MANAGING PARTNER: Mark Tarlov
WINEMAKER: Louis-Michel Liger-Belair
CLIMATE: Mediterranean, coastal maritime influence
PROFILE: Chapter 24 Vineyards was named after the last chapter of Homer’s epic poem, The Odyssey. This particular chapter was added long after Homer died. The Greeks continued the tale to satisfy themselves despite the author thinking he was finished after Chapter 23. The mark of a great ending is not what it says about the past, but rather what it promises for the future, and Chapter 23 clearly raised more questions than it answered. In this same spirit, the story of Chapter 24’s wines continues well past the cellar door. Winemaking is just the beginning of the story. The wine may be finished but it is not the end.
SOILS: A combination of ancient marine sediments, younger (ice-age) marine sediments cast from the Missoula Floods, volcanic basalts and loess wind-blown sediments. Truly diverse soils comprising a mixture of sands, silts and clays that span a geological timeline of 50 million years (ancient marine sediments), 15 million years (volcanic lava flows), 500,000-1million years (loess) and 15,000 years (Missoula floods).
VITICULTURE: Chapter 24 sources fruit from a mixture of key vineyards throughout the Willamette Valley. Viticulture is tailored to each unique block, taking into account site-specific soil characteristics, elevation, aspect, rainfall and vine age. Borne of old-world philosophies, Chapter 24 gears heavily towards organic and biodynamic regimes, with a strict mindset of growing Pinot Noir rather than farming grapes. The aim is to garner the greatest physiological development and complexity in a balanced ecosystem that allows the vines and fruit to express themselves in the most authentic way possible.
It all boils down to vigilant diligence. Walking the vineyards, surveying the weather, talking with growers and striving for improvement. There are many industry norms that Chapter 24 has foregone. They avoid the commonplace stripping of leaf in the fruit zone, they adjust their crops based on season and spacing rather than a set formula, and they employ over-the-top training and positioning techniques to achieve balance and harmony. In so doing, occasionally some toes are stepped on and some feathers ruffled, which often signals to Chapter 24 that they’re doing it right.
WINEMAKING: Sagacious sorting, gentle handling, “European” cold soaks, no additions, indigenous ferments, and extended settling all contribute to a wine that speaks of Pinot: medium-light bodied, modest alcohol, complex, textural, intriguing and delicious. Chapter 24 only harvests fully physiologically ripe berries, often later than much of the Willamette Valley. Then, using judiciously sorted, completely de-stemmed berries the precise, warm fermentation proceeds with hand sprayed, aerobic pump overs that are closely monitored and adjusted as needed. A very gentle basket pressing commences before the end of fermentation and leaves the heavier, sugar rich solids out of the final press resulting in yields of just 50 cases per ton. Chapter 24 uses oak from a variety of central French forests that Louis-Michel covets. The Pinots see a 10-month elevage before they are gravity racked for blending prior to being bottled un-fined and filtration only occurs when required.