It’s Oregon Wine Month

Vista Hills Vineyard in the Dundee Hills AVA

It’s no secret that I’m kinda infatuated with Oregon wines. More than just the wines…it’s the people behind them. That whole “Keep Portland Weird” thing, kinda speaks for much of Oregon. But then again, with all the delicious weirdness, there is a simple, elegant classy side also. I love it so much, let’s delve in a little.

Willamette Valley Wine Country panorama
Willamette Valley Wine Country panorama

The Oregon Wine Trailblazers

This is a relatively new region for wine. The first winery, post prohibition, appeared in southern Oregon’s Umpqua Valley back in 1961, thanks to Richard Sommer who refused to listen to the UC Davis folks who told him it wouldn’t work. There were a couple of other UC Davis grads who bucked the trends in the mid to late 60’s and headed North including David Lett (Eyrie Vineyards), Dick Erath (yep, you guessed it, Erath) and Charles Coury (which is now David Hill Winery). If you have been into a wine store (or a grocery store) you will recognize Erath. Obviously growing grapes here worked.

My Introduction to Oregon Wine – At Home in the Vineyard

I’ll admit that my knowledge of early Oregon wine history came from reading Susan Sokol Blosser’s book “At Home in the Vineyard”. this memoir is her personal story of the struggle to build the Sokol Blosser Winery in the Dundee Hills. These were not people with money looking to invest and have a retreat in a vineyard. They were idealists and they struggled with the weather and the soils as they figured our this new area for wine. This was the way for many of the early vineyard owners and winemakers and it’s still that way for many today. (I had a wonderful conversation with Annedria Beckham of Beckham vineyards in the Chehalem Mountains that I will share with you soon, about the continuing struggles of planting and growing their vineyard and winery).

I encourage you to visit the fantastic site of the Oregon Wine Board and read all about the history of this great region.

Early visit circa 2011

My introduction to Oregon wine came with a visit back in 2011. We came to spend 3 or 4 days, visit wine country and catch up with an old friend of mine. We stayed at the cottage at Winter Hill. Winter Hill Winery is in the Dundee Hills, the cottage was over the hill with a separate entrance. There were chickens running about and an amazing view of the area and the stars from the porch.

On this visit we took in, Winter Hill Winery, Erath, Youngberg Hill, Stoller Family Estate, Lange Estate, Argyle, Cana’s Feast, Willakenzie, Rex Hill, Trisaetum, Domaine Drouhin Oregon, Sokol Blosser, Torii Mor, Vidon & Vista Hills. It’s a list, I know!

I remember them all. Here are a few of the stories…

Winter Hill

Winter Hill at the time was tasting in the middle of the working winery on a folding table. It was a humble for a tasting room, but warm and friendly, and we got a first hand look at the wines with the people who were putting their heart and soul into the endeavor.

Youngberg Hill

Michael was driving to get to us Youngberg Hill and Adam (my friend who had been married there just a year before) was giving directions. Adam and I got busy talking and we missed a turn, and then another. We arrived to views and VIP treatment thanks to Adam. The views here are wedding worthy that’s for sure!

Stoller

The view from Stoller Winery Dundee HIlls Oregon 2011
The view from Stoller 2011

At Stoller, Adam was also a member, and he was doing a pick up, so we got a little extra special treatment. I remember a Tempranillo they had that I wish we would have taken home with us. And I remember a story about the honey that they were hoping to get from hives in a black berry patch part way up the hill.

Lange

Up on the hill at Lange, we were greeted by Jack, the vineyard cat and stepped into the tiny tasting room where they were boxing up their wine club shipment. I remember a moving experience tasting their Pinot Noir (if I close my eyes, I can still taste it).

Argyle

Argyle tasting room Dundee Oregon circa 2011
Argyle tasting room Dundee Oregon circa 2011

At Argyle we enjoyed some bubbles and I got hooked on their Black Brut. This was back when Rollin Soles the pioneering vintner was still the winemaker. I remember thinking how cool it was that Lyle Lovett was his friend from college. They are two unique and iconic individuals in their own right.

Vidon

When we visited Vidon, we met Don the owner, when he came in off the tractor. Don was still busy in the vineyard back then. He was a particle physicist by training and worked with NASA before he purchased the property in the Chehalem Mountains in 1999. We also visited Vista Hills. It was late in the day, and close to the cottage and they snuck us in as their last tasting. The views are stunning and the wines delicious. We returned to them on our last trip again, just before the announcement that they had been purchased by Coppola.

We’ve waxed poetic on some of this before…

You can read a little about the Stoller Tempranillo, the Lange Pinot Noir and the Argyle Black Brut in our piece Wines I can’t forget Part 1

Or about that Trisaetum Coastal Riesling in Wines I Can’t forget Part 3.

And in our piece on Gravity flow wineries, we talk a bit about Willakenzie.

