The Hood River Valley is a place that reverberates with energy. As we walk through the forest’s thick foliage, there is no man-made sound to be heard, other than the odd snap of twigs from beneath our feet. It’s almost as if we can feel the heartbeat of nature herself. It wouldn’t surprise us if there really were fairies living underneath the dense shrubbery.
This energy is what Nate Ready and China Tresemer of HIYU are committed to preserving on their farm; their goal is to grow vines, vegetables and tend animals with as little interference with nature’s own rhythm as possible. This means working in tandem with nature, never against it. Instead of seeing the negatives (weeds as competition, mildew as bad), they flip their thinking - for example, which plants might be beneficial to the vines? How can the present microbial population be increased so that there’s less room for mildew to take hold?
Nate and China are the two people on a tandem bike, of which the framework is nature. They sit on top of a complex functioning world that gives them life, and their aim is simply to respect it and to help create an environment for it to flourish: for nature to thrive, for the bike to run more smoothly.
"The important thing is that you never create a blank canvas and then populate it. You’re always replacing or drawing over what existed before, and trying to do that in a way that involves as little disruption as possible. You paint over it and try not to have systematic thought, instead working in response to everything else that’s living on the property. It’s much slower, but you end up seeing things that you wouldn’t have seen if you’d just implemented things en masse."
People: Nate Ready & China Tresemer
Place: The Hood River Valley, Oregon
Varieties: 107+! (yes, really)
Hectares: 12, of which 5.5 are planted to vines
Farming: Permaculture, with elements of biodynamics
Wines: Click here
Did You Know? Every half-acre block is different to its neighbour, and each is planted to a field blend of different varieties that represent a certain moment or location in the history of the European grapevine, vitis vinifera. This means that you will find a Burgundy section, for example, which is planted to Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc, Aligoté, Chardonnay, Pinot Meunier and Melon de Bourgogne, but you’ll also find Portuguese sections planted to several indigenous varieties of Portugal. There are also sections based on historical legends surrounding the founding of Santiago de Compostela, and a section dedicated to the genetic family tree of Syrah.
What many don’t know about Nate Ready is that he was until recently a master sommelier. He abdicated his MS title in light of the Black Lives Matter movement, as he felt the way the court is managed is in direct opposition to his own beliefs about society and social and racial equality, expressed in this letter. At HIYU, they also introduced a diversity fellowship.
So one might think that Nate’s love for ampelography and grape varieties might have stemmed from his educational sommelier studies, but in fact it was only sparked several years later having passed his exam, when the “WINE GRAPES” tome by Jose Vouillamoz, Jancis Robinson and Julia Harding MW was published. It details the 1,400 grape varieties used for wine production in the world, and tells their histories and genetic relationships. It left him completely spellbound.
“I find such immense pleasure in that book, just sitting down and thumbing through the pages. I found it so alluring but also so frustrating - because I wanted all of them! All those varieties, but didn’t think that was at all possible.”
However, when visiting a nearby grower named Steve Thompson, of Analemma Wines, he discovered that it was possible to buy budwood from the famed wine university of California, UC Davis. They had 450 grape varieties available. It was like bees to nectar; Nate being the bee, the varieties being the nectar. So, by planting rootstock and by grafting, he was able to introduce 107 grape varieties to HIYU; a number that is still growing.