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Kramer Vineyards

 

 
Kramer Vineyards
 
May 14, 2020 | Kramer Vineyards

The Other 4%: Beyond Pinot Noir

Noble varieties make up the majority of the vineyard acreage in the Willamette Valley, but new and emerging grapes are also part of our story.

The Willamette Valley is world famous for Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, and Chardonnay, but this region is more rich, diverse, and complex than any one variety. Pinot Noir is righfully our signature grape, but there's much left to explore.

When we started our vineyard in 1984, we planted Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Riesling. As we matured as winegrowers, we wondered about the potential of other cool climate varieties. Our curiosity is what led us to plant the relatively unknown Müller-Thurgau. That endeavor has been wildly successful, inspiring us to grow our collection of esoteric grapes to include Carmine, Grüner Veltliner, Marquette, and Pinot Meunier. 

Müller-Thurgau, planted in 1986; 2.25 acres

In the early 1980s, owner Keith Kramer took a vineyard management class with a fellow who was especially excited about Müller-Thurgau for Oregon. "He wouldn't shut up about it, so we bought some when we had the opportunity in the mid-80s," he says. The wine was a hit, so vines at our estate soon followed. We've found it to be very productive at our site, yielding flavorful fruit even in the most challenging vintages. We’ve made wines in a range of styles from dry to off-dry, semi-sweet to dessert, even sparkling. Both the sparkling and still wines have become quite popular and are usually the top sellers in the tasting room. In 2018, Wine Enthusiast recognized us as a Notable Müller-Thurgau Producer in the US.
Flavor profile: Peach, starfruit, lychee, passionfruit, mango, lime, gooseberry, and sweet basil.
Current releases2018 Celebrate Sparkling Müller-Thurgau2018 Müller-Thurgau Estate.

 


 

 

 

 

Grüner Veltliner, planted in 2010; 0.5 acres

We planted Grüner Veltliner with the intention of making a crisp, dry, and expressive white wine. The signature white grape of Austria, Grüner is famous for its peach and white pepper notes, and great versatility for pairing with food. Early harvests yielded fruit with high acidity that made more sense for our sparkling program. Starting in 2017, we began to divide the harvests between the cooler east side for sparkling, and the warmer west side for a still wine. Fun fact: Grüner Veltliner produces clusters that are ten times the size of Pinot Noir!
Flavor profile: Lemon, lime, cucumber, peach, white flowers, freshly cut grass, green apple, and pear.
Current releases2018 Celebrate Sparkling Grüner Veltliner2018 Grüner Veltliner Estate

 

Carmine, planted in 1989; 1 acre

Carmine was created in 1946 at UC Davis by Dr. Harold Olmo. This cross of Cabernet Sauvignon, Carignan, and Merlot was developed to grow in the cooler, coastal regions of California. Olmo's vision never caught on as intended, and in the 1970s, these vines traveled north to Courting Hill Vineyard in Banks, Oregon. The vineyard owner, and Oregon wine legend Jim Leyden, introduced Keith Kramer to this grape variety, gifting him our first Carmine vines in 1989. We've learned much about this late ripening, thick-skinned grape, both in the vineyard and the winery. Our Carmine wines are dark red in color, and typically have herbaceous aromas and peppery notes. It has inherited a lot of flavors from its Cabernet Sauvignon grandparent, principally dark fruit, dark chocolate and the occasional hint of mint. 
Flavor profile: Dried cranberries, maraschino cherries, cinnamon, anise, bell pepper, and cracked peppercorns.
Current release2015 Carmine 'Big Red'

 

 

 

 

Marquette, planted in 2010; 0.5 acres

Developed by the University of Minnesota in 2006 for extremely cold climates, Marquette is a complex hybrid. What caught our attention is that Pinot Noir is on the family tree. It took seven years for any wine to come from this effort, as the cool Willamette Valley is too warm for Marquette. The plants are several weeks ahead of everything else in our vineyard, resulting in some unique challenges, from inclement weather during critical growth periods, to early ripening (for more on this subject, see 27 Blocks: Harvest in a Bottle). To balance out Marquette's big personality, we coferment it with grapes sourced throughout our estate vineyard.
Flavor profile: Cherries, blackcurrants and blackberries, tobacco, leather
Current release27 Blocks