Returning to Oregon in 2018

Last year we returned to this region that had so enchanted us. We spent 5 days exploring AVA’s within the Willamette Valley. Actually trying to visit each of the AVA’s and the proposed AVA’s. We gathered so much content, that we are still putting out pieces! We also were able to enjoy the last “Uncommon Wine Festival” at Vista Hills, where we spent a day tasting and talking with up and coming wine makers.

  • Winemakers setting up for the Uncommon wine Festival at Vista Hills
  • Deven & Calli with Joyful Noise
  • Vista Hills Uncommon Wine Festival Ryan Pickens
  • Libertine Wines, Alex Neely
  • Libertine Bottle Shots
  • Libertine Pouring Botrytis Reisling
  • a Cheerful Note, Ariel Eberle
  • A Cheerful Note with Ariel Eberle, the story behind the label
  • Ross & Bee Maloof
  • Maloof 2017 Where ya Pjs at?
  • Leah Jørgensen Wine - inspired by the Loire Valley
  • 2016 Oregon "Tour Rain" Vin Rouge
  • Fossil & Farm Jim & Jenny

You can see Mega Mix Video and read about the day at Vista Hills Vineyard and the Uncommom Wine Festival.

Willamette Valley AVAs

Willamette Valley Map courtesy of Willamette Valley Wine Association
Willamette Valley Map courtesy of Willamette Valley Wine Association Map data by everyvine.com, design by John Fisher, geologic cross section by Timothy A. Cross, special thanks to Patrick Reuter.”

We did a Primer on this that you can read here. We managed to visit most of the AVAs.

Current Willamette Valley AVAs

We managed to visit a winery or tasting room representing each of the current AVAs

  • Chehalem Mountains AVA from Beckham Vineyards
  • Trisaetum Vineyard in the Ribbon Ridge AVA
  • Vista Hills Sunset Dundee Hills-
  • View of Yamhill-Carlton from Fairsing vineyard
  • Johan Vineyards in the proposed Van Duzer Corridor AVA
  • McMinnville AVA
  • Brittan Vineyards in the McMinnville AVA
  • The Eola Amity Hills
  • Chehalem Mountains AVA – est 2006 where we visited Beckham Vineyards and met both Annedria and Andrew.
  • Dundee Hills AVA – est 2005 where we visited Vista Hills to taste their wine as well as enjoy the hospitality of the Uncommon Wine Festival
  • Eola-Amity Hills AVA – est 2006. We visited the Evening Land tasting room in Dundee and then drove to see the vineyard in the Eola-Amity Hills.
  • McMinnville AVA – est 2005. We visited Brittan Vineyards tasting room and then did a drive by of the McMinnville vineyard on the way to the coast.
  • Ribbon Ridge AVA – est 2005, where we revisited Trisaetum.
  • Van Duzer Corridor AVA – est 2019, actually established after we visited! We visited Johan here and fell in love.
  • Yamhill-Carlton AVA – est 2005. We spent a wonderful evening enjoy the sunset view at Fairsing Vineyard (along with smores!)

Proposed Willamette Valley AVAs

In addition there are 4 more proposed AVAs, which include:

  • Illahe Panorama
  • Lowell Ford, Illahe Vineyards
  • Montinore Vineyards sign
  • Rudy Marchesi of Montinore Estate
  • Panorama from Ponzi
  • Mt Pisgah/Polk County AVA. Located near Salem, we spent 1/2 a day with Lowell Ford owner of Illahe Vineyard.
  • Laurelwood AVA. We visited Ponzi Vineyards in this proposed AVA which is the Northern facing slopes of the Chehalem Mountains.
  • Tualatin Hills AVA. Located North of Yamhill-Carlton and West of Chehalem Mountians, we visited with Rudy Marchesi of Montinore Estate.
  • Lower Long Tom AVA. Okay…we didn’t make it here. It is far south between Corvalis and Eugene and there was just not enough time.

Do it!

Our trailer on Willamette Valley AVAs and proposed AVAs

Get yourself to Oregon. You won’t regret it. Be it the Willamette Valley or further south in the Umpqua, Applegate or Rogue Valleys. Or maybe you head to some of those border areas that share AVAs with Washington. (they are good about sharing in Oregon)

You can find great information on Oregon from the Oregon Wine Board, Willamette Valley Wineries and the Southern Oregon Winery Association to get you started!

And don’t forget to check back here! We have loads of posts on our last trip and there will be more as we head back again this July!

More on Oregon wine Country

Here are a few you might want to check out:

And there are more, check the bottom of each page for other related pieces.

As always be sure to follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to keep up to date on all of our posts.

Barrel Tasting with Rudy Marchesi at Montinore Estate

Montinore Vineyards, Rudy Marchesi

After a wonderful interview with Rudy Marchesi of Montinore Estate discussing the Missoula Floods, the history of Montinore estate and their wines as well as Biodynamics in the vineyard and garden, Rudy invited us to the cellar for a barrel tasting.

