A table spread with good food and good wine has always been a significant part of the Ponzi Family’s Italian heritage. Wine is nearly inseparable from food, so much so that pairing it properly with a meal is almost an art in itself. When Dick and Nancy Ponzi brought their young family to Oregon in the 1960s and founded one of the first vineyards in the region, they understood that the bounty of the area had much to contribute to their wine and to their family traditions. They embraced what local farms had to offer and helped developed a distinct Willamette Valley Cuisine, opening a bistro in Dundee that focused on dishes sourced with regional ingredients, and Nancy Ponzi authored a cookbook of Italian-inspired recipes interwoven with a Pacific Northwest influence.
Moving ever forward, Ponzi Vineyards is further elevating Willamette Valley cuisine by creating a modern hospitality space that offers locally-sourced dishes paired perfectly with our portfolio of award-winning wines. To achieve this, we have invited Chef David Sapp to join us as Culinary Director. An exciting addition to our team, Chef Sapp brings not only an impressive history in some of Portland’s most renowned restaurants, he brings an understanding of the Willamette Valley and its bounty, and a philosophy grounded in his own traditions of family and hospitality.
Read more about Chef Sapp, and try a favorite recipe--his grandfather’s Pimento Cheese!
"We're thrilled to be working with a chef of this caliber,” comments Anna Maria Ponzi, President and Director of Sales and Marketing at Ponzi Vineyards. “Being able to offer the vibrancy of the Portland food scene in the beautiful setting of our vineyard property is exciting. Collaborating with Chef Sapp will enable us to create local and exclusive culinary experiences for our guests. He also shares our company values of sustainability, hospitality and innovative quality. It's a great fit!"
Chef Sapp most recently served as Chef de Cuisine at Park Kitchen in Portland, Oregon. He will be overseeing the culinary program at Ponzi Vineyards, a founding Oregon winery deeply rooted in the Willamette Valley and its cuisine.
“Nothing pairs better with wine produced in the Willamette Valley than the crops and animals raised in the same region,” Sapp stated. This philosophy of terroir will be the foundation of the experience he plans to provide at Ponzi Vineyards.
Born in Atlanta, Georgia, Sapp grew up in his grandfather’s kitchen, absorbing cooking skills along with a love for Southern cuisine. In 2008, he moved to Portland, Oregon, and and went on to intern under Dolan Lane and Kyo Koo of Clarklewis, work as a chef instructor at Sur la Table and curate the breakfast room at Ace Hotel before joining the Park Kitchen team in 2013. The following year he assumed the role of Chef de Cuisine, combining a tradition of careful attention to the flavors of the Pacific Northwest with the warmth and hospitality of his Southern roots.
We asked Chef Sapp to share a favorite recipe with us and, true to his Southern roots, he delivered his grandfather’s Pimento Cheese recipe. Give it a try, and let us know how it turned out!
Suggested wine pairing: The 2014 Ponzi Classico Pinot Noir. The white pepper notes play well with the pimentos, the fruit flavors play well with cheese, and the nice acidity keeps the pairing balanced.
While sipping a glass of Oregon Pinot noir, it’s not often we think about things like vineyard maintenance. Tableside, the waiter never talks about vine pruning when describing a vintage. Yet, it’s the hard work of vineyard crews and the thoughtful implementation of vine training systems that result in the wine we enjoy so much. Some of our crew members have been with us for over 20 years, and we owe them so much for their dedication and hard work. Our Vineyard Manager, Miguel Ortiz (pictured above), oversees this skilled group of workers.
This is the second chapter of our ongoing Vineyard Series. Follow along from bud break to harvest to learn about the art and science of viticulture and how it impacts the wines and vintages you love.
Previous Vineyard Story: Pruning. Upcoming Story: Bud Break!
Just as people must train long and hard in order to achieve success, the vines must be trained to have a successful harvest year after year. The process is long and requires patience--it takes years before a vine is ready to produce fruit--yet the end result is well worth the effort. But what does it mean to train a grapevine?
Grapes are among the world’s oldest cultivated crops. Viticulturists have been developing vine training systems for several millennia. Cultures as far back as the ancient Egyptians and Phoenicians learned that effective vine training promoted abundant fruit.
