PINOT PALOOZA:

Just start off with very briefly, just tell us who you are and where we are.

Andrew Beckham:

I’m Andrew Beckham, and we are at Beckham Estate Vineyard in Sherwood, Oregon, on Parrett Mountain, in Willamette Valley.

PINOT PALOOZA:

And when did you establish the vineyard here?

Andrew Beckham:

We started here in 2005. What brought us here in the first place is a convoluted story, but we moved here initially to build a pottery studio. I’m a high school ceramics teacher and potter and we were looking for a space to build bigger and better work. And we found the spot in the woods.

PINOT PALOOZA:

And then how did you go from pottery to vineyard?

Andrew Beckham:

We got to know our neighbors who grew pinot noir and chardonnay and were in their early eighties and the idea came from Fred to produce something on our land we could share with other people and our community.

There’s 36 acres in total. We have 16 planted with 10 of those acres are bearing. We grow pinot noir here, riesling, trousseau noir, sauvignon blanc, and we have some experimental varietals that we’re trialling as well.

As a ceramic artist, I’d always been trying to build bigger and better pots, but seemingly for no purpose. And in 2013 my wife showed me an article on Elisabetta Foradori and her use of amphora in northern Italy. And I looked at the photos and said, I can do that, I’m going to make some of those. So I went to the pottery shop, ordered some clay and, and started making amphora the next week.

And we started making wine in amphora in 2013

And the wines were very interesting. They were much more compelling than I think the wines we were making in a more traditional fashion, and that was the catalyst that began this exploration.

PINOT PALOOZA:

I found it really interesting the conversations we were having in relation to obviously the different colors of the amphora. Can you maybe tell us a little bit about what does that mean? What does that equate to?

Andrew Beckham:

Yeah, so we’re interested in exploring what we can tease out of the amphora and part of that has to do with the shape of the containers, but largely it has to do with the temperature they’re fired at, and which clay composition we’re using. So I’m working with about 120 degree temperature spectrum, where we have pots at the low end that have wines that are more oxidative in nature. There’s more oxygen in an exchange between gases and atmospheres in those lower temperature fired pots up to the pots that are fired at the point where they’re vitrified where the silica in the clay has fused into a single mass. And the wines coming from those containers are much more reductive in nature. So in that spectrum we can create nuanced characteristics as if we were using barrels for example, but not they’re terracotta.

PINOT PALOOZA:

Just to explain a little bit for layman’s terms in terms of when you talk about that silica in the clay, why is that… why is that important? And why at the hotter temperature, does it create a more reductive environment?

Andrew Beckham:

Yeah, so the silica is glass and when we heat to a specific temperature, when we get to the temperature where the glass becomes vitrified, that means that it’s fused into a single mass and it’s like a demijohn. So when we heat to that point, there is no porosity left in the container. And from that point moving down, we can create more and more progressively oxidative environments until we reached the point where the containers are not viable and it weeps and leaks. So there is a fine line where you reach a fail point. Both on the high end and the and the low end. If you fire too hot, the containers melt and turn into a puddle

PINOT PALOOZA:

So maybe tell us like the big beautiful kiln that we saw and we’ve got? Maybe tell us a little bit about that and how did you get that kiln.

Andrew Beckham:

Yeah. So the kiln we just installed came from Minot, North Dakota. It was built in Amsterdam and it was just a fortuitous thing. Someone told us that they’d seen an ad over a year ago that was now expired and had saved the contact information and I called the woman and flew out to North Dakota and three months later we have it running. It was incredibly complicated and involved bringing technician here from Amsterdam to install it. But this kiln moves air, it’s a forced induction kiln and it is… it’s allowing us to create a better quality product more efficiently.

PINOT PALOOZA:

And it’s amazing, you do all, you make all of these onsite?

Andrew Beckham:

Yes, that’s correct. Yeah. We make, make the amphora here. I have about 70 of them, maybe 80 that we use in our wine production and we’re now starting to provide them to brewers and winemakers in spirit makers, not only in the Pacific Northwest but across the United States.

PINOT PALOOZA:

That’s amazing. And how long does it take, say from absolute start to finish, how long does that process take?

Andrew Beckham:

It takes about two months. If someone were to call tomorrow and say they were interested in a novum for this coming vintage, it’s about a 60 day duration to go through the forming and drawing and firing process.

PINOT PALOOZA:

So it’s a… it’s a long handcraft time and each one is so incredibly beautiful and individual like it is that they’re… they’re absolutely beautiful and stunning. They are pieces of artwork.

Just very quickly to talk about the pinot. How do you sort of describe the wines from, you know, from this particular area of Oregon. How do you characterize them?

Andrew Beckham:

Well, I think in our particular situation, we’re lucky that we’re higher elevation than some of our pinot growing neighbors. And we have very shallow, rocky soils with a big diurnal shift and lots of wind and we have a pH that tends to be fairly low. So we’re, you know, able to make wines that have good acidity without manipulation.

PINOT PALOOZA:

Yeah. And how much fun has it been… Well, what do you see the difference between your pinot noirs that are made in amphora versus, say, stainless steel or traditional vessels?

Andrew Beckham:

Oh, I love answering this question. For me, it’s the purity that resonates. The wines coming from amphora are very pure in nature. We don’t have any sweet wood tannin, there’s no oak char. The wines have a purity that’s quite remarkable. We build texture in mouthfeel from the clay. There’s a chalky, mineral driven, dusty mouthfeel textural component that comes from the amphora. But the purity resonates more than anything.

PINOT PALOOZA:

So tell me what’s the one thing we have to do when we visit… obviously we’re going to come and see you, but what’s the one thing that we should exc… to get a really beautiful say Willamette Valley experience. What should we do?

Andrew Beckham:

Yeah I think if you’re coming to visit Oregon, you need to see the Oregon coast. It’s beautiful, it’s rugged, it looks different than other coastlines. It’s quite spectacular. And there’s lots to do there. There’s kite surfing, and surfing, and wind surfing, and paddle boarding, and-

You know, there’s just relentless things to do. It’s never ending.

PINOT PALOOZA:

One last question for you. What do you listen to? We saw a lot of CDs in there. What do you listen to during vintage and what do you listen to when you’re making your amphora?

Andrew Beckham:

West coast gangster rap. Yeah. I’m a…, I love the Bay Area stuff. Goldy, Too Short, E-40, Mac Dre, Andre Nickatina. Yeah, I’m a sucker for the west coast gangster rap.

PINOT PALOOZA:

Simply awesome!