 

Time Posted: May 14, 2020 at 3:12 PM
Kimberley Kramer
 
May 7, 2020 | Kimberley Kramer

27 Blocks: Harvest in a Bottle

About 10 years ago, my dad started talking about planting a grape called Marquette. He was excited about this variety because it’s related to Pinot Noir and rumored to be darker in color; I was skeptical. We already had obscure grape varieties in our vineyard, like Carmine and Müller-Thurgau. Did we really need another grape that nobody knows? By the time we had the debate, my Dad had already put the order in for the vines. It takes 3-4 years for young grape vines to start producing, so I had time to mull over what to do with this new fruit.
 
The first modest crop was harvested a few years later, producing just a few gallons of dark red wine that was very high in alcohol, with disjointed acidity. I wasn’t excited for future harvests. This isn’t to disparage Marquette, but this variety was developed to grow in Minnesota, and even our cool climate in the Willamette Valley is much too warm for it. This mismatch presents multiple challenges. First, when the Marquette blooms in the late spring, we’re still in the rainy season. This leads to poor fruit set. The other issue is with ripening. In too warm a climate, Marquette achieves very high sugars weeks ahead of everything else, and acidity that’s out of balance. Further, this early ripening fruit draws birds.
 
So when my Dad delivered several totes of Marquette grapes before harvest was underway in 2017, I didn’t know what I was going to do at first. It was such a low volume of grapes with wonky chemistry. I was concerned the fermentation would be prone to spoilage, and the wine would be out of whack. Then I remembered that in 2013, when our harvest was small, we combined parcels of Pinot Noir we might not have otherwise for practical reasons. Honestly, I wasn’t invested in the quality of this fruit, so I added grapes wherever I could find them—young vine Pinot Noir, field samples of the Müller-Thurgau, a few buckets of Chardonnay that wouldn’t fit in the press. I figured the chemistry of the other grapes would mellow out the Marquette, and at least I could get enough grapes to punch the mass down properly. By the end of the harvest, I had a bin full of fermenting fruit, with all 9 grape varieties from the 27 Blocks in our estate vineyard.
 
Harvest ended, we pressed the wines and barreled them down for the winter, and I kind of forgot that this mish-mosh even existed.

Sorting Marquette in 2019

 

 


Barrel tasting the Marquette & More

The following spring, when we were racking and blending the Pinots, I came across these three barrels marked “Marquette and More.” I wondered how this Frankenstein wine would taste. I grabbed a wine thief to take a sample and gave it to my dad Keith. He swirled the glass, rolled it around his mouth, and said, “What Pinot is this?” Incredulous, I grabbed a second sample, and presented it to my mom Trudy ‘ruthless palate’ Kramer, who said, “What Pinot is this?” I realized at that point I might need to reconsider my opinion regarding the place of Marquette in our vineyard.  
 
We sat down and tasted the wine again as a family, trying to figure out what is was. Mom and Dad were excited to have a Marquette based blend that tasted so balanced and fruity, and I was frustrated that I was wrong. To make things worse, I didn’t really know what the composition of the wine even was, because I just kept adding grapes to the vat during a chaotic harvest and didn’t keep records. What is this wine?? My sister Becky, queen of pointing out the obvious stated, “Well Kim, it’s a single vineyard red wine.” She was right, and that’s when I started to understand what we had created.
The making of 27 Blocks starts with our early-ripening fruit—Marquette and young vine Pinot Noir. As the harvest continues, we'll continue to add other grapes as they ripen. This may include clusters we pick to evaluate maturity, fruit from a plant that was passed over by the crew, or the last buckets of the day. If there are grapes that don’t have a place otherwise, 27 Blocks is that place. This is a wine that is cumulative, fermenting a little bit more with the addition of new grapes over the weeks that harvest unfolds. In this way, 27 Blocks is harvest itself. 
 
