It’s true. Great wine starts in the vineyard. Before we landed in Oregon in 2006, we spent 2 years walking vineyards and land to figure out where we should start. We got lucky and had the opportunity to purchase an older vineyard, the original Dundee Hills Vineyard planted in 1974, to start our journey. Since then, we have established long term leases, relationships and friendships with a dozen growers from whom we purchase fruit and make distinctive wines. We currently farm 42 acres ourselves, all of which we farm and certify Demeter Biodynamic®. We focus on single vineyard designated wines that best show the characteristics of the vineyard and the AVA. We’ve shared the story of these vineyards below.
A little about the Willamette Valley
We chose Oregon and the Dundee Hills American Viticultural Area (AVA) in the Willamette Valley to create our wine. The Willamette Valley is named for the river that runs south from Portland to Eugene. The protection afforded to the Valley from the rains of the Pacific Ocean comes from the Coast Range to the west, while the Cascade Range protects the Valley to the east. The area between these two looming chains of mountains and hills has produced an ideal climate for growing Pinot noir. Our research led us to this region and, specifically, to the Dundee Hills, known for its red, volcanic, clay loam Jory soils.
In 2006 with the purchase of the original Dundee Hills Vineyard, twenty acres planted between 1974-1976, Winderlea crafts its wines from one of the most highly regarded and older vineyards in the Willamette Valley.
The vineyard sits on the south side of Worden Hill Road with ideal elevations of 320 to 580 feet with volcanic Jory soils. The original plantings, which are still in production, include own-rooted Pommard and the Dijon 115 selections of Pinot noir which are used exclusively in our most limited wine, the Winderlea Legacy Pinot noir. Between 1999 and 2004, the remaining blocks on the vineyard were replanted to include the introduction of Dijon clones on higher-density spacing. Farming practices have focused on reducing yields, improving canopy efficiency and soil tilth which has resulted in improved fruit and wine quality. The Winderlea Vineyard has been farmed Biodynamic® since 2009 and earned Demeter Biodynamic® Certification in 2015.
The vineyard is known for its red fruit characteristics, especially dried red cherry, red raspberry, and some hints of orange zest. Hints of spice and truffle notes are also found from the Winderlea Vineyard.
18 acres planted, on the 21.5 acre property. 16.5 acres of Pinot noir and 1.5 acres of Chardonnay. Pinot noir selections include: Pomard, Wadenswil, Coury, Mt. Eden, and the Dijon selections 114, 115, 667, and 777.
Certified Demeter Biodynamic® since 2015.
Seven acres were originally planted in 1977 by Frank Gorretta and ripped out by the next owner in 1997 to make room for their horses. Frank planted Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, and Pommard for the 1977 plantings. In 2000 it was purchased by David and Christine Vernier, and they partnered with Amy Wesselman and David Autrey, for the Westrey wine company label, and thought it to be unplanted. In 2001 when they were preparing the soil for planting they found that the root structure of the old vines had survived, and after several vintages they had the original vines back to producing grapes. An additional 15 acres of Pinot noir, a bit of Pinot Gris, and some Chardonnay was then planted bringing the total planted acreage to 24. The 50 acre parcel of land is primarily Jory soil, with a narrow strip of Nekia running through the middle. The vineyard faces due south and sits at an average of 650 feet. Winderlea is now leasing and farming the property from the Vernier’s and enhanced the organic farming used on the vineyard for the past 20 years to biodynamic and earned Demeter Biodynamic® certification in 2021.
Since 2020 Winderlea added Pinot Meunier to the vineyard, for use in the Sparkling Brut. Winderlea’s Rose of Pinot noir is now exclusively sourced from the Worden Hill Vineyard along with 3 distinct Pinot noirs and Chardonnay.
Certified Demeter Biodynamic® since 2021.
As we ventured outside of our home AVA in the Dundee Hills, there were a couple of vineyards that always held particular appeal to us. One is the very fine Meredith Mitchell Vineyard in McMinnville. Formerly owned, planted and farmed by Susan Meredith and her husband Frank Mitchell, this vineyard southwest of the city of McMinnville was planted in 1988 and expanded to 25 acres over the years. The vineyard is planted between 450 ft and 700 ft elevations and is completely exposed to the Van Duzer corridor which allows the coast winds into the vineyard each afternoon. Rated one of the top 5 vineyards in Oregon for good reason, the combination of own-rooted, high trellis mature Pommard vines and shallow, rocky, and broken uplifted basalt consistently produces intense Pinot noir with complex layers of aroma, flavor and structure. In addition to Pinot noir, there are 2 acres of Chardonnay and 2 acres of Pinot blanc planted on the vineyard.
Managed by Frank Mitchell and Susan Meredith until Frank was ready to get off the tractor in 2014, Winderlea took over the farming and management of the vineyard with a long term lease and employed Results Partners to manage the vineyard. The Meredith Mitchell Vineyard has been farmed Biodynamic® since 2014 and earned Demeter Biodynamic® Certification in 2018. Frank passed away during the 2021 harvest and Susan sold the property in 2022. The new owners have maintained Results Partners as their farming group, and have continued to farm and certify Biodynamic®. We are pleased to have contracts to continue to purchase Pinot noir, Chardonnay and Pinot blanc from the Meredith Mitchell vineyard into the future.
Certified Demeter Biodynamic® since 2018.
