Jim and Holly Witte met more than 40 years ago, when Jim worked for a “scrappy new company” that was involved in legendary children’s shows Sesame Street and The Electric Company, as well as notable concerts filmed in Central Park. But it wasn’t until 2006, after each of them had moved to the Pacific Northwest, that they met again, and this time cupid’s arrow hit them both.
Today, the Witte’s operate a beautiful vineyard in the Chehalem AVA, and produce a variety of wines, including Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris and Riesling.
Their vineyard is on a southeast-facing slope in the last hills of the Chehalem Mountain range. Each vine is nestled in windblown, volcanic soil anchored to this basalt range with depths of six to twelve feet. This rich soil known as Cornelius Klik Klack bordered by Kinton and with some Laurelwood throughout produces grapes lavish in the tastes of the earth and bright fruit. It requires careful management so each vine is coaxed by hand to produce full, compact clusters.
In this unusual microclimate, the 380 foot elevation is protected by higher hills on three sides from any coastal storms or harsh weather changes. The sun warms the grapes throughout the day producing the sugars and flavors into the peak of the afternoon. The grapes are then cooled by the late afternoon and evening ocean breezes that fan down the Columbia River, skirting the coastal range into this, the northern Willamette Valley. This daily cycle is repeated throughout the fall until the grapes are picked by hand at their peak of ripeness.
The vines, trained to a Henry trellis, achieve a critical balance of vine growth to berry growth. The bunches ripen in their time – slowly – to achieve the utmost flavors this unusual microclimate can create.
Jim and his crew tend each vine by hand from first pruning in January. Each grape cluster is scrutinized and selected in the vineyard from veraison through the hand picking process. Only the best clusters are destined for the fermenting tanks and, for the red wine, their 3 to 5 day cold-soak sojourn.