Our Winemaking Philosophy Makes Us Who We Are
Located in rural Carlton, Oregon, Ken Wright Cellars is devoted to showcasing the inherent quality of selected vineyard sites. With a clarity and breadth that is unequaled by other varieties, we believe Pinot Noir best expresses the character of these sites. Rather than stamping wine with a varietal trademark, Pinot Noir is the ultimate vehicle for conveying the aroma, flavor and texture of the location in which it is grown.
We also have a place in our hearts for the limited production of two white wines, Chardonnay from Celilo Vineyard near White Salmon, Washington, and Pinot Blanc from Freedom Hill Vineyard and Meredith Mitchell Vineyard.
It is the nature of human beings to tinker with things. While this is generally a good trait, it can have a very negative influence in the cellar. Certain things in this world are better left alone. Minimal handling of wine is essential to preserve what it is, a gift of nature.
There are, however, a few things we can do that help give the fruit an opportunity to express the inherent quality it possesses. Practices, which promote vineyard health from mother rock to shoot tip, should be observed.
In planting, we pay particular attention to optimal site selection, new clonal and rootstock selection, and vine spacing and trellis systems modified to each individual site.
Ownership, long term leasing and acreage contracts allow us total control over crop level. Fine-tuning our crop management throughout the growing season helps us achieve healthy, evenly mature and optimally ripe fruit.
Our approach to farming is nutritionally based. This doesn’t apply only to the vine. Of equal importance is “feeding” the microbial life that exists throughout the soil profile. Vibrant populations of microorganisms provide the vine with needed minerals for healthy performance and they give volume to the expression of aroma and flavor by the fruit and ultimately the wine produced from that fruit. Each year we analyze the nutritional status of our soils and plants, take core soil samples to determine microbial populations and then tailor our farming approach to shore up known deficiencies. No two vineyards are the same so each will have a unique plan. This approach, along with soil aeration, disease prevention, pruning practices, shoot positioning, early season leaf removal in the fruit zone, determination of crop level and subsequent early thinning (immediately after bloom is completed) to 2 tons or less per acre, are all important examples of the positive role human beings can play.
Well over thirty years of winemaking have taught a simple truth. Source is everything. When you work with sites that have a “ton” of character, great things can happen. These great things cannot happen without a commitment by the vineyard owner to the health of the vineyard and extremely low crop levels that ensure intensity of aroma, flavor and texture.
The 2015 Vintage
2015 was the warmest year in Oregon’s recorded history; records have been kept throughout the valley since 1924. This level of heat was initially a concern for us hoping that we would not see the vines struggling at the end of the season from drought induced stress. In fact, what we saw at the season’s end were vines with a lush and vibrant canopy. The nutrition-based farming that we have practiced for so many years, really showed its value at the end of the growing season. Rather than achieving high sugar levels through water stressed dehydration, the vines were still fully physiologically active. There was very little senescence (yellowing of the leaves) at harvest. This is a testament of the hard work and focus of our vineyard team; Mark, Seth and Taylor.