I am a 3rd generation American, who was raised in the fiercely independent state of New Hampshire. Growing up on a self-sustaining farm taught me the value of hard work, community, the taste of seasons, and an appreciation for the colonial history that was around me. These lessons and experiences have culminated into my wine project called Golden Cluster here in Oregon.
Back in the late 90’s when I was just getting into Oregon wine, I did a bunch of research on wineries that were located in the same county where I was living. One of the first ones that came to my attention was David Hill Winery. I remember driving up there and thinking I was lost, because I had found myself driving up an old dirt road. I thought for sure I must have missed a turn somewhere.
Sure enough, as I was looking for a place to turn around the sign and entrance to the winery was in front of me. I can still remember seeing those old vines for the first time. It was a moment that made an immediate impression on me. Now and again I would drive up there, usually when I was trying to impress someone. It is such a hidden hamlet, such a unique vineyard in Oregon. It has a mystique that is hard to describe.
It was in April of 2013 when I stumbled upon the Sémillon up there. I was filming my friend Barnaby Tuttle of the Teutonic Wine Company. Barnaby makes a wine out of Sylvaner and Chasselas from the original Charles Coury plantings. I remember rounding the corner of the winery building and coming upon these huge vines; the biggest in the vineyard. Barnaby asked what they were and he started laughing out of surprise and awe when the vineyard manager told us, Sémillon. I remember Barnaby grabbed a vine very instinctually. You could tell how moved he was. I got it all on film and it is the opening scene on the trailer I have on my website. The next day he called up to David Hill and asked to buy the Sémillon on my behalf. The 2013 ‘Coury’ Sémillon from Golden Cluster is the first commercial release of this varietal and the 2nd 100% Sémillon ever made off this vineyard in 49 years. But Sémillon is not the only unique variety at this vineyard. As is the case with many of our founding vineyards, they were planted essentially as test blocks. The original Charles Coury vineyard was famously planted own rooted to Riesling, Pinot Noir, Sylvaner, Gewurztraminer, Pinot Blanc, Gouges Blanc, Pearl of Csaba, Flora, Chasselas, Muscat, Chardonnay, and about 10 plants of mixed reds that are a mystery.
I’m very interested in Biodynamics, I have read all of the books, attended many seminars, tasted many great wines, talked with many incredible growers, so I feel that I have a great knowledge base to start with. Having lived on a self-sustaining farm, many of these ideas are not new to me.
At this time, I do not own my own vineyards, so these practices will have to wait, but for now, I will work closely with my growers and continue to make suggested improvements in the vineyard and most importantly, continue to learn more and more about this unique vineyard site.
I’m not a university trained winemaker. I have trouble even calling myself a winemaker. I wish there was another word for it. Basically, I let the vintage dictate to me what wine is going to be possible.
I only source fruit from dry farmed vineyards that are organic or in conversion to organics. I’m always 100% ambient yeast and 100% pied de cuve. All of my wines go through malolactic fermentation (ML), and I will sulfur based on need, not necessity. Certainly, long contact with lees, partial skin contact, and mix barrel sizes are the keys to my wines. Really, it is about keeping the ego out of the way and not trying to force anything.
Domestic distribution is not exclusively through Indie Wineries.
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