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 these 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 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 3 vineyards, all in the Dundee Hills. 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. This block of grapes is located right next to the 30 year-old vines that go into the Abbey Ridge designate. It was a favorite haunt of dear, old departed Arley and so rightfully bears his name. A few more gnarly low tones accent other aromas typical of Abbey Ridge. It was the wine picked for the wedding of Phoebe Wayne, a toddler when Arley was in his prime! She had her pick of any wine from the cellar so take the hint.
Clos Electrique Rouge. The estate vineyard consists of 10 different clones of Pinot noir on a mere 2 acres (less than 1 hectare) of land. The yields are always extremely small averaging between 0.5 and 1.5 tons per acre (that is less than 20 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.
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.