Big Reds from the Columbia Valley
The Natalie's Estate Winery is nestled in the quiet foothills of the Chehalem Ridge in Oregon's Yamhill Valley. The family-run operation was founded in 1999 making small quantities big red wines from killer vineyards in the Columbia, Yakima and Willamette valley appellations. The first commercial single vineyard wines were released in 2000 with a Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon from The Pines and Hillside vineyards outside the Dalles, Oregon. Named after Boyd and Cassandra Teegarden's daughter, Natalie's Estate is the product of a love for wine and the places the grapes are grown.
Teegarden stumbled into the wine business while waiting tables in college. Suddenly it dawned on him, "Damn; this food and wine thing works." An epiphany for a farm boy from Kansas. Boyd spent 15 years in the wine wholesale business and was able to travel to winemaking regions now and then for work. Rustic wines made in small batches intrigued him. "I love the complex Barolos and Barberas of Northern Italy as well as the big brash Cabs and Syrah made out in the sticks of Australia" said Teegarden. "These places had a magic about them. You can taste it in the wines."
While selling European wines for a local wholesaler Valley Wines, Boyd Teegarden was beginning to make his own wine at home in the early 1990's. He was in an amateur wine making club with the likes of Peter Rosback, Bill Beran, Scott Scull and others where they would all buy grapes from the Hillside Vineyards outside of The Dalles, Oregon then ferment their own versions of Cabernet Sauvignon and compare the results.
While others in the wine club started their own wineries, Teegarden bid his time until the opportunity presented itself in the form of David O'Reilly. Boyd knew David O'Reilly from buying Elk Cove wines wholesale. O'Reilly was the sales and marketing manager at Elk Cove Winery with a hankerin' to make his own wine. David helped Peter Rosback start Sineann in 1993, which eventually moved to the Medici facility on top of Chehalem Mountain. In 1999 O'Reilly invited Boyd to join the cadre of winemakers using the Medici facility along with David [Owen Roe] and Peter [Sineann] and later on, Dick Ferraro [Ferraro Cellars] and Howard Mozeico [Et Fille]. Natalie's Estate made wine at the Medici property for four years until they moved to a new winery facility built at the Teegarden home just a few miles west along the Chehalem mountainside.
The new cedar shake clad winery hugs against the hillside and is built to handle 3000 cases production, though in 2004, the production hovers at just 1200 cases. The winery is like a tricked out little sailboat that you can run with one person at the helm. "The grapes are gravity dropped into 1 1/2 ton fermenters and cold soaked to allow them to give up their juices slowly" said Teegarden. "We hand punch down [the fruit] and use extended maceration to go for those beautiful fruit tannins. The wines are lightly pressed out in a basket press that allows you to extract just the right amount of juice without getting near the seeds, which can be bitter."
Natalie's Estate has sought out 1 - 3 acre blocks in warm and cool weather areas of the Columbia Valley in addition to planting their own 3 acre plot of Pinot Noir in Yamhill County. "What we are trying to do is show what small piece of ground can do in a hands-off approach to winemaking".
Natalie's Estate Vineyard and Winery
Natalie's Estate is on the path to create dueling varietal wines using grapes grown in the warm Columbia Valley with one block of grapes grown where the nights are warm and the other block of grapes grown where the nights are cool. Dueling vineyards. Take Cabernet for instance. Grapes grown at 600 feet at the Hillside Vineyard outside of The Dalles, Oregon take in substantial heat units during the day, but the cooling winds rolling down the Columbia River at night drop the temperature significantly bringing the acidity in the grapes up which all helps give a sense of place to the fruit grown there. Cabernet Sauvignon grown up at 1200 feet on Rattlesnake Ridge come from the interior of the Columbia Basin where the nights don't always cool down like they do on the riverside. These differences reflect in the wines made from these grapes. Natalie's is exploring those differences with the vineyards below.
