In 1992, founder of Cristom Vineyards Paul Gerrie purchased a piece of ground that he saw tremendous potential to grow world class Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grapes. The property was an east-facing hillside in the Eola Hills on primarily basalt soils rising up from 200 feet to 600 feet (61 m to 183 m). The upper field was planted to Pinot Noir in 1982 but it had been abandoned in the late 1980’s. Paul would re-name the upper field Marjorie Vineyard, in honor of his late mother, and the vineyard would go on to produce the first estate fruit for the winery in 1994.
Marjorie is distinctive at Cristom both for being own-rooted and for its lower density plantings (605 vines/acre; 1,495 vines/hectare) than our three other estate vineyards.
Marjorie is planted 6 feet between vines and 12 feet between rows, homage to the by-gone era of farming vines with a wide orchard tractor. Marjorie’s rows run from north to south on the gently sloping east-facing hillside, vines are vertically shoot positioned and cane pruned, and this vineyard is one of the few places on the farm that is double-guyot trained along the fruiting wire. After rigorous cluster thinning to ensure low yields and maximize flavor concentration and complexity, Marjorie’s vines are left with 18-22 clusters per vine that each weigh 70 - 80 grams/cluster, depending on the vintage – a testament to the fact that this vineyard produces very small, highly concentrated clusters, and exceptionally dramatic wines.
Marjorie Vineyard can be the brightest and most red-fruit driven of the four estate Pinot Noirs, often supported by a layered and textured structure. A true example of terroir, the soil, elevation, climate, and vine age meet and produce a wine capable of great depth, complexity, and long-term age ability. The first of the single vineyards to be sold out, Marjorie has achieved a rightfully earned cult status, consistently generating some of Cristom’s best fruit.
Marjorie Vineyard is 8.5 acres (3.4 ha) of vines planted in the heart of the hillside between the lower slopes of Louise Vineyard and Eileen Vineyard at the top of the hill. The vineyard has a gentle slope from 480 feet to 600 feet (146 m to 183 m), planted in moderately deep Columbia River Basalt soil called Yamhill with a small section of the vineyard planted over shallow Witzel on the north end and very deep Saum on the southern edge. The 15.5 million year old silty clay loam soils drain well and allow the roots of the vines to drive deep into the ground.
Clones & Rootstocks
Marjorie is the only estate vineyard at Cristom that was originally own-rooted when it was planted in 1982. The original plantings were Pommard, Wädenswil and Martini clones of Pinot Noir. In 1999, we grafted over the Martini clone to Dijon clones 114, 115, and 777. Phylloxera began to take hold with noticeable damage in 2000, and by the 2014 vintage, just less than 3 acres (1.21 ha) of the old vines were still producing high quality fruit. Beginning in 2004, we began re-planting Marjorie with Pommard, Wädenswil, 114, 115, 777 grafted onto phylloxera resistant rootstocks 3309C and 101-14.
Marjorie boasts a sweet, spicy bouquet of cinnamon, star anise and clove.
The maritime climate of Marjorie Vineyard has moderately warm days, especially cool nights and strong nightly winds that cool the vines and the fruit allowing the clusters to retain acidity and produce wines of great structure and length. Lying due west of the Cristom estate is a low-lying corridor in the coastal mountain range known as the Van Duzer Corridor. The Pacific Ocean winds that rush east hit Marjorie Vineyard with nightly gusts of 20-25 mph throughout the growing season. These chilly marine breezes moderate high summer temperatures, move air through the canopy lowering disease pressure and cool the vines helping 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 Marjorie’s daytime high and nighttime low 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.