Winemaker Stephen Webber

Montinore_Estate_Stephen_Webber
Montinore_Estate_Stephen_Webber, courtesy of Montinore Estate

On the way, we went through the lab, where we met Montinore Estate winemaker, Stephen Webber. Stephen started with Montinore as Assistant Winemaker over a decade ago in 2006 coming from DiStefano winery in Seattle. He became the Co-Winemaker in 2009 and took over as head winemaker in 2016.

On to the tasting

Rudy Marchesi of Montinore Estate
Rudy Marchesi of Montinore Estate

We stopped briefly in the tank room for a taste of the Red Cap Pinot that was fermenting in tank. Before heading to the cellar with room after room filled with barrels and a few clay amphorae style vessels (which we later found out were on loan from Andrew Beckham).

The original plantings of Pinot Noir in the Montinore Estate Vineyard in 1982 were very typical of the early Oregon plantings and were Pommard and Wadenswil clones.

High density vineyards

Looking down the rows at Montinore

The vineyard we tasted from next were some of the first high density vineyards in the area, planted 2500 vines to the acre. Rudy feels high density works better here. With high density vineyards, each vine is asked to do less work. Here, instead of each vine needing to produce 6 lbs of fruit, they are only asked to produce 2 lbs per vine.

I remember speaking with Jason Haas about high density vineyards. He was very much against them in Paso Robles. But here is where perspective comes in. High density planting in Central California during a drought is much different from high density planting in Oregon, where moisture is much more abundant. So much of vineyard practice is determined by location and climate and available natural resources.

Soils and their affect on the taste of a wine

We moved on to taste from another barrel that came from a block about 100 yards from the first. The difference was immediately apparent in nose and color. This was the same elevation. The soil is Missoula Flood loess over basalt. Rudy conjectured that these 35 year old vines had worked their roots into the basalt and this was where the differences came from. This pinot had more earth with herbal and cherry notes. Basalt, Rudy explained, often had this cherry note. The first block we tasted from had deeper loess. He noted that the basalt in Dundee was different, but still had these cherry notes.

Courtesy of Montinore Estate Vineyards

The Red Cap Pinot Noir is a blend of all of their Pinots. Everything is barrelled separately, then they pull reserves from each vineyard and block and the remaining blends into the Red Cap. The very best blocks make up the estate reserve. They then make several vineyard designate wines. They make 200 cases of a single vineyard Pinot Noir from Parsons Ridge. Which we tasted next.

We tasted again, from a block in Helvetia soil. This is a different soil series but still part of the Missoula flood loess and is known as Cornelius. The slope on this block is a little different. The color in this wine was more purple, which they seem to get from the southern part of the property. You could taste a bit more wood (the barrel this was in was newer oak) on this wine. There was more floral, and the fruit on the nose was more boysenberry than blackberry. This is the soil on Rudy and his wife’s 1 1/4 acre property

The next wine was from the Tidalstar vineyard which has marine sediment soils. This vineyard is located in the Yamhill-Carlton AVA on it’s western edge. This wine will be part of the Red Cap, as well as all 3 tiers of single vineyard wines. They are thinking of creating a new brand exclusively from this vineyard.

Michael commented on this being the perfect way to taste wines. Comparing blocks and soils in the cellar and seeing and smelling the differences, guided by someone who knows the vineyard.

This is the beauty of Pinot Noir, it is so expressive.

Rudy Marchesi (our interview in July 2018)

More than just Pinot Noir

As Rudy searched for the right varieties for his early vineyards on the East Coast, he set up a research project to go to Northern Italy and explore indigenous varieties. His father was born there, so he had some people he could contact. They went to 5 different cultural research stations. He learned quite a bit, but didn’t put it into practice until he arrived in Oregon.

Lagrein

We tasted the Lagrein. (disclosure – a varietal I love and find all too rarely). Lagrein’s parentage is Pinot Noir and Dureza (which is also a parent of Syrah). In the glass it is very Syrah like.

You can really see in the glass, something syrah like going on. This has been doing well. We just bottled the 2016. I planted these in 2010-2012, so they are just starting to come in stride.

Rudy Marchesi (our interview in July 2018)

Teroldego

We moved on to Teroldego a grape related to Pinot Noir, Lagrein & Syrah.

Elisabetta Foradori, she inherited her family winery at 19 or so, they grew Teroldego, at the time it was meh.  She went through and selected the best vines and clusters and bred for quality….I got material from her.  We only have 2 acres of it, like the Lagrien.  But I think it needs warmer sites, this might be our global warming hedge.

Rudy Marchesi (our interview in July 2018)

Different Vessels

At this point we came to the beautiful clay fermentation tanks.

Andrew Beckham created “Novum”

Clay breathes more than concrete, you can feel it. That’s what we want. I want that evaporation of water through clay just like barrel. In amphorae you get alot more fruit. Pinot producers worry, they get so much fruit…would it have the ageing ability without the tannins from the wood? As a blending component it could be very exciting.

