In Southern Oregon, in the small wine growing region called Applegate Valley, sits Troon Vineyard, and up and coming biodynamic star.
What? You say there is only Pinot Noir in Oregon? Go deeper in to Oregon wine country, and you will find the diversity of varietals in Souther Oregon wine country. From the Applegate Valley, just a stone’s throw from Ashland, you will find bold reds, stony whites, and orange wine at Troon.
Founded in 1972 by Dick Troon as a vineyard, it’s legacy is strong. Recently, under new ownership, Troon has taken steps to convert fully to biodynamics and has been producing award winning wines to show off hte diversity of the terroir of Applegate Valley.
Nestled in the wide end of the valley, and sheltered from the heat of neighboring Rogue Valley, and the chilly mountain climates nearby, the moderate climate of the valley is the perfect location to grow the grapes of the Rhône Valley – from Rollè to Syrah to Malbec. Ok Malbec is more Bordeaux and Cahors, but you get the picture.
Here at the estate vineyard on the Kubli Bench, things are kept simple. The hand picked grapes are crushed by foot – which leads to some interesting discussions about how much whole cluster goes in to each wine. “That depends on who’s doing the tredding!”
quips General Manager and partner Craig Camp.
Once crushed, the grapes are left in open top one ton bins for fermentation, as they rest outside under the shade of an old oak tree. Native yeasts magically start the fermentation process, and when ready, all the wines are aged in used French Oak barrels to ensure that the natural flavors of the wines shine through, and are not overpowered.
Today, with the new owners, Bryan and Denise White, taking charge over the conversion to biodynamic and organic grape growing, a large investment has been made in the infrastructure.
Fully invested in Craig’s vision for the future of Troon Vineyard, they are actively seeking information about the soil and biome and how changes will impact the local ecosystem.
Using specific software to track soil samples from all over the property, they have embarked in a long term study and analysis to truly understand the impact of the changes that are taking place in the vineyard, and how they impact terroir.
Troon makes a lot of wine, and a wide variety of them, but my standouts are inspired by the traditions of France.
Starting with the Rolle (Vermentino to you Italians), with it’s complex style highlighted with 10%of Marsanne blended in, this elegant white wine will make you smile with it’s creamy hazelnut and lemon notes, layered with fresh herbs.
The Kubli Bench Blanc takes it’s cue from the Rhône, with Marsanne and Viognier co-fermented in the tank. It’s steeling backbone makes way for Tuscan melon and pink grapefruit with a roundness that is balanced by the minerality and bright acid.
My favorite of the whites, the Whole Grape Ferment Riesling, is Troon’s answer to orange wine. Sitting on the skins for two weeks, the color is a coppery salmon. Barrel aged for 3 months, the fresh fruity character of the Riesling is in tact, while the stony, mineral driven orange wine comes through in spades. The finish is crisp and clean, and saline with a hint of fresh orange.
My standout favorite of the lineup is the Cuvee Côt, or Malbec. This style of Malbec is nothing like what you would expect in Argentina, and takes us back to the vineyards of Bordeaux and Cahors. A rich Malbec, but perked up by balanced acid, the smoky blueberry and blackberry play with ripe plums and savory meats. Telltale bacon fat lends a roundness to this deliciously sumptuous red.
Troon Vineyards is a special place in a special place. This hidden oasis in Southern Oregon is home to a small number of wineries, and is very different from the rest of Oregon. The cooling breezes of the ocean, the wide end of Applegate Valley, and the unique soil comprised of many different subtypes makes this an outstanding area for everything except Pinot Noir.
Varietals you wouldn’t expect in Oregon work here, and work well. With a handful of neighboring Applegate Valley wineries, and close proximity to Ashland and the Rouge Valley, it’s the perfect stop on a southern Oregon sojourn.
By listening to the land, changing growing practices, and focusing on what does well here, Troon is making a mark in this beautiful spot.
Special thanks to Craig Camp and the Whites for hosting me at this gorgeous spot!