currently sold out - Next Release: Fall 2010
2008 - Gamay Noir - " Definitely the real thing. .... intense, pure, fragrant even ethereal gamay noir redolent of ripe strawberries." Matt Kramer, The Oregonian
If one were to judge by soil and climate alone, this is arguably the most appropriate wine grape to grace the hillsides of the north Willamette Valley.
For centuries Gamay Noir has been the singular grape of the Beaujolais region of France. But the marine sediments of Ribbon Ridge share much in common with rolling hills of Beaujolais. We share a low, somewhat acidic soil pH and abundance of mica/silica. Our growing season temperatures routinely run warmer than those of the Golden Slope of Burgundy and much closer to those a little further south…in the warmer clime of Beaujolais.
Bright, floral and often laced with notes of anise or licorice, Brick House Gamay Noir has found many friends since first release in 1995.
not "Gamay Beaujolais"
and its not "Napa
Its Gamay Noir a Jus
Burgundy, the tenth
century; it is early in Christianity's attempts to
reclaim the Holy Land when a young knight, one Seigneur du
May, returns from doing battle with the infidel in the east.
He is rewarded for his service with lands on the steep southern
edge of the Cote D' Or, near the town of Montrachet. Having
brought vines of a particularly fecund red grape home to Burgundy
from his Crusade in Syria, he plants them on the hillsides
around his great, turreted manor in the village of Gamay.
It is noted that the vines of the village of
Gamay seem less subject to disease than those traditional
grapes of the Cote; Pinot noir and Chardonnay. The Gamay requires
less training, less labor. It grows straight and tall with
little care. A single Gamay vine is seen to produce more fruit
than three of its more delicate cousins...and, best of all,
a wine writer of no less repute than Matt Kramer would concede
a thousand years later that the wine from these vines of Gamay
"was not half bad."
This was all of some marginal interest to the
Lords of Burgundy until 1349 ...the year the Great Plague
reached into their homes and fields, decimating their families,
the clerics who tended the sick and the work force who tended
the vines. For fourteen vintages many vineyards went unpruned
and uncultivated. In the wake of a plague which claimed one
of every three Europeans, the allure of Gamay as a highly
productive source of tasty winegrapes was too good to resist.
Gamay emerged as
the poor man's Pinot; it was widely planted on the
Haute Cote and on the plains of Burgundy by peasants who rented
lesser vineyard sites from their Lords. It produced nourishment
for the masses. But by the late 1300's Gamay
Noir a Jus Blanc ( black Gamay with the white
juice) was seen to be encroaching on the sacred soils of the
Grand Crus...farmed by some of Burgundy's most powerful men.
In 1395 Duke Philippe the Bold ordered his subjects
to tear out " the very nasty and very disloyal plant
named Gaamez." They did not. In 1441 the Dukes issued
a second edict to eradicate Gamay. But Gamay Noir just wouldn't
go away. It survived as a tribute to the working class of
By 1855, 87percent of the Cote d'Or was planted
to Gamay Noir a Jus Blanc. It brought wealth sufficient to
transform more than a few pre-revolutionary peasants into
post-revolutionary land barons. But with the reorganization
of French vineyards in the latter half of the 19th century,
Gamay was once again banned from the great sites of Burgundy
...this time by the new aristocracy, including some of the
same families whose Gamay vineyards had supplied the wherewithal
to purchase the world's most pricey sites planted to Pinot
Today, Gamay is largely
relegated to Beaujolais, a region just south of the
Cote d'Or that Burgundians have on occasion claimed as their
own. It has always grown better there than on the limestone
soils of the Cote. It is the source of the succulent wines
of Morgon, Fleurie and Moulin a Vent.
The soils around these locales in upper Beaujolais
are rich in mica and silica and are far more acidic than those
of Burgundy. And most years Beaujolais, lying slightly south
of Beaune, offers a little more warmth for a later ripening
variety whose ancestors hailed from the Middle East. In these
respects, we New World growers in Oregon have much in common
with our colleagues in Beaujolais.
There are probably only a half dozen plantings
of Gamay Noir on the mica rich, acidic soils of the hills
surrounding the Willamette river today. Outside of Beaujolais,
the plains of Burgundy, and some acreage in British Columbia,
I am unaware of Gamay Noir a Jus Blanc having taken root elsewhere.
The variety remains a Black Sheep; an
outrider that seems to accompany Pinot noir and Chardonnay
on their travels around the world. When grown greedily, it
will produce a light, less than average wine. But when it
is pruned sparingly and given its due in the winery, Gamay
Noir can be a luscious, dark glass with enough acidity to
match a wide array of foods. Its allure is irresistible...even
after a thousand years of turmoil.
Here to watch the grapes mature!