Pines Vineyard, Syrah and Merlot - Columbia Valley AVA- The Dalles, Oregon. Elevation - 300 ft.
This is a nineteen acre vineyard planted with Merlot, Zinfandel, and Syrah vines. The Merlot block that Natalie's contracts for consists of three acres. This vineyard near The Dalles is sited on old riverbeds of round, river washed rock and on shelves just above the ancient riverbeds. The vineyards' rocky soil is reminiscent of the vineyards of Cayuse which lie further east on the Washington side of the Columbia. The combination of heat soaked up by the rocks during the day and the microclimates of these riverbed vineyards produce a complexity of flavors in the wines made from the site. Given the cooler nights on the Columbia River, the Syrah takes on white pepper notes instead of the black pepper you get from grapes grown at hotter sites, but still with pretty floral and spicy character in the fruit. Sineann, Owen Roe also source grapes from this vineyard.
Hillside Vineyard, Cabernet Sauvignon - Columbia Valley AVA- The Dalles, Oregon. Elevation - 600 ft.
This is a twenty-three acre vineyard planted with Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Zinfandel, Chardonnay and Riesling vines. The Cabernet Sauvignon block consists of 4.5 acres. A combination of intense afternoon heat and cooling breezes from the Gorge, and thin rocky soils produce densely colored, rich and fragrant wines with nice mineral notes.
Rosa Vineyard, Cabernet Sauvignon - Yakima Valley Rattlesnake Hills AVA Elevation - 1200 ft
Rosa Vineyard is located near Sunnyside, Washington on the slopes of the Rattlesnake Hills. This vineyard is located on the ridge with good air drainage which helps it avoid late spring and early fall frost and winter kill. Rosa is planted with Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Chardonnay and Riesling grapes. The Rattlesnake Hills are characterized by an east-west ridge top with dry canyons, terraces, and ridges running southward off the main ridge toward the Yakima River. Voluptuous red fruit is the hallmark of the Cab from this vineyard. Again, another vineyard sourced by Sineann for Cab and by Owen Roe for Cab Franc, Syrah and Riesling.
McDuffee Vineyards, Cabernet Sauvignon- Columbia Valley AVA. The Dalles, Oregon. Elevation 400 ft.
This is a 5 acre vineyard planted with Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah. The Cabernet Sauvignon vines are 20 years old in this vineyard. The vineyard was planted in 1983, and the vines are self-rooted. The vineyard gets sun all day and produces small and intensely flavored bunches of grapes. Flavors of black fruit, black berry, licorice, cassis, and blueberry are typical, with darker, intense flavors dominating. Mystic Winery and Sineann also get Cabernet Sauvignon fruit from this vineyard.
Elephant Mountain Vineyards - Yakima Valley- Rattlesnake Hills AVA Elevation 1400 ft
This vineyard sits on a series of south facing, gently sloping benches on Rattlesnake Ridge not far from the Rosa Vineyard site. This high elevation vineyard is planted with Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah, Viognier and small plots of other Rhone varietals. Elephant Mountain is a higher elevation vineyard that enjoys cooler temperatures for late ripening. It features a fairly rocky, yet varied soil profile. Rockier ground stresses a plant which results in slower growth, which in turn provides less fruit with a more intense flavor.
Natalie's Estate has a Cab and a Viognier from this site underway and will add a Syrah from this site in 2006. The Viognier will be unoaked, fermented in stainless steel tanks shooting for a Condrieu style.
Les Vignes de Marcoux - Yakima Valley Elevation 1200 ft
This vineyard is located in the Northwest corner of Yakima Valley, on the southern slopes of the Ahtanum Ridge. The vineyard was planted in the early 1970's is one of the oldest and most respected in the state. It is one of the newest additions to the Natalie's Estate vineyard portfolio.
