As a part of our Industry Insights series we are featuring A.J. Kemp, co-founder and viticulturist at Hawks View Cellars. A.J., alongside his family makes a beautiful single vineyard Pinot Noir, a "white Pinot" made from Pinot Noir grapes, and a lush Pinot Gris that is farmed just like Pinot Noir (very low yields). Hawks View Vineyard is located in Chehalem Mountains AVA in Oregon.
We were lucky enough to meet A.J. this summer and taste through his wines while he was visiting his consultant winemaker Adam Lee (Siduri Winery). We were instantly enamored with his style, and were eager to learn more. Enjoy our conversation with a new favorite:
Why did you choose to focus on Pinot Noir?
As a native Oregonian, Pinot Noir is the varietal that put our region on the map. Our family purchased our 1991 planted vineyard in late 2002, and I began working full time on the crew in 2003. Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris taught me everything I know about viticulture and were natural fits when we launched the Hawks View Cellars brand in 2007.
What makes Hawks View vineyard special?
Hawks View Vineyard is unique in its clonal diversity, elevation, and rootstock. Planted in 1991 to seven different clones of Pinot Noir, two thirds of the property are own-rooted which lend to more old world character of Burgundy. The variety of grafted rootstocks carve another prism into the diamond that allow for some racier ripeness. Cap it off with a perfect East facing hillside and consistent airflow and we’ve got a special place to grow world class fruit.
What is the most challenging element to your job?
Less challenging and more alluring is vintage variation. As a farmer and a winemaker you must learn from each vintage’s lessons, yet remain flexible as rarely is there one right answer when it comes to making the best wine.
What would you say is the most important aspect to making wine?
Making wine from Hawks View Vineyard begins with the farming and ends with the blending. In talking with our longest tenured winemaker Adam Lee of Siduri, we agreed that you have to be willing to hedge your bets when it comes to picking decisions and building the best blend. Sometimes it’s best to pick a block at multiple points during harvest given the weather we can experience in Oregon instead of pulling all of the fruit at once. Blending introduces an additional layer of complexity as you piece together the entire puzzle of a vintage. In the great years this means having to make the tough calls to leave great barrels out of the final blend.
What brought you to the wine industry?
Family brought me into the wine industry. We purchased the vineyard in 2002 and instead of following my degree in economics to NY for a career in finance I returned home to work on the farm. Simply put, I learned to farm grapes by farming grapes and it was the best decision I ever made.
What do you do when you aren’t working?
Living on the vineyard stitches farming and winemaking into your very being. Even more fortunate is that my wife Rachel grew up farming in Northern Minnesota and now we are living our passion. As the family expands we both believe in the power of experience and make sure to travel annually as well.
What are you tasting?
I’ve been on a beer kick recently. The proliferation of elegantly crafted hop specific beers is an awesome step for beverage in general. Much like the importance clones to Pinot Noir, seeing the marketing effort behind single (or blended for that matter) hop beers gives me great hope that we’ll see beer lovers who haven’t ventured into wine to take the leap.
What is the best piece of advice you have received that you would like to share?
Never forget who brought ya to the dance.
Check out Hawks View Cellars!
Contact us to purchase a bottle of their Pinot Gris.
More Industry Insights!