Monday, April 02, 2012

Harper Voit; Obsessively Crafted Wines

Drew Voit’s intrigue for winemaking began while he was in high school in California. This intrigue led him to study at UC Davis where it continued to flourish as he was acquainted with the use of cement tanks and wine being made on the lees. That changed the course of his focus; He put Oregon wine front and center during his junior year.  He headed to Oregon after graduating and jumped into the wine industry. Working as Associate Winemaker for Domaine Serene paved the way for Drew to join Shea Wine Cellars as Winemaker in 2007. 2008 was a very full and chaotic year. With his position at Shea in full swing, he offered his greatly needed assistance as Consulting Winemaker for Domaine Serene during a transitional time for them, all the while raising a toddler with his wife, Tandy. Today with 14 years of winemaking to his credit and still Head Winemaker at Shea, Drew’s own Harper Voit label is also up and running. It’s commonplace for a larger winery (Shea) to have an agreement with their winemaker that allows venturing out with a personal wine label (Harper Voit). It proves to be a beneficial arrangement for both, giving a winemaker an opportunity to showcase their personal style. Harper Voit provides that opportunity, and Drew promotes vineyards that are important to him. He finds unique sites, vineyard gems that people may be unfamiliar with, and showcases their fruit. These places teach him, give him the winemaking tools he feels he may be missing in his toolbox.

Great relationships are foundational to Drew’s collaboration with people and vineyard sources. One of these collaborative efforts involves Old School Vineyard, farmed by Stephen Hagen in Junction City, Oregon. The partnership that has been forged is based on mutual respect and a commitment to doing things well, quality from the land up. Hagen farms this Bellpine soil using methods that are considered “old school”, hence the name. Old School is a LIVE certified vineyard, another reason for Voit to be proud of this site. For those unfamiliar with LIVE certification, the LIVE website summarizes:  “LIVE is an acronym meaning Low Input Viticulture and Enology. This refers to the practice of limiting the amount of raw materials (inputs such as pesticides, fertilizer, water, chemicals, fuel, etc.) used in vineyard and winery production.” Hagen uses draft horses for planting and incorporates other farm animals into the cycle. Sheep have been trained (yes, that is not a misprint) to eat weeds and undesirable growth in the vineyard, while staying away from the grape leaves.  Sheep may not have a reputation for being smart, but Hagen surely does, proving that by his ability to do the incredible.

Most of the fruit for Harper Voit’s 2009 Strandline Pinot Noir comes from Old School Vineyard, with the remainder sourced from the Ribbon Ridge AVA. 210 cases were made. Those of you following Oregon Pinot trivia will know that “Sideways” author Rex Pickett auspiciously references this particular wine in his sequel “Vertical”, the characters waxing poetic. A quick search through the book finds the description:  “inky, plush, gorgeous, almost savage, a wild ride of pepper, black cherry, cedar and Cuban cigar”. Truly an inky, plush wine, this one begins to show its complexity with a bit of decanting and served at a cooler temperature. 

The fruit for the 2010 Eola-Amity Hills Pinot Blanc was sent Voit's way after years of previously being grown for another winery. He was glad to have the opportunity. Revisit our article from March 9th where we featured this Pinot Blanc as our Friday Find. 83% of the fruit was fermented in 1 to 3 year old barrels with the remaining 17% done in stainless steel tanks. Only 120 cases were made. These small production wines are beginning to gain quite a following. Repeating the favorite motto of a childhood teacher, “A word to the wise is sufficient.”

What does the future hold? A wine club is in the works, possibly called the Wise Acres Society. The witty "Wise Acres" was Drew’s original idea for the winery name, but after being advised to go with something less whimsical, he combined his middle and last name to create Harper Voit. As for the wines, keep your eyes open for some old vine Riesling in the future, and an Old School Vineyard designate Pinot Noir for the wine club.  

Passionate not only about wine, Drew is a foodie who enjoys cooking for his family. Tandy is grateful to experience firsthand the culinary skills of her artist/scientist husband. Wine goes hand in hand with food, and showcasing the wines with the food of Oregon is a natural expression. Drew’s passion for “obsessively crafted wines” is evidenced in each glass. Online ordering is available through the winery. The wines are poured by the glass and sold by the bottle at several Willamette Valley locations. A comprehensive list can be found at the end of our March article here.  


Always looking for new wines to try. This one is on our list.

Great! The Pinot Blanc is my spring wine lately. Looking forward to the new wines in the future; Drew sure knows what he is doing...

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