Rudy Marchesi (our interview in July 2018)

Unfortunately, the Clay tanks have no sampling valves. So there was no tasting to be done there. Andrew Beckham is making him several of these clay vessels which Andrew calls “novum”. (these clay vessels are rounded like amphorae but do not have the conical bottom). You will get to hear all about the “novum” soon, as we spent a morning at Beckham and some time with Andrew on this trip also.

This was the end of our joyous trip to the cellar with Rudy. He was off to lunch with the grand kids and led us back to the tasting room for a tasting of their wines already in bottle.

Person of the Year 2018 – Oregon Wine Press

Montinore Vineyards, Rudy Marchesi
Montinore Vineyards, Rudy Marchesi

What an amazing visit. Rudy Marchesi has such expansive knowledge and a drive to keep learning. He was so generous with us sharing his time and his knowledge. He was just named Person of the Year 2018 by the Oregon Wine Press

For his work in Biodynamics and its advocacy, and, more importantly, for his generosity of spirit, OWP is pleased to honor him.

Oregon Wine Press, January 8, 2019 by Jade Helm

I knew of his work in Biodynamics. We spoke with him during our interview about it. But I truly had no idea of what a true leader in this field he is.

Most recently, Marchesi was one of nine growers — and the only American — asked to join the International Biodynamic Viticulture Group. This new committee will endeavor to integrate more viticulture into the annual Biodynamic Agriculture Conference held in Dornach, Switzerland, and to create a web-based forum for exchange of information among the world’s Biodynamic winegrowers.

Oregon Wine Press, January 8, 2019 by Jade Helm

Here, here Oregon Wine Press! Well done! And well done Rudy. I am humbled at the time and knowledge you so graciously shared with us.

More on Montinore

We documented all the time he spent with us that morning. The fascinating information fills 4 posts in addition to this one. There are links below as well as a pairing we did over the holidays that Rudy’s daughter Kristin (President of Montinor Estate), so graciously shared with us:

Visit them! Montinore Estate

Montinore Vineyards Entrance
Montinore Vineyards Entrance

The Estate is beautiful. You will find it in the Northwest corner of the Willamette Valley in Forest Grove.

3663 SW Dilley Road Forest Grove, OR 97116

503.359.5012
[email protected]

As always be sure to follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to keep up to date on all of our posts.

Montinore Estate – About the wines

Montinore Vineyards Entrance

Continuing our conversation with Rudy Marchesi at Montinore Estate

 After looking over the Willamette Valley AVA map and having Rudy give us some background on the soils and the impact of the Missoula floods we sat with him to talk about how these soils influence the wines at Montinore Estate.

Pinot Noir

Pinot Noir is very expressive and Rudy told us that pinot grown in the windblown loess here tend to be brighter, with berry flavors rather than the cherry notes that are so often associated with pinot noir. The pinots here also are very spicy with baking spices.

They produce several different Pinot Noirs here.  Here is a sampling.  I can’t promise that I have not missed one.

  • “Red Cap” Pinot Noir:  This is a blend from all the vineyards giving you multiple areas and soil types blended into one bottle. 
  • Reserve Pinot Noir:  Again from multiple sites but all within the estate. These are the best blocks and lots. They ferment and age separately and then blend the best.
  • Parsons’ Ridge Pinot Noir:  This vineyard block sits on a part of the vineyard where the vines face two different directions.  The lots, as they are different, are fermented separately and then blended.
  • Keeler Estate Pinot Noir:  This is a 25 acres Biodynamic vineyard in Eola-Amity Hills that they source from.  This gives you another opportunity to taste and compare the terroir.
  • Windy Hill Pinot Noir: This comes from the Southern part of the Valley and is influenced by the winds of the Van Duzer Corridor.
  • Cataclysm Pinot Noir: Comes from their Block 1 which has mineral rich soils.  They pick the most expressive barrels from this block to make this wine.

Pinot Gris

 He finds the white wines to actually be more distinctive.  Pinot gris grown in the Missoula flood loess, is very complex.  Rather than apple and pear, they get citrus and herbal notes. In warmer years there will be tropical notes.  Always he finds pinot gris here to have lots of texture.

Riesling

The riesling he find distinctive, but without as much difference although he feels sure some might disagree.

Chardonnay

Chardonnay is new here.  They had quite a bit planted early on, but it was the clone brought up from California.  This clone was a late ripener and had tight clusters which were prone to rot.  It was a great clone when there was good weather in a vintage, but that was about 1out of every 4 years.

They have now planted the new Dijon clone, which has looser clusters and is an earlier ripening clone.  They are back in the Chardonnay business in a small way.  He is encouraged by the quality, but it’s too soon to know what they will get stylistically from the vineyards with these clones.  They will need a few more vintages to figuring this out.

Bubbles

They are currently producing a prosecco style bubbly, and have a Traditional Methode Champenoise Sparkling wine of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay which is yet to be released.

