“Organic and biodynamic are the way to go, especially for small farmers,” says Daniel Warnshuis, owner at Utopia Vineyards in Willamette Valley, Oregon. What makes Willamette Valley unique, aside from the fact that it’s the perfect climate for growing cool-climate varietals is that roughly 80% of the farmers in Willamette are producing less than 5000 cases per year. That’s not a lot. On top of that, most live on the farm, so there’s a personal interest in sustainable winemaking and keeping the environment pristine.
Sustainable practices on the Ribbon Ridge AVA
Daniel Warnshuis is one of several winemakers leading the way in sustainable, organic farming in Willamette Valley wine country. President of the Ribbon Ridge Winegrowers Association, Daniel, and other members have successfully campaigned for pesticide-free farming. That initiative will take effect throughout the AVA in 2021. As for Utopia Vineyard, it was LIVE certified in 2008, and follows international standards of sustainable viticulture. Dry-farming and other organic practices ensure high quality fruit.
Daniel personally oversees every aspect of the estate vineyard and winemaking process. In addition to Pinot Noir Utopia produces Chardonnay, Pinot Blanc, a rosé of Pinot Noir, and a white Pinot Noir. Other varietals are being added. Generally, only a few hundred cases of each wine are produced. All fruit is hand-picked and reaches the winery within an hour of harvest.
Currently, Utopia is open for tastings by appointment only. There is a sign-up form on the website, or you can call the winery.
Wine Tasting Notes
Brand Approach: an approachable safe haven for the wine interested.
I tasted the 2017 Estate Pinot Noir and the 2017 Chardonnay. Tasting and winemaking notes follow.
Fermentation and aging: 2017 Estate Pinot Noir
80% de-stemmed fruit and 20% whole cluster. Aged 11 months in 40% new Burgundian oak barrels: 60% previously-filled Burgundian Oak Barrels. Small lot fermentation with wild yeast.
Tasting Notes: The 2017 Estate Pinot Noir is a lovely light to medium ruby color. Aromas and flavors of ripe cherry, dark berry fruit, and spices fill the glass. The bright acidity provides the structure of this wine along with soft tannins. It drinks well now, but will cellar for up to 10 years.
Fermentation: 100% whole cluster pressed
11 months in 20% new French oak barrels; 40% neutral French oak barrels; 40% stainless steel.
Tasting notes: The 2017 Chardonnay is a lovely yellow-gold color. Aromas and tastes of ripe tropical fruit and citrus. The citrus gives it a slightly sour taste on the finish. This wine is medium-bodied with very good acidity. It should drink well for the next five years.
17445 NE Ribbon Ridge Road
Newberg, Oregon 97132
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Read about other winemakers employing sustainable practices.