The Wild Side of Permaculture
Hiyu is a different kind of vineyard, a different kind of winery, a different kind of farm. It’s run by a different kind of winemaker and it makes a different kind of wine. And, that is what makes it special.
Nate Ready used to work as a sommelier in various fine establishments, including the lauded Thomas Keller’s French Laundry in Napa Valley. Today, he runs a permaculture farm in the Hood River Valley in Oregon.
Hiyu is a true mixed farm with pigs, cows, chickens, ducks and geese living among the vines during different parts of the year and helping to control the vegetation. Nate calls their vineyard management, which has been deeply influenced by Masanobu Fukuoka, “the wild side of permaculture”. They grow food and wine together while working towards regenerative agriculture. Working with their in-house team, they create truly farm-to-table experiences that speak of the special place that is Hiyu Wine Farm.
Hiyu has an alpine climate within the Columbia Gorge. Nate says that the Gorge is a great place to farm because of the amount of variation within the Gorge. The property is divided into half-acre blocks, each planted to a field blend from a different place or moment in the genetic history of the grapevine. As of earlier in 2021, there were approximately 112 grape varieties planted across the farm, plus more in other plots that Nate and his team works (not to mention the other fruits that Nate ferments)! The original seven acres was purchased in 2010, which included the first 2.5 acres of vineyard and the microfarm. In 2015, they added another 15 acres (14 acres of vineyard). There are currently 16 co-planted parcels that create 16 wines. These parcels do not perform predictably and they are more than the sum of their parts.
In any year, Hiyu releases as many as 40 different cuvées in several ranges.
All of the winemaking followings the same pattern. It flows from their farming and is uber-traditional. During harvest, they cover about 2.5 acres/day (1-3 tons per day) of whole cluster berries. They do not sort or destem – this is to preserve the berries. For reds, grapes are untouched for 5-10 days, foot trodden, and then pressed in a small-basket press before going into older barrels. White grapes are tred by foot and 60-70% are free run with only 30-40% going into press. All wines undergo slow, natural fermentation. Bottling is done by gravity, often directly from barrel, resulting in wines that can be cloudy but will settle clear.
They produce three levels of wines:
- Hiyu Wines – “Estate” wines from grapes grown on the farm
- Tzum Wines – Single parcel (“micro parcel”) wines from around the Gorge
- Smockshop Band – Blended wines
Released at three times:
- Spring Ephemeral: Early bottlings that are about fruit and energy.
- Regular Bottlings (No Statement): 18-36 months.
- Perennial: Older wines that are about transformation.
The name “Hiyu” comes from Chinook Jargon, where it denotes “abundance”, “plenty” or “big party”.
China Tresemer, the estate’s co-founder and agriculturalist, is also a talented illustrator who creates all the labels.