Teutonic is the Chronic!
Barnaby at our 2012 Domestic Tasting
Just in from Mosel late Friday night, Barnaby Tuttle–donning a moustache much like Gogol’s Eugene Hütz–worked the vineyards at his Teutonic Wine Company on Saturday and hopped a plane from Portland, Oregon to New York on Sunday night. “When I went on vacation to Mosel, I worked,” said Barnaby, wide-eyed and kinetic/frenetic with jet-lagged energy. “It’s like looking at a pretty girl vs. kissing her,” he added, to explain how he couldn’t visit Mosel without working the land.
In town for last week’s Domestic Portfolio Tasting, Barnaby was a hit, hidden behind the huddling crowd–noses in glass, arms outstretched, glasses swirling.
“Originally, I was into French wines,” said Barnaby in Studio 206, “then I met Ewald Moseler [in 2003] and it was pretty mind blowing…”
A giraffe in an elephant stable of mirrors, Barnaby went on to explain why he originally sought to make cool-climate, high acid, low-alcohol Alsatian and German-style wines. “It’s a reaction to our culture,” he said, “I don’t like big cars, big houses…you don’t have to yell to say something intelligent.”
Barnaby & Olga Tuttle
In 2005, he and his wife Olga planted their estate vineyard, Alsea, just 22 miles from the Pacific Ocean. “There was more ambition than there was practical knowledge,” he said. “It changed me, for sure.” Having never planted a vineyard in his life, Barnaby slept on the floor with a mouse, and said in retrospect he would have irrigated for the first few years. With two different climates in Oregon–that of a rainforest from mid-October to June, and like a desert from July to October, Barnaby said that he lost a lot of plants that first year. Knowing only European winemakers at the time, he was afraid to ask the locals, and only later realized that it wasn’t necessarily advantageous to follow European practices in a Pacific Northwest climate.
With the roots at Alsea planted to the ground, the word began to spread, leading to a call that they received from a man named Ben. A manufacturer of robotics, Ben wanted to know if they could farm his 2,000-3,000 vine vineyard, which, inherited and untended, was planted across two acres on an old quarry in patchwork across the site. “The first vintage, we were attacked by deer and birds,” said Barnaby with a laugh. And though it seems that this scenario might have inspired the image for the label, it was actually a grade school Thanksgiving art assignment that led to his teacher’s rejection and to the label for Traubenwerkzeug Pinot Noir from Quarryview Vineyard. With the first vintage in 2009 yielding a single barrel, and the second vintage yielding no more, it was in 2011 that they finally produced three to four barrels from the property, and in 2013 they will release a Brut Rosé from the quarry in time for Valentine’s Day, with no dosage and a short tirage.
Barnaby & Olga with their crew
“There was a time in Oregon,” said Barnaby, “before scores, or before wine became a commodity like oil; when there were grapes with long hang times, before people started planting warm vineyards.” And though Barnaby has seen a seismic shift in the past few years, with a handful of young and upcoming vintners taking to the helm, he does acknowledge that the region has always supported to an extent, talented winemakers.
For his 2011 vintage, Barnaby decided not to deacidify or chaptalize. “I thought I might be flipping burgers,” he said, “but the 2011 sold out.” To implement native yeasts, they don’t simply rely on bloom and whatever might be floating around the winery. With a sterilized bucket they collect fruit from each vineyard, smash and cover. Without bringing it back to the winery, to avoid contamination, they chaptalize just this and ferment it for one and a half weeks for the culture. “Biology is a very important part of terroir,” said Barnaby. “Everything I can, I do to create a thumbprint of each site.”
Extending this thumbprint across continents, the couple are also importers of German wines from the Mosel. For a future vintage, Barnaby and Olga plan to import two barrels of a yeast culture from one of their Mosel producers, which they will blend with a barrel of their own. “I want to blend the lines,” said Barnaby. For the 2012 vintage, they have also opted to lease a steep site vineyard from an elderly gentleman in Mosel. “I want Kabinett ripeness with a long hang time,” he added. With a relationship to the Old World region that’s tethered to their mentors Harald Junglen and Anne Ackermann of Weingut Ackermann, the Tuttles foresee an expansion in the future.
“I’m past this VdP thing,” said Barnaby, “I’m much more underground. I’m more interested in people, in the village…it’s like arena rock vs. the club and having a drink with the band. [It’s all about] the access!”
And after hanging out for a few days in the city with Barnaby, we’re all glad to have access indeed.