The History of a Hill.
This hill is the precise location of both the origins of Oregon's wine culture and Oregon's wine renaissance. This farm was once called the Reuter Estate and there were vineyards here from about 1887 until the beginnings of Prohibition in 1915 (Oregon enacted Prohibition 4 years prior the the Federal Government), when those first vines were pulled up and replaced with fruit trees, potatoes, and grazing fields. This vineyard site was brought back to life when it was purchased in 1965 by Charles and Shirley Coury and in 1966 planted to wine grapes, thus kicking off the modern wine industry in the Willamette Valley. The vineyard was subsequently bought and sold many times since 1978, but it has been in the safe hands of the Stoyanov family since 1992. Our Golden Cluster label started with the 2013 vintage, marking another new era of wines from this historic vineyard and a special link between Oregon's past and current wine history. For us, this is hollowed ground. We are forever grateful to the Stoyanov family for allowing us to buy some of these historic grapes and allow us to make our wines under their roof. We are humbled by their generosity and their commitment to learn a wider story of their estate.
The Rueter (Reuter) Family
Adolf Rueter arrived in Forest Grove, Washington County, Oregon in 1886. He secured a plot of land in the hills above Forest Grove at the mouth of the Gales Creek Valley, with sweeping valley views. He also began construction on an “H” shaped home in a style that was standard of its era. These homes could be configured in many ways based on the size of ones family. Once construction was well underway, Adolf sent word for his family to join him. By 1887, his wife Caroline, his son Ernest, and his four daughters, Freida, Elsie, Kathe, and Helen arrived from Germany ready for their new life in America.
Sourced from the [REDACTED] vineyard 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.
Charles & Shirley Coury
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 in the Columbia Gorge and one is just around the corner from David Hill Vineyard, in the Willamette Valley. The grower has over 200 different grape varietals between both vineyards. In some cases, these are the first ever plantings of certain 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 and climates.
Each wine is a brand within a brand, within 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……
David Teppola et al
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. Our wine culture DID NOT start in 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 soils. The original vineyards were from the Rueter, Wirtz, and Stetler families. All three sights still have their original 1880 era homesteads and they all have vineyards planted on them again. 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.
Milan Stoyanov Family
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 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 table grape and some musqué mutation origins, 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 it is 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 220 cases.