Blog: Producer Newsletters

  • Terroirs of Oregon: Vincent Wine Company

    January 20th, 2014

    Terroirs of Oregon
    Vincent Wine Company in Portland, OR

    Vincent and Jennifer Fritzsche


    It seems as if a new wave of producers is rising in Oregon, those who like many young vignerons elsewhere are putting the environment first and using a lighter touch in the winery. As the Return to Terroir portfolio expands beyond France, we have made it a point to seek out producers that we feel share our philosophy and are on par with Mas del Périé, Toby Bainbridge and the other vignerons in our book. I was not sure where my journey to Oregon in November would lead me but as it turned out, it was to the Southeast Wine Collective in Portland, where I found Vincent Fritzsche, the owner and winemaker of Vincent Wine Company. And with great pleasure, we are proud to introduce our first Oregon winery.


    Vincent Fritzsche founded Vincent Wine Company in 2009. He worked harvests at Evesham Wood, Belle Pente and Grochau Cellars while holding down a day job, first as a book editor and then creating and managing continuing education programs. He also made some wine in his garage before joining the SE Wine Collective. “Vincent” is not just a play on his name (or that of several of his relatives) but also a tribute to Saint Vincent, who was a 4th century patron saint of vintners in Zaragoza, Spain, and who is widely celebrated across France.


     Vincent Fritzsche in the SE Wine Collective in Portland

    Vincent sources his fruit from several growers who at a minimum meet the Oregon LIVE certification of sustainability that sets limits and guidelines for qualification. Unlike many others who are seeking to make fruit forward Pinot Noir, Vincent wants his grapes to  achieve phenolic ripeness, and showcase, not mask, their terroir. To this effect, he asks his growers to minimize leaf pulling and crop thinning on his parcels saying, “My vineyard practices seek to find ripeness at lower sugars and lower pH, with wines that are more transparent to their sites.”

    Crowley Station Vineyard, off 99W on the western side of the Eola-Amity Hills AVA. Vincent began sourcing 114 and 115 clones from own-rooted, non-irrigated vines planted in 2000. Soils here are light brown and tan, with lots of shallow sandstone in what was once the floor of an inland ocean. Vincent’s first vintage from that plot was in 2012.


    Vincent makes three single vineyard Pinot Noirs, an Eola-Amity Hills blend from different sites and a Ribbon Ridge bottling that is the largest production wine at just 150 cases! The Ribbon Ridge AVA, a small sub-region within the Chehalem Hills, is relatively warmer than the Eola-Amity Hills AVA, which is closer to the coast. An old, sea floor, it is composed of a Willakenzie soil type that is well-drained with silty loam over siltstone and sandstone. Tan in color, Vincent says it reminds him of the Santa Monica soil, where he grew up.

    Chunk of sandstone found in Crowley Station, with some fossils apparent

    By contrast, the soils of the Eola-Amity Hills are much more varied. The Crowley Station Vineyard is on the west side, facing the ocean. It too is an old sea floor but greyer in color with hard sandstone beneath the surface. Clam fossils have been found in some parts of this vineyard but Vincent has not noticed any in the parcels he uses.


    Armstrong vineyard is a new site on Lewis RogersLane in the Ribbon Ridge AVA. It is owned by Doug and Michele Ackerman. The soils in Ribbon Ridge are Willakenzie series, old seafloor that’s sandy and drains exceptionally well. 


    While Vincent is still figuring out how the nuances of the different terroirs affect his wines, he finds that Crowley Station from the Eola-Amity Hills exhibits more of a savory, herbal quality while the Ribbon Ridge fruit tends to promote more of a spicy, cherry quality.

    In 2012 he started making a Willamette Valley Chardonnay and will have a Pinot Blanc from the 2013 vintage.

    “Armstrong soil is classic Ribbon Ridge, sandy blonde soil that really dries out quickly and is porous. This soil is sandier than that at Crowley Station, with less overt rock material and more fine particles. This is weak soil that’s mostly used for pastures or simply open fields, with some tall oaks in spots where more water accumulates.” Vincent Fritzsche

    The SE Wine Collective, home to other esteemed Oregon wineries such as Division Winemaking Company and Bow & Arrow, is a well oiled machine, and all producers can use the equipment they need at the right times. “You negotiate for time with the press or sorting line,” Vincent explains. “People generally understand the necessary timing of things and give where they can to get access at the crucial moments they really need. Ultimately, it works out pretty well.”

    All of the wines are fermented using native yeast. Vincent sulfurs minimally, with the view that SO2 is similar to a camera lens. “It can help bring what’s there into better focus and clarity, rather than adding something that doesn’t need to be there. I don’t use it as an extractive or color stabilizing device.” All wines are bottled unfiltered.

    2012 Vincent Wine Company Chardonnay (Willamette Valley)

    This Chardonnay makes a fine debut as Vincent Wine Company’s first commercially released white wine. Composed of Eola-Amity Hills fruit, it was whole cluster pressed, chilled and left to settle for three days. From there it was racked into two older French barrels where it underwent both primary and naturally occurring malolactic fermentation. It was in barrel for one year without stirring, racked and bottled.

    “It’s pale gold in color, sparkling, with a honeyed apple aroma and flavor, soft but not fat or sweet, just lovely and versatile Oregon white wine.” $23 Suggested Retail Price

    2012 Vincent Wine Company Pinot Noir, Ribbon Ridge, Armstrong Vineyard (Willamette Valley)

    This is actually a declassified Armstong Vineyard Pinot Noir. Ten percent of the fruit was whole cluster pressed. The rest was sorted, destemmed and underwent remontage (pump over) the next day. On the tenth day of fermentation, when Vincent felt there was “enough to give a hit of CO2,” the tank was uncovered and the fruit was punched down daily for the next nine days.

    Only the pressed wine is used for the Ribbon Ridge bottling with the free run juice going into the Armstrong label. It was aged in two – eight-year-old French oak barrels.

    “A mix of red and black fruits, with a pleasant wintergreen scent sneaking in and out of perception. The wine is flavory and less structured than the Armstrong bottling.” $29 Suggested Retail Price

    2012 Vincent Wine Company Pinot Noir, Eola-Amity Hills, Crowley Station Vineyard (Willamette Valley)

    This is the first time Vincent made the Crowley Station Pinot Noir. It is from a western slope on the Eola Hills where it benefits from the cooling ocean influences. Planted in 2000, the vines are on their own roots.  It was made in a similar fashion the Ribbon Ridge except all of the fruit was destemmed. In total, two barrels were produced. At first Vincent was not sure he would bottle it on its own but won over by its charm, he not only decided to put the Crowley Station name on the label but doubled his production in 2013.

    “Floral, red fruit, even a lychee note in the aroma, with bright cran-raspberry and delicate herb flavors and a soft but still focused finish. This wine is a sneaker.” $39 Suggested Retail Price

    2011 Vincent Wine Company Pinot Noir, Armstrong Vineyard (Willamette Valley)

    The Armstrong Vineyard is in the process of biodynamic conversion so the fruit for both this wine and the Ribbon Ridge were made in accordance with the principles that guide Demeter certification. Made in the same way as the Ribbon Ridge, the Armstrong bottling includes free run juice and is made from two specific blocks, with the 115, 667 and a Pommard clones. Just two barrels were produced, one just a year old and another with six years under its belt.

    “This is a wine of elegant power, perfumed, with good acidity and length of flavor. I think it will cellar well but you can enjoy it now as well.” $39 Suggested Retail Price