Division Winemaking Co. Villages “l’Isle Verte” Chenin Blanc 2019

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One of the fastest growing and diverse American wine growing regions
of the past 40 years is the Columbia Valley, a wide swath of land that
reaches from the northern border of Oregon to well into the
northeastern parts of Washington State. Within this region is a is the
Yakima Valley, home to our old vine Chenin Blanc at Willard Farms. This
Chenin vineyard has over 45 years of own-rooted development at the
highest elevation in the north central Yakima, which helps insulate the
vines from the year to year climate variation.
The Willard Chenin vines are planted on soils formed from volcanic
Miocene uplift against basalt bedrock with the primary topsoil being
made up of quartz and lime silica, overlaid with the mixed glacial
sedimentary runoff of Missoula floods that makes the soils in the region
so dynamic and unique. We adore this particular site, as it is one of the
last remaining old vine Chenin Blanc sites in the Pacific Northwest, has
demonstrated a unique and interesting terroir influence in the wines,
and is farmed by an excellent, albeit quirky, farmer named Jim Willard
who has a deep understanding of the soils and region.
The 2019 growing season was in some ways one of the greatest we’ve

seen since taking over this block in 2013, but was also the most chal-
lenging due to a hard early frost and some snow in late September

which completely destroyed the canopy. This meant the end of the
growing season for our block and the need to immediately harvest the
undamaged grapes. Unfortunately, we lost about of 40% of the
normalized yield to both frost damage and/or low maturity that needed
to be left or sorted out. What remained was fantastic in character and a throwback to the
vintages of yesteryears!
We created a pied de cuve (early native ferment) with a small amount of grapes from the
vineyard to build a strong yeast population from the native flora. The pressed juice was split
between the heart of the press, which went directly into a stainless barrel and an a single oak
barrel, with the rest being settled and fermented in neutral and one year old French oak barrels.
The ferments took off right away this year and completed very quickly and going completely
dry, the first time in our experience from this site. With the acidity being higher this year, we
extended the lees ageing time an additional two months and bottled the wine unfiltered and
unfined in June of 2020.
Vintage variation is one of the greatest joys of how and where we work. Contrasting 2018, the
2019 L’Isle Verte shows the deliciously savory and mineral qualities of this grape and a very
nervy backbone. Leading with salty notes and chalk, as well as a faint hint of cardamom, this
wine is truly “clawed from the earth”. Long, gorgeous, mouth-coating acid, and the structure
we’ve come to expect from Willard’s superb old-vine Chenin fruit give way to a zesty finish.

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