Uncommon Wine Festival 2013


If you missed it, we’re sorry, as it was arguably the best to date. The third-annual Uncommon Wine Festival drew scores of visitors eager to try the works of micro Willamette Valley producers. Under-the-radar labels like Idealist, Love & Squalor, Leah Jorgensen Cellars, Dreamcatcher, D’Anu, and Xylem Wines were all on hand to pour their rare and enticing wines. Varietals ranged from Pinot Noir, to Gewürztraminer, to Riesling, to Cab Franc, and much more in between. In addition to the wines, The People’s Pig of Portland was on site serving fantastic pork sandwiches from the downstairs patio.


In the spirit of uncommon wines, we poured our 2012 Orange Wine – a skin fermented Pinot Gris Rose – and the 2010 Fourmen Pinot Noir. The latter is our entry level boxed wine that continues to impress, despite its boxed nature. And with camping season still upon us, we continue to push this Dundee Hills estate Pinot as the perfect backcountry wine.

We’re thrilled to host the UWF each year and are constantly blown away by the quality these fine small producers are turning out. It is far and away one of our most anticipated perennial events and a tremendous reflection of Oregon wine country’s heavy charm. It is collaborative, artisanal, and unique. Special thanks to those pictured above and our beloved Treehouse Wine Club members. Until next year!

Vista Hills Online Store

Custom Crush

As a sliver of the wine world knows, Vista Hills made an orange wine in 2011. The skin-fermented white was created for Seasons 52, a small family of restaurants back east. A notable talking point in contemporary wine culture, orange wine is achieved through extended maceration. The longer the skin contact, the more color, structure and tannins. As opposed to fermenting the pressed juice per a traditional Pinot Gris, the orange wine ferments with the skins on, as a traditional red would. A cap forms in the fermenter, punchdowns commence, etc., until you end up with a rusty coral colored wine with green fruit flavors and a slightly tannic backbone.

The 2011 Treehouse Pinot Gris Rose has developed a bit of a cult following. Although we first debuted this style of wine in 2009, it wasn’t until 2011 that the public was really able to take notice. We sent the 2011 to Seasons 52, where it was promptly placed on the restaurant’s “Drink Them Before They’re Famous” Fall menu. With only 250 cases produced, it was never going to last long. In fact, outside of visiting one of the restaurants, one would be hard-pressed to find it. But that doesn’t make it any less interesting.

Sadly, this wine is not available for retail. Call it guilt for harboring a secret or genuine interest in educating you about a relatively new and hip trend in winemaking. Whatever the reason, at least now you know. The secret is out.

Click on the links below to see what folks are saying about this unusual wine.

Visit Florida

Ruffles To Truffles

I Run For Wine

PR Newswire

AZ Central

Tampa Bay Food

The Hot Spot Orlando

Chicago Foodie Sisters

Tasting Tampa

Runners Tales

Food Bitch

Great Taste

Harvest 2012

The estate fruit is all in and the beginning of vintage 2012 is slowly coming together in the cellar. This year, our Pinot Gris, Rose, and a small batch of Pinot Noir are being produced at Matello in McMinnville. It’s our second official year at the facility and we couldn’t be happier to share the space with some other fantastic labels (Matello Wines, Grochau Cellars, Love & Squalor, etc.).

 Matello Winery: A bakery-turned-cellar, now enjoying a new wood-themed makeover.

After a relatively normal summer, we’re enjoying higher sugar levels and healthy fruit. Many have asked why harvest was so late this year but in actuality, it was only a little behind the average cycle. Many have forgotten how cool and wet spring was, setting bud break back a fair amount. Sure, summer was consistent with warm days and cool nights. But we were always starting a little behind schedule.

The must (young juice) can have an almost celestial quality.

We began harvest fruit about ten days ago, with the last block picked the morning of October 21st. Rain threatened throughout, but unlike most years, a little shower here and there was a welcome sight. Vista Hills vintner Dave Petterson looked forward to the precipitation, at least in small doses, siting its hydrating effect on the sun-stressed fruit. Additionally, a little moisture can simplify fermentations in the cellar, especially when you reach the 25 Brix mark, as some of our fruit this year did.

Harvest season has proved once more that you can’t make wine without a forklift (not without extreme hardship, anyway).

While yields have been lower this year, the quality of the fruit has been consistently tremendous. The manner in which the growing season started this year (late) and what it turned into (consistent, and long) is reminiscent of 2008. We won’t jump to any conclusions just yet, but all signs in the cellar point towards bigger, balanced wines with plenty of fruit and a reasonable alcohol content (around 14% for Pinot Noir).

