The Witnesses

Witness Tree Vineyard is an exciting case study in winemaking expression.

All producers that source from our vineyard are utterly unique – yet all share the same drive for terroir-expressive Pinot Noir or Chardonnay.

What really attracted me to Witness Tree was, first off, the clonal diversity… The high degree of care in the [vineyard’s] farming comes at it from a completely different perspective, that you don’t see from anywhere.

I’m excited to see what Matt and his partners will continue to do with the vineyard, and I’ll be buying fruit from them for the years to come.

Seth Morgen Long

I’d characterize our winemaking as thoughtful, minimal and classical… Basically, we work with vineyards and farmers who do things correctly in the vineyard so we can do as little as possible in the cellar.

We source from a healthy portion of the lower field, plus M6, and part of M9 and U4. What I find most attractive about the vineyard is its high quality farming, organic [practices], and that the grapes ripen with great acidity and tannic structure, bringing good focus and force on the palate.

John Grochau

An intense focus on the vineyards we work with has developed since 2018 as we have pushed for lower yields and an increased attention to the details within the acres we work with at the various vineyards that we source from. We contract by the acre from the 9-10 vineyards we work with so that we can have more control within our blocks as well as a more ’shared risk’ approach with our growers.

Situated on Spring Valley road in the heart of the Eola Hills (Eola-Amity Hills AVA), Witness Tree is poised to be one of the great vineyards in this Willamette Valley. Facing east with multiple benches made up mostly of volcanic soil, this vineyard has all of the attributes of a great vineyard. With the prior purchase in 2017, the vineyard was replanted by about 90%. Those blocks on appropriate rootstocks were reclaimed while the rest was replanted by Ryan Hannaford and his incredible team, setting the foundation for the future of this site. As most of the blocks are still young, the potential is yet unrealized. But, the sky is the limit. Attention to detail and a commitment, financially to organic farming by a great team is imperative! The team is in place, now we need follow-through, which I believe is likely to happen.

This vineyard had potential long before the purchase in 2017 and Matt’s (and his team of investors) subsequent purchase last year. Russ Raney, former owner and winemaker at Evesham Wood, used to say ‘anything off of Spring Valley road is the sweet spot of the Eola Hills.’ With Witness Tree, unfortunately, the original family did not have the resources to give the site the attention, both financially and intellectually, that it deserved. That changed in 2017 with the new ownership and replanting. Now the newest owners have the opportunity to take this site to the next level. It will require a joint effort from ownership and the producers whom they sell grapes to, to work together for greatness. Ultimately, the commitment to farming to the highest standard will be what separates this site from any other! Organic farming and the details of great farming require a huge commitment financially as well as mentally & physically from the team doing the WORK!

Ken Pahlow

I produce Chardonnay and Pinot Noir with minimal intervention, with a focus on allowing the vineyard, vintage, and variety to express themselves. Indigenous yeast fermentations only, and natural malolactic fermentation – this is why it is imperative that I am working with organically (or better) farmed fruit to provide healthy YANs (yeast assimilable nitrogen) for healthy ferments, and juice that has healthy chemistry and biodiversity of yeast coming in on the fruit.

…What I appreciate most is Jorge Chavez and his team’s farming practices [being] of the highest quality, and [that] he is incredibly responsive. [For both of my] vintages, despite having different blocks, the fruit has been exceptionally high quality and most importantly has a healthy level of nutrients that do not require any additions to the fermentation – [allowing for] just observant and measured winemaking.

[I’ve found that, in the blocks I source from] the Chardonnay blocks are prone to vigor, being on the lower ground and non-volcanic soil, [and] express bright citrus and mineral-driven fruit flavors with ample acidity, [which] is the style I prefer in Chardonnay.

[As for] the Pinot Noir, given they are young blocks planted and established in drought years without irrigation, and are clone 115, present as quintessential small pine clone clusters. Very low-yielding, yet the wine does not express angular, stressed tannins or fruit but shows aromatic, alpine strawberries, and a hint of bergamot and black tea.

Bree Stock, MW

We’re big believers in the Eola-Amity hills; they’re really an island due east of the Van Duzer corridor, with the most premium soils for grape growing in the Willamette Valley. Witness Tree Vineyard is on the earlier side of ripening due to eastern and southeastern exposure, with its fruit on the spectrum of being more savory, rich… wines from here tend to have a similar feel. But, the upper hill is cooler… and represents the concept of what Spring Valley is – a little pocket of Eola Hills, uniquely situated.

[Witness Tree] is a great example of this regional expression. It is also exceptionally well-farmed, Ryan and Jorge were very diligent, and uncommonly so. Execution with this kind of thing is always important, but to them it’s not just an idea – they also execute.

There’s a lot of unknowns on what the vineyard will produce in the future, being so new – but the experimentation is key. I finally released the first version of 2021 Pinot Noir from [Witness Tree Vineyard] old vines, a really classic-style wine for old school Pinot Noir lovers. I anticipate bottling another version in February of 2024 – with several exciting expressions being resurrected.

Will Hamilton