When Carey and I last visited Vista Hills in March, vines throughout the valley were spottily coming to life, prematurely coaxed by the warm weather. The threat of a freeze with much of March still left on the calendar was a concern, but that fortunately did not come to pass, and a world of change has since occurred in the vineyards at Vista Hills we are thrilled to hear.
I recently checked in with the Vista Hill’s tasting room manager, Ryan Fish, who has the best view of the Marylhurst Pinot Noir vines in all of Oregon. My plan is to pass on some news and vineyard updates from time to time alongside my Vista Hills reviews.
News from the front line:
Sadly, but not surprisingly, Ryan informed me that the ’07 Marylhurst sold out within a few days of enjoying my own bottle. That is the way of the things at a small production winery—but not to worry, more is to come. 180 cases’ worth of ’08 juice is about to make its way to the bottling line, as I imagine the ’09 vintage is resting comfortably, and the 2010 Marylhurst is taking form as we speak. 3 generations of Pinot Noir hard at work!
In the Marylhurst block, the cover crops—the grasses or wildflowers that grow in between the rows of vines—were seeded in alternating rows of perennial rye grass, a mix of annual rye grass, and crimson clover.
One row is planted with perennial rye grass, which looks like lawn grass and competes with the grape vines for water. Competition for water is a good thing so we can control the vine’s vigor, and we can always mulch up this cover crop if growth slows down. These are young vines, however, and so they are very vigorous. The alternating row is planted with annual rye grain and crimson clover. Crimson clover is a legume, it fixes nitrogen from the atmosphere and allows us to mulch it into the soil, creating a concentration of nitrogen in the soil—like a natural fertilizer.
Portions of the Pinot Gris acreage is being grafted to Pommard clone Pinot Noir. The concept is simple—chop off Pinot Gris vine and affix Pinot Noir cutting. Although, the process is quite complicated—an undertaking requiring time and a very skilled hand.
From my notebook, ’07 Marylhurst:
Classic and comfortable. Hints of cream soda, and brown sugar on the nose. As well as a secondary note of pine.
Red fruit rich—no red/blue/black lines are crossed in the fruit department. Strawberry. Cranberry. Raspberry. This is the second time I have tried this wine, the first time being a tasting portion. Greater depth than I remembered—and some really unique attributes. Such as a toasty marshmallow, camp fire-esque quality—quite delicious and subtle.
I find a common clarity to good Oregon Pinot Noir—texturally uncluttered, cool, clean and lean. An ever-present spotlight on minerality—sometimes briney or gravely if more pronounced, rainy or mineral water-like in its more subdued form, like this wine.
Hints of vanilla yogurt, strawberry shortcake, and an edgy pine resin round out the finish. I noted the yogurt in my tasting room notes a couple months ago, and again it delivers.