For much of viticulture’s history, vine training from region to region varied based on tradition. In the early 20th century, many of these traditional methods were codified into wine laws and regulations, such as the French Appellation d’Origin Contrôlée (AOC) system. However, it wasn’t until the 1960s that the study and implementation of various training systems really began, right around when many New World wine regions (such as Oregon, Washington and Australia) were building up their wine industry. These young vineyards didn’t have the pressure of centuries of regional tradition, such as existed in the Old World (France, Italy, Spain, etc.). Therefore, vine growers in the New World were able to experiment and research on a large scale. They studied how particular vine training systems, pruning, and canopy management techniques impacted wine quality and developed new methods that could be adapted to the desired wine as well as to the specific labor needs and mesoclimate of a vineyard.
At Ponzi Vineyards
Back at Ponzi Vineyards, Ortiz oversees the careful bending and tying of the canes: one to the right, one to the left. After 21 seasons with us, he’s an expert. He’s watched these vines grow from little more than shoots to abundant producers of beautiful fruit.
The optimum spacing between vines has been determined after nearly fifty years of experimentation and study, and the canes are pruned to maximize fruit yield and quality within that space. While the vines themselves may be quite old, new canes grow every year. We prune the older canes and leave two of last year’s canes. These remaining canes are then trimmed and carefully bent along the fruiting wire and secured. The methods used depend on the site; our Avellana vineyard is trained using a double Guyot system to increase sunlight and ripening, and at the Historic Estate vineyard we train in what’s known as the Scott Henry Trellis to promote growth at this more vigorous site.
This process has to be done prior to bud break, which Ortiz expects in mid-April. The Ponzi Family have been refining their vineyard management over two generations. Everything is designed to encourage the best quality fruit. Attentive, sustainable vineyard management combined with gentle winemaking practices results in the beautiful benchmark wines we produce season after season.
The next time you pour a glass of wine, raise a toast to the vineyard crews that make it possible!
Post 58 has been selected as our Charity of the Month. This organization is comprised of Portland-area students aged 14-18 who engage in outdoor adventures under the guidance of experienced adults. These outdoor adventures include rock climbing, backpacking, hiking, mountaineering and more in locales around the Northwest.
Their mission is to provide an arena for personal growth and positive social interaction to a diverse group of high school students by creating experiences that foster responsibility, respect and a passion for the outdoors.
Post 58 is a personal passion project of Mia Hamacher. Mia is the daughter of winemaker Luisa Ponzi as well as member and Student President of Post 58.
"The Post ... has been such a hugely influential and important part of my adolescent life and the lives of many other teens in the Portland area. With nearly 140 current members, and outreach programs through Oregon Foster Services and Janus Youth Programming, the Post provides a uniquely safe and welcoming space, through monthly meetings, with singing, poetry and story sharing, and affordable trips that get teens into the outdoors and encourage independence and accountability."
– Mia Hamacher, member and Student President of Post 58
We invite you to visit Ponzi Vineyards this month and join us in support of this valuable organization. A portion of every tasting fee will be donated to Post 58.
Linfield College in McMinnville, Oregon, established the Oregon Wine History Archive (OWHA) in 2011. The OWHA has the singular mission of preserving and sharing the history of the wine industry in Oregon. They collect paraphernalia and stories from all of Oregon’s wine regions and from persons involved at the different stages of wine production, from growers to sommeliers.
The Ponzi Family and Ponzi Vineyards have been a substantial portion of that rich history, having established one of the first vineyards in Oregon in 1970. An innovative pioneer, the Ponzi Family recognized the potential of Pinot noir and Chardonnay in the state, and were instrumental in establishing important organizations like ¡Salud! and the Oregon Wine Board, lobbying legislature on behalf of the burgeoning wine industry. They were in every way at the forefront of establishing the Willamette Valley, the state of Oregon and even the US as a formidable producer of quality wine.
The OWHA sat down with Luisa Ponzi to document her experiences as a second-generation vintner and woman winemaker, to discuss the changes she’s witnessed amongst local vineyards and to share some thoughts and advice for the future. It’s a wonderful oral history, and Ponzi Vineyards is proud to be a cornerstone of Oregon’s legacy.
Explore Luisa Ponzi’s 2014 Classico Pinot Noir and the 12 exceptional Vineyards she selected as Willamette Valley’s truest expression of that memorable year in our 2014 Classico Map!
We aren’t in it for the accolades, but we can’t help that they keep giving them to us! The 2015 Ponzi Avellana Chardonnay won a remarkable 95 points from The Tasting Panel Magazine.
The key to good wine is good vineyard practices. Read more about when and why we prune the vines.
