Monday, April 11, 2016

Royalty, dirt and a little pig

It seems like just yesterday we sent our last missive, but it has been six weeks.  We hope all who have ordered the first of the fourteen pinots are enjoying them and are happy with our efforts. We have two new wines to offer and a reliable favorite. 

  
 
Clare and I have evolved as a winemaker and an artist dramatically since we started Big Table Farm almost ten years ago.  I have gone from using the memories and wisdom of mentors to creating my own set.  The wines that I make today are certainly still influenced by what I learned from others so long ago, but I have filled in those lessons with many of my own. I know what I want to drink and how to push to get there.  

To that end, the Elusive Queen and Earth most clearly demonstrate what I and Clare feel represent what we are most proud to share.  I joke, but in all seriousness, if we can’t sell these wines, we will be happy to drink them ourselves, and at just over 100 cases each we could certainly do with time.  These wines are not for everybody. They are for those who know and want understand pinot noir and chardonnay, unquestionably some of you know even more than I.

With almost 700 cases of chardonnay and 3000 cases of pinot noir in our cellar for 2014 we felt that we could pull out the best of the best barrels, blend and bottle them, without having a dramatic impact on the regular bottlings.

I hope that those of you who get to try these wines enjoy them, I hope that this trial is a success because I would like to continue creating and exploring the best that I can offer each year with what is presented to me.  Will these blends happen every year? I don’t know.



I don’t remember who came up with the name Earth but I chose it. There were other names bantered about but I chose Earth because it represents so much and can mean so many different things, interpreted from a plentitude of angles. It is our home, expansive and tiny at the same time. Made simply of 118 elements, yet so profoundly complex. We have known it for generation upon generation yet we continue to make discoveries, both personally and scientifically. As I write I think maybe I have chosen a name too grand, but I want this wine to make us think about our home. Clare and I try to live each day in harmony with ourselves, each other and all that is around us. We are not religious, but we try to accept our humanity and try to live within the confines of our home and what it can support.

As the wines are a departure from our past the labels are also an artistic exploration. I remember the day Clare was working on them.  It was a beautiful Sunday (one of the first we have started to take off). I was in and out of the house as she worked with focus and intention. I left her alone and when she finally showed me what she had come up with – I was a little shocked and asked her what she had been smoking?


 

Absolutely nothing she laughed (not her thing and I know it) and proceeded to explain the significance of all that had been committed to paper. I cannot remember all that she explained and I’m not sure I would/should share if I could. I think it is up to you to make your own inferences, to add to the enjoyment and mystery of drinking these wines.

 
 
The name the Elusive Queen is inspired by Clare’s passion for keeping bees.  As you well know, our Willamette valley bottling of chardonnay always has honey bee inspired drawings, so then should the barrel select.  Clare can tell the story better than I but the name came to her one day as she was collecting a swarm of bees and wasn’t sure if the swarm contained the queen, and then she caught a glimpse and knew the swarm would turn into a successful hive.


2014 Elusive Queen Chardonnay, 116 cases produced, 85 dollars

2014 Earth Pinot noir, 108 cases produced, 105 dollars
Part II – April 8, 2016.  Today was a great day, cold and clear in the dark this morning as I opened up the winery to prepare to bottle the 2015 Laughing Pig rosé and edelzwicker (fall release).  This was our fourth time bottling in our new winery, and it gets easier every time. The bottling went smoothly, Clare made everybody cornbread and chili for lunch. Jeff and I cleaned up in the afternoon and now I am sipping 2015 Laughing Pig rose as I write- admiring the cows graze new spring grass, dogs lazy in the sun on the porch, and me taking it all in. The wines are TERRIFIC; I am looking forward to having the Laughing Pig around all summer.  I love to take a glass out with me at the end of the day to the garden and spend an hour or two hoeing weeds, puttering and planning, watering and watching it all grow. 

The laughing pig rosé is back – it is as good as ever.  We have just a little more than last year, and from what I read in the wine business rags, rosé is increasingly popular these days, so please don’t wait to order.  I promise it will make any occasion just a little bit better, a little laughing pig makes all moments more memorable.

2015 Laughing Pig rosé, 480 cases produced, 28 dollars

Thank you again for continuing to enjoy and share our wine, this is unquestionably what allows us to continue this wacky adventure called Big Table Farm.
From our table to yours, Brian and Clare

p.s. Click here to browse the three new wines.

Monday, February 29, 2016

Spring Release is here!!



