HOW WE FARM

Quality. Attention. Life. Soil.

Across the 240 estate and 90 acres of vines, we incorporate a multitude of winegrowing and agricultural paradigms – organic and biodynamic farming principles, agro-ecology, permaculture and integrative pest management methods – to enrich the soil and enhance the quality of fruit. Using the Rudolf Steiner view of the integrated farm as a guide, we integrate these different farming methods to generate healthier ecosystems for the biology in the soil and to have greater vitality and diversity of life on the farm to enhance plant health. Farming using these methodologies is good for the ground that provides for us and we are preserving and enhancing the land for the future generations of stewards.
Sheep helping with vineyard care at Cristom Vineyards

We bring together a lot of farming methodologies but it starts with organic and biodynamic farming principles. We want to help establish and grow biodiversity across our entire farm to promote a healthier ecosystem for all living organisms. Site expression is not merely from the geology in which the vines grow – it is also from the living organisms in the soil. We encourage biodiversity below the ground and above it – from the microorganisms we help to nourish in the soil to plants and cover-crops we grow between vines, and the sheep and chickens that roam the grounds – all help bring greater diversity of species to our farm. And we focus on soil health. The teas and compost we apply promote microbial activity and maintain nutrient balance in the soil to build soil health. And healthy soils are good for all (plant) life.

Biodynamic preparation work at Cristom Vineyards

We are winegrowers at Cristom.  To us, a winegrower means we are farming to grow the finest wine we can make.  We are farmers and winemakers, taking each row of each block into thoughtful consideration as we craft the wines.  We farm the five estate vineyards – Eileen, Jessie, Louise, Marjorie, and Paul Gerrie  – with impeccable vine management and care, low yields, and a block-by-block mentality to try to match the right practices to the soils to achieve vine balance, fruit quality and vineyard site expression.

Unearthing biodynamic preparations at Cristom Vineyards

With biodynamic principles as the basis of our farming approach, and Rudolf Steiner’s vision as our model, we are transforming the estate into an integrated farm, one in which the land we farm provides all that we need.   We have acreage for our sheep, chickens and quail, fields in Paul Gerrie Vineyard seeded to grasses that become the base of our compost piles, we are members of the Willamette Valley Oak Accord with efforts to restore the oaks between Louise and Marjorie Vineyards and acreage of forest will never be developed, our vineyards have been certified sustainable through LIVE (low Input Viticulture & Enology) since 2007 and we have begun to develop area for an insectary in Marjorie Vineyard and established two small food gardens for our employees and their families.

Mixing preparation in a barrel at Cristom Vineyards

The winegrowing team at Cristom has more than 200-years of combined experience farming and making wines from the estate vineyards.  Twenty dedicated people work to grow the fruit and craft the wines, making this one of the most experienced and consistent groups in the wine industry in North America.  It is the team in the vineyard that allows us to work with magnificent fruit in the winery, vintage after vintage regardless of the weather conditions, bringing consistency to the intensity and quality of fruit.

TRUE GEOLOGICAL COMPLEXITY, COOLING MARINE WINDS

The effects of the cooling marine winds off the Pacific Ocean and the dynamic range of volcanic soils that span our island hill chain in the heart of the Willamette Valley help to define the wines of the Eola-Amity Hills.  The lava flows that formed over millennia during the Columbia River Basalt flows on our east facing hillside range from just over 18 inches of topsoil to more than ten feet creating differences in the wines that are planted mere feet apart allowing for extraordinary site expression.  The roaring winds that funnel through the Van Duzer corridor, the lowest point in Oregon’s Coast Range and due west of Cristom, help to cool the vines down at night and preserve bright acidity and fruit aromatics.  The winds can be fierce, with gusts up to 25 mph, helping to drop the daytime temperature by more than 35 degrees F during the growing season.  These high winds translates to cooler temperatures in the Eola-Amity Hills allowing the fruit more time to hang on the vine while retaining bright acidity.

The vineyards welcome the cool Pacific Ocean breezes that flow through the Van Duzer Corridor. The corridor allows cool marine breezes to flow east into the Willamette Valley and moderates high summer temperatures, cools the vines, and moves air through the canopy to reduce disease pressure. This cool ocean air results in lower average temperatures at night, and helps to maintain good acid structure in the wines. Due to our altitude and location on the 45th parallel, there is a high diurnal temperature variation – meaning that there is a significant difference (often 35 degrees or more) between our vineyard’s daytime high and nighttime lowest temperature during the growing season. This significant temperature shift preserves the natural acids in the grapes, helps encourage the grapes to ripen slowly, and often can result in later picking dates and thus more hang-time on the vine.

Distinguished Site Expression

The five estate vineyards at Cristom were named in the Burgundian tradition to differentiate the slopes into individual, distinguished sites. Each vineyard is farmed with impeccable attention to detail to craft wines that represent a vintage and a place. Predominantly east facing on Columbia River Basalt volcanic soils, our hillside has tremendous geological complexity across the nearly 500 feet (152 meters) of elevation change from the bottom of Louise Vineyard to the top of Eileen Vineyard.

 

Cow horns and nettle pots preparation at Cristom Vineyards

We have acreage for our sheep, chickens and quail, fields in Paul Gerrie Vineyard seeded to grasses that become the base of our compost piles, we are members of the Willamette Valley Oak Accord with efforts to restore the oaks between Louise and Marjorie Vineyards

 

With Integrity & Hard Work

Our incredible experience in the vineyard manifests itself in more than twenty individual touches per vine over the course of a growing season.
Salomon Orozco (pictured) has been farming at the Cristom estate since 1993. Salomon leads a tenured vineyard crew of fourteen men and women averaging more than nine years working the vineyards at Cristom.  Salomon has helped to compile an extraordinary team of dedicated people with an eye for farming, a relentless appetite for work and fastidious attention to detail.  Salomon’s son Jorge, and nephew Luis Armando, a next generation of farmers have been here themselves already for more than a combined thirty years.  It is this group of people and their attention to detail and decision making that separates Cristom into a very unique and rare group for our size winery. 

We farm for quality. We farm for our future.

We are a vineyard first, and we are more than a vineyard.  We are stewards of a piece of ground that provides and creates for us.  We are stewards of a craft and product that is truly distinct.  We are stewards of a brand that connects with people around the globe.  We are all stewards at Cristom for the health of our land and the health of our people.

We farm using organic and biodynamic principles because we believe that is best for our soil, the microorganisms within it and for future generations who will shepherd this ground and these vines.  This whole farm is a living organism and we must do what we can to enhance and enrich our grounds to promote a diverse, living, natural ecosystem. The decisions we make on a daily basis are guided by the belief that we are working toward something bigger than ourselves and the value and outcome of our work is going to last beyond our own lifetimes. 

We Have A 100 Year Plan of What This Land Will Look Like In The Future. The Way We Farm Will Get Us There.

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