Let’s Get Closure

In the early 2000s, New Zealand winemakers put a stop to the musty-tasting problem of cork taint by sealing their bottles with screw tops. In the decade since, the twist-off has become more common stateside, too. But disagreement about alternative closures still abounds.

Convinced that red wines age just as well with screw caps, Terry Brandborg at Brandborg Vineyard & Winery in the Umpqua Valley is phasing out corks entirely. Stewart Boedecker (above) at Boedecker Cellars has been using screw caps since his first vintage and says the tannin and acid structure of his ’03 pinots are softening just as they would under a cork finish. The only difference is that the fruit is more youthful and vibrant (perhaps because less oxygen can enter the bottle with a screw cap.)

However, Steve Lutz at Lenné says that cork quality has improved in recent years and as a result, the number of “corked” bottles is nearly neglible—at least in his experience. “I’ve only had nine corked wines in six years,” says Lutz, who uses one of the most expensive corks on the market. Like many wine drinkers, Lutz is also a firm believer in the tradition and ceremony of opening a bottle of wine the old-fashioned way—with a corkscrew.

Deep Roots

 

In 2003, John Paul Cameron from Cameron and Russ Raney from Evesham Wood formed a group of winemakers committed to growing grapes by dry-farming—without any irrigation. Called the Deep Roots Coalition (DRC), it now contains a dozen members, including Brick House, Beaux Freres, J. Christopher, and, recently, Evening Lands.
 
Is dry farming common in Europe?
Absolutely. If you put in irrigation, you can lose your appellation [the official designation of locale]. Once you’ve done away with one of the most important elements of terroir—precipitation—the wine has no place of origin. Even a place like the Douro (where they get 10 inches of rain a year) is dry-farmed.

How does dry farming change the fruit—and the taste of the wine?
Irrigated fruit tends to have more sugar in them—which is why I think alcohol levels have risen over the past 30 years. It’s [also] economics. If you irrigate, you can get your vines in full production by four years.
 
Why did you start the DRC?
We want to influence people. Grapevines have evolved, with man’s help, to send their roots way, way down into the soil. They don’t need to be watered! All the original vineyards of the Willamette Valley—Eyrie, Erath, Ponzi—were dry-farmed. It wasn’t until sometime in the early ’90s that irrigation was introduced here.