Applegate Valley winery is 1 of 5 vineyards nominated in Wine Enthusiast magazine’s annual competition; Southern Oregon is nominated for Wine Region of the Year
Garrett Long, director of agriculture at Troon Vineyard, talks about the use of clay to protect white grapes growing at the Applgate Valley vineyard. [Andy Atkinson / Mail Tribune]
Troon Vineyard in the Applegate Valley has been nominated for American Winery of the Year by Wine Enthusiast magazine while “Southern Oregon/Rogue Valley” has been nominated as Wine Region of the Year.
This year marks the 23rd anniversary of Wine Enthusiast’s annual Wine Star Awards, honoring individuals and companies that make outstanding contributions to the wine and alcohol beverage world, the company says.
The winners in 13 categories will be announced in the magazine’s Best of Year issue and celebrated at its annual black-tie gala in January.
Troon was one of the five wineries in the country nominated for American Winery of the Year.
Southern Oregon/Rogue Valley is up against Abruzzo, Italy; Marlborough, New Zealand; Uco Valley, Argentina; and San Louis Obispo Coast, California for Wine Region of the Year.
This is the first time any winery from Southern Oregon has been nominated for the award, said Troon General Manager Craig Camp.
Troon has been featured in European magazines as the second winery in the world to attain biodynamic regenerative agriculture certification — and the only farm in Oregon to do so.
“Biodynamics is like a probiotic program for your soil. We take those plants, and we harvest them, and we ferment them in various ways and then apply that back through our compost and through the soil of our vineyard to build up soil health,” Camp said.
Troon’s 100-acre property is home to more than grapes, which is vital to the engine of biodynamics. Half of the acreage is devoted to the vineyard, the other half to vegetable gardens, hay fields, sheep and chickens, which rotate through the vineyards.
The winery grows a selection of plants, including valerian and California poppies, which are fermented and turned into compost, feeding the grapes and nourishing the soil.
“By having all these different plants and animals you build up this natural system on your own farm. The goal of biodynamics is to bring in as little as possible,” Camp said. “You don’t buy products with brand names. You make it yourself, and you grow it yourself.”
Troon Vineyard started in 1972, when Dick and Virginia Troon planted the original vines. Troon earned its organic certification in 2016 and biodynamic certification in 2019. Regenerative organic certification followed.
Much of the work requires learning one’s own farm, Camp explained. Every farm is unique; every piece of land has its own idiosyncrasies, its own civilizations of bacteria, colonies of flora and fauna, nesting birds and families of animals or clans of insects.
Biodynamic agriculture involves adding to and perfecting those natural systems to work with the land and produce the product in mind, in this case grapes.
“We’re trying to work with natural systems,” he said, “If the plants and soils are working together in a natural way, they’re naturally resistant to pests; we don’t need to use chemicals.”
Troon makes its wines using a minimalist philosophy. Native yeasts, present on the skins of the carefully grown and harvested grapes, are put to work to make the wine.
“This is the way wine used to be made before chemists figured all these things out about yeast,” he said.
It is a far cry from modern winemaking’s controlled process, he said, in which grapes are gathered, with sulfur the natural yeasts are destroyed and a commercially cultivated strain of yeast is added.
“It’s one type of yeast that does all the work. In our case, its dozens of yeasts, and each one adds a unique flavor, and a unique aromatic and a unique texture — and it’s the combination of those yeasts that grow here ”
For several wines every year they use amphorae, containers with pointed bottoms and sloping handles recognizable from museums and archaeological sites around the Mediterranean and the Black Sea. The containers date back to the neolithic period, Camp explained.
“That’s basically what we’re doing, the ancient way of making wine where each farm, each vineyard, is going to have a unique mixture of yeasts, and they each add something to the wine itself, creating this unique expression of place,” he said.
Award winners will be notified in November, but Camp said much of the reward is in the nomination itself. There are 12,000 wineries in the United States, and Troon is among five to be nominated.
“It’s wonderful that we do these things on our 100-acre farm, but we want millions of acres to be farmed this way,” he said.
They hope their nomination proves it’s possible to be successful and care for the land at the same time.
Camp said he is hopeful Troon’s nomination will work in favor of the entire region, adding that he’s happy to see Southern Oregon recognized for Region of the Year.
He has worked and trained at some of the most storied winemaking regions in the world, including Italy, the Willamette Valley and Napa Valley, and he was drawn to the Rogue Valley for the uniqueness of its viticulture.
“There are so many different varieties that grow here, and it’s a unique type of weather pattern,” he said. “It’s kind of the Goldilocks point for the kind of grapes we can grow. Warm summers, cold nights, interesting soil types — it makes it a one-of-a-kind place to grow wine.”
Oregon also is unique for the way the wine community invests in the region and each other. Local vineyards and winemakers have a heart for helping each other and operate on the idea that a rising tide lifts all boats, he said.
Those looking to try Troon’s novel wine can shop at Market of Choice or go directly to the tasting room, 1475 Kubli Road, Grants Pass.
Reach Mail Tribune reporter Morgan Rothborne at firstname.lastname@example.org or 541-776-4487. Follow her on Twitter @MRothborne.