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Today’s Exclusive: Jacques Tardy – Torii Mor Winery | Dundee, OR.
by L.M. Archer, FWS | Bourgogne ML
In 1993, owner and CEO Dr. Donald Olson founded Torii Mor in Willamette Valley’s Dundee, Oregon to honor his late son Leif Olson. The winery name reflects a blending of east and west: Torii, the Japanese word for ‘gate’, and Mor, the Scandinavian word for ‘earth.’
Today, Torii Mor produces over 10,000 cases, and is the official wine of Portland’s Japanese Garden.
In 2004, Dr. Olson hired Jacques Tardy as Torii Mor’s winemaker. A native of Nuits-Saint-Georges in Burgundy’s Cote d’Or, Jacques hails from five generations of vignerons.
Torii Mor serves as not just a ‘gate to earth’, but as a fulcrum between Old and New World wine traditions. Here, Jacques Tardy talks with the Red Thread™ about how terroir and traditions inform his winemaking:
r/T™: You are a native of Burgundy. You’ve been in the United States since 1982. Do you ever go back to Burgundy to visit?
JT: I go back every three years or so, mostly to visit my family.
r/T™ : Do you see any trends in Burgundian wine making, good or bad, that break from the traditions you learned?
JT: The return to less chemicals in the vineyard will be good for everyone, the workers, the wines, the consumers. For example, I brought in herbicides to my fathers vineyards in the beginning of the seventies, when most were already doing it, it was a big change that my father wasn’t comfortable with but it allowed all who used them to work more acreage.
We now know that it wasn’t a good thing, at least the way we were using the herbicides since we were covering 100% of the ground. It eventually started to sterilize the soil which didn’t help the quality of the wines. Today’s vignerons have learned from those mistakes and are working smarter, still using herbicides but in a more targeted fashion, or they have gone back to tilling without herbicides.
I don’t know if anything has changed in the cellars, possibly less filtration or better filters, I know evaporators and reverse-osmosis have moved in as everywhere else in the world.
r/T™: How does your Burgundian training inform the wines you make today the Willamette Valley?
JT: It is a lot easier to make wine in the West coast than Burgundy, the fruit is a lot healthier to start with and we usually have a longer growing season that allows us to pick when we like instead of Burgundy, where botrytis is present every year and forces the hand of the vigneron many times.
When I started making Pinot Noir in the Willamette Valley I used a lot of stems in the fermenters, which I have gotten away from since the wines don’t have time to age in the producer cellars as they do in Burgundy. The wines are more approachable earlier to satisfy the United States consumers and the three-tier system.
How involved are you in the vineyard, or is your primary focus as ‘chef de cave?’ For example, Torii Mor employs a double guyot training system and organic farming methods.
JT: My first love was the vineyard, so I do manage the estate vineyard at Torii Mor, but most of my time is in the cellar, even though I enjoy visiting often the vineyards we buy fruit from.
Our estate Olson Vineyard is LIVE certified, so is the winery which allowed us to use the Oregon Certified Sustainable logo on our bottling.
As a Burgundy trained winemaker, I need to see and understand the vineyard to be able to make the best wines I know how. Picking decisions are made in the vineyard, not the lab.
r/T™: Do you see a difference in Torii Mor’s wine quality due to organic vineyard practices?
JT: Oregon vineyards are about fifty years old, and the soils here are so rich in life and mineral that I don’t think it makes a difference yet, but it will in the future. Right now it is mostly a marketing matter, because nobody has abused their vineyards yet. Everybody in the business today is in it for the love of wine, the way of life, and not just for profit.
We are just recently seeing the second generation take over from their parents, still for the love of it. This is what was the biggest eye-opener when I came to the United States – people changing career just to be in this business.
In Burgundy I only knew of one British gentleman who settled in Nuits-St.-Georges to make wine. There may have been others but very few I am sure (everybody else had been in the business for many generations), while here it is almost everybody.
r/T™: Burgundy’s climats and lieux dits create an elaborate patchwork of micro-climats that reveal the elegance, refinement and complexity of pinot noir, the most expressive of varietals. Your wines reveal a similar ‘typicity of place.’ Perhaps you can speak to how the Willamette Valley’s terroir influences your wine making?
JT : You might be surprise, but I almost do the same winemaking to all the Pinot Noir. Sure, I do a few different things to a few because of disease or desiccation or low sugars, but most of the decisions I make are applied across the board.
So the difference you taste in the blends come from the terroir, the clones, and the way I put the blends together. Each clone, block, and vineyard is vinified separately and kept separate until I work on the blend in June following harvest, so I have a wide pallet of aroma, flavor, oak, tannin levels, acidities to work with, to craft the best blend I think I can do.
For example, the 2013 Olson Vineyard wine has seven (7) lots, and each lot has new, one-to-two year or older oak – all this out of only eight acres of Pinot Noir. I do the same to the other nine vineyards where I source my Pinot Noir.
r/T™: What would you say differentiates Torii Mor from other wines made in the Willamette Valley? Why do people drink your wines?
JT: I definitely have a Burgundian style, as the wines tend to have flavors other than fruit in them, and to show complexity with earthy, meaty notes. They have elegance and balance, while not pulling too much one way or the other. New oak is always understated; I want the grape and the terroir to show.
I tend to harvest earlier than most, retaining a little more acidity, making more refreshing, lively wines. I enjoy Pinot Noir because they are more intellectual – they provoke emotions, but you need to be patient and pay attention to them. If you are not completely focused, you may miss the show.
Our club members enjoy Torii Mor wines because they are different of other Oregon or West coast producers. They probably also enjoy the more delicate Syrahs and Cabernets out there.
r/T™: As a wine maker, what are your greatest challenges at Torii Mor?
JT: Getting fruit from high end-well managed vineyards. With the sale of many large vineyards by a few large wineries, I am worried that I will be priced out of some vineyards I am buying from today because of short supplies and high demand.
r/T™: Anything else you care to share?
JT: I am often asked if I miss Burgundy and my response is “no.”
I have enjoyed the Willamette Valley, the people, the food, the sights, its diversity. I have no time to regret anything. And now I can even talk and see my family (my mother in particular) through Facetime, so no need to sit twelve hours in a plane to do that.
r/T™: Finally, if wine making in the Willamette Valley has taught you anything, it’s taught you…?
JT: That life is good and I am enjoying it as much as I need.
Monique Bailey, Director of Sales & Marketing – Torii Mor Winery
Jacques Tardy, Winemaker – Torii Mor Winery
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