The Unique Oregon Wine Industry: R.Stuart & Co., McMinnville, Oregon

There is a reason why I love Oregon wineries. and it isn’t simply the wines but the people behind the wine. From time to time, I meet people who really shine in this industry, not only in overall quality of their wines but in their personalities. Today was such a day. I had the chance to experience the amazing hospitality and kindness today from the R. Stuart & Co. wine family.

Rob Stuart, Owner & Winemaker of R.Stuart & Co.

Rob Stuart, Owner & Winemaker of R.Stuart & Co.

Today is a Monday. Mondays are generally not known for being great wine-tasting days since most tasting rooms are closed. Monday closings are common because most tourists come on Saturday and Sunday.

Having said that, I still saw it as a unique day to visit some wineries in McMinnville, Oregon. If you haven’t been to McMinnville, it’s time to visit this pleasant and unique town with many attractions. It’s located about an hour south of Portland and 30 minutes north of Salem.

If you make the trip, it will be well worth the visit. McMinnville is situated in the heart of wine country, with Yamhill-Carlton wine country to the north and Eola-Amity and McMinnville AVAs to the south.

Today, I decided to stop by and visit R. Stuart & Co. Wine bar in downtown McMinnville. Tasting room staff, Hunter and Rebekah greeted me with open arms. They offered me a mixed tasting of a number of wines, including two sparkling wines and finishing with a Cabernet Sauvignon Tawny port called the “UnPort”.

This isn’t your normal kind of tasting. Not many places in Oregon can offer you sparkling wine, Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Tempranillo, and a finish with a lovely Tawny.

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One of my favorite new wines:  2008 Autograph Pinot Noir

R. Stuart & Co. produces about 16,000 bottles of wine, split between two separate labels: R. Stuart & Co. for single vineyard wines and reserve; and Big Fire for easy drinking, day-to-day every-day kind of wines at a price point that won’t break the bank. While R. Stuart & Co. does not own the vineyards they source from. it works closely with the growers, enabling the company to pick the very best.
This is where I will take a short break and give you some background on Rob. A New York native, Rob initially started his professional career in biochemistry and went on to start his wine-making journey first in Napa, California, and then as a winemaker in Yakima, Washington, and finally, in Oregon. After twenty years of working for others, he decided it was time to make the wine he loves. R. Stuart & Co. was founded in 2002.

After my initial tasting, I was then invited to barrel-taste the brand new 2013 vintages with the charismatic winemaker and owner, Rob Stuart at their winery, a converted Granary in downtown McMinnville.

We tasted through Pinot Gris, Pinot Noirs from all over the valley, Tempranillo, and finally three separate non-vintage Ports made from Cabernet Sauvignon ranging in age from 1991 to 2007.

Rob actually climbed up four levels of barrels to get our amazing last tasting of 1991 Port. A stunning and wonderful port if you can get your hands on it.

A special thanks to Rob and his team for their amazing hospitality and kindness. I couldn’t have asked for a better hosts.

Thank you!

Visit R. Stuart & Co. Wine bar in McMinnville, Oregon, Sun.-Tue.: 12 p.m.- 6 p.m., and Wed.-Sat.: 12 p.m.- 8 p.m. They are located at 528 NE 3rd St. McMinnville, OR 97128.

Make sure to ask them to tell you about the Three Clowns story of their Cabernet Sauvignon wine, it is full of twists and turns, Delta flight attendants and Texas.  As Rob states, “it’s like a fishing story, it becomes more embellished as time goes on.”

Side note: I heard that if you join the wine club, Maria Stuart, Robs’s lovely wife, pairs every new club release with a recipe. What a great benefit! For more info on their wine club, click here. 

Planning a trip to McMinnville?

Here are some downtown tips I’ve heard from the locals.

Place to stay: 

Hotel Oregon is one of  McMenamins renovated classic hotels. This hotel, built in 1905, has quite the history from being a Greyhound bus depot to a Western Union and finally soda fountain and beauty parlor before McMenamins took over.   It is a four-story restored building with 42 rooms complete with a pub on the ground floor and a great summertime rooftop bar.

Great food at a great price:

Like Thai? I certainly do, especially when it’s reasonably priced. Try Thai Country off of the main street of NE 3rd Street.  According to one Yelp! reviewer, “This isn’t the best Thai food in town, it’s the best in the state.” I certainly enjoyed their green curry!

Prefer Italian? Try Nick’s Italian Cafe. I’ve heard it’s stellar! It’s right across the street from R.Stuart & Co. Wine Bar. on NE 3rd street.

Have a wonderful, happy and safe Thanksgiving! Cheers!

The 2013 Harvest in Oregon

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According to NPR, September was the wettest September since they started recording the rainfall in Oregon.

It seemed that 2013 was going to be just like 2012 with Winemakers predicting harvest would take place two weeks earlier than 2012 given the unseasonably dry spring and warm summer. However as the smaller bunches started to mature and was almost ready to pick, there was a large amount of humidity and eventually rain that hit in the last few weeks of September. This lead to many wineries picking early to avoid the onslaught of rain that drenched the state the last week of September. However, for some wineries, the fruit just wasn’t ready and let it hang longer.20131012-161235.jpg

As a winemaker, you run many risks in doing this but you may win the battle against mother nature if you know just when to pick. Picking after the rains meant you obtained more ripeness but ran the risk of botrytis, berry burst or worse, berry rot. For the lucky ones this meant losing 1-5% of the affected crop, for others this meant losing the entire crop. I’ve know of a few who scrapped the entire lot as it just wasn’t up to the standards they needed and didn’t harvest this year.

With a dry spring, the berries were already quite small in development, the warm summer was ideal to ripen these small clusters, and it would have been an ideal harvest for all of Oregon, had it remained dry. It didn’t and many winemakers made different calls leading to what you would call an interesting vintage with a number of variations. Some call it one of the rainiest and most difficult vintages they’ve ever seen. With that said, Oregonians have never been the ones to let that stop them.

Overall, it should make for an all around interesting 2013 vintage.

The Newest and Greatest Little Wine Shop in NE Portland

Jeff Weissler, fellow wine blogger (@consiouswine) and now entrepreneur has recently opened a shop in the Kerns neighborhood of NorthEast Portland called Pairings Portland. The premise for the shop is to create a space for people, all people, to learn, discover and have fun with wine. I highly recommend you attend one of his great classes and check out the great sustainable wines he carries.

Thanks for joining us today and I hope you will take one of Jeff’s great culinary and wine pairings classes. To find out more check out his page at https://www.facebook.com/pairingspdx?fref=ts or at http://www.consciouswine.com.

Pairings Portland is located at 455 NE 24th Ave, Portland, OR 97232, cross streets are 24th and Glisan in the Kerns neighborhood.

“Our wine selection is set up by the foods they pair with. There’s a section called ‘By Cuisine’ and another ‘By Food’. The wines are also chosen based on the 4 Principles of ConsciousWine:

1. organic grapes
2. sustainably farmed
3. the ‘Star Wars’ factor
4. quality rockin’ wines”

Thank you Jeff for taking the time to talk to me about your great new shop! Cheers!

For more information, please visit http://www.sacreddrop.com