The Laurelwood at Ponzi Vineyards, our stunning new hospitality space, is nearing completion. The final details are coming together beautifully. The design and construction of The Laurelwood is by Fogelstrom Design Build. Architect Brett Fogelstrom also designed our tasting room and is the husband of Ponzi Vineyards President Anna Maria Ponzi. He shared with us a little bit about the elements of his design.
We are booking events in The Laurelwood now! Be one of the first to host your guests in this Oregon Wine Country destination. Contact us at email@example.com today for more information or to schedule a tour to see this space up close for yourself.
Chardonnay is the most planted grape variety in the world, and it has a wide range of flavors. Many associate Chardonnay with heavy oak and butter flavors, but that’s just one style. Truly, there’s a Chardonnay out there for everyone. At Ponzi Vineyards, a style of Chardonnay is crafted that is both accessible to novice wine drinkers and offers a freshness sought after by aficionados that may be tired of the oak- and butter-bombs stereotypical of Chardonnay.
After more than two decades of dedicated study—including time spent with Chardonnay master Dominique Lafon of Domaine des Comtes Lafon in Burgundy—Winemaker Luisa Ponzi has achieved an insider’s understanding of Chardonnay that is demonstrated in Ponzi Vineyards’ continued leadership in defining a new Oregon style. It’s a style that is bright and acidic, with texture and fresh fruit flavors mid-palate. Every vintage is designed to allow expressions of these characteristics. This new take on Chardonnay is enabling Oregon—and Ponzi Vineyards—to set a new standard for the varietal in America and beyond.
One of the first in Oregon Pinot noir, Ponzi Vineyards was also one of the first to plant and produce Chardonnay in the early 1970s. The original vines were clones that thrived in California but ripened late in Oregon’s cooler climate. Eventually, a Dijon clone was discovered that suited the climate of Oregon’s Willamette Valley, which has long periods of daylight but cool evening temperatures in the summertime. This discovery changed Oregon Chardonnay forever.
Ponzi Vineyards planted several blocks of this Dijon clone in their Aurora Vineyard and the resulting wines were flavorful, rich, and complex. The vines are now nearly 30-years old, the roots reaching deep into the Laurelwood soil, and the flavors have grown more intense.
With the Aurora Chardonnay thriving, Luisa began experimenting with clones and rootstocks. She found a winning combination and established another block of Chardonnay vines at Ponzi Vineyards’ Avellana Vineyard.
Vintages from both vineyards regularly score very high, revealing the need for this distinct style of cool-climate Chardonnay.
Luisa Ponzi was a panelist at the Oregon Chardonnay Celebration in 2017, and Ponzi Vineyards will be a presence there again this year.
For a region known for its Pinot noir, Oregon is most certainly making waves with its distinct Chardonnay style, designed for a new American palate.
Appreciate Oregon Chardonnay for yourself with a Ponzi Vineyards vintage.
Read about the 2015 Ponzi Avellana Chardonnay's award of 95 points from The Tasting Panel.
Check out images from the Chardonnay harvest from the Aurora Vineyard.
We are proud to announce the 2015 Ponzi Avellana Chardonnay has been awarded 95 points by The Tasting Panel. This single-vineyard vintage expresses the very best qualities of Ponzi Vineyards' Avellana vineyard, nurtured to perfection under Winemaker Luisa Ponzi's skill and experience. After more than two decades of dedicated study—including time spent with Chardonnay master Dominique Lafon of Domaine des Comtes Lafon in Burgundy—Luisa has obtained an understanding of Chardonnay that enables Ponzi Vineyards to be one of the few producers creating a style that is uniquely Oregon.
Ponzi Vineyards is proud to be leading the way in setting a high standard for Oregon Chardonnay under Luisa's direction.
Ponzi Vineyards will be a presence at this year's Oregon Chardonnay Celebration on February 25th. Please come by to show your support!
The 2015 Ponzi Avellana Chardonnay will be available for purchase very soon. In the meantime, pick up a bottle of the 2014 Ponzi Avellana Chardonnay before it's gone.
After the excitement of the harvest, when the vines are dormant and the wines are tucked into their cellars, there is still much work to be done in the vineyard. This quiet season is when the vines are pruned. While lacking the anxious excitement of watching the fruit ripen in summer, or the heady adrenaline rush of harvest in the autumn, pruning the vines in winter is the necessary foundation for the season to come and a key part of making quality wine.
