Owners Dan and Helen Dusschee planted the iconic Freedom Hill Vineyard in 1981. Their son, Dustin, has recently taken over the farming responsibility in yet another generation of sustainable stewardship and maintaining the family legacy. Freedom Hill Vineyard is tucked into the coast range on a gentle southeast slope. Protected from the Van Duzer coastal winds, this vineyard has a warmer climate than those of the neighboring Eola-Amity Hills. The soils here are a sedimentary, uplifted seabed and are thought to be among the oldest in the region. These ancient soils, combined with the vineyard’s microclimate and Dustin’s meticulous farming practices, consistently produce structured Pinot Noirs with densely packed tannins.
Vineyard: 100% Freedom Hill Vineyard, Willamette Valley
In 2017, Ken had the great opportunity to work harvest in Burgundy for two weeks before our harvest here in the Willamette Valley. When he returned, his head was spinning with ideas of how we could take what we do to another level: new equipment, press cycles, farming practices, barrels, fermenters, sorting lines, tanks and on and on and on. One thing that continued to tug on his thoughts? Yields.
How much fruit is the right amount for a vine to ripen? We considered this question all winter following a bountiful 2017 harvest, which produced lovely wines. How could we do better? We were convinced that fine-tuning yields was the key to taking our vineyards and the wines to another level, capturing more intensity of the pure signature of each place.
In the winter of 2018, we set out to accomplish this as we boldly determined our yields for each unique site at the very beginning of the growing season. We pruned more acutely, giving us shorter fruiting canes, then shoot thinned the same canes vine by vine and vineyard by the vineyard to set the stage for the entire vintage. The vine would be able to focus its energy on ripening fruit that we would harvest, instead of using energy to ripen fruit that we would later cut off and discard at veraison. We did this, not just with a few experimental blocks, but with every site we worked with.
We began the 2018 harvest with our young vine block of Chardonnay at Freedom Hill Vineyard. This block was planted for Walter Scott by the Dusschee family and we have worked together from the beginning of its cultivation to make this block very special. When we began harvesting this fruit we could not have been happier. It was pure electricity! We consistently saw that our yields were lower than in previous years, but the vines and fruit were in perfect balance. As we picked vineyard after vineyard, we found an incredible intensity of flavor without sacrificing acidity, minerality, elegance, or freshness. All the things we aim for in our wines were amplified and concentrated.
We are incredibly excited about our wines from the 2018 vintage. They are driven with intense weight, acidity, and structure which we expected from the lower yields. “Never stop thinking that you can do better.” We certainly won’t. We hope you like what we did in 2018.