Howdy from rainy western Oregon!


We hope this finds you healthy and happy. 
We are a little soggy after a very wet winter but looking forward to a great 2016 after an amazing 2015. We are excited to have new wines to show and sell this spring! Our 2013’s were well received and we watched the last of them walk out the door a few months ago, we have rested up and are ready for a (hopefully) busy spring and summer.

2015 ended with a bang for us. Harvest was fantastic; we had a great team, thank you to all! And especially Clare, who fed the whole gang. The fruit was perfectly ripe and bountiful and I hope/think we have succeeded in making some nice wines. I will let you be the judge of that, soon, our Laughing Pig Rose will be bottled April 8 and ready to ship shortly thereafter. And then… one rainy December morning our phones started ringing… and didn’t stop for two days. Our 2012 Willamette Valley Pinot noir had been selected as #11 on the Wine Spectator top 100 wines of the year – we had no idea this was coming until the first congratulatory phone call. I am still stunned and honored to be estimated for inclusion on such a list, and so near the top.  Additionally we have received tons of great press from many others, best to check it out on the website lest my head get to big recounting it all.

We have settled into the winery nicely, our second vintage was much smoother than the first, the kinks have been ironed out and all the details that make a difference were in place. 


2014 — An Early Harvest

The wines we have to present to you this spring are the 2014 versions of wine we have been making for a few years now – Willamette Valley Pinot noir, Chardonnay, Pelos Sandberg vineyard Pinot noir and one new addition, a southern Oregon Syrah.


The 2014 vintage was early, warm and large… and fantastic! An early harvest is usually determined months in advance by early bud break and bloom, so we knew it was coming. We had great fruit set, so we left a little more fruit on the vines to lengthen the ripening process – which was aided by the warmth. A timely rain at the end of September gave the vines just enough of a boost to finish ripening and toned down some of the sugar that accumulated during the warmer days in the beginning of the month. The resulting fruit was perfectly ripe - skins, seeds and stems, all of which come into contact with the juice, which was an equal perfection of sugar sweetness buffered by acidity, fermenting together to bring a sensorial exuberance to the final wines. My concern during the vinification process was too much of a good thing, so a gentle hand was used to extract enough but not too much.  The resulting wines are rich and powerful and at the same time balanced and delicate.  As young wines they are still evolving and are very exciting – they have much to offer and can differ dramatically from moment to moment as they open in your glass and through out the evening in bottle. We have enjoyed getting to know the 2014 wines, we hope you will too! 


The bounty of the 2014 vintage has given us the opportunity and fodder to select and blend a few barrels each of chardonnay and pinot noir that exemplify what Clare and I feel represent our best efforts. These barrel select wines will be available in the near future. 

The Wines of Our Spring 2016 Release

2014 Willamette Valley Chardonnay – warmer vintages present great opportunities to capture the best that chardonnay has to offer. 2014 saw the addition of fruit from the Shafer Vineyard, planted in the early 1970’s. I have finally convinced Miki Shafer that we are worthy of her fruit. The older clone planted on her property maintains it’s acidity as it ripens, much like the chardonnay from the Wirtz vineyard. I think these older clones blend amazingly well with the newer plantings found at Durant, Yates Conwill and Bieze vineyards. Our basket press was used along with piseage a ped (foot stomping) which has changed the nature of our wine. The brief contact of skins, stems and juice has given our white wines a slight “grip” that I think has taken them to a whole new level of delicious. All other aspects have remained the same – barrel fermented, some new but mostly used, batonage, malo lactic complete and the wine went from barrel to bottle as directly as possible. The chardonnay offered today is sure to please. 680 cases of our Willamette Valley chardonnay produced – adorned by bee boxes. 45 dollars/bottle



2014 Willamette Valley Pinot noir – this wine 
is a stunner, which is good because it is our largest production to date! There should be enough for everybody at 2200 cases, yet I can already hear the pleas come July of “are you sure you don’t have anymore?” Per usual this wine exemplifies the maxim the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.

