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2020 Jess Miller Pinot Noir

2020 Jess Miller Pinot Noir

Region: Eola-Amity Hills AVA < Oregon

Grapes: Pinot Noir

Vineyard/Cellar Stats: Organic farming, windy site with soils mostly
of volcanic basalt from ancient lava flows; 100% whole cluster in
fermentation in concrete then neutral barrel aging for 8 months;
bottled unfined/unfiltered with minimal added So2; 20
cases; 11.8% ABV

Winemaker: Jess Miller

We haven't met her IRL (yet), but Jess Miller sounds pretty f** cool.
She learned farming by tending the vines at Clos Roche Blanche in
Touraine with the new proprietor, Julien Pineau. She also worked with
Loire legends Alice and Olivier de Moor in the vineyards, and they
gave her a copy of one of their favorite pruning guides. She decided
it was awesome. Then, with a no-big-deal demeanor, she decided she
should translate it into English. Then she published a book about it
in 2018.   These days she makes her living as a vineyard manager,
farming twelve acres in the Eola-Amity Hills AVA in Oregon.  So while
the days are spent nurturing the lives and souls of plants, in
exchange for her labors, Jess is also given a little bit of fruit (a
ton, -ish), from one of the organically farmed parcels of Pinot Noir
that she manages in Eola-Amity Hills.  So now she adds 'vigneron' to
her resume.

But Jess is a farmer first, and her passion for farming informs her
winemaking -- which is to say, for her, good wine comes directly from
excellent farming.  This is now just her 3rd vintage, and even in the
world of micro-winemaking, Jess makes an absurdly small amount of
wine.  Yet, the wines are incredibly sophisticated and intellectual,
with way more complexity and grown-up elegance than you'd expect for a
junior year effort.  We asked Jess to tell us about this pretty Pinot:
"The distinguishing factor for this vintage was the fires, so it was a
really early pick and that made the vinification a little tricky.
Fermentation was 100% whole cluster in concrete, drained midway
through the process because the alcohol really started pulling out
some of the green notes.  This was originally half of a whole lot, the
other half I had to drop because of the fires.  But I do really like
how things in concrete taste.  8 months in neutral barrel after that,
and just a tiny splash of So2 at bottling."

Simple, and practical.  She managed to save a vintage that would've
otherwise been completely lost to fire season.  But what she managed
to coax out of a half-batch of almost-unripe fruit in a shit situation
is pretty incredible.  This wine is bouncy, airy, but with defined
edges, an uncommon energy in the form of high-toned red fruit, Red Hot
candies and cinnamon spice up against a flinty mineral edge.  If this
is what she makes in a bad year, we can't wait to see what happens in
a good one.  Watch out for Jess Miller, she's going places.  Which
means you should buy as much of her wine now as you can, because it's
also still pretty affordable.  STAFF FAVORITE

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