by Chris Russell, Contributor
If there has been one constant in 2020, it is that each month brings new challenges. September proved no exception as the catastrophic Almeda Fire took a heavy, heartrending toll on the Rogue Valley, leaving incalculable destruction in its wake. In the aftermath, we’re helping Southern Oregon rebuild, even as we ensure the 2020 vintage stands as a testament to the resilience of the Rogue Valley.
The Almeda Fire
On September 8, 2020, the Almeda Fire flared into existence in northern Ashland. Spreading with breathtaking speed, the fire carved a northwesterly swath of devastation through the Rogue Valley. In mere hours, much of Talent and Phoenix was demolished. Overnight, thousands of members of our community lost their homes and livelihoods. Tragically, some even lost their lives. Ultimately, more than 2,800 structures were lost, with over 3,200 acres razed.
The swift and heroic efforts of our first responders prevented what could have been a far worse outcome. Fighting almost inch-by-inch as the fire spread, firefighters steadfastly refused to yield, gradually turning the tide against the fire. By September 15, the fire was 100% contained. All the while, first responders aided evacuation efforts, tended to the injured, supported members of our community experiencing agonizing losses, and kept disorder and panic from costing more lives.
Giving Back: 9-1-1 c.2
As the fallout from the Almeda Fire becomes clearer, it is equally apparent that help is necessary to rebuild homes, lives, and livelihoods. To that end, 2Hawk announces its own humble contribution to these efforts: a special wine release, with 100% of the proceeds going to Almeda Fire victims.
Meet 9-1-1 c.2, a red wine produced from an experimental block of 2Hawk’s vineyard. There, in our vineyard’s most challenging soil, grape vines blossom and thrive, thanks to careful tending until they reach maturity. Meticulously brought to fruition from adversity, this wine symbolically represents the path ahead for Almeda Fire survivors.
This blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Cabernet Franc is picked at once and co-fermented in the tradition of the great wines of Pauillac and Margaux. 2Hawk Winemaker Kiley Evans notes: “This wine is as much about instinct and intuition as about deliberation, and the result is a wine filled with scents and flavors of ripe blueberry, black raspberry, toasted graham cracker crumbs, and pencil lead with a distinct perfume of fresh thyme. Graceful and refined, the palate develops a classic Bordeaux-like personality of slate minerality as the lengthy finish unfolds.”
We often say wine makes every moment an occasion. With 9-1-1 c.2, we’re out to prove wine can also turn devastation into hope.
We wish to thank the following vendors for their donated contributions: Michaels & Michaels Creative for design; Landmark Label and CDS Publications for printing; The Ardagh Group for bottles; Signature Mobile Bottlers Inc. for bottling; Portocork for corks; Enoplastic USA for bottle capsules; and Naumes Crush & Fermentation for use of their labeling and capsuling equipment.
Despite the many calamities of 2020, this year’s harvest has been a bright spot so far, with some sublime fruit coming from the vineyard.
2Hawk Co-Owner and Vineyard Manager Ross Allen shares: “A wet start in the spring and rains at bloom didn’t set the stage for the rest of summer, thank goodness. Mother Nature brought plenty of warm days and cool nights as we moved into summer, and that pattern continued through the season. The vines really did well, and while we had a number of days peaking over 100 degrees, the technology I have in the vineyard allowed daily tweaks to our irrigation schedule, keeping the vines right where they needed to be.”
Unfortunately, where there’s fire, there’s smoke. Smoke in the vineyard has made harvesting challenging at times, with workers in the vineyard needing to don particulate filter masks to avoid breathing smoke and soot. Harvesting is a physical process, and as many of us have unfortunately experienced this year, masks can intensify the discomfort of physical labor.
As we’ve discussed previously, with smoke also comes the concern for impact on the resulting wines. Unlike 2018, with an estimated smoke level in the vineyard of 3 or 4 out of 10, this year 2Hawk Winemaker Kiley Evans initially estimated 7–9 out of 10. 2018’s wildfires were much larger, but the Almeda Fire was, at times, less than a mile from 2Hawk’s vineyard. The factors influencing smoke impact are numerous and complex, but two of the most critical are the proximity of the source and the “age” of the smoke.
To gauge the impact, Kiley added new tools to the testing arsenal, including “bucket fermentations”—small fermentations of fifteen-cluster samples to assess the impact of the smoke on the fruit.
Contrary to his expectations, Kiley is delighted to report, “Our first batch of micro-ferments yielded tremendously better results than I even dared to wish for. What I worried could have been a 7–9 intensity turned out to be hardly detectable. The ‘wines’ we made were bursting with fruit and remarkably free of any smoke impact. They remind me of wines that have been in new barrels for a few days rather than the ashtrays I feared. It was the best news I’ve gotten this harvest so far.”
The wind carried the intense smoke from the Almeda and Obenchain Fires away from 2Hawk, saving the vineyard from 10+ intensity smoke and a devastating impact on the fruit. In addition, our most sensitive varieties, Pinot noir and Sauvignon blanc, were harvested before the fires began.
Our winemaking protocols will still take into consideration potential impact, though, by very gently pressing white wines and rosé and then extended clarifying of the results of those pressings, which will allow any smoke-related compounds to be removed. For reds, changes to tannin and temperature management protocols will control any potential organoleptic impact of smoke-related compounds.
We hope this look at overcoming a difficult time for the Rogue Valley has inspired hope as we join together to rebuild our community. We are proud to call this special place our home, and we look forward to doing our part to help get homes rebuilt and lives back on track. If you’re in the area, we’d love to see you in our tasting room. If you’d like to keep up on the very latest at 2Hawk, subscribe to our newsletter and you’ll always be up-to-date. Do you have any questions about our wines, our vineyard, or the winemaking process? If so, we’d love to hear from you! Please comment below or reach out to us directly via our Contact page.