Winter in the Organic Vineyard
There is a beautiful memoir written by Arlo Crawford called, “A Farm Dies Once a Year.” I often think about that book during the winter. It gives me solace and helps me remember that the deep winter is part of the necessary cycle of the challenging life we’ve chosen. Snow, single-digit temperatures, and freezing rain have shut us into a weather-imposed lockdown. From our cozy chairs, we can watch the bird frenzy at the feeder. The pine trees hang heavy with a ½” coating of ice as squirrels steal mouthfuls of chicken food to take back home. They skitter across the ice with cheeks full of corn. A family of deer seems to have taken up residence under the roof of the seating area outside the tasting room. At night, the deer raid the food left behind by the sheep. Eagles perch on the tops of trees, creating a cascade of ice and broken branches as they take flight, in search of an unwitting rabbit. The resilience of our wildlife always amazes me. It’s in my nature to get caught up in weather hysteria, checking my weather app 5 or 6 times a day. And yet, there is a whole world outside our warm house that needs our attention. So we suit up, check the thermometer, and head out. The driveway needs to be plowed, chickens (and squirrels) fed, sheep (and deer) fed, and ice broken on water troughs. The wine work is done for now. Alexis and Teddi have tended the incredible harvest we brought in, proudly sampling barrels and planning final compositions. The wines sleep the winter away, awaiting the spring bottling. The vines rest dormant under a sheet of ice and snow, as the nutrients from the canopy feed their extensive root system – strengthening the plants for next spring. A deep freeze like this one is helpful to our organic vineyard. There aren’t many insect pests that will be able to survive. With the pest population naturally diminished, the vines will be able to grow without the pressures of thrips, hornets, flies, and grasshoppers. In my mind, I can see the fat buds in the vineyard: downy, green, and pink. I can hear the wind whistle through the trellises. I can smell the earth warming in the sun. Spring always feels like a miracle to me, and I miss it most in the winter.
Wherever you are and no matter the weather outside, we hope you’ve gathered with friends and family to share love and light. Thank you for believing in what we do and for loving the wine we make. Sharing the life we have - our small vineyard, our wines, this incredible chunk of earth – it fuels our passions and gives us purpose.
Be well – Juliet P.
A Harvest Yearbook
When you live by the weather every harvest feels unique. Each harvest starts at a different time, has its own challenges and rewards. We can tell you a story about each year and how this changed the wines and changed us… but we can’t predict how this year will go!
2005 – Our first crush! With purchased grapes and borrowed equipment, we pressed viognier until the press fell apart and finished the job by pounding the grapes with a sledgehammer. Exhausted and in love, we quit our days jobs. Our friends at nearby wineries shared their equipment and helped us finish 2005 strong.
2006 – Able to easily source grapes from Underwood Mountain and Horse Heaven Hills, we enjoy one of the most idyllic fall seasons. The winery is still not built, so we make our 300 cases outdoors.
2007 – The winery build begins in March and is finished just in time for our wedding in May. We convince our wedding guests to help us plant the first acre of Syrah in our vineyard before the reception. We kept the vines alive by hand-watering all summer (we don’t recommend this method of irrigation for any crop over a few square feet!) We start selling our wines in the fall and meet our first wine club members: The Harpers!
2008 – Alexis figures this is the best harvest we’ve had so far. Great weather and perfect fruit help us get up to 2000 cases with the assistance of Sean Davis, who now owns and operates his own award-winning winery in the Willamette Valley: Marshall Davis Cellars!
2009 – The name of the winery official changed from Domaine Pierre Noire to Domaine Pouillon. A very hot and early harvest with a few handfuls of our estate grapes being thrown into the mix.
2010 – A cycling angel from the east coast, by the name of John Walsh, crosses the country to help us finish planting and irrigating the vineyard. He stays on for a cool and late harvest. Patience paid off in 2010 with excellent balance and structure in the wines. A wildfire starting on Old Hwy 8 burned all around us in August.
2011 – Brrr. Our coldest year yet! Only one day in 2011 was over 90˚F and this led to underripe fruit that needed extra care in the winery and long cellar aging before release. So late and cold was this harvest that we produced our first (and only) Ice Wine, Saint Lyle du Frigo. 100% viognier frozen on the vines, and oh so good! This year, we were lucky to have a young Brendan Simpers of Willow Wine Cellars help us out on the crush pad. Our first child is born in November, just a couple of weeks before we wrapped up harvest!
