Weinbau Paetra -Willamette Valley, Oregon

Here is a brief(?) rundown of my background and farming/cellar practices to help explain the style and goals of my winemaking. Please let me know if I can provide any more information.

I’ve been working in the wine industry since 1998, first in retail and wine distribution/importing in Minneapolis where I grew up. In 2010, after studying German for several years, we sold everything we couldn’t carry on our backs and I moved with my wife and at the time two small children (2 and 4yrs old) to the Pfalz region of Germany to complete a classic European wine apprenticeship. This included working for three different wineries while studying viticulture, viniculture and enology at the agricultural research school in Neustadt an der Weinstraße.

In Europe of course, there is no distinction between vineyard and cellar work in that a Winzer (Vigneron) is required to learn and practice both –a very different model than what is common in the US where these jobs are generally separate. It was a wonderful and challenging few years. We immersed ourselves in German culture and I somehow supported my family on my apprentice wages of 4€/hr. I was fortunate to spend part of that time at Weingut Odinstal, which has emerged as one of the top Biodynamic producers in Germany, albeit on quite a small scale. We farmed and produced wine from ~ 6ha of vineyards which really allowed us to be uncompromising in our work. It was my time here that solidified my farming and winemaking philosophies under the tutelage of Andreas Schumann, who himself apprenticed under the famous Hans-Günter Schwarz of Müller-Catoir (who was also a great source of knowledge for myself). In 2013 I became the second American to graduate from Neustadt in its 113 year history and the only one working in the US wine industry. An interesting side note is that the research institute was formed in response to the phylloxera outbreak, so indirectly I was able to benefit from a school that was founded because of a pest brought from America!

Towards the end of my schooling I started researching wine-growing regions in the US that might be similar to the Pfalz regarding climate, soil, and suitability to the grape varieties that I had worked with in Germany (Riesling, but also Pinot Noir, Blanc and Gris, Silvaner and Gewürztraminer among others). The Willamette Valley of Oregon was the only region that checked all of my boxes, meaning it had adequate rainfall to employ dry-farming; a cool but not often destructively cold climate (as in NY); and one that had a myriad of different soil types to play with –especially volcanic.

So we sold everything again and moved to Oregon just before harvest 2013. I worked for Brooks winery over the harvest that year and then started on with a vineyard management company while I found vineyards to produce my own wines.

In 2014, I contracted a couple of Riesling vineyards to take over the farming and make wines. That year I produced 400 cases of 3 different Rieslings. In 2015 I added another two vineyards including some Pinot Blanc (which is another variety I love) and made about 1000cs. In 2016 I’ve quit my day-job to focus on my own business. This year I added Pinot Noir and upped the production again to ~1200.

Much different from most start-ups, I spend roughly 90% of my time farming my vineyards and tending my vines and 10% making wine and selling it. Because of this, I want the techniques that I employ in the vineyard to show the greatest impact on the style of the wines. My approach is simple in that I try to be as thoughtful and innovative in the vineyard as possible and to be very minimalistic in the cellar. I’ve learned that if we can understand the vine’s natural tendencies and allow them to pursue these with the goal of producing ripe, healthy fruit, then we don’t have to correct or manipulate the wines in the cellar.

An example of how to achieve this is that I don’t want botrytis in the berries nor do I want that Riesling-petrol flavor in the wines (it might come as a surprise that petrol, fusil flavor is considered a fault in Germany). To these ends I need adequate canopy air-flow and loose-clustered bunches to minimize rot, and also enough shade on the bunches so as not to produce the thickening of the berry skins and these unwanted diesel aroma-compounds that are associated with high temperatures and sun-exposure. These two seemingly divergent ends can be achieved by pulling lateral shoots in the fruiting-zone to free up space while leaving the main-shoot leaves to keep the berries cool throughout the summer, thus preserving fruit and floral aromas. This I do by hand which takes about 40-50 hours per acre instead of the 30-60 minutes per acre that machine deleafers which completely strip all of the leaves take. I also use what I believe to be the most complex cover-crop program in the western hemisphere, planting some 30 different plants: legumes (for natural nitrogen fixation), flowers and herbs (to bring in pollinators, beneficial predator insects, and to increase biodiversity) and other plant species to compete for water and mineral resources to keep the berries small and loose, to provide soil structure at varying depths and to help force the vine roots deeper in search of nutrients. I brew actively-aerated compost teas to bring in an enormous diversity of micro-organisms which help the vines take up nutrients and to provide healthy soil-life. I don’t spray herbicides because of the damage they do to the microflora and fauna and mycorrhiza that I’m trying to cultivate, instead relying on hand-hoeing, tilling, and mowing under the vines to aerate the soil. I’ve built in-row insect houses to provide habitat for earwigs and wasps which can help to eradicate vine-pest such as aphids and mites without using insecticides.

