Terry Sullivan owns one of only two certified organic vineyards in Southern Oregon, Upper 5 Vineyard. The other certified organic vineyard is Cowhorn, which we will get to shortly. Upper 5 was established in 2003, certified organic in 2005, and is located outside the secret hideaway of Talent, Oregon, one mile up beautiful Wagner Creek Road. This high elevation site, 1900 feet up, makes for a uniquely intriguing home for Sauvignon Blanc.
Visiting his property, you know it’s a special place. There’s a raw, wholesome feeling that made me confident good things could happen there. When you look at Terry’s land, you see biodiversity amongst a variety of plantings. You see birds and get the feeling that animals like this spot. A home on the property, and the pockets of gardens make it seem balanced, and from that place, it’s not surprising to see it produce excellent quality grapes.
Talking to Terry, you discover his attention to detail. He’s obviously learned a lot through observation and working his land. Eight years studying engineering and physics gave him a foundation that, once turned to farming, reminded him that the plants and insects already know what they’re doing. Organic farming was the approach he chose. “Nature wins, it always does. Nature wants to grow stuff, so work with it, don’t fight it,” says Terry.
Twenty miles away as the crow flies, and forty-five minutes by car is Cowhorn Vineyards. They’re located in a gorgeous pocket of the Applegate Valley. As you drive up to the property, a swift moving river (at least in springtime) sits to the right, and mountains fill the skyline in most other directions. The land in between includes the stones of a dry riverbed, perfect as a soil base for the grapes they grow: Syrah, Grenache, Viognier, Marsanne and Roussanne.
Cowhorn Vineyard is a Demeter Certified Biodynamic® and Stellar Certified Organic farm and winery. Think of it like organic on natural steroids (cut me some slack on that one). Also grown on the property are asparagus, cherries, artichokes and more. The natural biodiversity, and the additional diversity polyculture creates, lead to an inspirational farm for what ConsciousWine calls, a sustainable approach (our 2nd principle).
Cowhorn’s site and soil are specifically supportive of the Rhone varietals, of which Sauvignon Blanc is not a part. This collaboration, between Upper 5 and Cowhorn, brings together overlapping philosophies, and a chance for vineyard and winery to come together in the spirit of working together (something that all of us could probably learn to do better).
So what does the 2010 Sullivan/Steele Sauvignon Blanc taste like?
My first opportunity was at a sold out event at Ashland’s Thai Pepper Satay Bar. The wine offered a nice round texture, with a slight smoky flavor. The flavors then switched gears reminding me of peach, citrus, and floral tones. (This language is common to over-trained wine-knows who do taste some of these things, but imaginations and enthusiasm set wild and running free deserve a lot of the credit too. To learn a little bit more about wine tasting basics, check out the video: The Pleasure in the Glass).
The very next day included a visit to Cowhorn Vineyards with family and friends… and another opportunity to try the 2010 Sullivan/Steele Sauvignon Blanc. In this experience, the fruit shined through on the nose. The aroma was fairly hidden the night before, probably due to the wine having to compete with the restaurant’s seductive aromatics. The wines nuanced style left me wanting more, and had me thinking I was trying one of the best white wines to come out of Southern Oregon to date.
144 cases were made. The wine sells for $22 retail, and they plan to do it again with the 2011 vintage.
Cheers to partnerships supporting diversity and creating excellence, specifically Sullivan/Steele!