Jean and I are BEYOND excited as we drive from our home base from the south through Salem and make our way up through the bottom of the Willamette Valley...on our way to our first official visit on our epic biodynamic wine adventure.
We're both surprised how quickly the landscape changes from the outskirts of the city to lush rolling hills...picturesque farms and vineyards. It's quite apparent that we've entered the wine-growing region.
We've been reading about and researching the Willamette Valley for the last six months...and I don't think there is any real way to prepare thoroughly for this journey we're on. We both have the sense that this is indeed an epic adventure.
As we enter through the gates of Keeler Estate...Gabriele and Craig Keeler’s commitment to their land and the entire ecosystem is visibly apparent everywhere we look. Jean and I are both spitting out cliche sound bites...pointing out the evident beauty in every direction.
There is impeccable attention to detail, which feels like is fueled by Gabrielle and Craig's love and appreciation for the land and the natural beauty and potential of their unique place on the southwest slope of the Eola-Amity Hills AVA.
We wind our way into the estate...and are prompted to "follow the wine" signs...to their understated yet stunningly beautiful tasting room...where we are warmly greeted by Beatrice, Gabrielle and Craig's daughter...and a handsome super happy Beagle named Abby.
Just inside the tasting room, we're introduced to Gabrielle...which to me felt strangely familar...reminiscent of meeting a distant relative who I hadn't seen in 30 years.
I must say I'm a bit nervous and wonder if Jean and more importantly if Gabrielle is aware if it. As I mentioned in a previous blog...we're not wine experts...we never worked in the wine industry...we don't have sophisticated pallets...we don't even have much experience tasting.
We're both highly interested in health and well-being and have been eating very well for over 25 years...and to us...that means eating as much food as possible grown according to biodynamic practices. And that naturally expands to... when we choose to drink wine...our commitment is to seeking out biodynamic wine.
We've just stepped into biodynamic wine growing and winemaking heaven...and are casually speaking with Gabrielle who is SO passionate about biodynamic viticulture.
I'm impressed and surprised that Keeler has been Demeter-Certified biodynamic from the very beginning of their transition from a sheep farm to wine growing in 2005.
Gabrielle shared with us that from the very beginning of their exploration into viticulture...she was committed to growing and certification of the highest standard...which is Demeter Biodynamic Certification. Soil samples were taken immediately...and the certification process began.
Their first rows of vines were planted...and four years later their first harvest was being crushed and transformed into wine.
Two of the former sheep barns became the winemaking and barrel rooms. I'm intrigued by how amazingly clean, well organized and honestly...beautiful the winemaking room is.
The most striking pieces in the winemaking building are the sculptural almost otherworldly or looking fermenting vessels...large colorful concrete eggs, concrete dolia, and terracotta Amphorae.
The terracotta amphorae are similar to the fermenting vessels used in ancient Rome. And the concrete eggs look futuristic...and yet make complete sense in the practical side of the form...in that spherical shape naturally creates a vortex...gently stirring the juice while it ferments.
There's a lot of research on structuring the molecules in water...using various devices...that essentially create a vortex. Structuring the water molecules is described as restoring water to a live and natural state. I wonder if the same thing is happening to the wine inside these spectacular vessels.
Jean and I are both eager to experience one of Keeler's wines from...gosh... what seems to me...to be a womb for wine.
I've read about the stirring of biodynamic preps...and have been highly curious about that process and wonder if here too there's a parallel.
Gabrielle graciously invited to drive us around the vineyard in a fun, spunky ATV. Jean asked if she could sit in the back...which thrilled me...especially when Abby jumped in the front too!
The first dog I remember my family having...was a slightly smaller version of Abby. Having her company on our tour brought back so many fond memories of my beloved Beagle.
I literally could write for days about the sheer beauty and magnificence of the vineyard. The well-tended, neat and tidy rows of vines are carefully planted to take maximum advantage of the sun and heat both sides of the vine equally.
Gabriele stops to show us the tiny clusters of grapes and explains about how they hand prune leaves on the east side of the rows to help to ensure uniform heating.
I got to be honest here. When Gabrielle stopped and turned off the engine right next to one of the massive piles of compost...I got super excited. I've wanted to dig my hands in the earth since we drove up the winding drive.
I want to feel it and smell it...maybe even taste a little. This is where it all begins...and all returns...in the fall. I'm impressed by the dark, rich, moist compost...and Gabrielle seems proud of it too...which I love!
When she sees my fascination with her compost pile...she eagerly pulls back the cover and digs her hands to pull out a mound of compost...which I quickly stick my nose in and take a deep, full breath of this live soil. What happened next is indescribable with words. And yet I completely got what I came for...in that one whiff.
Gabrielle drove us to the top of a hillside...above all the vines...to a deck that Craig built for her.
When they first visited the wildly overgrown, abandon farm...almost 30 years ago..it was from this ridge...that she knew this was the place for them.
Jean and I haven't stopped talking about various aspects of our visit...and it's hard to not write thousands of words about our experience. Rather than that...I strongly encourage you to plan a visit to Keeler Estate.
If that's not possible any time soon...ask your favorite wine shop to order a variety of their wines to sample. Another good option is to join their wine club...which seems fantastic!
There are two different club options...the butterfly and dandelion...both offer generous discounts and exclusive member's privileges!
We are both deeply touched and so very grateful to Gabrielle and Beatrice's warm hospitality, time and everything that was shared.
We are inspired by their passion...impressed by their commitment to being conscientious stewards for the land, respectful of the wildlife and aware of the interplay of the entire ecosystem.
Reading about biodynamic agriculture and viticulture has been very helpful. And nowhere close to the experiential education we received at Keeler.
Now it's SO apparent why biodynamic wine is the purest form of winemaking available. I feel very fortunate to have this knowledge...and more importantly...beyond fortunate to have biodynamic wine available to purchase and enjoy!
Every dollar I spend is sending a message...it's casting a vote. I choose to vote for and invest in my health and well-being...as well as the health and well-being of our environment. I believe the strongest vote I can make is when I buy from a Demeter certified biodynamic grower.
Jean and I have been talking about how we can squeeze another visit to Keeler before we head back to Colorado. I don't know how we're going to fit it in and yet I trust it's going to happen.
Our journey continues...