Other Varieties

In addition they are growing bits of Teroldego and Lagrein, Gerwürztraminer and Müller Thurgau.

Blends and specialty wines

You will find Rosé, Orange wine, fortified wine (Ruby), Ice wine (Frolic) and Verjus also on their wine line-up which is very diverse, having something for every palate.

Everything here is done on site, and they try to be as Estate as possible.  The 2016 Pinot got away from 100% Estate because they had too much demand and had to contract a couple of other growers.

Speaking with Rudy and walking the winery, you can see the pride they take in making the best possible wines here.

You can learn a bit about the estate with our posts.

https://www.crushedgrapechronicles.com/montinore-estate-a-recent-history/

https://www.crushedgrapechronicles.com/montinore-the-deeper-history/

And check back here as we will next talk to Rudy about Biodynamics before heading with him to the cellar for a tour and barrel tasting.

If you are in the Willamette Valley stop by and give the wines a taste for yourself.  You can find them a:

Montinore Estate
3663 SW Dilley Road
Forest Grove, Oregon 97116
503.359.5012

As always be sure to follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to keep up to date on all of our posts.

Montinore – the deeper history

Montinore Vineyards panorama

Time to talk soils

The soil at Montinore Estate in the Northwest corner of the Willamette Valley, is loess from the Missoula Floods.  The Missoula Floods… well that takes us back a bit further in history, like 13,000 to 15,000 years back.   During our interview with Rudy Marchesi, Immediate Past President and Partner at the winery, he took us into the tasting room to show us the beautiful Willamette Valley map created by the Willamette Valley Wine Association.  Here he took a minute to paint the picture for us of the floods and the soils that came from these floods

Willamette Valley Map courtesy of Willamette Valley Wine Association
Willamette Valley Map courtesy of Willamette Valley Wine Association Map data by everyvine.com, design by John Fisher, geologic cross section by Timothy A. Cross, special thanks to Patrick Reuter.”

The Missoula Floods

At the end of the last ice age, there was an ice dam in the Clark Fork River in what is now Idaho. This backed up the water from a finger of the Codilleran Ice Sheet that was melting and creating the Glacial Lake Missoula.  As the water pressure built, the ice plug was forced upwards releasing cataclysmic flood waters, a wall of water 500 feet tall down the Columbia River to the ocean.  After the surge of water, the plug would drop back into place and the lake would refill.  Then periodically, the plug would get pushed up and more flood water would be released.  This repeated dozens of times over about a 2000 year period.  The area that was flooded covered almost half of what is now Washington on it’s eastern side side of the state and followed the Columbia River to the ocean.  It also branched off at the mouth of the Willamette River creating a lake that covered much of the Willamette Valley as far south as Eugene.  Mind you, Glacial Lake Missoula was in Montana…yet another Montana and Oregon link for Montinore.

 I found this link to an article on Oregon Live that discusses the flood 

https://www.oregonlive.com/environment/index.ssf/2012/06/lidar_map_shows_path_of_missou.html

Here you can also find beautiful lidar maps (as Oregon Live puts it “think radar, but with light”), some of which are truly artworks,  including an interactive mapthat illustrates the floodwaters by the Oregon Department of Geology and Mineral Industries

https://gis.dogami.oregon.gov/maps/lidarviewer/

Build up of soils

Every time that the floods happened they would take out forests, that had grown in the last 75 years and carry that sediment with them, as well as anything else in their way (ie rocks, mammoths). Then the plug would drop back into place and the soil over the flooded area would dry out.  Some of this would be dusty and dry, so the wind would carry it (wind blown loess). You have layers and layers of these soils, forests that were buried or swept away downstream.  One of the ways they were able to tell that there were multiple floods, was because they found separate layers of ash from Mt. Saint Helens eruptions.

The soils of Montinore and the proposed Tualatin AVA

General Area of the proposed Tualatin Hills AVA
General Area of the proposed Tualatin Hills AVA (Willamette Valley Map courtesy of Willamette Valley Wine Association)

We mentioned that when the Chehalem Mountain AVA formed that they offered to include Montinore.  Rudy declined.  He knows his soil and it is different from that of the Chehalem Mountain AVA.  The soils here are considered Laurelwood and Cornelius (wind blown loess glacial lake sediment) and are similar to some of those found in the Northeast part of the Chehalem Mountains, the area that is looking to become a nested AVA inside Chehalem, the proposed Laurelwood AVA. 

So what does Rudy believe sets this area apart to warrant it’s own AVA?  Well the windblown loess for a start.  The loess is the fine topsoil that formed as the flooded areas dried out. These fine particles which include clay (the finest and lightest of particles), were blown westward and got caught by the hills. This dust buried an ancient redwood forest 200 feet deep.  Rudy told us that he has had neighbors drill wells and pull up chunks of redwood from deep underground.

Redwoods
Redwoods

While it shares the Laurelwood soil series with the Chehalem Mountains AVA, the proposed Tualatin Hills AVA is located within the rain shadow of the coastal range and the temperatures are a bit higher. 

