We’ve had several visits to Résonance Wines in Oregon’s Willamette Valley. We always make it a stop whenever we are in Oregon because the wines are just that good. Résonance is the Oregon outpost of the iconic Burgundian domaine of Louis Jadot. The winery is now run by Jadot’s former cellar master, Guillaume Large. On our most recent visit, Guillaume and his wife Lucie took us on a walk of this beautiful property and showed us something very unique and very special indeed.
Located at the base of a hill in the middle of a surround of oak trees is their latest vineyard, Fools Errand. We have been to many vineyards in Oregon and quite a few in Burgundy as well. But Fools Errand is different than all of them. And that is by design.
Our walk took us through a patch of forest and when we emerged from it, a 1-acre plot stood in front of us that was planted with thin, young vines and surrounded by tall oak trees. It looked very much like a Burgundian “clos”, the tiny private vineyard plots surrounded by walls of stone.
Here the walls were oak trees. This vineyard was like none we had ever seen before. Almost every vineyard we have seen is planted in straight, evenly spaced rows, with wire trellises running down the centre of the row. Vine stocks are trained to rise up to the first wire, usually about 2 feet above the ground and then the cordons are trained to run horizontally along that wire. The chutes which ultimately bear the grapes grow from the cordon and when big enough those chutes are tied to the next wire above. This system is called vertical shoot positioning and is used in vineyards throughout the world.
But not at Fool’s Errand. Here the vines are trained to rise up tall wooden posts that are spaced evenly but somewhat randomly about the vineyard. Guillaume explained: “Normally when we plant, we do about 2000 plants per acre, here it’s over 5000 per acre on just 1 acre (almost 5500 plants).” That dense planting is seldom seen outside of Burgundy. “To have access to the light the plant will have no choice but to go up and the light will deliver something special to the plant. I have no recipe, but the expression will be through the grapes, so we are very excited to see the first vintage of Pinot Noir.“
Guillaume went on to explain how they made the decision to propagate from original plants growing at other parts of Résonance Vineyard. “We have mixed 3 selections of Résonance Vineyard [plants], Pommard, Dijon 777 and Wadenswil. We wanted to do something unique so we selected the wood from the oldest block of Résonance Vineyard; the oldest block is Pommard planted in 1981. The Dijon 777 was planted in 1983, and the Wadenswil was planted in 1987. Before the spring of 2019, we selected wood from these 3 old blocks and selected the most beautiful plants [to propagate]. We decided to create our own nursery here on the back of the property.”
All of the plants that Guillaume chose to propagate from are “own-rooted”. This term refers to plants that were not grafted on to phylloxera-resistant root stocks but planted on their own roots. This is a risk, because phylloxera, the vine eating louse that has wiped out vineyards around the world, has had its effect on Oregon vineyards. The blend of soils at Fool’s Errand is a mix of marine sediment and sandy soil and a bit of volcanic Jory soil. Phylloxera struggles to move through sandy soils so hopefully that will reduce the risk of harm to the vineyard and allow the unique character of vines grown on their own roots to show through.
The next innovation was how the different clones of Pinot Noir were planted. Rather than planting each clone in a separate block of just that clone, the clones were randomly co-mingled. In France this is referred to as Sélection Massale which is roughly the equivalent of a field blend.
The result from all these decisions that went into the creation of Fool’s Errand will be a vineyard created in the historic tradition of the original vineyards of Burgundy. Guillaume told us: “To use a trellis, we wanted to have 1 post per plant. So the idea will be to see the plant going up around the post…instead of going to a wire or running on the ground, it will go up. Because the plants will need to catch the light from the sun. The priority for the plant is to grow up and to deliver all the energy to the top and enhance the capacity of the plant to grow up by the extremity. And so this is something that is interesting to see—the expression of the plant, being so tight, having no other option than to go up.”
Guillaume is farming this site as naturally as possible. He aspires to someday make it Biodynamic, as he feels that can enhance the special expression of this very unique vineyard.
“It will be interesting if we can have a special expression. If it’s not different than the Résonance block than why spend the time and energy to farm like that? It’s a lot of additional work so it must be a unique expression. If it works, maybe we’ll plant another block or two but this is for the future, so we’ll wait and see. It will work if it’s a special expression. More than that my goal is that I think it’s the perfect size to farm with a different approach; to farm biodynamic and I wanted to make sure the plants would come nice; make sure it will be successful because when you create your own nursery you don’t know what can happen.”
The tight spacing in the vineyard means everything will have to be done by hand. So it is with intention that he is making work in this vineyard more difficult than in the rest of the Résonance Vineyard. This is just one of the reason’s why he is calling it Fool’s Errand. The other is the double entendre to the French expression that is “en foule”. En foule can be translated as “in a crowd”; very fitting for a vineyard with a planting 2.5 times the density of the average.
What Guillaume and his team have created is a highly unique vineyard with potential to be a leader in Pinot Noir grown anywhere. Taken together, the features of the tight spacing, the training up the pole to get at the sun’s energy, the special plant propagation from a highly successful vineyard, the Sélection Massale and the leaning towards biodynamic farming add up to something really special. And from just 1 acre of vines.
This truly has the potential to become Oregon’s first cult wine. Of course, the answer is always in the glass, so we will have to wait and see the results after their first harvest this year. But if the high scores that Résonance is receiving on their other wines is any indication, we would not be at all surprised if cult status is the outcome.
12050 NW Meadowlake Rd
Carlton, OR 97111
Tasting Room: Open Daily 11am-5pm