Archive for March, 2012

A Community of Friends

March 24th, 2012 by Nicolette Bailey

Each year, we hire students from Linfield College to help out at Youngberg Hill. For the last two years, Melissa Davaz and Scott Heron have worked our events, worked in the vineyard, and done a lot of handy work around the Inn. We have been fortunate to have wonderful, reliable, and resourceful young adults from Linfield work for us over the years, and Scott and Melissa are no exception. They continued to work for us after graduation, and although Scott now has a full time job, Melissa still comes out to give us much-needed support.

Melissa and Scott have performed in concerts at the vineyard, and Melissa gives our daughters piano lessons.  They have both become members of our family.  Like many grads, they continue to come back to the Hill just to spend time here and see how things are going. We look forward to Melissa and other Linfield alumni working for us this summer.

Youngberg Hill is proud to be Partners in Progress with Linfield College – donating wine for functions, and supporting many other activities on campus that we love and feel are a benefit to everyone involved.  The college holds an annual benefit concert every summer to support the Linfield Orchestra, and we wouldn’t miss it.  Having a school like Linfield in our back yard is an asset to the entire community.

There are many others who make valuable contributions within the McMinnville area – CASA, YCAP, Henderson House, Virginia Garcia Medical Center, Rotary Club and Travel Yamhill Valley, to name a few.  We are grateful for the work these fine groups perform, and are honored to support them.  We feel it is important to the growth of the entire community that these organizations are able to thrive, because they give so much back every day.

Artist Adventure- Painting the Vineyards

March 20th, 2012 by Nicolette Bailey

Either hone your artist skills or explore your untapped talent with this specialized adventure.  Begin the day with a personalized workshop designed to meet your skill level and interests. Paint one of the most beautiful, and most painted, places on earth. Painters from around the world have come to paint and study the beauty of wine country. Learn to create our own interpretation of this majestic place. Enjoy a day of painting with Michael Orwick, renowned artist and world traveler with a sense of place and a warm and hospitable nature.

Join Michael Orwick in scenic Oregon Wine Country, Oregon, for 1, 2, or 3 days of painting some truly spectacular Youngberg Hill scenery.  Put life and personality into your landscapes. We will focus on the fundamentals of landscape painting while exploring the beauty and atmosphere of the area.  You will learn the importance of observation rather than using formulas and recipes to paint what you actually see and feel.

Each day will include a demo and a group discussion about painting techniques, materials and philosophy, and individual easel time along with helpful critiques. I like to concentrate on the basic elements of painting and will include an exercise or two to reinforce some of the basics that we all need to brush up on from time to time.

The workshop is open to oil painters of any level.  Look forward to Lots of personal painting time and help every day. We’ll all learn a lot and have a great time.  Demonstrations will be directed at oil painters, but concepts and principles will apply to all media.

Advanced Reservations Required.  Tickets available at  orwickillustration@comcast.net

June 8-10th
$100 a day/ or $250 for all 3 days
10am-4pm (Students are always welcome to join Michael for informal sunrise and sunset paint outs at no additional charge.)

Inn rooms, Picnic lunch (48 hr advanced notice required) and wine available at extra charge.

A New Generation of Winemaking: A Father’s Tale

March 19th, 2012 by Nicolette Bailey

Winemaker, Wayne, and his 12-year-old daughter, Natasha, each wrote about their own experiences as farmers and winemakers. Below is Wayne’s version…

When we began this journey of growing grapes at Youngberg Hill in Oregon, we did so with the vision of keeping the vineyard in the family for decades.

In fact, when discussing our move to organic farming practices and our evolution to  biodynamic farming, one of the reasons we did so was for the earth and the vines to be healthier 50 years from now than they are today. As in many endeavors, our goal is for our daughters to some day desire to be a part of the business.

Some of our fondest memories as kids were growing up on the farm, and we hope our girls will develop those same memories.  Growing up on the farm is a great way to grow up, to be close to nature, learn from nature, and to explore. Our girls get a lot of chances to do that every day.

We spend time with the girls in the vineyard to educate them on what is going on in the vineyard. At each stage of the vines growth during the summer, we walk the vineyard and discuss what is going on. As the fruit is ripening, we take the girls out to measure sugar levels and Jordan and Natasha have become very good at using the spectometer to do this.

When harvest time arrives, and we choose a date to harvest some fruit, we keep the girls out of school to help. They get clippers and a bucket to pick fruit along side the other workers.

Once the fruit is picked and we take it to the winery; the girls get on the sorting table and clean fruit with everyone else. They get a good appreciation for what needs to be done to get the best fruit to make the best wine.

During fermentation and barreling, they also spend time in the winery learning the process and the evolution that the wine goes through.

 What are your hopes for your children? How do you connect with them? What challenges do you face in instilling them with the same types of experiences you had? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

A New Generation of Winemaking: A Daughter’s Tale

March 18th, 2012 by Nicolette Bailey

Winemaker, Wayne, and his 12-year-old daughter, Natasha, each wrote about their own experiences as farmers and winemakers. Below is Natasha’s version…

A lot of people love a certain thing about their job. For me it’s blending wines. In my opinion blending wines is not about checking the sugar levels or the ounces of alcohol it has. To me it is about creating something new, something different that people can enjoy. Adding flavor to flavor, spice to sweet, I feel as if I did something that only I could do: To make our beautiful new flavor burst inside someone’s mouth and have our hard work make the people pause for one moment and think about what it took to make that single drop of sun shine that came out of their bottle and into their glass.

Another thing I enjoy is taking pride in every single groaning branch and laughing leaf that my family has. I love nature, I don’t believe that not one of you readers has not fallen in love with one of Nature’s wonders – I believe one of you at one point stood and thought  “wow” to a symphony of trees or canyons. That is what I feel every day that I see, smell, feel, or work the land that I’m proud to call my family’s.

Not only does our natural beauty that is named Youngberg Hill make me proud, but it inspires me. You see I love to read and write fantasy novels, and this place creates a lot of my settings in the books I write. When it rained, snowed, and shined here, in my mind I created small settings for any story that I could write.

This is my book of inspiration, and as my teacher would say, the setting is only the first chapter.

Something I’m looking forward to:

A lot of kids can’t wait to get and drive in their first car. Well I can wait, but what I can’t wait for is to learn to drive our tractor.

Unlike most girls I don’t focus on girly stuff. Some kids are like me; one of my friends is even more tomboy than me. But that is not the point. I want to learn to drive the tractor because then I can help more with my family’s work. I can help load the crates at harvest, (one of my favorite times of the year) and help with the driveway when it snows. It would be so important to me just to do more of anything around my home.

Youngberg Hill is for the birds!

March 14th, 2012 by Nicolette Bailey

It’s true – we really are.

For those of you who follow us on Facebook, you are probably well aware of the growing problem that we have with European Starlings that feed on our grapes just before harvest.

When our harvest is late, which is common here on Youngberg Hill, we can lose up to 30% of our hard won harvest to these invasive birds.

We now know that the starlings pose an even larger threat than we once thought.

Oregon is losing an alarming number of native birds due to the explosive growth of the starlings and native species like the Western Bluebird and Violet-green Swallow, as well as several species of Woodpeckers and Flickers, are feeling the impact of the invasion.

Many wildlife biologists are convinced that the starlings are enacting irreversible harm to western ecosystems and our new knowledge of this fact has spurred us to take action.

We recently partnered with Dr. Don Powers, Professor of Ornithology & Ecology at George Fox University to conduct the first Youngberg Hill native bird species survey on March 17th.  We hope to make this survey an annual event so that we might be able to measure the health of our native bird population each year.

We are also enhancing native bird habitat around the vineyard though the planting of native shrubs and the installation of nesting boxes and feeders that are anti-starling in design. You can help our efforts by using starling-proof bird feeders in your own backyard bird habitat.

In our April newsletter we’ll be reporting on the results of the native bird survey so be sure stay tuned!  As always we appreciate your support for our sustainability efforts and believe that not only are they the right thing to do, but ultimately make for a wine that leaves a good taste in your mouth in more ways than one!

Grape Stomping 101

March 10th, 2012 by Nicolette Bailey

The image of people stomping grapes is as old as Pompeii.  The Greeks and Romans did it and people continue to do it to this day.  There is something primal and earthy about stomping grapes into wine that make people both young and old smile and up on Youngberg Hill we are no exception.

Even in today’s modern world some winemakers still choose to go barefoot into the vat in order to break through the thick layer of skins, stems and seeds that forms at the surface of fermenting red wine during fermentation.  This “punch down” or submerging of the cap is done to extract color, tannins, flavor and aromas from the grape solids.

Known as “Pigeage à pied” in France, it is much rarer to see in the US as part of winemaking as most American winemakers prefer to forgo the foot, using instead a special plunger like tool for punch down.

Still other winemakers find neither method satisfactory choosing to simply pump the juice over the top of the grapes until the cap sinks down into the fermentation.

No matter how it is done, you can’t make good red wine without using all the amazing parts a grape has to offer.

Last fall, just before harvest, Nicolette, our family’s version of the Greek Goddess was  filled with the Dionysian spirit of her ancestors and decided to have a go ago at squishing grapes with her toes just as her people did so many thousands of years ago.

The result?  Well let’s just say that the spirits of Plato and Aristotle are no match for good old Oregon Yellowjackets!  After a few minutes of dancing in the barrel and several painful stings Nicolette was running for the house at full speed, skirt still hiked up leaving a trail for purple footprints for the wasps to follow.

Greek Lucy

March 4th, 2012 by Nicolette Bailey

Flashback time: The year is 1956. The show? I love Lucy. Ricky and Lucy travel to Italy. Lucy finds herself stomping grapes in a vineyard to absorb a little “local flavor”.  And like many who saw that episode, you might aspire to do the same (minus picking a fight with your fellow stompers!).

Well, wine making is a little different these days. While there are some wineries across the world that still stomp grapes the old fashion way, most commercial wineries use hand punches and automated equipment to break skins and extract flavors and tannins from the skins.

Fast forward to today: Our city girl, Nicolette, has continued to learn on the farm and it does not end in the vineyard. She has spent much time in the winery to learn the goings on there as well. She has her daily upper body workout by doing manual punch downs ( while falling in the tank), filling barrels ( while spilling wine all over herself), and sorting fruit ( while fighting away earwhigs and other natural critters).

And it doesn’t stop there. She has learned to swallow, not spit, while doing barrel tasting such that by the end of a routine barrel tasting, she must be driven home. Oh, the perils of being in the wine business…

And what do Greeks know about wine? The Greeks have been making wine longer than anyone in modern history, keeping in mind there is evidence of winemaking thousands of years prior. Their tradition in wine was not lost on Nicolette as she learned to drink wine diluted by water at the dinner table as a child. Her passion for wine runs as deep as her Greek heritage, but she is always up for a good martini to cleanse her palate.

We have fun in this business and are enjoying teach our girls the farming and winemaking aspects of the business. None of them have been wine stomping… yet.

Have you ever stomped grapes? If so, share your favorite grape stomping experiences with us here!

Green Acres

March 3rd, 2012 by Nicolette Bailey

Remember the old TV show Green Acres? It’s the one from the 60’s with Eddie Albert and Eva Gabor as a couple who move from New York City to a country farm.

Well, we are living this show over and over again. While “green” fits with our sustainable farming and all that we are doing on the hill, “green” here applies more to the experiences of a Greek Eva Gabor (aka: Nicolette) who is 100% Greek and more importantly, born and raised a city girl in Chicago.

Needless to say, moving to McMinnville, Oregon where the closest city of Portland is a fifth the size of Chicago — and where shopping is a weekly excursion rather than a daily past time — has been quite an adjustment.

The other adjustments for Nicolette include:

  • Driving on gravel roads
  • Getting produce from a garden rather than a store
  • Driving a truck in the field rather than a sporty car on the freeway
  • Her closest pet being a cow rather than a dog
  • Mowing the field with a tractor rather than a mower in the yard
  • Owning more jeans than dresses or slacks
  • And cleaning the barn rather than the house

There have been plenty of funny (though not so funny at the time) mishaps that we share with guests and tasters. Nicolette talks about the time she slid the truck into the fence, the time she drove over vines with the tractor, watching the tractor slide slowly into the pond, sledding down the snow covered hill dodging vines, and the “cow therapy” she now has each day with our new “pets”.

Certainly it has been an adjustment coming from the city to the country. But after 9 years on the farm, Nicolette is starting to drive a little slower, enjoy the quiet solitude in the country, and to appreciate other animals than just the common dog and cat.

 Have your own “green acre” stories? We would love to hear them via comments, photos or videos. You can share them with us below!