Tualatin Hills AVA borders

The proposed AVA is a horse-shoe shaped basin that opens to the east, bounded by the Tualatin River watershed. To the northwest the boundry is the peaks of the coastal range, where the prevailing winds come over and hit the Chehalem Mountains and Portland.  Then Willamette Valley AVA provides another border and urban development the last.  Elevation borders sit at 200 feet for the low end (anything below that has soils to fertile for growing wine grapes) and 1000 feet on the high end, which is the natural boundry for growing wine grapes in this climate.

The overall proposed Tualatin Hills AVA covers 144,000 acres.

Stick with us as we continue our discussion with Rudy as we dig deeper into the soils and how the Missoula Flood Loess affects the flavors in the wines.

You can also check out our previous post Montinore Estate – a Recent History which tells how the Estate came by it’s name and the history of the property and winery.

As always be sure to follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to keep up to date on all of our posts.

Montinore Estate – a recent history

Montinore Vineyards sign

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.

Montinore Vineyards Entrance

Montinore Vineyards Entrance

Montinore Estate

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.

Montinore Vineyards driveway trees

Montinore Vineyards driveway trees

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.

John Forbis home at Montinore Estate

John Forbis home at Montinore Estate

 

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.

Interview with Rudy Marchesi

Interview with Rudy Marchesi

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

video link

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.

Don’t forget to check back with us here at Crushed Grape Chronicles as we continue to explore Oregon Wine Country and beyond. And remember, you can also find us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram

 

Oregon Wine Country

Join us on our exploration of Wine from across the Oregon Wine Region. Interviews with winemakers. Wine Festivals. Explore the AVA’s and discover the Terroir, The stories, The Wine, all across Oregon Wine Country beginning in the Willamette Valley. Follow us at Crushedgrapechronicles.com for your Oregon Wine Adventure.

Oregon’s Willamette Valley AVAs – a Primer

Vista Hills Vineyard in the Dundee Hills AVA

Oregon’s Willamette Valley …You picture green hills, rain and beards, don’t you? Well as we visited in July, we found lots of the first, very little of the second and enough of the third to keep the myth alive.

After flying into Portland, we made the relatively quick drive, over one of the many bridges across the Willamette River and into the Willamette Valley. Our goal with this trip was to visit each of the AVA’s (American Viticulture Areas) and most of the Proposed AVA’s and learn a little about them to give us a better overall understanding of the area. We managed to visit all but one of the Proposed AVA’s. We did not have the time to make the drive to the proposed Lower Long Tom AVA, which is much closer to Eugene than to Portland.

I did a bit of research to prepare for the trip and thought I would share some of that, in case you are not familiar with the region.

Oregon

Everyone we met told us how young the area is as far as vineyards and wine. They just passed 50 years. Humility is a virtue in Oregon. The grapes began in the Willamette Valley, but today you will find 2 other regions, the Columbia Gorge and Southern Oregon, where vineyards and wineries have a definite foothold. The state has 18 AVAs with the new Van Duzer Corridor within the Willamette Valley the possible 19th. Here are a few stats from the Oregon Wine Board. https://industry.oregonwine.org.

72 Grape varieties – 725 Wineries – 30,435 planted vineyard acres

But there is more to it. 47% of the vineyards in Oregon are certified sustainable. And while they only tap into a 1% share of the US wine market, they held 20% of the Wine Spectator 90+ scores in 2015 & 2016. Quality is something they take great pride in.

Willamette Valley

This trip was focused on the Willamette Valley and the Willamette Valley Wineries Association has a gorgeous map of the Valley.

Willamette Valley Map courtesy of Willamette Valley Wine Association

Willamette Valley Map courtesy of Willamette Valley Wine Association Map data by everyvine.com, design by John Fisher, geologic cross section by Timothy A. Cross, special thanks to Patrick Reuter.”

This map shows the current AVAs, soils and even the vineyard blocks. We thank the Willamette Valley Wineries Association for allowing us to use it and pass along their acknowledgements “Map data by everyvine.com, design by John Fisher, geologic cross section by Timothy A. Cross, special thanks to Patrick Reuter.”

The Willamette Valley is 60 miles wide at it’s widest (east to west), but is over 100 miles long (north to south), so you will note that the map is flipped so that as you look at it North is to the left, East is up, South is to the right and West (where you will find the Pacific Ocean over the Coast Range) is down.

The overall valley is the Willamette Valley AVA and within it there are currently 6 sub-appellations.

Willamette Valley AVA

The overall AVA spans the area from the Portland in the North to Eugene Oregon in the South and sits between the Coastal and Cascade Ranges. Plantings began in 1966 and the AVA itself was established in 1983. The base of the valley itself is fertile and great for agriculture, except of course for grapes. Grapes need the struggle to be tasty enough to make wine. As a result, most of the vineyards will be between 200 and 1000 feet in elevation.

