Twill’s Stormy Morning Pinot has become a near automatic Reserve club selection. It’s one of the unsung heroes of Reserve wines–so much intrigue and complexity are jammed-packed into each release yet it has remained quite humbly priced since the inaugural release (2013). It is also one of the most re-ordered club wines. We’ve now tasted the 2018 thrice and concluded that it’s go-time!
It was a dark and stormy night...except this is no Snoopy novel. Darker and denser than any previous Stormy, this shows the impactful nature of 2018. Stormy Morning Pinot noir often has a blood orange character and in a year like 2018, that note is prominent. It joins cranberry, cherry skin and rose petals in the initial scents. With time, allspice, cola, and raspberry come out to play. On the palate, deep bright red fruit flavors, spice and citrus resonate through Twill’s most concentrated and structured Stormy Morning Pinot Noir to date. It will cellar magically, and drinks well now with a decant and a meal. Only 44 cases made.
While the ‘18 shares similarities with previous vintages, there’s one striking difference. Previous Stormy Morning Pinots have maxed out at 30% whole cluster; 2018 is a whopping 70% whole cluster. You’ll taste the extra savory dimensions from the increased use of the entire grape bunches.
I asked winemaker Chris Dickson about the dramatic change. His response captures his candor and humility, which we so appreciate.
“Why not, it’s the only way we learn?!” he half-joked, before sharing in earnest, “we’re learning as we go. If I don’t feel like I’m learning I don’t really want to be doing it. It’s all trial by fire. I don’t want us to sell the narrative that we have this all figured out.”
“But more specific to the wine, the amped up whole cluster was the most exciting set of barrels that year from Stormy Morning. We just had to do it. It made a powerful wine, but not in a barrel and alcohol way. We didn’t repeat it in 2019 because the vintage didn’t call for it, and we may never use that much whole cluster again, but I love what it did in 2018.”
So do we.
2017 vintage notes
Loaded with energy and aliveness, this is absolutely our kind of Oregon Pinot noir. Intensely, fascinatingly complex on the nose, dishing a fantastically red-fruited wonder complimented by blood orange, rose, and a dusting of cocoa powder. With more time open, the strands unfurl, the whole wine develops weight, the finish lengthens and from beginning to end, it moves like a gentle tidal wave. Twill's Stormy Morning captures the delicacy of Willamette Valley Pinot like few others. An Oregon Reserve Pinot Noir Club selection. - Marcus
From winemaker Chris Dickson: "Stormy Morning is a compelling site for me as part of it resides in the fogline and part of it rests above it. This inherently changes the ripening curve and characteristics in the fruit. Above the fogline, as we sample the fruit in the Fall, we get deeper red fruit qualities, and in the section that sits lower, we experience more citrus and tea qualities due in part to slower ripening.
As picking decisions loom, we often contemplate whether it would be worth picking the vineyard in blocks to get more uniformity in ripeness. Forgoing the chance to be too meticulous, and in the crunch of the season, we harvest the fruit in the fogline at the same time that we pick the fruit perched above it, resulting in a harvest of fruit at differing levels of ripeness. Or as I like to think of it, this is not a gathering where we have an adults only and separate kids table, rather everybody, or in this case every cluster, is brought together in a transect highlighting differing times along their life’s journey.
2015 vintage notes
If you've missed our praise for Twill Cellars, either you are very new to our recommendations or you've been napping in a vineyard for a few years! Seriously, Twill is one of our Oregon wine new discoveries of the last several years; we’re huge fans of their understated style and based on the feedback we’ve received, we’re not alone.
Initial aromas of blood orange, rooibos tea, rose, and tar. Notes of raspberry, cinnamon, mushroom and cherry are present in the background. On the palate, the wine feels lithe and refined. A seamless sense of acidity is present throughout, holding the lines together ensuring a finish with lots of poise. Time and air yield more notes to include pomegranate, lemon, pine and rhubarb. Our 2015 Stormy Morning Pinot Noir shows a rich yet placid, and transparent character.
“Our wines spend 18-22 months in mostly neutral barrels with no added yeasts and minimal SO2 during aging. We believe this aids in a more complete polymerization of phenolic compounds and allows some of the forward fruit character in the young wines to decrease, allowing more land and season specific characteristics to emerge. We do not force cold soaks, extend maceration times, or add enzymes to increase extraction. In short, we hope to keep the wines taut, long living, and original to their provenance.
“Planted in 2001, the 10-acre Stormy Mountain Vineyard sits on ancient marine sedimentary soil with an iron-rich band approximately 6-7 feet below the surface. It is farmed organically.” Located in the Coastal Foothills northwest of the Yamhill-Carlton AVA where it experiences cooler conditions than the less exposed vineyards of the Yamhill-Carlton AVA, it shares the rich profiles of the Yamhill-Carlton AVA wines but tends towards redder accents to the fruit, rather than the blue, almost purple flavors of the warmer sites of Yamhill-Carlton.
“We often contemplate whether it would be worth picking the vineyard in blocks to get more uniformity in ripeness. Forgoing the chance to be too meticulous, and in the crunch of the season, we harvest the fruit in the fogline at the same time that we pick the fruit perched above it, resulting in a harvest of fruit at differing levels of ripeness. Or as I like to think of it, this is not a gathering where we have an adults only and separate kids table, rather everybody, or in this case every cluster, is brought together in a transect highlighting differing times along their life’s journey.”
So, why Twill? Chris continues, “it’s a word that encompasses many of the things we are after in crafting wine here in Oregon. To name a few: fabric, process of assembly, tension and strength of material. It's not about us, the particular vineyard, bottle, barrel, or clone, it is rather the composition of everything coming together as something thoughtfully crafted and true to the character of each unique vintage. We are merely a part of this tapestry of many components, and twill cellars seems like a great title for our small project.”
We’ve known Chris for many years; he cut his teeth in Oregon working for several respected wineries. His first harvest was 2007 with Penner-Ash, then Evesham Wood for their 2010 harvest (August-December). He with Marcus at Goodfellow Family Cellars/Matello between 2011-2012, and full time between January-August of 2012 as his assistant.
In 2013, Chris signed on with Molly and Darrel Roby, proprietors of a small label called Ribera. “I was given the chance to put together a program and the best lineup of vineyards for the following vintage under a then unknown title. We knew an update to the labels/brand was essential and given the changes to the program (a focus solely on Oregon, a close look at three varietals) we decided this would be a new and separate project all together. With this in mind, Ribera Vineyards will still exist, although it will only be for a portion of the fruit grown on Molly's Vineyard, on Ribera Lane (hence the name). So, we’ll offer a small run of estate Rosé and Chardonnay from the site under Ribera Vineyards.
Molly and Darrel remain the proprietors of both Twill Cellars and Ribera. Molly runs accounting and tasting room hospitality, while Darrel oversees to the day-to-day at Molly's vineyard and he's brilliant when it comes to winery equipment (and fixing/building just about anything and everything). I handle all the winemaking (the decisions are entirely mine — style, pick dates, barrels, etc. — for better or worse!), branding, sales, and most other daily operations for the company.”