Wine is a Work of Art
Location: North Plains, North Oregon, USA
Owner & winemaker: Jarad Hadi
Vineyard area: 5 acres (out of the 26 of the farm’s total) estate-owned + varying amount of fruit from vineyards that Jarad farms for his neighbors
Vineyard management: practicing organics & biodynamics
Soils: loess on basalt
Main varieties: Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, field blends of Jura/Savoie varieties
Annual production (approx.): between 500 – 1,000 cases
Winemaking: Spontaneous fermentation, no fining, no filtration. No sulfur at crush and minimum upon bottling.
- Jarad studied viticulture and enology in Bordeaux, which reinforced his philosophy of “wine is made in the vineyard, not in the cellar”
- He farms his own 5 acres of young alpine varieties while also consulting and taking care of several neighboring properties, from which he then selects grapes for his own wines
- All the vineyards are high-elevation sites close to Jarad’s farm, located between an altitude of 800 and 1500ft
- The name Grape Ink is inspired by the intersection of art, poetry, and wine-growing, a combination encouraged by Jarad’s marriage with Italian artist Giulia Schiavon, who also designs his labels
- Grape Ink releases wines twice a year, with the winter release showing the length and structure that can be achieved at high elevations and a more experimentational catalogue in the summer
“Sorry for the shaking, there’s a rooster chasing me,” Jarad Hadi, the owner and maker of Grape Ink, a 26-acre farm and winery in Northern Oregon, bemusingly apologizes as the image on his end of our Zoom call starts to blur. This little episode is entertaining proof of Hadi’s “farming first” philosophy, which is quickly evident and continues to wind through our conversations.
This approach was greatly influenced by his viticulture/enology studies in Bordeaux, France, which he undertook after being nudged by his mentors Victoria Coleman of Lobo Wines and Michael Silacci of Opus One. Classical as it was, the French degree experience led Hadi to understand that great wine is made “with intuition and intent rather than refractometers, brix and malic acid levels; that rules are made to be interpreted rather than categorically followed; that each year should present its own story; that soil is more important than grapes and soul is more important than technique,” he recalls.
“It also truly validated my philosophy that wine should be farmed and not only made in a cellar. Creating the wine that I envisioned doesn’t happen in the winery, it starts way before: how I shade the grapes, how I design trellises, the very choice of a given site. You work very differently depending on if you want to have something ethereal like my summer releases, or make a wine made to last,” Jarad describes how far the spirit of the wine and difference in its style truly go for the vignerons.
But back to France: after completing his master’s degree, Hadi spent some time working for the famous Chateau Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande (a second-growth Pauillac estate) before embarking on the globetrotting occupation of a winery / vineyard consultant between Argentina, France, California and his native Oregon. While still helping people design cellars and vineyards, farm ethically or make better wine both in Oregon and around the world, Jarad firmly settled in the northernmost tip of the Willamette Valley after buying a farm in North Plains in 2018.
His 26 acres of land mostly consist of wild forests, with 5 acres of newly planted vineyards and a similar area of meadows and garden. In addition to the territorial rooster and his flock, the farm also houses a couple of pigs, who mow the grass among the vines, or alpacas that are traded with the neighbor in a pasture-for-precious-droppings exchange. “They are our fertilizers, perfect to enrich the soil on certain sites that need a helping hand,” Hadi laughs.
The farm and the neighboring vineyards that Jarad cultivates or consults while also sourcing some fruit from them all sit at rather high altitudes of between 800 and 1500ft above sea level. “I’ve always liked high-elevation fruit – the longer growing season gives it a lot of texture and a lot of acid. Low alcohol, high personality, finesse of the different soils. I think the most interesting, expressive things happen at this fringe of just ripe – this is a place where sometimes the grapes can barely ripen,” Jarad beams about the thrill of high-elevation winemaking that made him choose this area. “I also found the Willamette to be one of few places that had attention for creating quality wines, but still had space for new ideas,” he admits.
Right now, the high altitude means that not every year allows him to make all of his wines, as the vintage variations are more pronounced in these areas. But, for Hadi, it’s a bet for the future – he predicts that the sites that might be challenging now will be the perfect response to climate change in probably less than a decade. His choice of varieties for his own plantings – the Jura / Savoie darlings Mondeuse, Savagnin or Trousseau, as well as some Alpine suitcase cuttings – also reflect his penchant for the cool climate.