The distinction between a wine that’s co-fermented and a blend is important here—27 Blocks is a wine where different grapes are fermented together. A cofermented wine is like a stew, where the chef builds layers of flavors that integrate, and deepen with time. This is quite different than a blend, where finished wines are combined. In my cooking analogy, a blend would be more like a salad by comparison.  
 
So, what is 27 Blocks? It’s a wine that taught me to be open to new ideas. It’s the story of our harvest in a bottle. It’s a red wine made from all the grapes that we grow throughout our vineyard. It’s delicious, easy to drink, and great with food. It’s a lot of things, and it’s only something that we can make. And I think that’s pretty great. I hope you do too.
 
For details on the 2018 release, click here >>

 


The label is a patchwork quilt, representing the blocks of grapevines in our vineyard.

 

Time Posted: May 7, 2020 at 5:01 PM
Kramer Vineyards
 
March 9, 2020 | Kramer Vineyards

Meet Piquette: Wine Just Got Cooler

Oregon sparkling wine house modernizes the ancient spritzer

Piquette is a refreshing vinous drink with lower alcohol; fizzy and tart, with pure effervescence and natural fruit flavors, it’s the perfect alternative for a balanced lifestyle.

This spring, Kramer Vineyards launches Piquette, a nearly forgotten old-world beverage made from grape pressings and water. Known for its innovative sparkling wine program with offerings including sparkling Grüner Veltliner, Kramer saw an opportunity to offer something different.

Piquette might be as old as wine itself. The earliest stories are of Iora, an ancient Greek or Roman drink made from wine grape pressings that were rehydrated, pressed, fermented, and diluted further. Another story is that French vineyard workers were served a version of Piquette at lunch, so as not to interfere with their afternoon productivity.

 

 

“I saw a creative challenge in capturing so many trends with Piquette. It is the intersection of rosé, sparkling, low sugar, lower alcohol, single serving packaging—and it’s adjacent to the cider, craft beer, and hard seltzer categories.” said second generation winemaker, Kim Kramer.

Kramer was inspired to revive this beverage of the farm hand during the harvest of 2019. To make the Piquette, Kramer upcycled the pressings of their Müller-Thurgau grapes. The skins and pulp were reserved and rehydrated with well water, allowing the release of sugars and flavors. After steeping for four days, the grapes were pressed again, along with marc from a red ferment, giving the liquid a rosy glow. The must fermented in stainless, and was bottled November 2019, finishing fermentation under a crown cap to create the gentle sparkle. Fermented dry with just 7.5% alcohol, this crisp, easy-to-drink refresher pairs well with just about every sunny occasion.

Kramer Vineyards Piquette will be released on March 19, 2020. 

Kramer Vineyards is a family owned and operated winery, now in its second generation. For 36 years, they have been growing grapes at their sustainably farmed vineyard in the Yamhill-Carlton AVA. Kramer specializes in producing cool climate white, red, and sparkling wines at their property in Gaston, 30 miles west of Portland.

 

Time Posted: Mar 9, 2020 at 5:22 PM
Kimberley Kramer
 
February 5, 2020 | Kimberley Kramer

What makes the 2018 Müller-Thurgau so exceptional? Feet! Seriously.

An old world technique resets the bar for our most popular white wine

We’ve been growing the German-Swiss cross Müller-Thurgau since 1986. Over the years, we’ve made wines in a range of styles from dry to off-dry, semi-sweet to dessert, even sparkling. Both the sparkling and still wines have become quite popular and are usually the top sellers in the tasting room.

While Müller-Thurgau is widely planted in Germany, it also does quite well in the Alto Adige of northern Italy. These vineyards are planted at high elevations, with close spacing. In reading the online winemaking notes, we noticed a couple of key production differences. First, the wines are fermented and aged in concrete or old oak casks. Concrete is an area of interest, but not an investment we're ready to make quite yet. Second, the grapes are crushed before pressing.