Within this large AVA you will find the 6 sub-appellations, one of which is nested inside another. We will work our way from North to South (left to right on the map as you look at it)

Chehalem Mountains AVA

Willamette Valley Map courtesy of Willamette Valley Wine Association

Chehalem Mountains, Ribbon Ridge AVAs (Willamette Valley Map courtesy of Willamette Valley Wine Association)

Furthest north and to the east side of the valley, you will find the Chehalem (Sha-HAY-lum) Mountains AVA. The Chehalem Mountain Range is 20 miles long and 5 miles wide and was established in 2006. Within the Range you will find Ribbon Ridge (which is its own AVA) and Parrett Mountain. The area is home to around 150 small vineyards, most average around 12.5 acres and are family owned.

Chehalem Mountains AVA from Beckham Vineyards

Chehalem Mountains AVA from Beckham Vineyards

Soils here vary. This was after-all an uplift that created the range and you find sedimentary seabed, red soils from lava flows, and glacial sediment. So you find variety in soils and within the AVA there will be both similarities and contrasts. This would be part of the reason for the nested Ribbon Ridge AVA and the proposed nested Laurelwood AVA. http://www.chehalemmountains.org/home

Yamhill-Carlton AVA

Yamhill-Carlton AVA Map

Yamhill-Carlton AVA Map (Willamette Valley Map courtesy of Willamette Valley Wine Association)

West of the Chehalem Mountains and North of McMinnville you will find the Yamhill-Carlton AVA established in 2005. The AVA was named for the two hamlets, Yamhill and Carlton nestled in the center of the horseshoe shaped ridges in the foothills of the Coast Range. The Coast range provides a rain shadow (an area where the rain typically does not fall) over the whole area.

View of Yamhill-Carlton from Fairsing vineyard

View of Yamhill-Carlton from Fairsing vineyard

The soils here are the oldest of the marine sedimentary soils in the overall Willamette Valley. The soils are coarse-grained and drain easily, which is great for making the vines struggle. https://yamhillcarlton.org/

Ribbon Ridge AVA

Willamette Valley Map courtesy of Willamette Valley Wine Association

Chehalem Mountains, Ribbon Ridge AVAs (Willamette Valley Map courtesy of Willamette Valley Wine Association)

This AVA sits within the Chehalem Mountains AVA and was established in 2005. Ribbon Ridge is a spur of ocean sediment uplift that is contained within 5.25 square miles on the northwest end of the Chehalem Mountains.

Trisaetum Vineyard in the Ribbon Ridge AVA

Trisaetum Vineyard in the Ribbon Ridge AVA

The uniform soils of ocean sediment that is high-quartz sandstone and weathered bedrock set this area of the Chehalem Mountains apart. http://ribbonridgeava.org/

Dundee Hills AVA

Dundee Hills AVA

Dundee Hills AVA (Willamette Valley Map Courtesy of Willamette Valley Wine Association)

Here is the place where the first of the grapes in the Willamette Valley were planted. It remains densely planted with around 50 vineyards in one of the busiest areas in the Willamette Valley.

This was the start of Pinot Noir in Oregon. The first Pinot vine was planted here. When we speak about the area being in it’s 50 year of growing grapes, we are talking about this place, the Dundee Hills. Eyrie, Sokol Blosser, Erath…if you know Oregon wine, you know those revered names. It was here that David Lett, Dick Erath and the Sokol Blossers took a chance and planted those first vineyards.

Vista Hills Vineyard in the Dundee Hills AVA

Vista Hills Vineyard in the Dundee Hills AVA

The Dundee Hills AVA was established in 2005. The soils here are almost all basaltic (volcanic) soil deposited by a lava flow 15 million years ago. https://dundeehills.org/about/

McMinnville AVA

McMinnville AVA

McMinnville AVA (Willamette Valley Map Courtesy of Willamette Valley Wine Association)

Also established in 2005, the McMinnville AVA takes it’s name from the city of McMinnville which sits just east of the AVA.

McMinnville AVA

Vineyards in the McMinnville AVA

The vineyards sit on the east and southeast slopes of the Coast Range where the soils are uplifted marine sedimentary over basalt. The soils here are shallow and the Coast Range protects the area from rain. https://mcminnvilleava.org/

Eola-Amity Hills AVA

Eola-Amity Hills AVA

Eola-Amity Hills AVA Map (Willamette Valley Map Courtesy of Willamette Valley Wine Association)

This AVA sits in the Eola Hill’s along the Willamette River and straddles the 45th parallel (just as Burgundy does) and reaches north to the Amity Hills.

Vineyards in the Eola-Amity Hills AVA

Vineyards in the Eola-Amity Hills AVA

Soils here are shallow and mostly volcanic basalt with with marine sedimentary rocks. It’s shallow and rocky (that tends to make small concentrated berries). The Van Duzer corridor causes summer afternoon temps to drop, which is especially helpful in late summer as the grapes are ripening, to keep the acids firm. https://eolaamityhills.com/

Proposed AVAs

There are 5 AVAs that are proposed and in process. While the Van Duzer Corridor AVA is likely to be the next approved, we are going to go North to South again so that you have a better geographical idea of where these AVAs sit. Keep in mind that we are showing you maps of the general area, the boundries are actually much more detailed. We will dive into that as we explore each of these proposed AVAs in a future post.