Made famous by a series of stunning wines made from the Red Willow section by David Lake, winemaker at Columbia Winery, it is the farthest west and highest altitude vineyard in the Yakima Valley. Due to its higher elevation the area was above the water level of the last Ice Age floods so the soils are more ancient and weaker than many younger soils in the Columbia Valley. Vines struggle here and produce grapes and wine with great intensity. 2006 will be the first vintage for Natalie's with this fruit.
Elton Vineyard, Pinot Noir- Willamette Valley- Amity-Eola Hills AVA Elevation 400 ft
This is a 60 acre vineyard planted primarily with Pinot Noir on the eastern side of the Eola Hills planted with the Wadensville, Pommard, Dijon 115, 777, and 114 in Jory type soil. The wines produced from this site typically show a distinctive blackberry, raspberry and plum notes with a firm structure. The one word from Boyd to describe the wines from this vineyardâ€¦ finesse. Natalie's gets an acre of 27 year old vines adjacent to blocks contracted out to Ken Wright, Bethel Heights and Don Lange.
Natalies's Estate Vineyard, Pinot Noir - Willamette Valley- Chehalem Mountain AVA. Elevation - 300 ft.
This is the Estate vineyard on Natalie's home turf. Three acres of dry farmed Pinot Noir with Wadensville, Pommard and Dijon 113 & 114 clones on SO4 rootstock were put into the ground the spring of 2002 and 2003. The hillside next to his home and winery is mostly well drained WillaKenzie soil. Teegarden's work as the vineyard manager for his own vines has made him a better buyer for the grapes he purchases in the Columbia Valley.
Whistling Ridge Vineyard, Chardonnay - Willamette Valley - Ribbon Ridge AVA- Elevation 450 ft
This is a 15 acre vineyard is right above the estate vineyards for Patricia Green and Beaux Freres in the burley Ribbon Ridge area of Yamhill County. It is planted with Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, and Riesling grapes. The Chardonnay block which Natalie's Estate receives its grape is a mere two acres and Natalie's Estate receives it all. Ken Wright, Patty Green, Adea and Sineann receive Pinot Noir from this vineyard site. Belle Pente sources Pinot Gris from Whistling Ridge.
Reviews of the 2004 lineup:
2004 Elton Vineyard Pinot Noir - Amity-Eola Hills
A concentrated flavor of wild raspberry and strawberry with a hint of spice on an earthy finish comes across quite elegant. Unfiltered and unfined, this wine spent 11 months on 1 and 2 year old French barrels and preserves all the delicate nuances of a well made Oregon Pinot Noir. This wine has grilled salmon written all over it.
2004 Pines Vineyard Syrah- Columbia Valley
Pure dark fruit with good varietal character done in the northern Rhone style from six year old vines. The densely purple wine fills your nose with scents of violet and blueberry wrapped around some pretty cedar wood spice. On the palate some plum, lavender and a tad of licorice on the first tasting. Second go around some rosemary and white pepper flavors that calls out for a butterflied lamb shoulder. This pretty and youthful Syrah from the same vineyard that Sineann gets their Old Vine Zinfandel and Merlot grapes, doesn't hide its charms. Year old French oak provides a structure for the higher fruit and acids in the European styled wine. Very nice first Syrah from this winery.
2004 Rosa Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon- Rattlesnake Hills/Yakima
The Rosa Cab is a very showy wine. It was made to drink around a table with friends. It's not a brooding wine for intellectuals where one studies the wine. The voluptuous red fruit with bright cherry and raspberry flavors demonstrates why wines made from this vineyard are so popular. Let the wine open up for 10 minutes to discover notes of blackberry and current riding atop a nice finish of fine-grained tannins. Good acid balance with the fruit makes this a breezy social wine or a delicious food wine.
2004 Hillside Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon- Columbia Valley
Dark fruit flavors with black cherry, and cassis on a lingering spicy finish. Smooth fruit tannins with some leather and smoky notes make this a pleasure to drink. It starts off wound a little tight still, but with a little coaxing opens up nicely. It's pretty enough to drink today, but will benefit by a bit more time in the bottle as well.