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“One of the most promising portfolios that I came across from Southern Oregon was Cowhorn. Bill and Barbara Steele came up to see me in McMinnville to show their Rhône-inspired varietals that were a joy.” - Neal Martin, Wine Advocate
“Bill and Barbara Steele’s Applegate Valley vineyard has been known for some years as Southern Oregon’s viticultural star. But it’s clear to me from the recent releases tasted with them in July... that their renditions of Rhone varieties need no longer shy from comparison with any in the world, even those whose authors are named Alban, Baron or Clape. Given quality this amazing – combined with a climate undeniably daunting, not to mention the assiduous pursuit of biodynamic viticulture – the prices that Steeles are asking are almost alarmingly low.... do not put off any longer experiencing Cowhorn’s wines!” - David Schildknecht, Wine Advocate
“…right now I’m excited by the biodynamic wines of tiny Cowhorn Vineyard” - Matt Kramer, Wine Spectator
“This small, family-owned, biodynamically farmed vineyard and winery is quickly becoming a southern Oregon cult producer.” - Paul Gregutt, Wine Enthusiast
In 2002 Bill and Barbara Steele purchased 117 acres in southern Oregon intending to grow asparagus, cherries and other crops but couldn’t help noticing how much parts of the property resembled the southern Rhône. In many places the ground was coated with tiny smooth stones from an ancient river bed, much like the famous “galets roulés” of Châteauneuf-du-Pape, and this got them thinking it might be a good place to grow grapes. Before deciding what to plant they set up a weather station, began keeping detailed notes on the weather and, after a lot of reading and comparison, they discovered that Applegate Valley’s climate most closely resembled the northern Rhône (based on a 40 year average). With this in mind, they began planting their vineyard to Rhône varietals in 2005.
Cowhorn’s vineyard now totals 16 acres and is Demeter certified biodynamic. Native yeasts, hand-harvesting, hand-pruning, and modest use of new oak are standard here. Non-interventionist techniques are emphasized with the goal of allowing the wines to express their unique terroir. Yields range from 2.2 to 2.5 tons per acre and total production is around 1700 cases.
With just a few vintages under their belts the Steeles have already received impressive critical attention and are gathering a cult following. For those who believe that Oregon can only produce world class Pinot Noir, Cowhorn is glad to disagree.