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Old Friends Part Ways in Willamette Valley

St. Innocent Winery and Zenith Vineyard look forward to new ventures and adventures
Photo by: David Yellen

Posted: Jan 19, 2018 10:40am ET

The 12-year partnership between St. Innocent Winery and Zenith Vineyard in Oregon's Willamette Valley has come to an end, but the breakup was amicable.

St. Innocent founder and winemaker Mark Vlossak and Zenith owners Tim and Kari Ramey joined efforts in 2006. Together, they built a winery on the Zenith property where Vlossak made both St. Innocent and Zenith wines, which frequently received outstanding ratings from Wine Spectator.

Vlossak and the Rameys were ready for a change. After 30 years of winemaking, Vlossak wanted to dial back on his winemaking workload and plant his own vineyard. The Rameys saw that as an opportunity for a big move and brought in Ehren Jordan as the winemaker in residence for the 2018 vintage. Jordan is the owner of Failla and former head of the winemaking team at Turley Cellars.

Jordan is moving Failla's existing Oregon operations to Zenith in a few months in preparation for his fifth crush in Willamette Valley. The Rameys will continue to sell Pinot Noir and Chardonnay from their 83-acre vineyard to more than a dozen producers.

"We were always very happy with Mark's winemaking, but I am excited to see what direction the Zenith Vineyard wines will take with Ehren," Tim Ramey says.

"We are returning to our roots" is how Vlossak describes the changes. After selling his 25 percent interest in the Zenith winemaking facility and vineyard to the Rameys, he has his own big plans. Vlossak bought a 47-acre property in the South Salem Hills and is occupied planning a new vineyard and winery facility. The new vineyard will have 15 acres of vines, 60 percent of which will be Chardonnay (Dijon clone for the nerds out there) and 40 percent Pinot Noir (777 and Pommard clones).

Meanwhile, over the next three years, Vlossak plans to decrease production from 10,000 cases annually to about 6,500. The new vines should come into production in 2021.

I'm looking forward to what both wineries produce. Vlossak, no doubt, will continue his impressive track record at St. Innocent, and Jordan has already shown a knack for Oregon fruit with Failla Pinot Noir Eola-Amity Hills Seven Springs Vineyard 2015 (93 points, $60.) It's an impressive wine.

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