Considered to be a “Grand Cru” vineyard of Oregon, and one of the most heralded vineyards in the United States, we were delighted when Dick and Deirdre Shea called us in 2009 to say they had a couple of blocks of fruit they would be interested in selling to us starting with the 2010 vintage. This is not just any fruit, but the Pinot noir selections of Wädenswil and Pommard from Block 21 on the west side of the vineyard (for those of you who really track the vineyard). We jumped at the opportunity to have access to this vineyard, which produces some of our favorite wines in Oregon and some of the highest rated Pinot noirs in the US and beyond.
The Shea Vineyard has elevations of 400 to 600 feet in the Yamhill-Carlton AVA. The soils are marine sedimentary over fractured sandstone. Shea is 290 acres, 140 planted to Pinot noir, 15 to Chardonnay. 18 winemakers from Oregon, California and Washington make a Shea wine, including Shea.
The characteristics of wines from the Shea Vineyard are primarily blue and black fruit driven and lush in style with refined tannins.
One of our most fortuitous meetings has been that of Jeanne and David Beck. Two scientists from New Jersey who, like us, decided in 2005 to “refocus” their lives and move to Oregon for the love and pursuit of Pinot noir. David is a graduate of Princeton University, Johns Hopkins University and completed postdoctoral studies at Harvard University. He is an expert in cell culture and human genetic diseases. Jeanne, a similarly accomplished scientist, worked on the Human Genome Project during her illustrious career. So what does this have to do with Pinot noir? Well, being two of the smartest people we’ve met, they are now focusing all of that energy and their tremendous intellect on farming this fickle variety on their vineyard. They do much of the farming themselves. We believe the combination of their intellect, scientific curiosity and passion for Pinot noir will create legendary fruit for generations to come. If you want to have some real fun, check out their website for one of the best compilations of vintage notes as well as current and historic weather information. It is a treat as well as an education.
The Crawford Beck Vineyard is planted at elevations of 449-521 ft. Its soils are of volcanic origin, having been laid down by lava flows that occurred some 15 million years ago. These clay-loam soils overlay some ancient marine sediments that in many places are not far below the volcanic soils. Winderlea has produced a single vineyard designated Pinot noir from the Crawford Beck Vineyard since 2010. In 2020, we made the decision to dedicate the fruit from the Crawford Beck Vineyard (Pinot noir and Pinot Meunier) exclusively to our Vintage Sparkling Brut. The Beck’s agreed to plant Pinot Meunier for Winderlea for exclusive use in our Sparkling Brut.
From our first vintage in 2006, the Weber Vineyard has been a source of Pinot noir for Winderlea. The Weber vineyard sits immediately adjacent to Winderlea’s south and east with an entirely east facing aspect. Weber is situated on the top of a ridge line at 450 feet, then slopes directly east and down to a 350 foot elevation with volcanic Jory soils. Boasting some of the oldest own-rooted Pinot noir in Oregon, with vines dating back to 1976, our block of fruit is a late 70’s planting of own-rooted Pommard. The eastern aspect and increased exposure to wind contributes to the striking differences we find between our Weber Pinot noir and our Winderlea Vineyard estate bottling.
The Weber Vineyard was planted by Vivian and Arthur Weber in the 70s. Today, Vivian carries on the traditions she and Arthur started when they moved to Dundee. Wines from this site are known for their lush red and black fruits, distinct violet notes and silky, velvety textures.
Located in the foothills of the Coast Range southwest of McMinnville, Hyland Vineyard was originally planted in the early 1970s. The vineyard elevation starts at 600 feet and rises up to just over 800 feet of south sloping bench land. The soils consist primarily of volcanic Jory and Nekia soils where some of our best Chardonnay is grown. Since 2007, we have purchased a selection of clone UCD 4 planted in the late 70’s. This fruit makes up the core of our Winderlea Chardonnay and provides it with the structure that makes it so age worthy.
Beginning in 2020 the Hyland Chardonnay has also been used in our Vintage Sparkling Brut.
Located on the southeast side of Parrett Mountain in the Chehalem Mountains AVA and with elevations from 500 to 600 feet, Carabella Vineyard has been a foundational source of Chardonnay for Winderlea since our inaugural release in 2007. The site consists of a wide variety of soils and this diversity contributes to the depth of character we find in the Dijon 76 selection that we use. The balance of warm days and cool nights helps to build Chardonnay of character, structure, elegance and depth and creates the complexity that we’ve come to know and love in this fruit. Carabella vineyard has a mixture of volcanic soils; Nokia, Saum, and Jory.
In addition to using the fruit from the Carabella Vineyard in our Chardonnay, we are also using it in the Winderlea Vintage Sparkling Brut.
In our quest to work with the best fruit from the best vineyards in the Dundee Hills, in 2010 we added the illustrious Murto Vineyard, located just a mile west of our Estate. The Murto Vineyard was owned and carefully tended to by Mike and Robin Murto through 2018 and then sold to Lindsay and Anthony Van Nice. This is one more of the “classic Dundee Hills” vineyards whose fruit is coveted by winemakers around the Willamette Valley. Murto sets itself apart from its neighbors with its signature density of color, which shows itself right away in the glass.
The Murto Vineyard sits at an elevation of 700-800 ft and is made up of volcanic Jory soils. A cooler site, Murto is typically our last pick in the Dundee Hills. In addition to our single vineyard Murto Pinot noir, starting in 2015, we also made a small lot of a Murto Whole Cluster Pinot noir to highlight the beautiful spice and depth attained on the vineyard.