The brains and the brawn, the science and the passion…the perfect pairing for making wines. Ross and Bee consider themselves to be a “true yin and yang team.”
Ross & Bee Maloof of Maloof wines exude joy when you speak with them. They are truly excited, bubbling to tell you about these wines that they are so passionate about. And it’s contagious. When we spoke with them at the Uncommon Wine Festival at Vista Hills Vineyard, they were multi-tasking, pouring glasses and keeping up multiple conversations at the same time.
Their story, while not easy, is kind of dreamy. Bee is an aerospace materials engineer, rooted in science, while Ross comes from a hospitality background, running Food and Beverage programs on the east coast in Phili. Ross had this urge to get into production and got into wine doing an internship with Brianna Day of Day Wines. Brianna runs Day Camp, a wine cooperative and home to 11 small producers, one of which is now Maloof.
In 2015 they made a single barrel of wine, while living a bi-coastal life, just coming to Oregon for harvests.
“Ross: In 2016 I had left my job in Philadelphia and I lived in a tent behind the winery from the middle of July through Thanksgiving and Bee came out for a really good portion of that too. She took all her vacation
Bee: and I’d been saving it for years and years and years
Ross: Spent it all
Bee: In a tent”
So they spent the harvest in a tent behind the winery to fund their first vintage. At this point, they decided to make a go of it. They returned to Phili, packed up the stuff they didn’t sell, put the dogs in the car and did a 33-day drive across the country, with stops along the way to visit family.
This year they will be doing their 4th vintage, but they have only been full time residents since last May.
They focus on white wine, making 6 or 7 wines each year, with only one being a red wine and even that wine is typically 30% white fruit. Their style is
“Bright, snappy, low alcohol, high acid white wines.”
As we got into tasting the first wine Bee gave us a disclaimer.
“Bee: This first one is our possibly, I don’t want to say our most boring, because it’s very classic. (But) It’s going to get weirder going forward.
2017 Nemarniki Vineyard Riesling
“Bee: This is our 2017 Riesling, it’s from a really cool vineyard at the top of the Chehalem Mountain Range, kinda just down the road, the Nemarniki vineyard and it is run by a female farmer, which I’m always a big proponent of. She and her 3 legged mastiff dog, Babe, basically make the best fruit on Chehalem Mountain, it’s so good. We fermented this super classically, low and slow over the winter, in large format neutral oak puncheons, so 500 liter puncheons and then we bottled in the spring. And you’ll notice there’s a little sparkle to it, a little frizzante.”
A couple of extra notes: Nemarniki is Dry Farmed, LIVE Certified, sits at 850 feet and the soil here is Loess. The alcohol sits quietly at 10.5%, and it runs around $18 a bottle.
They suggest spicy pizza (they actually will suggest a type of pizza to pair with any wine. Pizza is kinda their thing), or Asian dishes with lots of umami. They refer to this wine as “Stone-fruit moon juice”, which is an apt description.
Maloof wines 2017 “Where ya PJs at?
“Ross: (This) wine is our fun little spring blend, this is what we think of as our answer to a rosé. This is a blend, it’s 55% Pinot Gris and the Pinot Gris was fermented on the skins, kind of as you would traditionally ferment a red wine. So we ferment that, on the skins in two different fashions; we do half of it with full skin contact and daily punch downs and then the other half we actually do carbonic masceration. Then that’s pressed off and blended with Riesling. So it’s like 55% skin contact Pinot Gris and 45% Riesling. And this wine is called “Where Ya PJs at?”
The Pinot Gris came from Johan Vineyard which will be in the new Van Duzer Corridor AVA when that is approved and the Riesling, like the Riesling above came from Nemarniki in the Chehalem Mountain AVA. Soils at Johan are silty loam and Nemarniki is loess.
Which pie to enjoy this wine with? They suggest a white pizza or “a bowl of popcorn over your favorite John Cusack movie”
This wine sits at 11.5 alcohol and will set you back a whopping $21 (do it if you can)
2017 Beckenridge Vineyard Gerwürztraminer
We moved onto the final wine they were pouring on this particular day.