2012 – A ‘Goldilocks’ harvest, and our first real harvest from the estate vineyard. Braced for another cold and difficult harvest, we were pleasantly surprised (and much wiser!) to have perfect fruit in abundance. Plans began to build a new tasting room near the vineyard.
2013 - Now harvesting fruit from our Estate Vineyard, McKinley Springs, Underwood Mountain, Larsen Ranch, McCarthy Vineyard, and Coyote Canyon we experience how the grape harvest can stretch from early September to Thanksgiving. Cameron Larson joins our team and makes a lasting and positive contribution to our wine family. We love you Cameron!
2014 – A superabundant harvest in Washington and Oregon. The quality of the grapes was outstanding, but pushed our small winery to its limits! We finished our new tasting room in February and welcomed our 2nd child in the same week.
2015 – A dry, hot summer led to another great harvest capped off by a hard frost in October. We expanded to other markets, selling wine in DC, MD, NY, and VA. Kyle Ocean joins our sales team and develops a disc golf course in the vineyard and helps us host an incredible ‘haunted warehouse’ for Halloween.
2016 – Sara’s first harvest! We harvested Syrah for rose around Sept 14th. Unfortunately, this year, Alexis experienced a car accident 2 days before harvest and our focus became helping him heal. Much of the winemaking and fun of the harvest, fell by the wayside. In the end, Alexis is all healed up and we had lots of wine to sell in our cellars!
2017 – Family member, Tyler Damato shared his humor and NYC hipster knowledge of natural wines with us. And who could forget that Solar Eclipse? By far the biggest event from 2017 was the Eagle Creek Fire. The fire started over the Labor Day Weekend and high winds carried embers from the inferno nearly ½ mile across the Columbia River. We were very fortunate to not be affected by the fire, but many of our neighbors were – losing crops, homes, and belongings.
2018 – Teddi joined our team as our Assistant winemaker! Bringing a wealth of knowledge from multiple harvests in different hemispheres, she has elevated our winemaking style. 2018 was a strange weather year, with lots of cold temperatures in June and hard rains starting in October – making for an extreme rush to get all the fruit picked before it was washed out.
2019 – Heavy snowfall and late bud break. Summer temperatures were cooler than in previous years, with a notable lack of heat spikes. Rains began early in September and forced us to pick early. Tomas Sinor from Sinor-LaVallee Winery joined us with his youthful demeanor and strong back – two qualities we prize very highly around here!
2020 – Ahh… 2020. The year we all remember! In case you weren’t in the PNW for the summer and fall conflagrations: heart-breaking fires raged all around us causing devastation and some of the worst air quality in the world from 9/11-9/14 with particulates getting up to 687. Smoke damage caused crop loss in all our grapes except the pinot we use to make Pet-Nat. At least we had something to drink during the lockdown and quarantine.
2021 – Remember the record-breaking heat dome that started in May? Our peak temp in the vineyard was 122˚F. Despite that, acids held up well and the weather cooled down in September and October allowing for longer hang time than expected. Alexis and Teddi continue to make excellent wine and their skills brought in 2 platinum and 1 gold medals!
2022 – An extended wet and cool spring with April snowfall of about 9” means the vineyard is three weeks late in ripening. Considering the inconsistency in weather from year to year, it’s impossible to predict if that will translate into a good or bad harvest. As always, we keep our fingers crossed and our eyes on the grapes. The saying goes, “The best fertilizer is the farmer’s shadow on the soil.”
We have a lot to be thankful for
This year, nearly all of our lives have been touched by tragedy and hardship. Now, as we enter winter, we are counting our blessings and remembering the bright moments of the past year. Our fond memories of friends and family are made all the more poignant by our distance and the difficult contortions we must go through to guarantee mutual safety. Instead of dwelling on what we can’t do, we’ve chosen to send this note of gratitude for the amazing experiences many of us shared...
This year, we are thankful for those closest to us.
