A Vision and Purpose
The Cricket Hill Estate Vineyard began with a blank slate and a purpose of producing a world class wine. The Founders Determined at the onset that, “only with a great grape can we make a great wine. With a small skill from a winemaker we can surely make a good wine from a mediocre grape but never a great wine. So most importantly we undertook the quest to produce a great wine.”
Not every grape will produce its best wine in every location. The French have spent hundreds of years discovering what combination of climate, soil and grape can yield a great wine. To match the right grape to the right location means diligent research until a fit of all 3 critical factors emerges.
For instance, consider Cabernet Sauvignon. At Cricket Hill the climate is adequate but the soils are wrong. Even though it’s a “Bordeaux” grape variety, Cricket Hill’s Estate Vineyard could never produce a great Cabernet Sauvignon. Merlot, on the other hand, does superbly, yielding wines that fully express the grape’s inherent aroma and suppleness.
That’s why Cricket Hill’s Estate Vineyard was carefully researched and found to match the characteristics necessary to grow great Merlot and Cabernet Franc grapes.
It took centuries to form a land with these characteristics and a diligent search by our founders to match it to its perfect fit grape. Like finding a hidden treasure here in Oregon!
Cricket Hill Matches Well to the Great Lands of Pomerol and Saint Émilion
First – the Climate
Some winegrapes like it hot, some chilly and some in between. Skipping a long story we know the most interesting, exciting, tiny wine growing region in the world – Pomerol and Saint Émilion appellations are the world benchmark for great Merlot and Cabernet Franc. For Bordeaux wine lovers around the world these are very well known and revered appellations for growing the best Merlot and Cabernet Franc grapes. So how does Cricket Hill align with these world renowned appellations on key climate factors?
Cricket Hill Mean Growing Degree days – 2500 to 3100 Pomerol/Saint Émilion Mean Growing Degree Days – 2500 to 3000
Cricket Hill Normal Frost Free Period – 140 to 180 days Pomerol/Saint Émilion Normal Frost Free Period – up to 180 days
Merlot and Cabernet Franc are great matches to the climate at Cricket Hill. Wines from such locations develop the finest aromas and most diverse complexities with balanced sugars that don’t generate excessive alcohol in the wine.
Second – the Soils
Then there’s the soil’s nutrient and moisture levels. Not too much of either. Vines have to struggle somewhat to produce superior wines. Why? Because those vines yield smaller berries with higher skin-to-juice ratios resulting in more intense flavors and aromas in the wine. Cricket Hill’s location was especially selected for its soil. A soil with a remarkable similarity to the soils of the Pomerol Appellation in France.
The USDA classifies the Cricket Hill soils as Ruch Gravelly Silt Loam. Described as “a well drained gravelly-clay alluvial soil formed from sedimentary and volcanic rock decompositions.” Visually, the Cricket Hill soil is composed of a darker brown surface layer up to about 7 inches thick with heavy reddish loam subsoil that can extend to a depth of 16 – 60+ inches. Ruch soils are only moderately fertile and highly erodible making for a low vigor vineyard where vines must compete with a permanently maintained cover crop for moisture and nutrients.
|Soil Profile of Cricket Hill||Soil Profile of Pomerol|
Like the famous Château Petrus’ “Blue Clay”, Cricket Hill’s soils are a combination of gravel and clay with a touch of iron that is widely touted as the best soil of the Pomerol Appellation.
Third – A Superior Hillside Location
Vineyard Location and AVA– For centuries winemakers understood that wines made from hillside grown grapes made superior wines but the finest were those lands on the South facing slopes where the vines could collect the greatest amount of daily sunlight. Just over the border with California the Cricket Hill estate vineyard is located alongside the Little Applegate river on a 7-10 degree sloping hillside in the Southeastern corner of the Applegate Valley AVA.
A hillside location that is arguably superior to the flat lands of Pomerol and Saint Émilion for giving our vines longer growing days with more sun but without the excess heat and over ripening that would be associated with more southerly vineyards.
And the Frosting on the Cake – the Grape Clones
Good soil and climate alone aren’t guarantees of great wine. The other crucial factor, of course, is what’s grown in that soil.
Our Vines – Our French vine selections were brought to Oregon from the finest French vineyards of Pomerol and Saint Émilion – selected especially for their pedigree and unequalled ability to produce wines of classic character and distinction. Then they were planted on their own roots – believed to produce grapes more to varietal character but a practice no longer practical in the closely spaced vineyards of France and nearly never done here in America due to the spread of Phylloxera.
This carefully matched land and vine combination became the Cricket Hill Estate Vineyard. Today Cricket Hill estate wines are made exclusively from grapes grown at this single vineyard, yielding a perfect representation of Southern Oregon’s potential for making a classic Right Bank Bordeaux.
Additional Important Comparisons with the Great Pomerol and Saint Emilion Appellations
Cricket Hill’s Average Vine Age – 24.75 years as of 2016 Château Petrus Average Vine Age – 45 years.
Cricket Hill’s Vineyard Elevation and Aspect – 1630 ft. with S-SW facing slope Pomerol/Saint Émilion Average Elevation – 98 ft and flat.
Cricket Hill’s Mean Annual precipitation – 20” to 30” with irrigation as needed Pomerol/Saint Émilion Average Annual Precipitation – 32
inches with no irrigation allowed.
Cricket Hill’s Length of Daily Sunlight and Season – The Latitude of Cricket Hill and the Right Bank Appellations of Bordeaux are precisely the same insuring the same amount of sunlight and length of seasons at both locations.
But Leave Room for Nature
But most of all, the founders are environmentally conscious. That means the majority of the lands at Cricket Hill and certainly the River that flows through this property, are left in their natural state. Unspoiled by too much human activity.
Left for the deer, the beavers, the bobcats the mink, steelhead, salmon, all the fowl, flora and fauna who have made their homes here for centuries.
Most winery guests will only taste and never see much of what makes Cricket Hill so special. But our Founders are happy and proud to share their land with mother nature’s longtime residents.