The Willamette Valley is best known for its exquisite Pinot noir. It is so well-suited to the varietal that it can be found on virtually every hillside. Yet the conditions that make the region perfect for Pinot noir also make it perfect for other varietals, many of which are quite rare. Take a road trip this weekend and visit three wineries that are producing the best wines you’ve never heard of.
This founding Oregon winery is renowned for benchmark-setting Pinot noir and Chardonnay, but it has a few lesser-known grapes up its sleeves. On a trip to the Vietti winery in Piedmont, Italy, the Ponzi Family discovered Arneis and Dolcetto. Arneis had once been nearly extinct, grown at only two vineyards in all of Italy. The Ponzi Family brought both varietals back to the Willamette Valley and planted them in the early 1990s and remain one of the few vineyards producing them. Dolcetto is a dry, big and bold red while Arneis is a fragrant white with a touch of honeyed sweetness. They are both available by the glass at their Sherwood tasting room and are well worth the visit.
750 W Lincoln Street, Carlton
One of the other few wineries producing Arneis is Cana’s Feast, though theirs is a different take on the varietal. This small, Tuscan-inspired winery produces a number of unusual varietals in small lots, such as a plush Counoise and a fruity Cinsaut. Cinsaut (also spelled Cinsault) production is declining globally, making the wine harder to find every year. It is often used for blending, but makes a pretty, fruit-forward wine on its own. Counoise is a spicy, deep-red wine, rare in its native France and grown in only a handful of places in Washington, California and Oregon.
9360 SE Eola Hills Road, Amity
The least-rare varietal on this list, Melon de Bourgogne (or just Melon) is still high on the “varietals you’ve never heard of” list. It is the most-produced wine in the Loire Valley of France, where it is known as Muscadet. In the US, federal prohibits calling wine made from Melon grapes by anything other than its grape varietal. When John Grochau returned from a stint racing bicycles in France, he brought his love for this grape with him and began producing it. This wine is bone-dry, with minerality and citrus notes that pair beautifully with food.
We are honored to feature the Immigrant & Refugee Community Organization (IRCO) as our charity of the month.
“IRCO's mission is to promote the integration of refugees, immigrants and the community at large into a self-sufficient, healthy and inclusive multi-ethnic society.” -IRCO.org
Established in 1976, IRCO was founded by refugees to help refugees make their home in Oregon. Their programs help new Oregonians learn English, find jobs, navigate new cultures and build community. Today IRCO continues to be the sole service provider of employment services and job training for all newly arrived refugees.
To learn more or get involved visit IRCO.org
We've just completed bottling the 2017 Ponzi Tavola Pinot Noir! Watch the video to see how it's done. A big "thank you" to Dundee Mobile Bottlers!
It won't be ready for release for a little while, so get the 2016 Ponzi Tavola Pinot Noir while you can! Tavola means "table" in Italian, and this versatile Pinot noir pairs perfectly with food! You can view the tasting notes here.
Summer Festa was a success! This event is our biggest of the year, and exclusively for our wine club members. What better way to celebrate our biggest supporters than with an evening of music, traditional Italian food and exquisite wine? Thank you to 3 Leg Torso, The Bylines, Pinolo Gelato and Caravan Coffee for making this event so memorable.
If you were in attendance, thank you! Please enjoy this gallery of images. If you are not a member, join today! You'll receive regular shipments of Ponzi wine, as well as winery and vineyard news and invitations to exclusive events like Summer Festa.
We have veraison at Ponzi Vineyards!
Veraison (“verr-ray-zohn”) is technically defined as the change of color of grape berries. However, it also represents the transitional period from berry growth to berry ripening and the changes occuring during that time.
One of the most important moments in a grapevine’s annual lifecycle, veraison signals the onset of ripening, when the grapes turn from green to red and begin to sweeten. The process also occurs in white grapes in a less visually dramatic way, with grapes turning from green to golden and becoming more translucent.
