Monday, October 05, 2015

New School, Old Vines: Durant Vineyards at Red Ridge Farms

Durant Vineyards has been an establishment in the Willamette Valley since nearly the beginning. Founded in 1973 their Bishop's block Pinot Noir are among the oldest vines in the Willamette Valley. While the names on the bottle haven't always said Durant, Owen Roe, Patricia Green, Sokol Blosser, Big Table Farm and a long list of others have come to appreciate the special sites and the resulting Pinot and Chardonnay that the Durants have grown over those long years.

Originally Ken and Penny Durant came to the Willamette Valley thinking maybe they'd plant a nut orchard. At the time the valley floor was expensive as it was fertile farmland so the Durants bought what they could along a ridge that overlooks the valley in the Dundee Hills area. Little did they know at the time that it would be an incredible place to grow Pinot Noir.

With the 2003 vintage, the 30th anniversary of the establishment of the vineyards on Red Ridge, the Durant family decided that it was time that they released wines under their own label.

"These wines are a reflection of how we farm." Says Paul Durant "we don't blend, for better or for worse." At Durant Vineyards they say they're "true to the block." All of their wines are vineyard designate bottlings, blending is out, it's not an option. The nooks and crannies of their vineyards laid out along the ridge, produce individual wines, and the Durants are very, very particular about how those wines are made.

The Durants look for winemakers who believe in "adaptive" versus "prescriptive" winemaking philosophies. Instead of making a wine to a particular style, adaptive winemakers first seek to understand the fruit and site they're dealing with, and then make the wines that will best communicate that story. The folks at Durant have been selling their fruit to a number of the Valley's winemakers over a long time, and they've been able to see who does well with their fruit, who let's it be what it is.

"We've tried to match these winemakers and the skill-sets we feel like they bring to the table to these particular blocks" says Paul. At Durant they're working with six different winemakers, they don't have an executive winemaker or someone setting a sort of house style. Instead, they enlist the talents of a wildly varied group of six winemakers from the Willamette Valley. The list of names includes Marcus Goodfellow from Big Table Farm, Chad Stock of Minimus, Isabelle Dutarte from De Ponte Cellars, Joe Dobbes of Dobbes Family Wines and Jesse Lange, of Lange Estate as well as a few others.
2013 Durant Vineyard, Raven, Chardonnay,
Made by ADEA's Dean Fisher from the Raven block Chardonnay, planted to clone 96. Aromatics of key lime, white flowers and beeswax. The palate is balanced with bright citrus and stone fruit flavors that give way to rounded lemon creme and honey flavors. -$25

2013 Durant Vineyard, Bishop, Pinot Noir
These are old vine Pommard clones, the original plantings by the Durant family that dates to 1973. The oldest block on the property is entrusted to Isabelle Dutarte from De Ponte Cellars. She produces a nuanced and elegant Pinot Noir with aromas of red fruit, barrel spice and earth. The palate offers up layers of dark ripe fruit, dried herbs, clove and a kiss of fresh mint as the acid balances the finish nicely. -$65 (2012 is the current release.)


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