COURY & OLMO
The wines from Golden Cluster will carry the fanciful name ‘COURY’ or ‘OLMO’ depending on who the source of the vines is from. ‘COURY’ is named after Charles Coury, one of Oregon’s most controversial figures. A brilliant man, who has since been vindicated in his assertion that Oregon had the potential to have world class wine growing regions. Emphasis on REGIONS. ‘OLMO’ is named after Dr. Harold Olmo (aka The Indiana Jones of Wine Grapes) one of the most important figures in the modern era of California wine. Dr. Olmo was instrumental in resurrecting the California wine industry by his tireless pursuits in the collection of plant material throughout the state and his development of “American” wine grapes. Golden Cluster sources one of the last remaining plantings of Flora vines in the USA. All of our wines are made from grapes from the original Charles Coury Vineyard (now called David Hill Vineyard), planted in 1966. These are some of the oldest vines in Oregon and they represent the beginnings of Oregon’s modern wine industry or as Coury called it, “a wine renaissance”. This vineyard is also home to the rare and mysterious “Coury Clone” of Pinot Noir. We like to remind people however, that that “Coury Clone” should be referred to as “COURY CLONES” as there is more than one rare clone of grape that Mr. Coury… (clears throat) …imported. Our Flora and Savagnin Rose bottlings are the oldest plantings of these grapes in the USA. They are also the only single varietal bottlings of these grapes in the USA as well. Rarity at new heights.
In special vintages, we made a wine from only the first row of vines that Charles Coury put in the ground. This “First Row” was a row planted to 8 different grape varieties and multiple clones. It is also known as the “Scion Block”, because this row of vines was also used to take cuttings. Those cuttings helped establish the Coury Nursery, which sold plant material to many of the foundational vineyards of the 1970’s. These vines are historic and the wine is a testament to Coury’s long term vision of Oregon.
∆ - Oregon (aka alt-Oregon)
Oregon is one of the most dynamic wine growing states in the U.S. With our winter rains and mild summers, Oregon has incredible growing conditions for ‘natural’ wine grape growing. What does that mean? Well, most of our vineyards in Oregon are ‘dry farmed’, so we rarely have a need for irrigation. Non-irrigated vines are common and almost exclusively found in most European wine growing regions. Oregon is also home to a diverse selection of soil types, microclimates, and elevations. Oregon is as diverse as France or Spain. So, why is it that when people say “Oregon Wine” they usually just mean Pinot Noir? This is part marketing success and simultaneously a huge failure for our region. ∆ - OREGON was developed to be the counter point to the Pinot Noir story. In fact, our goal with this brand is to bring a greater awareness of what “Oregon Wine” truly means. I mean, when you think of French wine, do you think of one grape and one region? No, same is true for Spanish wine, Italian wine, Australian wine, etc., etc.…. Oregon wine is not so easily understood. We are not a one trick pony!
The ∆ - Oregon line up are all single vineyard designated wines. This vineyard grafted onto their 30+ year old own rooted Pinot Noir vines TWELVE YEARS AGO! Why? It was too hot in a large part of their vineyard to grow Pinot Noir. Let me say it again. It was already too hot for Pinot Noir in this Northern Willamette Valley vineyard TWELVE YEARS AGO. This west facing section of the vineyard was grafted over to mostly Iberian grapes (a favorite of the vineyard owner). This vineyard was one of the first in the Willamette Valley to plant Tempranillo, Syrah, Grenache, Alvarinho, and Viognier. These wines are the first wines for this sub-brand of Golden Cluster.
This brand is centered around grapes coming from two experimental nurseries and vineyards owned by the same grower. At this time, we prefer not to disclose who and where, but we can say that one vineyard is on the Oregon side of the Columbia Gorge and one is just around the corner from David Hill Vineyard, in Forest Grove. The grower has over 200 different grape varietals between both vineyards. In some cases, these are the first ever plantings of these grapes in the USA, others are the first on the West Coast, some are just rare clones. This grower has many decades of grape growing and winemaking experience in New York state. He belongs to a network of growers and academic organizations who work together to establish viability of these grapes in different soils, climates, and regions. I’m very honored to have been given the responsibility of making some of the first wines.