Grapes only grow from shoots on one-year-old canes. To ensure fruit production, healthy new canes must be produced every year. Old canes from previous years’ growth are cut away, and the remaining canes cut back and tied to maintain optimal vine spacing.
While it looks and sounds like a lot of manual labor, pruning grape vines is a combination of science and wisdom:
“Well-pruned vines, through the wisdom and knowledge of a great vineyard manager, balance what they can produce with what a site can provide, creating the best possible fruit from each vineyard,” says JP Pierce, Associate Winemaker at Ponzi Vineyards.
So while pruning and tying down the canes may not be as social media-worthy as ripening fruit clusters, it’s easily the most important part of maintaining vineyard health and producing great wine. That, in a very real way, is a beautiful thing.
The pruning crew at Ponzi Vineyards moves surprisingly quickly down the rows, the steady snip of their shears keeping quick time. The snipped canes are pulled and laid on the ground in alternating fashion between the rows. They’ll be mulched where they lay, to be reincorporated into the soil. This process is relatively quick, and once completed the vineyard crew does another, more-detailed pass through every block. Every cane is tied down and trimmed again so each has about ten growth nodes.
It’s a process that takes two months in cold, unpleasant weather. This year, however, Oregon is experiencing a rather warm winter, with some days even getting above 50 degrees. The vineyard crew is racing the clock to complete pruning before the buds begin to swell and push out, which will begin sometime in March. Luckily, we have a great team working in the vineyard, and we know we have a healthy growing season ahead of us thanks to their efforts today.
The sparkling 2017 wines have been bottled and tucked away for a long rest in the cellar. The process is just shy of magical, beginning with Andrew Davis of Radiant Sparkling Wine Company pulling up to our gravity-flow winery in Sherwood, Oregon, with his bottling trailer. The rosé has already completed its first fermentation and inside Davis’ trailer is everything needed to get it started on its second fermentation.
Clean bottles are loaded onto a belt on one end of the trailer. They are then filled with the rosé and the Liqueur de Tirage, a combination of yeast and sugar that kick starts the second fermentation. During this second fermentation, the alcohol level will increase slightly and the bubbles we all love so much will develop. The bottles are tightly capped and emerge at the other end of the trailer, where they are removed and stacked neatly in large crates. They’ll ferment inside these crates for the next 4-5 years.
Fun fact: Davis’ bottling trailer pushes out about 4 bottles every 20 seconds. That's a lot of wine!
The yeast will eventually consume all the sugar and die. It settles like sediment in the bottle. Such expended yeast is referred to as the lees. The lees impart a pleasing texture and can contribute to flavor, however they don’t look particularly nice in the bottle, clouding the beautiful color of the wine.
The next stage, riddling, gets the yeast out of the liquid and clarifies the wine. The bottles are slowly rotated during the riddling stage so that the lees settle in the neck. Once all the particulates are settled, the neck is submerged in a freezing liquid and the lees freeze into a solid piece. The cap is removed and the pressure inside the bottle causes the frozen lees to push out of the bottle (or be pulled out).
The last step, dosage, adds a mixture of wine and sugar to fill out the bottles. They are then corked, wired, labelled, and are ready to go.
Our pretty pink babies are just settling in for their long nap in the cellar, where they’ll be carefully monitored by Luisa Ponzi and the winery crew. They have a long way to go—sparkling wines require more direct handling than still wines—but when it’s time to pop the cork and raise a glass, the result is definitely worth it.
If you just can't wait to get your hands on some rosé, the 2017 Ponzi Rosé will be releasing in early February 2018, and the 2014 Sparkling Brut Rosé will be released in April 2018 to celebrate the opening of The Founder's Room, our new hospitality space. Follow us on Facebook so you don't miss these exciting new wines!
It is a rainy, blustery day at the vineyard today, which makes us nostalgic for the golden days of last year's harvest.
Many will remember 2017 as a rollercoaster year: devastating wildfires, hurricanes, an incredible solar eclipse. Ponzi Vineyards was spared from the smoke caused by fires in the Columbia River Gorge and when harvest approached, luck continued to be on our side with plentiful winds protecting the grapes on over-warm days. And then it was Harvest Day, and "beautiful" was the word spoken most often by Luisa, our winemaker. And the fruit! So much fruit! The crop was abundant.
With big wistful sighs, we present our video of these happy-busy days. Enjoy!