The newer press we have been using this year has simplified the process. Better still, it comes with a command station no unlike something out of Star Wars (see below).

Press command center or cockpit?

We’re excited about the vintage and will keep you posted as the juice is coaxed into wine over several crucial weeks.

Uncommon Wine Profile no. 5

Yes, the 2012 Uncommon Wine Festival has come and gone. Yet, several of the promising young winemakers were not profiled in time. Travis Cook, for example, who tends Vista Hills vines in addition to crafting his own wines under the MotherLode Cellars moniker.

Cook works for Advanced Vineyard Systems in the northern Willamette Valley. Photo by Ryan Fish.

Cook makes Pinot Noir from fruit grown in the Valley. He also has a vineyard in the Snake River AVA of eastern Oregon. It’s an old mine that harvested gold and copper during the early 20th Century. Within the two-and-a-half acre site, there is syrah, cab, merlot and counoise planted. The latter is an uncommon varietal from the Rhone region, known for its vigorous acidity and dark, peppery notes. Typically, this varietal is used in small doses in bigger red blends. Cook combines it with Riesling in his MotherLode Rose.

The winemaking duties are left to Cook, who looks after several vineyards in the Valley. His parents and grandparents take care of the family vineyard, situated in warmer climes near Baker City, Ore. Cook hopes to one day make wine for a living, adapting the skill set he earned from studying Horticulture at Oregon State University to enology. Tasting his 2010 Pinot Noir, I’d say he’s well on his way.

More info at motherlodecellars.com.

Uncommon Wine Profile no. 4

Saga Hills Vineyard

Pinot Noir from an intimate 4-acre vineyard in the Dundee Hills.

A man and his vineyard: Saga Hills owner Bert Fernaeus. Photo by Ryan Fish.

Bert Fernaeus named his small-scale vineyard after his wife, Saga. The name is fitting, especially given the Fernaeus’ Swedish pedigree. He and Vista Hills’ owner John McClintock forged a friendship in the late 90’s when the two started planting Pinot Noir in the northern Willamette Valley. The Saga Hills Vineyard began in 1998 and consists of five Dijon clones.

The low-yielding Saga Hills fruit is sent to nearby DePonte Cellars where Isabelle Dutartre crafts the wine. Typically, it spends 14 months in french oak, achieving tremendous balance and texture without overpowering the pronounced strawberry notes his site always seems to offer. The French-born Dutartre is a graduate of the University of Bourgogne and spent 12 years with working with Joseph Drouhin before heading her own label.

Try Bert’s wine this Saturday at the Uncommon Wine Festival. He’ll be pouring from the 2008 and 2009 vintages.

Uncommon Wine Profile no. 3

Teutonic Wine Company

Mosel style wines from Alsea, Oregon and beyond.

Olga and Barnaby at home in Portland. Photo by Ryan Fish.

The Tuttles first planted vines in the tiny town of Alsea in 2005. Set about 20 miles from the Pacific, this site is the first of its kind in the coastal region of Oregon. The husband-and-wife duo focuses on cool weather varietals and winemaking program in the stylistic vein of Mosel, Germany. Following in the organic movement’s footsteps, Barnaby and Olga practice sustainable farming methods and wild yeast fermentation in the cellar.

We sent Olga Tuttle a few questions. Here are her responses. See her on Saturday at the Uncommon Wine Festival. There, you can sample and purchase their 2010 Alsea Pinot Noir, 2011 Alsea Blanc (white blend), 2011 Pinot Noir Rose, and 2010 Pinot Meunier .

VHV: How did you get into wine?

I discovered wine working as a server and became obsessed with cool climate wines. Eventually I was promoted to wine buyer and that is where I met Ewald and the Mosel wine adventure began.

VHV: A good wine does what?

Communicates terroir and vintage.

VHV: Do you have any bizarre harvest stories?

One of our fruit growers fed us squirrel while we picked the grapes.

VHV: Is there a clone you’ve always wanted to work with?

The Ritter Clone, Pinot Noir.

VHV: Who in the wine arena do you truly admire?

I truly admire Harald Junglen of Weingut Ackermann. He has generously taken me under his wing and helped us to make Mosel styled wines in Oregon.

Uncommon Wine Profile no. 2

Fausse Piste

Syrah, Roussanne, Viognier and Grenache by Jesse Skiles.

Skiles at work in the cellar. Photo by Ryan Fish.