Harvesting is done in selective passes (up to 6 times per vineyard) and by hand (my children, now 9 and 11 carried some 30,000 lbs. of grapes this year) to ensure that only the optimal bunches are picked for each style of wine.

In the cellar I use varying pre-press skin-maceration times depending on the wine and variety, I let all of the wines ferment spontaneously without chemicals, acid, or sugar adds. For some wines I use stainless-steel to preserve freshness and detail and for other wines I prefer neutral-barrel fermentations because I like the acoustic complexity it brings. The wines are left on the gross lees until filtration and bottling when I do a light Sulphur-add. My goal is to produce complex, long-lived wines in a traditional German style, but on American soil.

I insist on farming and making the wines myself because I think it gives me more control over the eventual style and because I can make better, more informed decisions about how to marry both aspects. I get to write the screenplay, produce and direct the whole program and hopefully that ends with a more authentic wine that speaks to the work that my family and I put in. This is very much a family business in that my wife and children help in the vineyard and my wife even designs the labels. I hope that our hard work shows!

Total production looks something like this: 70% Riesling, 15% Pinot Noir, 15% Pinot Blanc

Please feel free to PM with any additional questions or check out my website for more info:
http://www.paetrawine.com

Cheers and thanks!
Bill

So glad to see Paetra in Beserker Day - I’ve loved my first vintage Riesling from your vineyard - bright, crisp and tasty!

Can’t wait to see the offers!

Bill’s wines are KILLLLLLLLER!!!

Bill makes excellent Rieslings, including the “O” orange wine, and Pinot Blanc.

My wife and I had a wonderful visit with him in November. Bill could not have been more accommodating and we were able to barrel sample quite a bit. In addition to the Rieslings, I’m very much looking forward to his Rose and Pinot Noir. Definitely worth visiting if in the Willamette Valley.

These sound right up my alley.

One week to go!

Added to my list also

Great story (as a former bartender, there were certain familiar aspects of those early years…[snort.gif])
Looking forward to your offer!

Michael

Thanks Siun, Hardy and Scott for the kind words and encouragement! I’m excited to be part of Berserker Day. I appreciate you guys putting me on your radar Anton, Matt and Michael. I’m just finishing up the offers…stay tuned!

Cheers,
Bill

Will look out for this

Anyone who ends the story of his journey with the words “Giddyap winos” has my attention! and a rec from Hardy. Looking forward to this [wow.gif]

I’m intrigued with the orange Riesling. Any tasting notes?

P Hickner

I am interested in tasting all your wines. Where do you make them?

Hi Peter,

This wine was left on the skins throughout fermentation (with daily punch-downs). It’s very orange marmalade and tangerine flavored with a lot of spiciness and a white tea element. It fermented completely dry (0.3 g/l rs), but has some body at 13% alc. I didn’t make it in 2016 because I felt the acidity we got out of the vintage was too high and I was afraid it might get screechy with all of the sharp tannin and acid. I won’t be offering it on BD, but you’re welcome to some if you’d like.

I’ve found it goes well with north-african cuisine that incorporates dried fruit, or especially duck l’orange, that staple of 1960’s cooking.

Cheers,
Bill

I’d love to taste through some with you, Todd. Let me know when you want to swing by.
I’m at Allen Methven’s place in Dayton.

Cheers,
Bill

Agree that it is spicy with white tea. I really enjoyed it. Peter, they had a few bottles at Vif in upper Fremont when I was last there two weeks ago, along with some of Bill’s other 2015s.

Bill’s wines are excellent. I wish I could stop drinking them to have a few around to age.

Hi Bill,

What a journey, thanks for sharing. Other than the orange wine you mentioned, are any of your other Rieslings fermented completely dry? I see some labeled dry on your website, but the notes on CT are a bit confusing.

Thank you Monte! Be sure to stop back when you’re up here again!

Hi Jason,

I just looked at CT and all of the rieslings are labelled off-dry (even the orange which has 0.3 g/l RS. It would be very hard to make a drier riesling than that!) I think it may be the case that people just get a sense of sweetness from the fruit and default to off-dry. Or, they may have their own definition of dry, which is fine too. For my part, I don’t put the word ‘Dry’ on the label (maybe I should), but I do conform to the German wine law as my own definition. Which is: up to 9 g/l Residual Sugar with Total Acidity within 2 g/l under the rs total. There is a 1 g/l wiggle-room for the Amtliche Prüfung.

It’s more confusing than it needs to be…! In any case, the 2015 Eola-Amity Hills is 8g/l, the Yamhill-Carlton 10g/l rs, both with correspondingly high acidity. The 2016’s are still fermenting but much drier still. Going forward I’ll try to enter the CT info first.

Cheers,
Bill

You can go ahead and enter your changes in CT - I’m sure they would accept them once you identify yourself as the “winzer”.