At Dukes Family Vineyards, we view ourselves merely as conservators of the land rather than as owners and as such are committed to low-impact, ecologically sound sustainability in our farming methodologies and to the continual improvement of the vineyard environment. We wholly subscribe to the old adage that great wine begins in the vineyard.
Dukes Family Vineyards is located in the beautiful North Willamette Valley of Oregon; one of the premier Pinot Noir regions of the world. The Willamette Valley runs 110 miles North to South and 60 miles East to West stretching from Northwest of Portland to South beyond Eugene and is bordered on the West by the Coast Range and the Cascade Mountains on the East.
The soils and climatic conditions existing in the North Willamette Valley are amazingly similar (with the exception of rain fall) to those existing in the Burgundy region of France. The Valley’s maritime influences from the Pacific Ocean are moderated by the Coastal Range. The resulting macroclimate offers a long, but cool growing season enabling the grapes to fully ripen. With wet and cool conditions in the winter and warmer, dryer conditions in the summer, the region is ideally suited to Pinot Noir.
Being committed to the creation of exceptional Pinot Noir, we invested several years in the search for just the right property. Our search brought us full-circle to the beautiful Pacific Northwest. Sitting on the back side of Walnut Hill at the North end of the Eola-Amity Hills AVA, Dukes Family Vineyards is just such a place with 58 acres of South facing slope and elevations running from 560 feet to 260 feet. The soils are primarily Willakenzie (dark brown to yellowish-brown silty-clay loam, sandstone origin) and Yamhill (silt loam, volcanic basalt origin) with several additional soils types scattered throughout the sixteen-acre vineyard, all serving to add a level of complexity to the wines.
Seven and a half acres of the vineyard (Pinot Noir Dijon clones 113, 114 and 115 as well as a small block of Syrah, all grafted onto 3309 root stock) were planted between 1996 and 2000. These blocks are beginning to mature and offer glimpses as to their underlying potential. The vines are planted with the standard nine foot rows and four and one half foot in-row spacing (approximately 1,000 plants pre acre). Over the past several years, significant improvements and soils enhancements have been undertaken in the existing blocks in order to assure the highest quality fruit. We have implemented cultural practices in our farming methodologies which minimize the use of chemicals and fertilizers while greatly enhancing biodiversity. Crop loads are closely monitored and managed with more than 50% of the clusters removed during green harvest. In order to insure ripening, the vineyard loads are typically limited to one cluster per shoot. This allows the vines to focus their energy on the remaining fruit, resulting in earlier and better physiological ripeness thereby enhancing the development of the inherent flavor characteristics.
The northern vineyard expansion blocks, now in their fourth leaf, were cleared and planted during 2006. The plantings were laid-out pursuant to a higher-density, more Burgundian approach (with row spacing of one and one half meters and in-row spacing of one meter; 3,000 vines per acre). Six acres of the 667 and 777 Dijon clones grafted on to 101-14 root stock were planted in the spring of 2006. An additional two acres of the 828 Dijon clone grafted on to 3309 and 101-14 root stock were planted later in the summer and following spring. The vineyard expansion will continue next year with two special small blocks which are currently in planning.
The vineyard expansion has been planned to provide a complementary combination of elevation change, soils type and clonal diversity. This combination has been designed to allow the crafting of complex wines with incredible depth as the vines mature. The vineyard expansion is high density, vertically trellised and sustainably farmed. The vines are being trained on the trellis to the single guyot system of one cane and one spur. The high density plantings allow green harvesting after veraison to reduce crop loads to one cluster per shoot thereby intensifying the remaining fruit. Although this is a significantly more labor and capital intensive approach to farming, the resulting wines will be well worth the effort, retaining more of the inherent intricacies from the underlying terroir.