We sent a few questions to Fausse Piste’s Jesse Skiles. The young vintner is the former chef at acclaimed winery Owen Roe. His wine is nothing if not wrapped in tradition, revolving mostly around Rhone varietals. At the first Uncommon Wine Festival, Skiles turned heads with his fantastic Syrah. See him this Saturday at the Treehouse.

VHV: How did you get into wine?

I got in to wine growing up here in Oregon, my uncle owned a vineyard in the 90’s and my family has been keen on local wines as long as I have been around. The turning point was drinking a Condrieu in wines class during my time at the CIA [Culinary Institute of America].

VHV: A good wine does what?

Works on the table with some good food and good friends.

VHV: Do you have any bizarre harvest stories?

Eating $56 worth of taco bell and an 18-pack of PBRs at 2 in the morning with two of my wonderful friends while pressing 60 tons of chardonnay – by far one of the highlights.

VHV: Is there a varietal you’ve always wanted to work with?


VHV: Who in the wine arena do you truly admire?

David O’Reilly of Owen Roe.

The second annual Uncommon Wine Festival is this Saturday, June 30th from 12-5 at the Treehouse Tasting Room.

Uncommon Wine Profile no. 1

Libra Wines

Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, and Tempranillo from Bill & Linda Hanson.

The Hansons: At home in the vineyard. Photo by Ryan Fish.

Balance is the name of the game. It’s what Bill and Linda Hanson strive for in every wine they produce. The Libra name has been around for a while, but only since 2009 has the micro-label sourced fruit from estate vines planted on the Hanson’s property. Here, Pinot Noir thrives in marine sedimentary and volcanic soils. The duo practices sustainable farming techniques and boasts a unique relationship with the wines they produce; that is, they see it from start to finish, from bud break to bottling.

Libra’s 2009 Tempranillo is perhaps the most uncommon of the bunch. Made from Umpqua Valley fruit, this 75-case wine offers the dark fruit and smoky, tobacco notes tempranillo is known for, without drowning the palate. “We made it like a Pinot,” Bill said. Native yeast fermented and aged without any new wood, this wine is balanced and flavorful. See for yourself this Saturday at the Uncommon Wine Festival.

Bill demonstrating where so much flavor comes from. Photo by Ryan Fish. 

More at the Libra web site.


The technology is not entirely new. In fact, crossflow filtration has been used in food processing since the 1960’s. It wasn’t until the 80’s when the wine world opened up to the idea, but early machinery was deemed to hard on delicate wines, stripping them of their personality.

Over the last several years, however, crossflow filtration has undergone a renaissance. Better design and improved technology have made this type of filtration much more popular in cellars. Many see it as the most efficient way to filter a wine, requiring less energy, time, and wine loss than the plate filters of old.

An extreme example: Filtrate on the left, filtered Rose on the right.

In essence, the machine works by pumping wine through a series of hollow tubes (picture a giant column full of what looks like pasta). The wine circulates through the many conduits, ridding itself of tiny unwanted solids on the lining of the tubes en route. Instead of pushing the wine through a membrane like in traditional filtration, crossflow circulates the wine continuously, preventing sediment clogging in the membranes. Many winemakers believe this type of filtration actually improves the aromatics and flavor of their wine.

The machinery (courtesy of Willamette Cross Flow)

We witnessed a significant change in our Pinot Gris Rose. Not only did the flavor and color improve, but the nose took on a cleaner, fruitier persona. Wines that spend a fair amount of time on the lees, like this one, really benefit from this type of soft and steady filtration. On top of clarity, microbial stability is at stake and crossflow filtration achieved both.

Stay tuned for our first 2011’s, the Pinot Gris, and Roses of Gris and Pinot Noir. We begin bottling these wines this week.

2011 Rose of Pinot Noir

With a bottling date just weeks away, we’re growing justifiably excited about a wine we’ve never made before. Our 2011 Pinot Noir Rose is something of an experiment, the product of some extra fruit last harvest. Presently, the wine is showing well, with a memorable coral color and strong melon and tropical fruit flavors.

The 2011 Rose: So new it doesn’t even have a label, yet.

By late Spring or early Summer, we’ll have some fifty cases of this wine. Stylistically, it’s done quite dry, much like the lauded Roses of Provence. Try it on a warm afternoon or pair it with grilled veggies and halibut. Just don’t over chill it, you’ll rob the Rose of its wonderful aromatics and lightly tannic structure.

Interest is already piling up. If you’d like to join our Rose waiting list, please email us at info@vistahillsvineyard.com and you’ll be the first to know when it’s available for purchase.