When you hear someone say that they make wines in the tradition of Burgundy, you should ask them the following questions:
- Are your grapes grown without the use of irrigation?
- Are your wines fermented with the indigenous yeasts from the vineyard?
- Are your wines generally aged in small oak cooperage for a minimum of 18-20 months?
- Do you sometimes speak French in the cellar?
If the answer to any of these questions is “No” then they are “faux Burgundians!”
At Cameron Winery and in many of the cellars of our associates in the Deep Roots Coalition, the answers are unqualified “Yes!” In addition the grapes are grown without the use of pesticides, herbicides or synthetic fungicides.
Many people will skip over this portion and go straight to the red wines. That’s too bad, since the whites are often some of our best wines in any given vintage. But as they are in very dearth supply, it is probably better for those in the know to not share that knowledge!
Our Chardonnays are truly made in the tradition of the great white wines of Burgundy. Both Abbey Ridge and Clos Electrique vineyards are planted to very rare clones of Chardonnay not typically planted in either Oregon or California. The wines are fermented with indigenous wild yeasts from the respective vineyards and finished with a French yeast to assure dryness. Both wines are fermented in older, nearly neutral French oak barrels and then left with the original yeast sediment for nearly 2 years in our cave which averages 57°F (14°C). They are bottled without filtration and generally have an aging potential of well over 10 years.
The Italian side of our clan (the Cameronis) also influences part of our white wine program. In this case the wines of Friuli and Alto Adige offer a model that works exquisitely with much of our fruit. The Pinot Bianco (given the nomer “Giovanni”) is fermented in stainless steel, typically in 3 different lots with appropriate aromatic yeasts, and bottled in its exuberant youth in the early Spring. Cameroni’s blended wine (given the nomer “Giuliano”) consists of the grapes Friulano, Pinot bianco, Pinot grigio and Auxerrois with a small bit of Moscato for floral high tones. This wine tends to be finished with higher acidity and given extensive bottle age (often up to a year) for an elegant extremely food worthy wine.
It is important to note that Cameron strives to produce white wines of moderate alcohol content. The Cameroni wines typically finish between 12.0 and 12.8% alcohol while the Chardonnays tend to range between 12.5 and 13.0% alcohol.
Cameron sources red grapes from 4 vineyards, two in the Dundee Hills, two in the Ribbon Ridge AVA. Each exhibits quite unique terroir and therefore, depending on your taste, preferences can vary significantly. All of the wines are fermented with the indigenous yeasts in open top tanks in which beautiful women immerse their nude bodies in the warm must to keep things exciting in the cellar. The resulting wines are aged for nearly 2 years in a mixture of French oak barrels varying from new to completely neutral and bottled without filtration.
Abbey Ridge Pinot noir. Year after year Abbey Ridge produces some of the best Pinot noir in Oregon. It is not the richest or the ripest but it is clearly one of the most elegant sites in the state. Most vintages cast forth an initial fragrance of rose petals followed by lavender and rosemary (note that the Chardonnay from the same block has similar scents…terroir is real!). Abbey Ridge always starts subtly in the front of the mouth and builds to a crescendo on the far back of the palate.
Arley’s Leap Pinot noir. Named after Bill & Julia Wayne’s beloved dog, this block of grapes is located at the highest point within Abbey Ridge Vineyard. Composed of a handful of old red burgundy clones, grapes from this 25 year old section are typically the very last Pinot noir to be harvested in the Dundee Hills. The resulting wines therefore tend to have relatively high acidity and old world aromatics such as cigar box, tar and black cherry.
Clos Electrique Rouge. The estate vineyard consists of at least 15 different clones of Pinot noir on a mere 2 acres (less than 1 hectare) of land. The yields are always very small averaging between 1 and 2 tons per acre (that is less than 25 hl/hectar). This wine is typically gnarly and intense, changing constantly in the glass and has fooled many wine-lovers into declaring it to be an old world wine.
Ribbon Ridge Pinot noir. Fruit for this wine is sourced from 2 vineyards in the Ribbon Ridge AVA, Foster Farms and Armstrong. Foster Farms was planted in 2006 and is lovingly tended by famed cider apple grower Alan Foster. Armstrong vineyard was recently converted to dry-farmed grapes. Fruit from Ribbon Ridge is always intense with loads of structure in the wine.
Nebbiolo. The original Cameron Nebbiolo was planted in Clos Electrique in 1993 and expanded in 2000. Because the soil at Foster Farms Vineyard is so reminiscent of Montforte in the Barolo area of Piedmont, Italy, John convinced Alan to plant Nebbiolo here in 2006 and Ribbon Ridge Nebbiolo is now included in our blend. Because this grape requires a great deal of aging in both barrique and bottle, this new Willamette Valley blend is a work in progress. The first release will be the 2012 vintage, available in the Fall of 2016. For those who like Nebbiolo from the Piedmont, this is the real deal!
The wines of Cameron are extremely age-worthy and the patient consumer will be amply rewarded years down the road by sticking them away. Both the Pinot noirs and Chardonnays from the single-vineyard sources can comfortably sit in your cellar for 10 years and more as long as you maintain a cool cellar temperature.
Cameron’s choice of barrels is equally crucial to the quality of the final product. For both Pinot noir and Chardonnay we usually select barrels from a wonderful cooper who lives in the village of Saint Romain in Burgundy. His name is Claude Gillet and together with his children and several master coopers they turn out some of the most exquisite wine barrels to be found. Every year Claude and his son, Laurent, visit our winery, taste the wines in barrels and make recommendations for choice of forest, toast level and all of the other minutia that go into crafting an oak barrel. Since we believe that barrels reach their perfection only after a couple vintages, we prefer to utilize cooperage which is 1-3 years old for our most precious cuvées.