and more
complex, aromas than unripe fruit, and the ripe tannins that accompany
this fruit taste rounder and softer.
At the crush-pad the grapes are completely de-stemmed (stems, unless very ripe, bring nothing to the wine) and cold-soaked for five to eight days prior to fermentation (the best color and aroma compounds are extracted early in this pre-fermentation environment).
Fermentation follows this cold soak using indigenous yeast. Temperatures are allowed to rise to 32 degrees C. The cap of skins and seeds that is forced to the top of the fermentation vessel by carbon dioxide gas is punched down twice daily. Cuvaison lasts 8-15 days.
The new wine is then inoculated with a malolactic culture to ensure a prompt malolactic fermentation and transferred to French oak barrels (a third of which are new).
The wine spends from 12 to 16 months in barrel without racking (depending on the vintage).
The Domaine's wines are bottled unfined and unfiltered. Because of this the wine usually throws a small amount of sediment after several years of bottle age.
Domaine Coteau uses the following methods to grow optimum fruit:
-Winter pruning each vine (single Guyot) to seven buds
- Removing all double buds in springtime (evasivage)
-Thinning each vine to one cluster per shoot on August (vendange verte) when necessary.
The objective for invoking all these labor-intensive strategies is to produce physiologically ripe fruit (i.e., fruit capable of making great wine).
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