Hiyu's Ongoing Search For Beauty And Magic

Hiyu's Ongoing Search For Beauty And Magic

Hiyu's Ongoing Search For Beauty And Magic

Back on the East Coast for the first time in over a year

 

Nate Ready of Hiyu Wine Farm, in the shadow of Mt. Hood in the Columbia Gorge. Before Hiyu he was one of the top sommeliers in the world, working at the French Laundry in Napa and Frasca in Boulder. Illustration by J. Kemp

It's no secret we are fans of the Hiyu wines at Vanderbilt Ave. I'm personally a big enough fan that when I heard news that Hiyu would forgo distribution in NY and instead sell their wines direct to customers, I joined their wine club as soon as a spot opened up. To me, they convey the delicate rawness of my favorite natural wines but with more depth, more expression, and more consistency. They are always a thrill to open and have been some of the most pleasurable and transportive wines I've had in the past few months.

Recently Hiyu found a new distributor in New York, so there's no need to join the Hiyu wine club to get your hands on these. As always, they are limited, but I know they are not for everyone. Hopefully that means there will be enough for everyone who wants them! If you have any interest in these wines, you should know that they are not widely available and, especially given what Oregon is up against regarding climate change and fire — the future of these wines is sadly unpredictable.

VIEW ALL HIYU FARM WINES

For those unfamiliar with Hiyu, it is a project centered around 30 acres in the Columbia Gorge. 14 of those acres are under vine, with over 80 grape varieties represented in blocks of field blends that are meant to represent historical vine plantings. For instance the block that the Cretaegus comes from is based on Syrah and genetically-related Alpine varieties like Gros Beclan, Lagrein, Teroldego, Mondeuse Noire, Marzemino, Roussanne, and Viognier. This is a unique approach.

Hiyu raises pigs, cows, chicken, ducks, and geese as well, and the pigs' rooting in the vineyards even is used to mark where to plant vines. There is a fundamental emphasis on permaculture and minimizing spray treatments — significantly less than most organic and even Biodynamic vineyards — 85% less, according to Nate. They use no sulfur even in the vineyards, combating mildew with cinnamon oil, for example, and spraying herbal tea mixtures for other vine treatments.

The methods used at Hiyu are hardly common, and are not for the faint of heart. It's a lot to take in, even when visiting. Maybe it was just my New York skepticism that seems to be even more piqued around our mystically-inclined West Coast compatriots, but I remember this vague sense of something being a little too perfect, too harmonious, too good to be true. The vineyards were beautiful, the ideal of what I've seen in all my visits in the US and Europe, but still I had doubts in spite of what I saw. They couldn't really be doing all of what the claim, could they? In most cases my instincts are right in this regard. But since my visit to Hiyu a few years ago, as I keep tasting the wines and learning the particulars of each cuvée and each vineyard block, I am more convinced than ever that what is happening at Hiyu is poignant, earnest, and special — it's not smoke and mirrors.

Every time I taste the wines I feel the urge to look closer, to inhale the wild aromas more deeply, to suspend my disbelief. If we have any calling when talking about wine it's the responsibility to urge others to look more closely at things they may have ignored, taken for granted. It's to ask our friends to not only stop and smell the roses but to stop longer, to take in the fragrance more deeply. Not every rose deserves this. Every wine I've had from Hiyu sure does.

Cheers,

Jonathan

jonathan@vwm.wine

The tasting notes and descriptions from Hiyu are so well-written and on-point that I've included them below with just a few of my own comments. ~Jonathan

Image of Hiyu Smockshop Band
Hiyu Smockshop Band "Floreal" Cider NV

$36.00

Notes courtesy of Hiyu: The project is a collaboration with the Jacobson family who farm a Biodynamic orchard at the base of Mt. Hood. The property lies at 2000 feet, 11 miles from the summit of Mt Hood and has been a farm since the turn of the century. The 60 acre orchard is irrigated with glacial water and the soils are loam composed of volcanic glass fragments. Almost 100 varieties of apples, pears, crabapples and quince are grown here, with the majority of apples heirloom or cider varieties. The ciders made are a blend of up to 35 varieties, among them Ashmead's Kernal, Wickson, Hudson’s Golden Gem, Ribston Pippin, Cox’s Orange Pippin, Dabinette, Frequin Rouge, etc. The ciders are all made in the following way: apples are aged for a month after picking, milled and macerated for a week and pressed in a basket press traditionally lined with straw. They are then fermented and aged in old barrels. After this the styles diverge, but we always use fermenting juice from the next vintage to initiate the secondary fermentation in bottle and we never add anything but apples.

