Antica Terra Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, Oregon, USA, 2008



Drunk July 2015

Having previously tried the 2007 Antica Terra Pinot Noir vintage on a meal out, I obtained a few bottles of the 2008 vintage which have been sitting in the cellar for a while.

The winery

The inspired moment, the one that changed everything, occurred in the midst of a nervous breakdown, after a bout with malaria, on an island off the coast of Kenya. In this moment, facing her traveling companion's request to “put down her beer and get serious,” doubting her ability to return to Chicago and begin her career in conflict resolution, Maggie Harrison decided to become a winemaker.

Maggie Harrison

Maggie Harrison

This simple decision, incredible luck, and her own tenacity sent her to Ventura County where she landed, without any experience, the holy grail of winemaking apprenticeships. Maggie worked for nine wonderful and life changing vintages under the tutelage of Elaine and Manfred Krankl at the iconic winery Sine Qua Non. In 2004, at Manfred’s urging, she started her own Syrah project called Lillian. At this point she could see the rest of her life unfolding clearly before her. She and her husband Michael would settle down in Santa Barbara and raise a family. 

She would tend to the barrels at Sine Qua Non and make tiny amounts of her own exquisite Syrah on the side. But her well-laid plans were not to be.

This all changed in 2005, when Scott Adelson, John Mavredakis and Michael Kramer, three friends on a search for land, visited Antica Terra. Over the years, they had collaborated on countless projects but had always dreamed of starting a vineyard together. This was not the first time they had visited a piece of land with this dream in mind, but something was different this time. It’s hard to say if it was the subtle breeze from the ocean, the majestic stands of oak, or the fossilized oysters hiding among the boulders, but they knew immediately that this was the property they had been looking for.

Scott Adelson, John Mavredakis and Michael Kramer, Maggie Harrison

Scott Adelson, John Mavredakis and Michael Kramer, Maggie Harrison

When Scott, John and Michael asked her to become the winemaker at Antica Terra, she emphatically refused. But the three friends were clever. They asked Maggie if she would simply take a look at the vineyard and offer her opinion about the qualities of the site. She reluctantly agreed. Twenty-six seconds after arriving among the oaks, fossils, and stunted vines, she found herself hunched beneath one of the trees, phone in hand, explaining to her husband that they would be moving to Oregon.


The vineyard is an 11 acre vineyard located on a rocky hillside in the Eola-Amity Hills of Oregon’s Willamette Valley.


The geology of the site is extremely unusual. In most of the region, vineyards are planted in the relatively deep, geologically young soils left behind by either the Missoula floods or the volcanic events that formed the Cascade Range. Here there is a mixture of sandstone sown with fossilized oyster shells. The vines are spindly and frail with tiny clusters of thick-skinned berries are less than half the usual size and fit easily in the palm of the hand. The smallest changes in the environment can cause the leaves to turn yellow and fall.

The wine

2007 in Oregon proved to be difficult year starting cool and dry and while the weather never warmed it rained a lot and the vintage was affected by significant late-September and early-October rains. This made picking a big challenge and for the better producers they got it right with Pinot Noir which was feminine in style - elegant and light. 2007 was certainly not seen as a great year for the region. My previous foray into Antica Terra Pinot Noir was in the context of this 2007 vintage and despite the weather it was mighty good.

This 2008 Antica Terra on the other hand benefitted from an easier Oregon growing season. Cool weather in September kept grapes from ripening and it looked like rain was on its way like in 2007 but it was not to be. Fortunately for wine makers the sun came out in October and there was no rain which meant that growers could pick and choose when they harvested, optimising ripeness and flavour with picking going on in some vineyards to Halloween. This meant a great vintage and some say one of the best ever vintages though yields were down around 20% because of poor weather at flowering which produced smaller, uneven grape bunches and smaller berries. The result was more flavour concentration, structure and more tannins in the Pinot Noirs. 

The 2008 Antica Terra Willamette Valley Pinot Noir is 13.5% alcohol with just over 1100 cases produced 52% Antica Terra, 27% Shea and 21% Cherry Grove vineyards. 90% de-stemmed without crushing (10% whole cluster). Aged in 31% new and 69% 1 to 3-year-old French oak barrels. Never racked until sent into tank for bottling and completely Unfined and unfiltered. 

Fermented Grape review

The wine had strong aromas of spice, raspberry, cassis and cherry. The wine was wonderfully balanced with a nice freshness but with earthy, spicy and savoury notes persisting giving great length with a fruity burst.  If you are looking for complexity on the nose and on the palate this 2008 delivers in spades. I enjoyed the 2007 Antica Pinot Noir, and I loved this even more. A bit of time in the cellar has really softened any excessive tannins and made this wonderful with food and cheese. A great example of what the Willamette valley can produce.