Close to six years ago, I wrote about Craig Camp, a well-known visionary, wine professional and my friend, who left a high profile position at a Napa boutique vineyard. Craig told me he was ready to feel the energy and intensity of the wine industry that he felt when he first entered the business.
He talked about wanting to feel the electricity that only comes from being on the edge looking down into the unknown. And finally, he talked about wanting to make a difference in the Applegate Valley of southern Oregon.
We talked recently about his thought process back then. How fruit kept going up in price and how he was getting tired of making wines that people couldn’t afford to drink. He wanted to experiment, have freedom to farm organically and biodynamically and grow a plant that the area wants to grow.
I remember thinking – where? The Applegate Valley is a 50-mile-long AVA north of the California border. It’s full of small family farms known for produce and cattle and 275,000 forested acres consisting of 19 wineries known as the Applegate Valley AVA.
Craig initially came to help improve the vineyard and get it ready for sale. But when Denise and Bryan White purchased the winery in 2016, he realized he could make a real difference at Troon and this was his longer-term home.
He now had a mission that aligned with why he moved back to Oregon. It was to resurrect Troon into a biodynamic vineyard and to help restore the vines to a healthy place. They did soil studies to figure out what to plant. At the 100-acre ranch, 45 acres are planted to wine grapes and these existing vines are being replanted as the soil recovers. This is a seven-year recovery process requiring the replanting of existing vines. To date, they are three years in.
I had a chance to meet the White’s back in 2019 They told me then, “We didn’t find Troon, it found us” and talked about the plans to evolve and rejuvenate the winery and the brand.
Troon Vineyards has gone all in on biodynamic standards and a commitment to sustainability. The overall goal is to heal the earth – from doing a study of vineyard cellular technology by genetically sequencing of the soil to from replanting the vineyards to phasing out its existing wines in the market. Last year, the company was the second winery in the world to earn a Demeter certification, the only certifier of biodynamic farms and products in America.
Troon Vineyard is the second winery in the world to become Regenerative Organic Certified (Tablas Creek is the other). Founded in 2018, the Regenerative Organic Certification is a certification that has three pillars — soil health, animal welfare, and social fairness. Things like treating workers well, in an industry not commonly known for doing this, is commendable.
You hear a lot of wineries talk about sustainability and there are a lot of certifications out there. Craig has a great perspective on his blog about how there is no endpoint once you’ve received one. Plans continue to enhance the land (animals, produce, etc), help people (wages and healthcare) and improve the environment (lighter bottles, carbon costs, taking capsules off).
Craig talked about how they do biodynamics in a practical way. “We farm our land properly using a proactive, probiotic program to put life back in soils.” He talked about following the biodynamical calendar but being realistic. “We will pick before it rains. It’s taking reality and the business side in account too.”
Troon takes its influence from Southern France and produces Rhône varietals divided over different soils and clones on the property. The winery recently changed its label last year on its Druid’s Fluid — as estate Biodynamic® Oregon Blends. The spiral on the label showcases the Druid’s connections to the mysteries, energy and power of the natural world. It’s.a tie back to biodynamic farming and winemaking.
Six years later you could call this a transformation and Craig is clearly doing what he set out to do. “I feel we have changed the nature of the company. We share the same goal and mission to make the world a better place,” he said. “You can’t separate the humans from the farms – the plants, animals and people all work together. Understanding where the plants grow best ultimately makes better wine.”
And having tasted Troon Wines over the past six years, it’s an exciting and evolving process.