Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Stoller Vineyards; A Star has Risen

While she's not new to the scene, winemaker Melissa Burr  is a rising star in the Willamette Valley, or maybe a legitimate star risen.  Despite her youth, she's been at it quite awhile now with 2011 representing her ninth vintage.  It's fair to say however that the sky is the limit for both Melissa and Stoller Vineyards.

Situated at the south end of the Dundee Hills Stoller Vineyards is planted on what was the largest turkey farm in Oregon until the late 1980s.  The turkey farm gave way to vineyard rows planted in 1995 through 1997.  Largely Pinot Noir which was sold to other winemakers.  Harry Peterson-Nedry at Chehalem began making a proprietary label for Bill and Cathy Stoller early on and still produces a  Stoller vineyard designate Pinot Noir.  (The Stoller family are co-owners and partners with Harry in Chehalem.)  As the request for the private label grew each year Harry finally recommended that Bill start a separate label in Stoller.  The Stoller wines were produced at the Chehalem site until 2005 when they designed and built a LEED certified production facility on the Dundee Hills property.

Melissa's intrerest in wine began at an organic grocery store.  The way many of us may discover wine for the first time she just happened to be there for a wine tasting.  Her interest in naturopathy and science and her husband's background in agriculture led them both into the wine business.  Her husband has successfully pursued viticulture while she has gone into wine production.  Very early on while working a harvest at Cooper Mountain the production staff quit during harvest, this bit of craziness was a stroke of luck for Melissa's winemaking development.  Her and the vineyard crew had to make the wine.  So she did.

That learning by doing and a self taught ethic has played a huge role in Melissa's development as a winemaker.  She's also learned a lot from great teachers like Harry at Chehalem, as well as long time Oregon winemaker Rich Cushman and Ray Walsh who worked as a consultant for Stoller early on.  Putting the time in, developing her own style and getting to know the fruit she's working with Melissa has really come into her own.  "I have enough experience now that I've become confident in my knowledge of our vineyard site."

As a result you're hearing more and more people, particularly those who get it gushing over the Stoller portfolio.  Melissa's emphasis is really on the site and what it produces.  Earthy Pinot Noir with complex fruit characteristics.  The warmer site in the south end of the Dundee Hills, Stoller is often first to harvest in warmer vintages.  With the good fortune of a reliable site, Melissa goes about presenting each vintage as best she can.

What's clear in the wines, is Melissa is a legit talent.  As the Willamette Valley has begun to develop a reputation for the incredible Chardonnay it's capable of producing, the Stoller Chardonnay stands as one of it's shining examples.

2009 Stoller Chardonnay is done with 100% French Oak, the wine did not undergo maloactic fermentation.  The focus for Melissa was producing a wine that balanced the acid to oak influence on the wine.  She dialed it in.  An elegant, yet far from demure Chardonnay the wine presents Old World aromatics of sliced apple, fresh baked bread and honey.  The wine retains a refined fruit character but was complimented by neutral oak barrel fermentation, the result is nuanced green apple, honey and hazelnut flavors. $28

2009 JV Pinot Noir is an incredibly approachable yet substantial Pinot Noir at a very approachable  price. The oak makes an appearance on the aromatics, alongside fresh bramble berries presenting that signature "fresh fruit" Oregon Pinot Noir.  A fruit forward palate, with dusty berries, cedar notes and barrel spice finish out the wine prices at a very friendly $25.

2008 SV Pinot Noir, from the older vines on the Stoller vineyard comes a bit of a broad shouldered Pinot Noir. 40% new oak results in toasty aromatics that combine with signature Oregon forest floor aromas. Flavors of black cherry, Italian plum and fennel stand out. The wine is fills up the mouth and delivers a long standing finish. $40


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