 


Müller-Thurgau just before harvest

 

 


Foot crushing the Müller-Thurgau

 

We found the idea of crushing Müller-Thurgau very intriguing. As a rule, we whole cluster press our white wine grapes. Whole cluster pressing reduces the extraction of harsh tannins. These compounds may impart bitterness or astringency on the palate. However, Müller-Thurgau is a grape that is naturally low in tannins. Further, we wondered if crushing the grapes might result in a wine with more varietal expression. However, we don't own a machine that crushes grapes, so how would we experiment with crushing the fruit? Taking another cue from the old world, we decided to adopt a low-tech solution: feet.

During the harvest of 2018, we invited folks up to the vineyard on the day of the Müller-Thurgau pick to help us with this very important task! The harvest started at dawn, finishing around noon. We lined up the bins of grapes on the crush pad, and after a foot sanitizing dip and rinse, people climbed into the boxes one by one and went to work. It only took about 15 minutes, but squashing grapes with your feet is a quite a workout!

We noticed a difference between whole cluster pressing and crushing immediately; the press yield was 14% higher in the crushed fruit. During primary fermentation, the tanks produced a cornucopia of tropical aromas. After fermentation, we noticed the wine was quite flavorful, which is unusual for Müller-Thurgau at that stage. We continued to observe amplified flavor through the spring, finding the variety’s trademark peach and starfruit profile, but also lychee, passionfruit, mango, lime, gooseberry, and sweet basil.

Based on the flavor profile of the 2018 Müller-Thurgau, we decided to crush in 2019 as well. Now that we have another vintage for comparison, we're convinced that crushing is the best protocol for this variety. The 2018 Müller-Thurgau Estate will be released February 6.

 

Time Posted: Feb 5, 2020 at 3:03 PM
Kimberley Kramer
 
September 26, 2017 | Kimberley Kramer

2014 Whole Cluster Fermentation in Pinot Noir

What is Whole Cluster Fermentation?

What is Whole Cluster Fermentation? This refers to the practice of fermenting entire bunches of grapes, stems and all. Typically, our grapes go through a destemmer, a machine that knocks the berries off the stems. In the process, many of the berries split and begin to release juice immediately. When we bypass that step, the fruit stays intact longer, releasing the sugar available to the yeast more slowly. This results in fermentations that take longer to complete, at much lower temperatures. The shift in fermentation kinetics, along with the presence of the stem has an impact on aroma, flavor, and structure of the wine. Are these features beneficial to the overall quality? How much whole cluster is the ideal amount, if any? Will our ideas about this change as the wine ages? With the vintage? These are all questions we hope to answer through our whole cluster series.

The Experiment

In 2014, we harvested five tons of Pinot Noir from the same part of the vineyard, and separated the fruit into five fermenters. We added a whole cluster layer in four of these vats, 25%, 50%, 75%, and 100%. The fifth bin was all destemmed. We proceeded with our typical fermentation management protocols, with pumpovers and punch downs twice daily, and pressing at dryness. The wines were aged in older French oak barrels and bottled the winter of 2016.


Owner Keith Kramer, filling vats with destemmed Pinot Noir

 

 

The Results

We observed differences in the fermentation kinetics almost immediately. The vats with higher percentages of whole cluster fermented at lower temperatures:

This also correlates with fermentation rate, as indicated by the rate of sugar depletion.

It seems that utilizing whole cluster fermentation as a technique results in a slower fermentation with lower temperatures. Cool, right?

 

 

Technical Details


We found that the chemistry of the finished wines was varied, although this could be due to differences in ripeness levels in the field, and/or clonal differences throughout the block. It is important to note that each vintage is unique, so for us to learn anything meaningful from this exercise, we will need to repeat the experiment over multiple vintages in varying conditions.

The Wines

Our 2014 whole cluster Pinot Noir set includes one bottle each of the experimental wines, and the 2014 Pinot Noir Yamhill-Carlton, for a total of six bottles. This collection is a lovely gift, and fun to share at a dinner party or with a group of friends.

Order the set >>

 

 

 

 

Time Posted: Sep 26, 2017 at 1:16 PM