Some big names in Oregon wine are launching an ambitious project, hoping to draw attention to some of the state's top vineyards. Oregon Estate Vineyards, established by Willamette Valley Vineyards founder Jim Bernau and wine director Christine Collier, aims to establish small estate wineries at highly regarded Oregon sites.
Their first effort will center on Elton Vineyard, a 60-acre site owned by Dick and Betty O’Brien in Oregon’s Eola-Amity Hills. Bernau’s company has farmed the site under a long-term lease since 2007. Isabelle Meunier, who left Evening Land Vineyards last year, will make Elton’s estate Pinot Noir and Chardonnay starting this year. Elton is among several vineyards she contracted with for her inaugural 2014 vintage at her new label Lavinea. The wines for both projects will be made at Carlton Winemakers Studio until a winery can be built at Elton.
“While the vineyard name has been listed on a number of Oregon's highest-rated wines, this will be the first time Elton will take center stage on the label," said Meunier. “I am excited at exploring the many facets of this great vineyard site.” She has her eye on one portion of the vineyard that has some of the oldest remaining own-rooted Pommard Clone Pinot Noir vines in Oregon.
Other Oregon Estate wineries will operate independently of Willamette Valley Vineyards with separate winemaking teams.The next winery in the works, a Willamette Valley Vineyards representative revealed, is a new 42-acre site in SeVein, a sprawling project on the Oregon side of Walla Walla Valley. Pepper Bridge, L’Ecole No. 41 and Figgins Family have already established vineyards there, and former NFL quarterback Drew Bledsoe owns two sites and is building a winery for his Doubleback label.
Pambrun Vineyard is named for Bernau's ancestor, Pierre Pambrun, a Walla Walla pioneer. The site will be planted to Cabernet Sauvignon and other Bordeaux varieties next spring. Pambrun will be sourcing fruit from other sites for the 2015 vintage.