2009 San Crispin Field Blend Estate Bottled

There are times when we are inspired, emotionally provoked to accomplish a task which a casual observer may believe unachievable. Such emotion, such inspiration goes to a variety of human endeavors along the Columbia River.

As an ongoing student and wine professional I have been inspired and provoked by two sets of experiences that lead to this wine. One set of experiences showed that complimenting components can achieve results that a single unit could not provide. The second is that sheer passion can overcome the seemingly impossible.

In 1974 I leased a small, old vineyard in Fairfield, CA. It was an old Genovese planting of head pruned vines. There were Zinfandel, Carignane, French Columbard and Petite Sirah vines. ’74 was a good year, and French oak barrels were still affordable, so I made a wine from this blend and finished it in French oak. Years later I received many compliments on the ‘wonderful’ Cabernet made from these grapes.  I became a believer in the old Italian field blends.

Wines of today are often selected by ‘professional’ folks in New York City, San Francisco and L.A.  They tell us what varietal is in, what grape is only peasant fare. Through their decrees marketing folks lean on CFO’s and winemakers to make their chosen grape wine.

In years past, the grape selection process was made by the farmer/vintner. They knew what they could best grow and what they enjoyed to drink. In Italy and France farmers’ field blends were what wine was. Rhone blends of red grapes with a splash of white were, and continue to be common.  Over the years I have come to appreciate and have been inspired by the Genovese contribution to California’s viticulture. Their ‘Field Blend’ had logic, economy and drink ability…why else did the Chinese invent wine!

Over the last 23 years I have been working with wine grapes in the Columbia Gorge. Grape growing here is not as easy as many parts of California, nor are there traditions and experiences to enlighten your path. On the Western, cool end of the Columbia Gorge AVA there are not many Big red grapes that can reach full ripeness. Pinot Noir is wonderful, but could there be another red?  My admiration for farmer inspired wine lead me on a trial of blends. I first selected the portion of the vineyard which was warmer and rockier than most. It is a distinct patch of ground affectionately called the rock pile by the previous owner. It was never planted to pears or strawberries.  The grapes were selected for their unique contributions, knowing that at least the Syrah and Malbec would never achieve warm climate ripeness. The Syrah offers white pepper, color and pleasing flavor; the Malbec offers dark color and rich fruit aromas and berry flavors to a wine. A smaller addition of Pinot Noir was needed for sugar and to add lushness to the palate, and a splash of Chardonnay offers freshness, early drinkability, and additional sugar to the blend. Thus I arrived at a four grape blend that works in the vineyard, even in 2010! A blend that is dark, fresh and rich in fruit that I enjoy drinking.

What to call it….

My second experience/inspiration, which my spirit linked to wine, came in the form of Shakespeare’s Henry V St. Crispin’s Day Speech:

With my poetic license I inferred that King Henry’s excursion into France, and his meeting of the French establishment some-how paralleled my adoption of these French clones to a new world. To a new world where they give tribute to the old, while still battling for a place on your table, I offer my collage of vines. Thus this parcel of White Salmon Vineyard is called Saint Crispin’s Field. Saint Crispin Field is a blend of vines, each contributing a quality that enriches the whole to a thoroughly enjoyable wine.

We are bottling the 2009 San Crispin Field Blend today. I hope you will have the opportunity to enjoy it.

Peter Brehm, grower/winemaker

p.s.  Now the final rows of this Field Blend have been completed, with Bleau Frankish.  These grapes will ripen with a bramble spice to fill the future glass with all the components of a wonderful wine. Stay tuned for the evolving blend.