Antica Terra ᛡ “Not a vineyard that a sane person would have planted”, to quote Maggie Harrison, Antica Terra’s tenacious and gifted winemaker. It is a rugged forty-acre parcel in the Eola-Amity Hills of the Willamette Valley, Oregon, an area with a reputation for structured and deeply flavoured Pinot Noir with bright acidity. The vineyard faces southwest and sits on the crest of a hill whose soils were formed by glacial action during the Missoula floods. There is more rock (volcanic basalt from ancient lava flows with marine sedimentary rocks and alluvial deposits) than actual soil: a mixture of sandstone and alluvium filled with oyster shells.
Maggie first made her name as assistant winemaker at Sine Qua Non. An opportunity came up in 2005 when the Antica Terra vineyard was put up for sale. Three partners took it on and Maggie came on board as winemaker. The vineyard had first been planted with Pinot Noir in 1989. When Maggie and her investors purchased the site there were just six acres of vineyard. They have since increased it by twenty acres, no mean feat given the intensely rocky make-up of the site. Indeed this task involved the extraction of a mind-boggling 3,600 tons of rock.
Initially it was difficult to believe that the vines were as old as the former proprietors claimed: they looked more like four year old than sixteen year old vines. This was down to the paucity of soil, and indeed when soil analyses were made in a variety of different parts of the vineyard, it was discovered that some parts of the vineyard which looked to be in decline were in fact planted in just 18 inches of soil. Even though they have since ripped through some of this rock, the vineyard remains a naturally very low yielding one with stunted, dwarf vines producing tiny clusters of grapes with character and concentration of flavour, and which has never yet achieved two tons per acre (around 27hl/ha).
It is hard to imagine that it can be possible to be more meticulous and attentive to detail than is Maggie, which is not to imply that such precision is at the expense of soul. These are some of the most thought-provoking and sublime wines we know.