Tualatin Hills AVA

General Area of the proposed Tualatin Hills AVA

General Area of the proposed Tualatin Hills AVA (Willamette Valley Map courtesy of Willamette Valley Wine Association)

This area sits North of the Yamhill-Carlton AVA and West of Chehalem Mountains AVA. This AVA is horse shoe shaped and it’s southern edge butts up to the northern edge of Yamhill-Carlton. From there it stretches north following the edge of the Willamette Valley AVA and then takes a right turn East toward Portland. It shares a little bit of a border with the Chehalem Mountains AVA on it’s south east side and well as a tiny bit with the proposed Laurelwood AVA.

Montinore Vineyards in the proposed Tualatin Hills AVA

Montinore Vineyards in the proposed Tualatin Hills AVA

The soils here are Laurelwood. Not to be confused with the proposed AVA, this soil series is volcanic basalt and loess (windblown silt). In addition the reddish soils here have pisolites (tiny balls of iron manganese).

Being due east of the Coast Range also allows them a rain shadow, so conditions here are dryer and allow for diurnal temperature shifts (day to night temperatures).

Laurelwood AVA

General Area of the proposed Laurelwood AVA

General Area of the proposed Laurelwood AVA (Willamette Valley Map courtesy of Willamette Valley Wine Association)

This area is nested within the Chehalem Mountains AVA. This proposed AVA encompasses the Northern facing slopes of the Chehalem Mountains, honing in on the Laurelwood soils.

Ponzi Vineyard in the proposed Laurelwood AVA

Ponzi Vineyard in the proposed Laurelwood AVA

These Laurelwood soils are Ice Age Loess (windblown silt), contained within the Northern slopes. The southern and western facing slopes in the Chehalem Mountains are primarily Columbia River Basalt and Marine Sediment.

Van Duzer Corridor AVA

General Area of the proposed Van Duzer Corridor AVA

General Area of the proposed Van Duzer Corridor AVA (Willamette Valley Map courtesy of Willamette Valley Wine Association)

On the west side of the Eola Hills you will find the Van Duzer Corridor AVA.

Johan Vineyards in the proposed Van Duzer Corridor AVA

Johan Vineyards in the proposed Van Duzer Corridor AVA

Soils here are basalt and marine sedimentary over siltstone bedrock. The winds here are key. Eola-Amity brags about the Van Duzer Corridor winds, but here, on this side, the strong winds cause the grapes to thicken their skins.

Mt. Pisgah/Polk County AVA

General Area of the proposed Mount Pisgah AVA

General Area of the proposed Mount Pisgah AVA (Willamette Valley Map courtesy of Willamette Valley Wine Association)

South of McMinnville and West of the Eola-Amity Hills, kind of out on it’s own you will find the proposed Mt. Pisgah/Polk County AVA. West of Salem Oregon, there are just 10 vineyards and 2 wineries in this area.

Illahe Vineyard in the proposed Mount Pisgah/Polk County AVA

Illahe Vineyard in the proposed Mount Pisgah/Polk County AVA

Here the base is some of the oldest rocks in the Valley, Siletz River volcanics, and it is covered in a shallow layer of marine sedimentary soils.

Elevations here are higher and the vineyards on Mt. Pisgah are protected from extreme temperatures and wind.

Lower Long Tom AVA

General Area of the proposed Lower Long Tom AVA

General Area of the proposed Lower Long Tom AVA (Willamette Valley Map courtesy of Willamette Valley Wine Association)

Far south between Corvalis and Eugene you find the proposed Lower Long Tom AVA. This region is south of Corvalis, north of Eugene and sits on the western border of the Willamette Valley AVA. Soils here are marine sedimentary soil in the Prairie Mountain and Bellpine series.

Temps here are higher with Prairie Mountain diverting winds North and South around the area.

Next, the details….

That’s just our overview. We visited all but one of these areas and we look forward to deeper dives into each AVA, with more geeky details about climate and soil and what that means for the wines. In the meantime, if you are looking for further information, you can visit Willamette Valley Wine, Oregon Wine, or check out this great article in the Oregon Wine Press.

And if you are as in love with this beautiful map as I am, you can get one of your own at Willamette Valley Wine

Watch here as we delve deeper into Oregon Wines. We have multiple interviews with fascinating wine makers to share with you, including a morning spent with Rudy Marchesi of Montinore Estate, who is instrumental in the proposed Tualatin Hills AVA.

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. We look forward to bringing you interviews and discussions with all of the winemakers from this event. So check back here at Crushed Grape Chronicles . And don’t forget, you can also find us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram