Archive for April, 2012

CORK, OR SCREW CAP?

April 28th, 2012 by Nicolette Bailey

The answer: It depends.

As a purist, who received his wine indoctrination in France, I believe there is no substitute for cork. That answer is based on the intent for wine to be cellared for decades, easy access to cork in France, minimal concern for recycling, and most wine being consumed locally.  Cork has the benefit of being a slow emitter of oxygen into the bottle over a long period of time. The risk is that cork can sometimes have a bacteria that will cause the wine to go bad over time. That risk is small (2-3%) and getting smaller as suppliers are getting better at detection and cleaning.  However, one customer opening one tainted bottle is one too many for me. And if the customer lives far from the winery, replacement is also expensive.

From an engineering perspective, screw caps are a no-brainer. They provide a cleaner, safer closure than cork. Therefore, I am confident that when anyone opens a bottle of our wine anywhere in the world, if it has been handled properly, it will be as good or better than when it went into the bottle. There is good data to suggest that screw caps also allow a minimal amount of oxygen into the bottle for aging. However, research indicates that fewer than 10% of bottles purchased are cellared for more than one year, so aging is much less of a concern. Screw caps are arguably more environmentally sustainable, and when they are recycled they have a lower carbon footprint than cork.

When we bottle our wine at Youngberg Hill, different aspects of quality come to my mind.  My first concern is that when anyone opens a bottle of Youngberg Hill, it has to be good; therefore the screw cap wins. Next is the environment, with many arguments on both sides, but sustainability favors the screw cap. Third is the matter of aging, and given the purchasing and cellaring habits of today’s wine lovers, this is just not an issue, so cork is not necessary.

To be continued.

Call It Kismet

April 21st, 2012 by Nicolette Bailey

I love to tell this story, because I love happy endings.

Shortly after Wayne and Nicolette arrived in the Willamette Valley some items were taken out of their mailbox.  Nicolette had a lively Greek exchange of expectations with the postmaster of McMinnville.  Just a few weeks later Nicolette and Wayne were out on a “date night” when they were sharing stories and a few glasses of wine with some yet-to-be-introduced new acquaintances.

Finally names were exchanged, and Nicolette realized she was sitting across from her adversary, the postmaster himself, otherwise known as Jess Davis.  The emotion of the earlier exchange resurfaced as a bond of friendship that might have otherwise not been as strong, and a new road to be travelled unrolled before me.  Winemaking holds an appeal for me that I didn’t know was there.

After cooking a couple of winemaker’s dinners and private parties at Youngberg Hill (I am a trained chef), I began assisting Wayne in the vineyard and at the winery – sorting grapes, and barreling and bottling the wines.  I spent my evenings and vacation time assisting in the winemaking for a few years, before Wayne convinced me it was time to change careers and become part of the family on the Hill.  So after 32 years of faithful federal service, I sold my acreage, and began the life of a farmer/vintner/barkeeper/winemaker/chef/inn manager.  On a farm, the day starts when your feet hit the ground, and stops when you do.  But a day on a John Deere beats a day at the office anytime.

I love spending my time bringing smiles to people tasting our wines, or helping them unlock the mysteries that wine presents.  I love welcoming guests into the inn, and I love being a farmer.  And when it is time to call it a day, I watch the sunset through a glass of my favorite Pinot Noir and cherish every sip of life.

Jess Davis

HARVEST HELP

April 14th, 2012 by Nicolette Bailey

Harvesting the grapes from Youngberg Hill is exciting, exhilarating, exhausting, and down right fun. What makes this time of year so much more enjoyable is the camaraderie of neighbors and friends who come to the vineyard to help out. It reminds me of the old family farm days when neighbors came together to help each other plant and harvest. As soon as we decide when we are going to harvest the grapes, we put out an APB to an ever-growing list of individuals who have asked to help out. We also let our friends on Facebook know when we are harvesting, and invite them to join in.  Even our guests staying at the Inn come down to the vineyard before breakfast to get their hands purple.

Many folks who help in the vineyard then follow us to the winery to help with sorting and other activities.  Other volunteers come to the winery to help out during bottling, and hopefully get a taste of the new vintage from the barrel.

Friends come from next door, and as far away as Kansas City, Iowa, Atlanta, Seattle, and of course, Portland. Some come for a one-time experience. Others return year after year to enjoy the uniqueness of each season. Some come back two years later to purchase the particular vintage they helped create.

And year after year, as the grapes come in from the fields, are sorted and crushed, we wind down the activities with a harvest celebration dinner.  And we all come together once more, to share stories, laugh over mishaps, and anticipate the wine to come.  We appreciate the extra hands during harvest and other times of the year, but the final dinner is also a celebration of the love and friendship that goes into creating a great bottle of wine.

OUR LOVELY NATIVE BIRDS!

April 7th, 2012 by Nicolette Bailey

Last month we had the pleasure of welcoming to Youngberg Hill Ornithology Professor Don Powers of George Fox University, and nearly two dozen of his current and former wildlife biology students. Professor Don and his group conducted on March 17 the first ever Youngberg Hill Vineyards Native Bird Study.

It was a lucky day for bird-spotting, as forty different native species were identified in less than three hours! Highlights included a gorgeous Pileated Woodpecker, Merlins, Kestrels and a Northern Harrier Raptor. Our resident eagles made a regal appearance soaring over the vineyard rows. The students were an enthusiastic bunch, tramping through the muck of the vineyard and recording everything they saw.

We ended the experience with a hearty lunch in the warmth of the dining room. If you have been following our blogs this winter, you are probably well aware of our ongoing trouble with the non-native European starlings that eat so many of our grapes during harvest time. We were especially pleased to see that only one or two starlings were sighted, and that the avian diversity of our vineyard ecosystem looks very healthy.

Professor Don was very impressed by the species count and said that if the weather had been better (it rained, of course!) we would have seen even more native species. This initial effort was so successful that we have decided to monitor our native bird population’s health on a regular basis by conducting quarterly surveys with Dr. Powers and his wonderful George Fox students.

Upon the completion of our new vineyard panorama deck, we will also be launching a “Wet Your Beak” wine tasting, in honor of our feathered friends. Imagine spotting colorful native birds while sipping our tasty organically grown flight of Pinot noirs.

Now that’s our kind of birding!