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Image of Hiyu Tzum
Hiyu Tzum "Fionn" Spring Ephemeral Red 2020 [2 btls. max per customer]

$51.00

Notes courtesy of Hiyu: There is 1.5 acres of Zinfandel planted at the site we farm in the desert. It’s on a steep cobbled hillside on the North side of the site. The soil is very shallow and the shoots barely reach the first wire, begin to yellow by midsummer and are struggling for survival. The wine that emerges from this struggle never fails to surprise me. It's always one of the last parcels to be picked, often after all the leaves have fallen and it rarely ripens beyond 22.5 brix. The wine that results from this is atypically, perfumed, floral and delicate for Zinfandel. It tastes more like some long lost aromatic grape variety, that only grows on the cliffs of a single village, in a forgotten mediterranean isle. This is a spring ephemeral version. It's bottled immediately after fermentation finishes in the early spring and is brighter, fresher and fruitier than longer elevage versions from this parcel.

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Hiyu Tzum "Moon Hill Farm I" Columbia Gorge White NV [2 btls. max per customer]

$70.00

Notes courtesy of Hiyu: This is the second release of wine from this two acre vineyard adjacent to Hiyu. They were once part of the same turn of the century farm and we have cared for the vines alongside ours since 2015. The parcel is planted to heirloom Wente chardonnay clone cuttings taken from Celilo vineyard on Underwood and smaller amounts of Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir. We released a small 600 liter cuvée of very dense Chardonnay from 2016, but the rest of the wines from 2015 from 2020 have now been assembled in a series of 500 liter puncheons to age together. The various vintages represent a kaleidoscope of styles and ways of looking at the site. In some vintages the wine saw extended maceration on the skins, in others it was directly pressed. Some vintages were very fresh, while others showed more salty and oxidative characters. The resulting wine is very deep, shimmering pink in color, with aromas of salted melon and lavender honey. It is both focused and texturally expansive with subtle and enveloping tannins.

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Image of Hiyu Tzum
Hiyu Tzum "Eriu" Columbia Gorge Red 2019 [2 btls. max per customer]

$70.00

Notes from Jonathan: Sandalwood, blueberry pie, and fruit leather. A lush, viscous texture with some tarragon and the smoky umami of a spicy merguez sausage. Absolutely delicious. Notes from Hiyu: Eiru is a one-acre field on the eastern side of the site we farm in the desert on the banks of the Columbia. It’s adjacent to Aine, at higher elevation and like that wine is planted to Grenache. The soil in this part of the site has a higher percentage of cobble vs. sand than the parcels to the west of it and all of these factors conspire to produce a more high pitched and ethereal rendition of Grenache than the more dense wines that emerge from Aine’s amphitheater of deep sand. The wine smells of rose water, orange peel, sage and tart strawberry. It’s very pale and as delicate as a red wine can be before slipping into the realm of rosé.

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Hiyu "Crataegus" Columbia Gorge Red 2018 [2 btls. max per customer]

$70.00

Notes from Jonathan: Hiyu calls this an 'Italianate Cote Rotie' and it seems fitting. Smokey cedar and pine aromas are met with gamey anise, blackberry, and green olive. There's a leafy, sage note that brings home the Italian comparison, and the crunchy, dark layers and lean profile remind me of Bernard Levet's uncompromising Cote Roties. Lively, complex, and engaging stuff that will reward aging. Notes from Hiyu: This is the half-acre parcel of Alpine varieties at the top of the hill adjacent to Arco Iris. It’s a field blend based on Syrah and includes all of its genetic relations from the foothills of the Alps. It can best be understood as an Italianate version of “old school” Cote Rotie. This parcel is always one of the last to ripen and we usually pick it at the very end of the vintage. I prefer parcels of this nature; ones that need to be picked at the very end of the season after the leaves have fallen. They offer bigger changes in style from vintage to vintage and reflect the year with greater fidelity. This parcel produced an extremely delicate wine in 2017 and 2019 and an absolutely epic one in 2018. This is one of the most concentrated wines from the farm from this vintage. While it is possible to drink it now, it really demands at least a decade of aging and should evolve positively for far longer than that.

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Hiyu "The May" Columbia Gorge Red 2014 [1 btl. max per customer]

$150.00

Notes from Jonathan: This is a splurge to be sure, but having had the solera version of this several times it always impresses and has been one of the 'wines of the night' at a few gatherings I've attended with some other notoriously hard to get bottles. I haven't had the single vintage bottling of this but I am very excited to try it. Notes from Hiyu: The May is the original 2.5 acre section of the vineyard that we began farming in 2011. It’s in the far western corner of the property surrounded by the forest. It has the steepest aspect and produces the most intensely perfumed wines of the site. The wines were made from co-fermented, own-rooted Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris from 2012 to 2016 (there was also a tiny amount of Syrah vinified separately). There were two wines made. The May I and II were both made from multiple vintages from fermenters that spent the whole winter on the skins and were pressed in the spring following the vintage. The single-vintage bottlings had more conventional macerations from 30-70 days and typically spent two to three years in barrel. We started grafting in this part of the vineyard in 2016. There are now four different field blends made from the parcel; Avellana, Hypericum, Crataegus and Cornus. This is one of three vintages made by China and Nate from the original 2.5 acre parcel before grafting. Own-rooted Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris were fermented whole cluster in puncheons with the heads removed. The wines spent 70 days on the skins before being pressed directly to barrel with a manual ratchet press. The wine was aged on the lees for 24 months in older barrels before being bottled by hand.

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