Each wine is a brand within a brand, under the Golden Cluster umbrella. They all have individual labels, there is no label theme that connects each. These wines are in some cases the first ever wines made from these grapes in Oregon. These wines are the beginning of another wine renaissance that Oregon is currently going through. These wines are the most exciting wines in my cellar right now. They are blasting out of the gates already. The future seems secure for Garanoir, Sagrantino, Regent, Saperavi, Fiano, Vignoles, and more……
On Wine Hill
Before Oregon enacted prohibition on January 1, 1916, Oregon had a growing and prosperous wine industry. In the northern reaches of the Willamette Valley, vineyards were planted as far back as the 1870’s. In the hills above Forest Grove there were three main vineyards and wineries. Founded by German & Swiss immigrants, they planted a wide variety of grapes both of European and American origin. These vineyards were located on what became known as “Wine Hill”. People from Portland and vicinity would take the train out to Forest Grove to buy their wines, picnic and escape to the natural beauty of the Tualatin River Valley.
On Wine Hill is a new brand made under the Golden Cluster umbrella. This brand is an homage to Oregon’s pre-prohibition roots. Our label is an image, circa 1900 of one of the Rueter daughters standing in the middle of the old vine, head trained Rueter Vineyard, in front of the Rueter homestead (it’s still there, btw). This image clearly shows vines (old vines) were flourishing in Oregon in 1900. Our wine culture DID NOT start in 1961 or 1965…… We are sourcing grapes from present day vineyards that are planted on the exact same land as those original three vineyards. These are all planted on Loess soil types. The original vineyards were from the Rueter, Wirtz, and Stetler families. All three sights still have their original 1880 era homesteads and they all once again, have vineyards planted on them. The first releases are all single vineyard wines from the Wirtz Vineyard (same name today as in the past) which was planted between 1968-1972 with plant material mostly from the Charles Coury Nursery. Planted by Patriarch Reiner Wirtz, whose parents planted the pre-prohibition vineyard, and his son David Wirtz, this vineyard is also relatively unknown. David Wirtz was Charles Coury’s assistant winemaker and cellar hand.
The Wirtz Vineyard has a similar varietal makeup as the original Coury Vineyard with a few additions. What is important to point out is that Wirtz Vineyard is planted to mostly white grapes. Lots of “Coury Clone” Riesling, Gewurztraminer, Sylvaner, Chasselas, Muscat, Savagnin Rose (rouge vines), Melon de Bourgogne, and Chardonnay (clone 108). There are all four Pinot Noir clones from the early 1970’s (Coury, Pommard, Wädenswil, Droit) and smaller plantings of Merlot. Lastly, we have located what we believe are 4-5 vines that are pre-prohibition. These appear to be Black Hamburg. DNA tests will confirm what grapes these are.
Müller ? x4
Not since the creation of BIG SALT have we seen a wine capture the consumers attention an imagination. Made without much thought of its potential popularity, our Müller?, Müller? Müller? Müller? is an unexpected wine. Müller Thurgau is a grape that was widely planted in Oregon in the late 1960’s until the early 1980’s. It is a wine that typically garners little respect. I wanted to change that. Having done lots of research on grape parentage, Müller was created in Switzerland in the early 1880’s, right around the same time as the first grapes were planted in the Willamette Valley, Oregon. Müller is a crossing of Riesling x Madeline Royale. Knowing what I know about Madeline Royale, I knew that it had some red grape parentage, so I surmised that there must be flavor in those skins….Müller Thurgau grapes are cheap because nobody wants them. When you do find Müller Thurgau around the Willamette Valley nearly all of them are pre-1980 plantings….aka old vines. It’s insane. Growers are basically giving it away. Given the low buy-in, age of vines, rare plant material, and history attached to most of these grapes, I had to give this “hunch” a try. The first vintage was 2017 and I’ll admit to chickening out. I pulled the wine off skins after 7 days and pressed it just as it was starting to ferment. I had the fermenters inside, where it was slightly warmer. I should have placed them outside in the cooler temperatures….I was able to do this during the 2018 vintage. The label is a nod to that scene in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, when the teacher (and Seattle resident) says; “Bueller?, Bueller? Bueller? Bueller?”….we use the same font as the movie poster….packaging is A+…wine too. Tastes like passionfruit, green mangos, green papaya….tastes like a tropical summer without being sweet…this wine was fermented dry. Slight green/orange tint to the wine makes for a striking presentation in the glass. Pair this with anything. 2017 vintage was a mere 90 cases, the 2018 will be 225+ cases.