During veraison, the vine alters its focus from creating energy through photosynthesis to consuming energy in order to make sweet grapes. The vine transports its energy stores from the roots into the grapes. The chlorophyll in the grapes is replaced by anthocyanins (in red grapes) or carotenoids (in white grapes), as well as sugars and other nutrients. As these sugars accumulate and aroma compounds develop, the grapes begin to increase in size. Acid levels also begin to fall during this time.
Once veraison begins, the ripening process continues for another 30-70 days until the grapes are fully ready. The time required for ripening varies by grape type. For example, Pinot gris typically ripens much earlier than Pinot noir.
Some grape varieties have bunches that ripen unevenly; some berries on the cluster will be completely ripe while others are still green. Extreme uneven ripening is called millerandage and can lead to wines that smell sweet but taste unbalanced and “green”. It happens commonly in Pinot noir, which is why it takes skill and experience to craft wine from this grape. Luckily for Ponzi Vineyards, Winemaker Luisa Ponzi knows exactly what she’s doing and consistently produces exemplary Pinot noir year after year.
You can view veraison for yourself: our tasting room is surrounded by our Avellana vineyard. Avellana has been planted Clonal Massale™, an innovative planting technique pioneered by Luisa Ponzi in which more than 20 clones have been planted randomly throughout the vineyard blocks like wildflowers. They ripen at different times, but are harvested all at once. The diversity of clones creates balance and depth in the finished wines and creates a consistency from year to year that adjusts for vintage variability and shifts the focus to the unique terroir of the site. Veraison is the perfect time to view the diversity of the clones at Avellana, and you can do so from the comfort of our tasting room’s terrace with a glass of Pinot in hand.
Read along as we follow the vineyard throughout the year in The Vineyard Series:
In the Willamette Valley, there’s a perfect spot for Pinot noir around every corner. Ponzi Vineyards is lucky to farm some of the best at our Avellana, Aurora and Madrona vineyards. These sites are the foundation of our signature wine, the Classico Pinot Noir. To complete the blend and truly highlight what this region can produce, we work with area growers to source the finest fruit from exceptional vineyards. When sourcing from these growers and from our own vineyards, second-generation Winemaker Luisa Ponzi looks for fruit that contributes the desired aromatics, structure or fruit intensity to complement her vision for the vintage. For our 2015 Classico blend, she selected our Bieze Vineyard for its aromatics.
The Bieze Family has owned their property outside of Salem, Oregon, for 35 years. Previously, it was planted with fir trees, a prune orchard, and a few walnut and holly trees. In 2008, the sloping hillsides were planted with a visually striking vineyard.
The soil foundation of the vineyard is formed by Ritner and Nekia soils. Volcanic formations laid down these soils, which vary somewhat in their composition. Nekia soil is a silty clay loam and is found on Bieze’s more steeply sloped areas. Ritner soil is a gravelly silty clay loam and is present on the more gently sloped areas. Both soil types are naturally well-drained, yet shallow, and the minerality of the site is well expressed in the fruit and wines produced there.
Located in the southern end of the Willamette Valley, Bieze benefits from cool breezes that flow across the site from the Van Duzer Corridor to the west. The sunny days with cool evening breezes create perfect conditions for developing fruit with full flavors and intriguing aromatics of chili pepper, chocolate and spice that make it an exceptional addition to the Ponzi Classico Pinot Noir blend.
Get a bottle of Classico Pinot Noir for yourself. The dusty tannins, hints of roasted coffee and mouthwatering acidity are balanced by almond sweetness. Pairs beautifully with food.
Our Classico Pinot Noir is blended from 100% Pinot noir sourced from the exceptional sites throughout the Willamette Valley with Ponzi’s most established vineyards at its base. The result is a classic New World expression of Oregon Pinot noir with nuances and flavors that are a hallmarks of the region’s varied soils and cool climate. Follow along as we explore some of the vineyards chosen by Winemaker Luisa Ponzi as the truest expressions of the vintage.
