It was overcast the morning we headed out to Montinore Estate. That’s not unexpected in Oregon. What was unexpected for me was how vivid the colors were under the cloudy sky. We headed out from Newberg, through a bit of a drizzle for our half our drive to Forest Grove. As we got closer, the drizzle dissipated and the vivid colors of the fields and trees woke me up, probably better than the coffee in my cup.
We were heading into what will soon be the Tualatin Hills AVA to meet Rudy Marchesi who has been the driving force behind this AVA.
We arrived early and wandered the grounds, cameras in hand, taking in the beauty and capturing it to share with you here.
The Estate is named Montinore as a combination of Montana and Oregon, so don’t try to give it an Italian twist as I did. It’s not Mont-i-noray, even though Rudy’s last name is Marchesi.
Big leaf maples line the drive on the way in. You are greeted by the tasting room to your right and then the southern style mansion built in 1905 by John Forbis. I have heard that the home was actually a Sears kit house. This particular morning it was resplendent with purple hydrangeas in bloom.
Finally, I turned around and there was the view, vineyards, trees, and bright green field dotting the landscape. It’s easy to see how Rudy became enchanted with this place. We headed into the tasting room to meet Rudy.
A little about Rudy Marchesi
Rudy Marchesi had just stepped down as President of the Montinore, handing over the reins to his daughter Kristin. He was returning from his first vacation in years and was kind enough to spend his morning with us before heading off to lunch with the grand kids.
Rudy’s grandparents were from Northern Italy, where they grew their own food, as well as grapes to make their own wine. At that point in time, sustainable was just what you did. Rudy sold wine on the east coast, he also grew grapes and made his own wine. While working for a distribution house dealing with fine wine he came across Montinore. He began consulting with the vineyard in 1998, worked as their president of Operation and then President and became the proprietor in 2005. In 2008 the vineyard became Demeter Certified as Biodynamic. The family is committed to sustainable agriculture and living, just like Rudy’s grandparents. It is a legacy that Kristin continues.
The History of the Montinore
We spoke first about the history of the property. John Forbis came to this area from Montana where he was an attourney for a copper company. He and his family moved to Portland where he worked for the railroad. The property here in Forest Grove reminded him of his home in Montana, and so he named it Montinore.
After owning the property for a couple of generations, the Grahams, who were lumber people bought the property in the 1960’s.
As we talked about the land Rudy painted the picture of the vineyard, before it was a vineyard. It had been planted to hazelnuts for a time and been a cattle ranch. I had forgotten how close Mount St. Helens was. In 1980 when Mount St. Helens erupted, the lower fields then were planted to vegetables and the eruption buried it in 4 inches of ash. Visualizing that will stick with me.
If you have not heard of this eruption or need a refresher to be able to visualize this, you can check out this
from the Smithsonian Channel.
Becoming a Vineyard
The Grahams had an Ag survey done by both UC Davis and USO and the results encouraged them to grow wine grapes. They planted 300 acres.
They planted the vineyards in 1982 and had their first vintage in 1987. In 1990 they had their first vintage from the winery.
The vineyard now is around 200 acres. They lost some to pheloxera. They have another 30 acres vineyard in the Yamhill-Carlton AVA and a longterm lease on a 20 acres vineyard in the Chehalem Mountains.
This is the recent history. The Mount St. Helens eruption from almost 40 years ago is modern history in this neck of the woods. This area and the reason it is looking to become an AVA is due to natural events from long before that.
We will be digging into all the loess and basalt and ancient redwood forests, that lie under Montinore Estate in our next post where we speak with Rudy about the proposed Tualatin Hills AVA and what sets it apart.