The Greatest Earth … on Earth


The Zelkos preferred the wines from what is now the Eola-Amity Hills AVA because they liked “the gutsy, earthy backbone and black fruit flavors.” The site is situated at 150 to 400 feet with soils ranging from Yamhill to Woodburn.

Pinot Noir gives a sense of the place where it is grown. In truth, every soil has its own flavor, but no other grape variety changes as much depending on the site of the vineyard. As Z’IVO now enters the second decade of harvests, John and Kathy remain convinced that they chose an ideal location for our vineyard. The shallow volcanic and sedimentary soil in this rocky, east-facing hillside produces Pinot Noir with intense black fruit, spice and earth tones. They planted five separate clones of Pinot Noir because they believe the site and the clones make an ever-changing and improving mix as the vines age.

The Z’IVO estate vineyard sits on the north tip of the Amity Hill facing due east at the northern edge of the Eola-Amity Hills AVA in the northern part of the Willamette Valley. They chose this site because of the shallow volcanic soil at the top of the hill and the river sediment from the ancient Missoula floods at the bottom. Both are excellent for producing Pinot Noir grapes.

The soil types found here are the volcanic Yamhill B and C on the upper slopes, blending into the fresh water sedimentary Woodburn series at the lower part of the vineyard. Although these two soil types are radically different, their location on this hill and the local microclimate provide full flavor development in both Pinot Noir and Pinot Blanc.

Send in the clones

To achieve a complete spectrum of flavors, they planted five clones of Pinot Noir: Dijon 115, 777, 114, 667 and the original Pommard. All are grafted onto 3309, a phylloxera-resistant rootstock. The planting is moderately high-density at 2,000 plants per acre. This helps concentrate the flavors without compromising the health of the vines. The Zelkos are intrigued with the Dijon clones and thought that a blend of multiple clones would yield a more complex and age worthy wine distinctly different from the wines based solelyon Pommard and Wädenswil clones which are so prevalent in Oregon. John thought that a mixture of earlier ripening clones in a slightly warmer site would favor more years with adequate ripeness… and that is what happened. The Z’IVO wine styles are big and bold, the use of native yeast fermentation has resulted in the complexity he preferred and the wines are maturing well.

Handcrafted for quality

In the cool and somewhat unpredictable climate, Z’IVO employs labor-intensive practices throughout the growing season to achieve uniformity of ripeness. The aim is to produce the best possible balance of sugar, acid and flavors. Like most of their neighbors they favor cane pruning. Shoot selection, canopy management and fruit thinning are set to a biologic time sheet as old as mankind has grown grapes.

With resolve and hope, they watch the season unfold and take what Mother Nature provides in the fall. All the gambling  regarding vineyard management are made early and can’t be undone. John and Kathy believe the site and the clones make an ever changing and improving mix as the vines age. In essence, the site plays the melody and the clones add the harmony.

Sustainability in every bottle

Among the many winemakers sprinkled throughout these hills, there is a love of the Earth and a deep desire for sustainability and preservation of our environment. Z’IVO’s estate vineyard is LIVE certified. LIVE (Low Input Viticulture and Enology) requires sustainable farming practices, such as reducing, or eliminating, the amount of raw materials (water, fertilizer, chemicals, pesticides) used in vineyard and winery production. It is a whole farm certification (based on a points system) that is a multi-year certification process.

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