19 Dec Punching Down with Craig Camp of Troon Vineyard
Last month we delved into Two Hands Wines from Australia with THIS post. These wines found their way to me via the #WineStudio program, the brainchild of Tina Morey. Coincidentally, one of those wines just made it into the Top 100 Wines of 2016 by Wine Spectator. Read more HERE.
What is #WineStudio?
#WineStudio is an online Twitter-based educational program. Each month a different producer is selected, along with a lineup of wines from their portfolio. Anyone can participate in the weekly Twitter chats, yet only a select few are chosen to receive samples to accompany the conversation. Every Tuesday at 6pm (Pacific time), Tina hosts the group on Twitter at the WineStudio hashtag. Usually accompanying her is someone affiliated with the producer, such as the winemaker, owner, salesperson, etc. Tina describes it as part instruction and part wine tasting. Discussion topics include: the producer history, the grapes, tourism, terroir, regional culture, food, etc. For each new topic Tina has seen dozens of original content pieces created, thousands of interactions via social media and millions of impressions created on our specific topic.
This past month WineStudio students delved into wines from Troon Vineyards in the Applegate Valley of southern Oregon.
I met Craig Camp at the 2015 Wine Bloggers Conference in the Finger Lakes region of New York. Craig was then with Cornerstone Cellars of Napa. Cornerstone makes potent and powerful Napa reds, and a handful of whites. Beautifully assertive wines that held nothing back. Craig was instantly welcoming to this WBC newbie who was trying to navigate the conference. He was active on social media and made sure that all the bloggers knew where to find him (his hospitality suite was very popular!) and had opportunities to experience his wines. This year at the Wine Bloggers Conference, I came to find out that Craig had picked up his toys and moved to southern Oregon to be the GM of Troon Vineyard. According to Craig, he relocated to “…be a pioneer in an emerging AVA.” That emerging AVA is the Applegate Valley in southern Oregon. It is a bit warmer here than in the Willamette. Troon has mountain vineyards with granite soils as seen in Sardinia and Beaujolais. Grapes grown include Rhone varietals, Vermentino, Tannat, and Tempranillo among others.
Craig left Napa because he wanted to take risks. Fruit in Napa, as you can imagine, is VERY pricey. The average cost for a ton of Napa Cab is $4,000. When Craig was with Cornerstone, the fruit he wanted to work with in his last vintage was upwards of $7,000 per ton. With expensive fruit, you are not able to take as many winemaking risks. You might make a decision to play it safe and use tried and true processes that are commonly seen in the area you are in. Craig believes it is always safer to make boring, industrial wines, and I agree. With less expensive fruit, you might try your hand at more new and exciting things. Of course, the idea is not to take risks just to take risks. It has to make sense for your vineyard, for your fruit, and for the style of wine you desire to make. In the end, though scary as it is, more risks = more fun. According to Craig, you have to take a little risk if you want to do something really special.
Craig recently posted a blog piece entitled “Rationally Natural”. In this piece he preached about doing as less as you can with what you’ve got. Essentially, a more “hands off” approach to viticulture and vinification. Here is an excerpt:
Natural wine and biodynamics seems to promote irrational flame wars on the Internet. I have faith in science and personally have trouble buying some of the more voodoo practices myself. On the other hand I can’t argue with the results. Many of the wines I find the most compelling are made using natural winemaking concepts and from vineyards farmed biodynamically. My goal is to become rationally natural.
The intensity of these debates is hard to comprehend after you’ve fermented two hundred tons of fruit without a bag of yeast in sight. My vision of becoming rationally natural is simple: only do what you have to, and when you have to do something don’t use bad stuff. Simply minimize or eliminate inputs everywhere. Indigenous yeasts, little or no sulfur, no new oak, no acid or sugar added during fermentation.
Biodynamics came into use in the 1920’s and was based on the teachings of Rudolf Steiner. In a nutshell, biodynamic farming is a holistic way of looking at the land. Some of the tenets include: fertilizing the vines with compost from the land (at certain times of year), using the waste of the animals on the farm, encouraging beneficial pests, and burying a cow horn in each vineyard (filled with cow dung). Yes, weird stuff. In the end, the goal is harmony with the land and with the living organisms on it.
An excerpt from my interview with Craig is below:
Biodynamics is already very respected and has become a big time marketing term. I think it’s simple, if you work really hard in your vineyard and are deeply connected to what’s happening there and don’t put bad things on it you’re going to make better wine. As I said, I feel somewhat more comfortable with the teachings of Fukuoka. There is something to be learned from biodynamics, organics, the ideas of Masanobu Fukuoka in the “One Straw Revolution” and many others. Studying all of these concepts and finding the practices that match your vineyard and region is the best solution for me. The only goal should be what will help me make the best wine possible. Just choosing one discipline does not well represent the complexities of nature.
In the end, Craig’s goal is to make interesting wines that are accessible for people to drink. In my opinion, he is doing just that at Troon Vineyard in the Applegate Valley of southern Oregon.
PS-Craig addressed his feelings post-election on his blog, and I deeply respect that. I’m still trying to wrap my head around what this country will look like post-inauguration. Ok, back to the juice.
Here are the Troon wines tasted:
I did not get this sample
2014 Troon Blue Label Sangiovese, Applegate Valley SRP $35
Includes 7% Syrah which is co-fermented. This wine is medium ruby. On the nose, this wine has a medium intensity with aroma characteristics of red berry (cherry and raspberry) and spice (black pepper and clove). There is also a floral/potpourri note with a hint of vanilla. On the palate, this wine is dry with medium + acid, medium alcohol, medium soft tannins, med – flavor intensity, and medium body. Flavor characteristics are similar to the nose: red berry ;(cherry and strawberry), black pepper, and vanilla. The finish is a medium length. This is a daily drinker for a sophisticated wine drinker. In other words, this wine has an ease to it, but there’s nothing easy about it. Good stuff.
This is a blend of 61% Tannat and 39% Malbec. This wine is medium ruby with purple hues. The nose has a medium intensity. Aroma characteristics include a combination of red and black cooked/stewed fruit (raspberry and plum), spice (vanilla and black pepper). There is a hint of meatiness/gaminess. On the palate this wine is dry, medium aside, firm med + tannins, medium alcohol, medium body, and medium flavor intensity. Flavor characteristics include the same combination of red and black fruit, vanilla, and dark chocolate. This wine has a medium finish. This is a deep and meaty wine that calls for food. I really would have enjoyed a skirt steak with this bad boy.
Other wine bloggers have profiled Troon Vineyard and/or Craig Camp. If you are so inclined, please support the wine blogging community by reading their Troon posts below!