Another thing that Jarad likes about the area he chose is the camaraderie between the winemakers (case in point: Grape Ink was recommended to us by Joe Swick). “We see each other as collaborators, not competitors,” he nods; Jarad himself encourages the community by actively promoting the recently created Tualatin Hills American Viticultural Area (AVA) that he’s part of. “A lot of people tell me to just focus on my property. But I don’t think one producer can change a region. Whereas if we group together, we have a good chance to show what we think is special,” he explains in a Forbes interview. The change he means is not just about hype, but – yet again – about farming.
“I believe no one wants to use herbicides and pesticides, but sometimes people just don’t know how to do without them. So part of my work here is showing people that they can let go of systemic products without losing their crops or money if they’re willing to dedicate the time – making wine in a natural way is so much about the right timing,” he explains.
In the cellar, the wines generally follow three rules: no sulfur at crush, native yeast, no fining, no filtration and minimum use of sulfites upon bottling. Some are more classic, some experimental, reflecting the scientific as well the artistic sides of Jarad’s wine nerd / poet / pianist personality. As the brand name Grape Ink suggests, “grapes are a wine grower’s materia prima and the true source of creation; our hands are only a guiding element to transpose an idea that comes from this source. Our project was created to capture our localized dreams, draw stories of wonderful and difficult vintages, of the poetry we find in polyculture and its natural cycles,” Jarad muses.
The artsy side also definitely stems from Jarad’s wife and collaborator, Italian artist Giulia Schiavon, who designs his labels (like the beautiful, hand-painted Canvas of the Valley rosé with an actual canvas on its limited bottles) and helps around the winery when not busy with their newborn child. “I still do all the tasks in the winery, helped by interns and friends, but she’s my number one – really good at pruning, loves driving the tractor, and she has an amazing palate on top of all that.” Given both Jarad and Giulia are only in their early thirties, it seems to us like there are way more stories written in Grape Ink to come from this union of art and wine…
Canvas of The Valley — Back to the top
Jarad on this wine: “This rosé is farmed and harvested specifically to showcase the increased vivacity and finesse of Willamette Valley’s most northern vineyards. It pays homage to the aromas of spring and the energy of the first daring flowers to open up on a brisk sunny day.” The labels of this wine are a real canvas, hand-painted by Italian artist Guilia Schiavon.
Grapes: Pinot Noir
Vineyard: wind-blown loess over volcanic basalt. 15-year-old vines, organically farmed. Tualatin Hills AVA, Willamette Valley.
Making of: Hand harvested. Full clusters are processed with zero sulfur and directly pressed into small stainless steel fermenters to retain low temperatures.
The light-hued rose-colored must is fermented slowly over 3 months outdoors by native yeast obtained through the grapes in the vineyard. After 6 months of sur-lie aging, the wine is carefully racked and bottled.
Personality: Citrus, rose petals, and cherry blossom aromas carried by bright waves of texture and acidity. 11% ABV only.
Days Until Harvest — Back to the top
Jarad on this wine: “Days until Harvest was created to bring forth an unadulterated expression of Pinot Noir from the most Northern Vineyards of the Willamette Valley. Our interest resides in the purity and transparency of the specific sites, and their unique texture, acidity, and rustic personality. This is a grower’s pinot noir that celebrates the time we spend throughout the season getting to know these vineyards, their soils, flowers, and fruits. The soils and high elevation are the protagonists here; the wine shows natural reduction and tension from its volcanic parent material. In each site, a small section of the vineyard is chosen to create an honest profile of what we farm throughout the year in our neighborhood.”
Grapes: Pinot Noir
Vineyard: 15 to 30-year-old vines on volcanic basalt and wind-blown mineral soil. Tualatin Hills AVA, Willamette Valley. Soft-pruned double guyot
Making of: The grapes are all hand-harvested and processed with zero sulfur. The grapes are then placed in open-top neutral
barrels and tubs that allow for slow fermentation. After 20-30 days of contact with the skins, stems and seeds, the wine is put to rest in neutral barrels. The wine ages for 18 months in a cave in Oregon’s coastal mountain range. Bottled unfined and unfiltered.
Personality: “a pure wine in which I can taste the soil where it was grown. I can taste the wind, the volcanic land and smell the gardens that are next to the vineyards. Bayleaf, dark tea, redcurrant and volcanic stone,” Jarad says.