Beckham Estate Vineyard 2016 Amphora Grenache

An innovation, thousands of years old

Oak barrels, of course. Stainless steel tanks, sure. But clay pots?

That’s right. A high school art teacher and ceramics artist, Andrew Beckham is shaking up the wine world by making wine in big clay amphora, those open-topped vessels more often seen in antiquities museums adorned by naked Roman gods.

It was 2005, and Andrew and Annedria Beckham cleared a few trees around their home to build Andrew a ceramics studio out back. Along the way, he met a few neighbors growing grapes for wine. Before long, they cleared more trees, planted their own grapes, and Andrew took up winemaking.

But that love of ceramics? It never went away. Inspired by those ancient Romans, he started with 60-gallon amphora. Now, he’s cranked out dozens, as big as 200 gallons – and in different traditional shapes for different styles of wine.

The temperature control afforded by the amphora makes for a more slow and stable ferment, which leads to smoother and rounder flavors in the wine. Now, winemakers are racing to get their hands on their own amphora and learn what they can from the pottery-teacher-turned-winemaker.

Cellar 503 Tasting Notes

Beckham Estate Vineyard, Sherwood, Oregon
2016 Amphora Grenache

Oh, Grenache. Almost always released in a blend with Syrah and Mourvedre, Oregon winemakers are increasingly making a name for themselves with Grenache-only bottlings. Light and juicy, it’s a perfect wine for those late spring, early summer days.

The grapes for this wine come from organically-managed vineyards in Southern Oregon and were completely fermented in terra cotta amphora using only native yeast. To add a little more texture and body to the wine, Beckham aged half the wine in 10-year-old oak barrels and half in the amphora. The wines are unfined and unfiltered, so expect a slight cloudiness.

The sweet strawberry and cherry jam flavors are balanced with a vibrant acidity and an underlying base of minerality from the amphora. The tannins are there, but not overwhelming. The tendency of Grenache to be overly ripe and jammy isn’t so in this wine, the fruit is nicely with hints of spice and dusty rose. Only 130 cases made. So good!

A Cellar 503 selection in April 2018, Environmentally Thoughtful Wines Rogue Valley | Grenache

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