Adelante Mujeres has been selected as our Charity of the Month. This organization educates and empowers low-income Latina women and families in the state of Oregon. Annually, they serve more than 5,500 families, helping them become full participants and active leaders in the community.
Adelante Mujeres means “women rise up” in Spanish. Founded in 2002, it was created to serve the oft-overlooked population of Latina women by offering programs developed specifically to help them participate in activities and classes. Since then, it has grown to serve Latino youth, children and men as well as women. Adelante Mujeres promotes school readiness for young children, pathways to higher education for youth and lifelong learning for adults. It also provides training, technical assistance, networking opportunities, and strategies for raising capital to help Latino entrepreneurs launch successful and sustainable small businesses, and provides aspiring Latino immigrant farmers and gardeners with the training and skills necessary to grow produce using sustainable methods and to successfully market their products. In 2005, they launched the Forest Grove Farmers Market to provide an outlet for small farmers and food producers to connect with the community by offering fresh, local goods.
This organization was selected as our Charity of the Month by Miguel Ortiz, Vineyard Manager at Ponzi Vineyards. He says, "This program is special to me because it helps youths build strong cultural identity and fosters healthy lifestyles and academic success. Every high school senior involved in the program graduates high school and goes on to college."
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 Adelante Mujeres through the end of August.
Co-founded by Nancy Ponzi of Ponzi Vineyards in 1985, the International Pinot Noir Celebration now draws nearly 1000 people from all over the world to McMinnville, Oregon, for a weekend of wine tasting, education and dining from the bounty of the Northwest. Attendees include Pinot noir producers and devotees, journalists, Northwest chefs and food lovers. This year's IPNC did not disappoint! Once again, Ponzi Vineyards participated in seminars, sharing the expertise we've cultivated over nearly 50 years as one of Oregon's founding wineries. Our wines were shown at multiple pourings to demonstrate the high-quality the Willamette Valley consistently produces. Winemaker Luisa Ponzi presented alongside Burgundy's finest vintners.
The event was such a success, and it was our great honor to participate. Until next year!
On Thursday, July 26, 2018, Ponzi Vineyards hosted an international winemaker's dinner, featuring six women winemakers from Alsace, New Zealand, California and Oregon. A beautiful multi-course meal was served, highlighting the sixteen wines presented. Our featured winemakers were
It was such an honor and a pleasure to host these remarkable winemakers and all of our esteemed guests.
View our other exciting upcoming winery events on our calendar.
In the full heat of summer, the vines are growing steadily and berries are beginning to form on the vines. It’s time to set the stage for harvest. Canopy management is now more important than ever to maintain the ideal microclimate on the vine, and so begins the process of leaf pulling.
Pulling leaves from the growing canopy thins it out, which allows sunshine to reach the grapes and ripen them. A thinner canopy also improves airflow around the tightly packed clusters of developing fruit, which helps prevent mold growth in the cool, damp climate of Oregon’s Willamette Valley and keep pest pressure low. However, care must be taken not to remove too much--when temperatures rise, the grape are at risk for sunburn without some shade coverage provided by leaves. Too much sun can also lead to overripe flavors.
Like most vineyard tasks, leaf pulling is labor-intensive. Every leaf is pulled by hand and selecting which and how many leaves to pull takes skill and experience. The vineyard crew pulls leaves away from the area just above the vine’s cordon, or arms, where the clusters are growing. Many of our crew members have been with us twenty years or more, so they move quickly and efficiently through the rows under the supervision of Vineyard Manager Miguel Ortiz, thinning the canopy perfectly and ensuring beautiful fruit in the fall.
Also called basal leaf removal or cluster-zone leaf removal, leaf pulling is such a crucial part of vineyard management that Oregon State University has been conducting experiments to determine the effects of leaf pulling on grape development. They have found that leaf removal noticeably enhanced color and aroma in fruit more than no leaf removal.
With just the right amount of sun and air, the grapes at Ponzi Vineyards are progressing beautifully.
Read along as we follow the vineyard throughout the year in The Vineyard Series: