wine maker philosophy

Kelly Kid­neigh, winemaker

My phi­los­o­phy of wine­mak­ing has less to do with     mak­ing and more to do with inter­pret­ing what the   vin­tage and vine­yard is express­ing in the wine.

I came to Ore­gon in 1998 with the desire to “make” wine not know­ing the first thing about it, other than that I loved the ethe­real and ele­gant fem­i­nin­ity Ore­gon Pinot Noir pos­sessed.  In the years since, my pur­suit of wine­mak­ing has guided me through many vine­yards, cel­lars and on to a col­lege degree, but for me the most impor­tant and inspir­ing thing I have learned is to let the vin­tage and vine­yard speak for itself.  There­fore I feel it is my job as a wine­maker not to “make” the wine, but rather to shep­herd the fruit, to watch, smell, taste, and lis­ten and in dif­fi­cult years to guide it with a gen­tle and patient hand.  I believe wine is made in the vine­yard under the direc­tion of nature; I merely try to inter­pret that expression.

My style or tech­nique is fairly hands off.  Any action I take dur­ing fer­men­ta­tion and bar­rel age­ing relies on the smell and taste of the fruit and the ensu­ing wine through­out the process from vine to bot­tle.  I try to pick the fruit when it is opti­mally ripe as there is a dis­tinct dif­fer­ence in fla­vors between when the num­bers are good and when the fruit is opti­mally ripe.  I work closely with the vine­yard man­ager to achieve both.   In Ore­gon we are usu­ally in a race with time; which will come first, the creamy ripeness I seek or the rains which must fall?  For­tu­nately we have the tools to deal with what­ever the weather hands us, but the best vin­tages are those where we are given the choice as to when to pick rather than being forced by the rain or weather.

For me the tem­per­a­ture dur­ing fer­men­ta­tion is the key to aro­mat­ics and bal­anced tan­nins.  I prac­tice short cold soaks, five to seven days, fol­lowed by long, low tem­per­a­ture fer­men­ta­tions, typ­i­cally two weeks in length.   As the fer­men­ta­tion begins I keep a care­ful eye and nose on the tanks and only inoc­u­late with com­mer­cial wine yeast when I sense trou­ble.   Cap man­age­ment is a moment to moment, day by day deci­sion.  In total the fruit will spend about a month in the fer­men­ta­tion ves­sel dur­ing its trans­for­ma­tion from grapes to wine.  Bar­rel age­ing will last six­teen to eigh­teen months and typ­i­cally employs 35% new French oak.


Kelly’s back­ground

Kelly  hails from OSU with a degree in fer­men­ta­tion sci­ence. In 1998 she began her wine­mak­ing career work­ing for winer­ies such as Eyrie, Lemel­son, Torii Mor, Left Coast Cel­lars, and a few more includ­ing some time in Burgundy.


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