“Ross: So this last one is our Gewürztraminer. This is from Beckenridge vineyard, just outside of Eola-Amity Hills. The vines here are turning 40 this year. They are own-rooted so really old vine Gewürtztraminer for Oregon. It’s a really lovely little place. We take this fruit and ferment it fully dry on the skins which ended up taking about 23 days. So that’s 23 days skin contact before it was pressed off to neutral oak for the winter and bottled in the spring.”
This wine is from Beckenridge Vineyard. The vines here are own-rooted and dry farmed and they are LIVE Certified. The elevation is 650 feet and the soil is Jory.
On their site they describe this wine as “rose petals and black tea” and “A brooding copper color, with nourishing aromatics of flowers and cheering alpine herbs”. The alcohol goes up another notch to 12.5%, which still sits on the low side in the universe as a whole, and runs $20. They suggest pairing this wine with root veggies and alpine cheeses, oh, and Pizza…always with pizza.
As I noted the rich color of the Gerwürztraminer, Ross filled us in on their approach to this wine:
“Ross: Yeah, so essentially if we kinda think about wine in the binary of white and red, white wine you are typically pressing the grape and separating the solid matter out of the equation and just fermenting the juice by itself and that’s why white wine is bright and acidic and easy to drink. Whereas red wine, you crush the grapes and you leave all that solid matter, the skins, the seeds, the stems sometimes, you leave that in and even kind of reincorporate it.
I think of it as steeping tea. The skin of the berry is really where all the pigment is, that’s why even with table grapes, if you go to the grocery store and you buy red grapes, if you cut one open it doesn’t bleed red onto your counter it’s white on the inside, which is why Champagne is crystal clear and it’s made of Pinot Noir. As you increase that steeping time that contact time with the solid matter, in the fermentation, you get more color pigmentation. So if you take white grapes and do the same thing you would normally do for a red ferment, you end up with this copper hue.
But what you also end up with is a white wine that has more phenolic bitterness or drive complexity and tannins. So things that you might more often associate with a red wine. There are a number of wine cultures in the world that have been making white wine that way forever. The Republic of Georgia, parts of Slovenia, north eastern Italy, make their white wines, the same way they make their red wines. That’s just the tradition and how they make it.”
This wasn’t the first reference to Georgian wines we had heard today and finding these “Orange Wines” made the day pretty unique.
Other Maloof Wines
They were not pouring their Syrah on this particular day, but I asked about it. It was two weeks from bottling at that time. In 2015 they did a classic Syrah/Viognier blend. This year though, it would be Syrah/Marsanne. It was planned to be a Syrah/Marsanne/Roussanne but the Roussanne was lost to a frost.
In addition they have a sur lee aged Pinot Gris that they sold out of earlier in the year, but they will be bottling again next year.
How to find them?
Yeah, not online, at least not yet. Watch for them to get that set up in the spring of 2019. In the mean time they are distributed in Oregon, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Vermont. Check out their distributor page here. http://rossandbee.com/find-wine/
Find them online at http://rossandbee.com/
On Facebook https://www.facebook.com/maloofwines/
At Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/maloofwines/
You can also read our piece on the Uncommon Wine Festival, with our interview with Dave Pettersen the Winemaker and CEO of Vista Hills who founded the event, and check out other interviews we did at the festival with Ryan Pickens of Esther Glen Farm and Winery , Ariel Eberle of A Cheerful Note Cellars , Jim Fischer and Jenny Mosbacher of Fossil & Fawn, Alex Neely of Libertine Wines and Deven Morganstern of Joyful Noise. We look forward to bringing you interviews and discussions with all of the winemakers from this event, as well as details and visits with wineries in each of the Willamette Valley AVAs. So check back here at Crushed Grape Chronicles and don’t forget, you can also find us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram
And if you want to dive into details on the Willamette Valley, you can read our recent post Oregon’s Willamette Valley AVAs – a Primer