Tim Jones stays cool when it rains.
As an Oregon winemaker, Jones doesn’t fret a September or October rain. He’s made wine in Washington and California, where a late season rain could send crews on a rush into the vineyard to pull in fruit in a hurry. But in Oregon, Jones has embraced unique weather challenges that each vintage can deliver.
It’s part of the joy of making wine in a place with unpredictable weather.
“For winemaking, vintage variation is exciting because there’s no recipe,” Jones said. “It’s not that way at all. I don’t write anything down. As a winemaker, I need to be on my toes when it comes to winemaking style. I’m like a basketball coach that watches film on another team to build a scouting report, but has to still have to be able to call the game as it goes. That’s very much what happens in Oregon. Every tank, every vintage is different. Some have been easier than others.”
With the 2019 vintage, Jones turned out an excellent pair of wines at a great value with the Acrobat Pinot Gris 2019 ($19) and Acrobat Pinot Noir 2019 ($19).
“In a vintage like 2019, I had to remind myself this is Oregon, and we don’t panic,” Jones said. “But I have to know when I deal in the physical world when it’s tons of grapes and sugar levels, those are things you can touch, feel and taste, but I can also relax a little. It’s farming, and sometimes there’s nothing we can do as winemakers.”
What he did was turn out the Acrobat Pinot Noir 2019 ($19), a medium-bodied pinot that is surprisingly moody with dark fruit flavors, Christmas spice and a meaty, gamey note. The Acrobat Pinot Gris 2019 ($19) has yellow apple, pear and an oily texture that was a fun drinking experience. It’s perfect for a sunny spring day or some spicy food.
Oregon pinot gris is always an affordable and exciting wine. It’s got characteristics that are great for a white wine, as it’s able to ripen without getting sunburned, therefore retaining its acids. Yet, it’s easier to find chardonnay or sauvignon blanc on store shelves.
“There’s just not enough planted to supply the demand,” said Jones about pinot gris. “Believe me though, I’m looking.”
Because Acrobat retails for less than $20 a bottle, Jones feels a connection with his consumers.
Single vineyard pinot noir often exceeded $40 per bottle, but with the Acrobat blend, Jones can scour the entire state and use multiple AVAs to capture what he said is “specific expressions of the vintage.”
By blending multiple sites – no easy task in Oregon where ripening isn’t always predictable – Jones also is able to keep costs in check and give an overview of the growing season. He said he likes to “wormhole a lot,” when it comes to the blending process in the pursuit of getting what goes into the bottle just right.
He’s enjoyed the fact that Acrobat is most likely not headed for long-term cellaring when it’s purchased. There’s an instant gratification aspect to making these wines, and he wants to make sure he over-delivered in terms of quality.
“As a winemaker, it’s fun to make things your wine geek friends might like,” Jones said. “But think of it like someone having a midlife crisis. They go out and buy a Ferrari, but are scared to ever drive it. They don’t get any joy from it. With Acrobat, I know it will be consumed and enjoyed. You can make it the wine to drink with dinner on a Tuesday night, watching the game with friends, or even take it on a hike or a rafting trip.”
Acrobat very much represents Oregon, which is exactly what Jones wants.
“In Oregon, place is so much more important than anywhere else,” Jones said. “The place here drives the style. That’s the kind of winemaking I love.”
• James Nokes has been tasting, touring and collecting in the wine world for several years. Email him at email@example.com.