Antica Terra is an 11 acre vineyard located on a rocky hillside in the Eola-Amity Hills of Oregon’s Willamette Valley. The first vines were planted here in 1989 in a clearing within the oak savannah. The geology of the site is extremely unusual. In most of the region, vineyards are planted in the relatively deep, geologically young soils left behind by either the Missoula floods or the volcanic events that formed the Cascade Range. In this place, the remains of a far older pre-historic seabed rise to the surface, leaving the vines to struggle, without topsoil, amongst a fractured mixture of sandstone sown with fossilized oyster shells.
Above ground, the place is just as intense. Its exposed boulders, steeply pitched grades and panoramic views of the surrounding land convey a feeling of dramatic scale. The west wind moves constantly through the vines. Clouds fissure over the vineyard and allow the sun to ray through, at an angle and with a clarity that makes the site feel bright, even on the bleakest day. But it’s what we can’t see and feel, those aspects of the site that the vines allude to as they strive to find balance, that make it a remarkable place. Our oldest vines look like infants. Instead of the gnarled trunks and robust canes one expects from vines planted over two decades ago, ours are spindly and frail. The fruit is diminutive as well. The tiny clusters of thick-skinned berries are less than half the usual size and fit easily in the palm of the hand. The canopy, which struggles to reach the top catch-wire, is incredibly sensitive. The smallest changes in the environment can cause the leaves to turn yellow and fall.
These qualities cause us to worry. They demand that we offer our vines the most exacting attention and care. In return, they offer us a glimpse into what we can’t see: a wine that is unique and instantly identifiable.
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