While anchored by amazing pinot from Bieze, Johan and Coats and Whitney vineyards, it sees additional barrels from all the vineyards we work with, so it is a true Willamette Valley blend. One of our cutest pigs to date will make you smile on the outside as you grin ear to ear on the inside while drinking this wine. Bert, an American Guinea hog, 42 dollars/bottle

2014 Pelos Sandberg Vineyard Pinot noir – working with my friend Don Sandberg is just plain old fun. He is a constant perfectionist yet doesn’t take himself too seriously. Consequently he grows damn good grapes and shares them with us. I try not to fuck up his good work. In 2014 he offered us half an acre of Wadensville, in addition to the acre each of 777 and Pommard we have been buying since 2010. I was so excited I didn’t even check with Clare, I just said yes. The addition of the wild and brambly Wadensville clone has given this normally hedonistic wine an air of nobility – but don’t worry – it still has all the fruit, spice and silkiness of past vintages. Don got a new tractor that he was proud of so we put it on the label. 334 cases produced, 48 dollars/bottle

2013 Syrah – we have always had a soft spot for syrah, maybe even an Achilles heel, so we jumped when the opportunity came to work with Oregon fruit. The Rogue valley in southern Oregon is much warmer and dryer than our home in the northern Willamette, and gives this thick skinned variety what it needs to ripen. The 2013 vintage was an entirely different animal is southern Oregon - long and warm – the fruit came in well after we had put all the Pinot into barrel. Dark fruits, balanced acid, tannin and richness make this a beauty. And back to the beginning, knife, fork and spoon on the label. 195 cases produced, 48 dollars/bottle
 

Other Announcements
Over the past couple of years most of you have come to know Tiffany Stevens and her adept abilities of seamlessly getting your wine to you, navigating each of your state’s shipping, licensing, taxing and weather intricacies. Sadly she is moving to greener pastures, we wish her only the best. Fortunately she has spent the last six weeks training her replacement (is that possible?) Sarah Egeland, who is more than capable. Sarah has fit right in with the quirkiness that makes big table farm and we look forward to working with her.

We hope that 2016 is fruitful and fun for all – we look forward to seeing you at one of the many events we are participating in (or hosting). July 9 we are hosting Outstanding in the Field again. We will host a spring release dinner again at Simpatico dining hall, date still TBD. Clare will be in Chicago and the Midwest this spring and I will head to Atlanta for the High Museum wine auction end of March. There is more in the works that we will apprise you of in our next missive for the Laughing Pig Rose early April.
 


Thank you for continuing to enjoy our efforts, 
we cannot do it with out your buying and drinking our wines. 
We are truly amazed at the success of our Oregon adventure, thank you again. 
 
From our table to yours, cheers! Brian and Clare

Sunday, February 28, 2016

this weekend was all white wine and oysters!! : )

Brian spoke at the chardonnay celebration and we got to try his wine along with 4 other winemakers wine from one vineyard it was very cool!! Oregon Chardonnay is happening people... pale, clean and bright with beautiful acid and delicate fruit, flowers and citrus all peeking out and in perfect balance...


then we enjoyed a day of oysters and white wine ...  Tom from Taylor Shellfish came by for a wine and oyster tasting...  I learned the art of shucking... I thought I knew how to shuck an oyster -- pry it open at the hinge try not to get stuff inside and try not to mess up the oyster itself... right? .. well kind of there a lot of subtlety to getting it open perfectly and efficiently and keeping the oyster pristine and completely perfect!! so fun to learn! Thanks Tom!!





oyster with Prosciutto on top!! well why the hell not : ) 





Sunday, February 21, 2016

a little catch up in photos


 Spring is close... very very close...



brian's garden is making beautiful raab


and this years prosciutto's are safely tucked in the wine cellar

 I lost a hive which is always bitter sweet with the sweet part being a mid winter harvest of honey.

  
brian's epic summer and fall garden has continued to give as a winter garden! 



the 2015 bean harvest was spectacular 

there has been some time here and there for driving and riding horses : )   

we may have enjoyed one or two bottles of the elusive queen (to be released later this spring) 

more great press rolled in : ) 


we spent 3+ weeks of our year in the warehouse 
with a great crew hand labeling and wrapping the 14 vintage!  

Brian and I have had fun successful foraging forays around the farm for mushrooms and truffles! 


 



We said good bye to Bert and Ernie  

 




And had a super fun day of butchering with some great chefs!




I managed to paint in december! 

and the dogs caught up on there long winter naps... 

we got a few snowfalls :  )  


and Mr. Winston joined the family!

the elk came to visit quite a bit this winter : ) 


A little barrel tasting with my sweetie!! 



and a few winter naps for me too!


  

Winston and Goatio are bff's  


The animals get out on the warm dry days ! 

we took a few nips of the 14's - coming soon!!


so another year behind or in front of us depending on perspective... live each day fully and have a good time because it's a matter of perspective ...