The most rewarding aspect of working in the Oregon wine community is having the opportunity to support its growth, to help discover the voices that will shape its future.
One incredibly promising voice is that of Anneka Miller, who's Burton Bittman Pinot noir is a truly distinct wine, a voice that speaks with authority and experience as well as youth and dynamism. Her voice, and her wine represents and honors multiple generations; it speaks of the deep familial relationship she holds with the vines she grew up with. It's a voice you need to know.
We featured Burton Bittman 2010 in our September 2013 Reserve Pinot noir Club. It was a huge hit, so much so that we didn't have enough to offer our larger mailing list (there were only 50 cases made). A whopping 75 cases of 2012 were produced, which meant we were fortunate to be able to share Anneka's wine and story. In 2013, only one special barrel (25 cases) were made.
Burton Bittman is named for Anneka's grandmothers who gave her inspiration and strength. The Miller family's Tukwilla Vineyard, celebrating its 25th anniversary in 2015, is contiguous with Eyrie's Three Sister's Vineyard (there's no fence line, even). Anneka works with a special small block of her family's estate vineyard, a few rows from the original 1990 planting of Abbey clone Pinot noir.
I asked Anneka to discuss the significance of the Special Reserve 2013. Her answer is one of the best pieces of wine writing I’ve ever see from a winemaker.
“I will never make this wine again.
This Special Reserve release is in honor of my Grandmother, Kay, who passed in October 2013. I was studying in France for the 2013 harvest and, her passing was so sudden that sadly, I wasn’t able to say good-bye in person. So, I’ve decided to remember her with this wine. She was so proud to be a part of my winemaking, as she was so proud to be a part of all of her grandchildren’s lives. She loved us fiercely, yet exactly how a grandmother should love, gently. Underneath the delicate, soft red fruits of this wine, there is a fierce-ness; an energy that quivers. That was my grandmother.
She used her energy to take on new challenges. In her final years with us, she headed the local fire department board and saw a brand new fire station built. She taught herself to knit and found a wonderful group of friends in her knitting circle. She cooked constantly. Everyone’s bellies were top of mind for my grandmother. She would want anyone who enjoys her Special Reserve to do so with a great meal among friends and family.
My grandmother was a woman dedicated to her family, and creating occasions for us to come together. It is only appropriate then, that this wine is a product of my winemaking family. Jason Lett and Jeremy Saville of The Eyrie Vineyards shepherded this wine through the challenging vintage of 2013. They saved one barrel for me, and made this cuvée possible. I thank them from the bottom of my heart.
It is said a winemaker has maybe 50 vintages in her lifetime, and each one will be unique. For me, there will never be another 2013 vintage, and there will never be another woman like my grandma.”
Anneka's winemaking experience began in 2010 at the cellar of Eyrie, with a little nudging from winemaker Jason Lett, then grew to include an internship at Domaine Pavelot in Burgundy. You can see these influences in her wine, and you can see stylistic differences. The three vintages of her Pinot noir have been expressive and graceful. The 2013 opens with penetrating red fruit and minerals, giving way to crushed raspberries, thyme, rose, cream, and cherry candy. There's great persistence aided by flavorful, lively tannins that frame the gorgeous red fruit through the finish. Drinking quite well now (especially with a bit of air), and should have an ideal cellaring window of 3-10 years.
Anneka returned from one year in France in time for harvest 2014. She completed a year-long internship with Domaine Pavelot and received a B.T.S. (Brevet de Technicien Supérieur) in Viticulture & Oenology. The objective of the program for French nationals is to prepare them for positions as cellar masters, or vineyard foremen. Many of the younger students (18-23) are there to prepare to take over familial domaines. The BTS-VO program is usually done in two years (Anneka did it in one). She bypassed the first year because of her BA and "just" took the technical courses emphasized in the second year. All of her lectures, reading materials, notes, tests, papers, everything was in French, and she spoke and read only a little French before arriving.