Perched high on a hill, Eileen Vineyard has a commanding view of the Cristom Estate, the Eastern Cascade Mountains, and the Western Coastal Range. The vineyard’s elevation soars from 540 to 705 feet, giving Eileen the highest elevation on the Cristom property. Eileen is also known for having the youngest vines: 16.6 acres of Pinot Noir were planted in 1997; in 2007, 4.52 acres of Wädenswil clone Pinot Noir were added. This gives Eileen the distinction of having the youngest vines on the farm and the largest planting. Named for Paul Gerrie’s wife (and co-owner of Cristom), Eileen Gerrie, the Eileen Single Vineyard Estate Pinot Noir was first released in 2000.
High elevation and young vines greatly influence the quality of Eileen’s fruit. So does exposure: the vineyard has the most south facing exposure of any of Cristom’s estate vineyards. Only the newly planted Wädenswil block faces due east. Like other single vineyard Pinot Noirs, the soil is predominantly basalt, specifically Jory and Nekia soils. A ridge of shallow Witzel soil running north to south through the 114 block of Dijon clone pinot noir creates a particular farming challenge that vineyard manager Mark Faltz has coped with this through irrigation.
Clones & Rootstocks
Eileen Vineyard’s 16.6 acres of vines are composed of plantings of Dijon clones (114, 115, 777), Pommard (also known as UCD 4), and Wädenswil (also known as UCD 1A). All are grafted to phylloxera-resistant rootstocks. The block of Wädenswil clone grafted to 3309C makes up more than 27% of the total Pinot Noir plantings in Eileen Vineyard. It is the youngest planting and also the only Pinot Noir block in any of the estate single vineyards planted at 6 feet by 6 feet – a sparse 1,210 vines to the acre. The next largest planting in Eileen is Dijon clone 777 grafted to Riparia Gloire that comprises 22% of the vineyard. Next comes Dijon clone 115 grafted to 3309C (21%), Pommard clone grafted onto Riparia Gloire (18%), and Dijon 114 grafted onto 3309C rootstock (the remaining 12%).
Textured, layered and creamy on the palate and often recognizable by its bouquet of sweet spices.
As the vineyard with the highest elevation, Eileen is the first estate vineyard to catch 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. This cool ocean air results in lower average temperatures at night than the northern Willamette Valley, and helps to maintain good acid structure in the wines. Due to these cooling winds, there is a high diurnal temperature variation – meaning that there is a significant difference (often 35 degrees or more) between Eileen’s daytime high and nighttime lowest temperature. This significant temperature shift helps encourage the grapes to ripen more slowly, resulting in later picking dates and more hang-time on the vine.