Despite incredible lock-downs, working from home, and worries about health, our intrepid crew stayed with us through it all. They even mustered their brilliant sense of humor as we asked them to dress-up for this year’s staff photo-shoot we titled “Masquerade 2020.” Alexis even found his inner Molière as he added humor to the occasional drudgery of mask-wearing.
This year, we are thankful for the buoyancy of the natural world.
Looking up into a clear blue sky! No planes, no clouds. I honestly can’t remember a time when the sky was as clear and bright as it was in April. Then there was seeing the animals reclaim “our” spaces after only a short two-week period of lock-down. Spending this magical time with those closest to us was a sweet gift we’ll look back on and cherish.
This year, we are thankful for the magic of childhood.
Yes, working from home and teaching your kids at the same time is hard. We have been blessed with this hard work. In our life, there are two small people who have forced us to explain in simple terms, the complex issues of racism, disease, and politics. They have taught us the real difference between big and little worries. They have kept our minds in the present and our eyeballs off social media.
This year, we are thankful for you.
Your willingness to flex and pivot - following us into the online world (for a short time!) and continuing to believe in our brand is really what has made 2020 a sensational year. In all honesty, when mid-March hit and closure was mandatory, we looked at each other and said, “Well, it’s been a good run.” Nonetheless, you have continued to surprise us and other small businesses in your ability to support the products and people that make up our communities. Yes, your support matters. Supporting each other and recognizing our shared humanity is the only thing that matters in this difficult time. When it’s time to re-open, don’t be surprised if the hugs are tight and we have tears in our eyes.
With deepest gratitude,
Alexis, Juliet, Teddi, Sara, Lorrie, Theresa, Jean-Pierre & Genevieve
Update on Tasting Room Operations
May 19, 2020
Today, Alexis and I are celebrating our 13th wedding anniversary. We swore love, promised patience, and even committed to ourselves creating a place we could welcome everyone into. It’s no mistake that our tasting room has the intimate feeling of someone’s home.
Today is also day 64 of Covid-isolation in Washington State. Not a day has gone by since March 16th, that we haven’t had deep discussions, napkin diagrams of scenarios, or emotional derailments concerning the future of the family business. I know each day for you is a roller coaster ride filled with highs and lows. We are all on the same ride, just 6 feet apart. In many ways, it seems we have gone from a society of instant gratification to one of longing for human connection (something many of us squandered before now).
After deep discussion with our thoughtful staff, we came to mutual and unanimous agreement to keep the tasting room closed for the remainder of 2020. This was a difficult decision for everyone; however, we believe that it is best to remain closed to ensure our ability to fully re-open in 2021. For just about every small business I know, being partially open or open at 50% capacity with wary customers is a recipe for disaster. We are values-forward winemakers. We have always placed people and community before profit and now we are being called upon to put those values into action in a way we never could have imagined. Please know: we are longing to see you in our home, but we recognize this is a selfish desire when people’s safety is even the least bit in question.
The good news is… we have greatly improved our skills at getting wine to your home and have felt the deepest gratitude that you are choosing our wine to enjoy. New releases of our incredible wines will continue to pop up in your inbox! I want to reassure you that we WILL re-open when the time is right and when we can guarantee the experience of our family, our supporters and our staff is one of joy, and above all else, safety.
With gratitude – Juliet & Alexis Pouillon
Doubtless, many of us have been thinking about the mothers in our lives more often these days than we have in the past. Our mutual lockdowns have created an environment of nurturing ourselves in ways we may have neglected, bringing into stark relief what’s important, the closeness we crave and the necessities we’ve taken for granted. I am blessed with two mothers: my biological mother and my stepmother, both of whom I have come to have a greater appreciation for as I find new depth in myself to nurture and comfort my own children in these strange times. We can never thank our mothers enough for the time and love they gave us during their lifetimes. But let’s keep trying, shall we? Mom, thank you for always answering when I call, for being a friend and confidant, offering comfort when I need it, encouragement when I have given up, teaching me skills I never thought I would need (like sewing a face mask), demonstrating how to stand up for myself and earn respect, showing me when to speak up and when to stay silent. You are loved and your love continues to grow in your amazing, hilarious, and (sometimes) bonkers grandchildren.
stay in the know
Sign Up For Our Newsletter
Keep up to date on the latest wine releases, events, and promotions and get 10% off your next order.