September 23rd, 2019

Tiny Travels: The five winemaker sensualists of Oregon Wine Country (and one who has the sixth sense!)

Wine is a full-body pleasure, in the making as well as consuming. You can learn and experience a ton by visiting these artists and learning from their approach to a product that engages all the senses.

Sight: Patrick Reuter of Dominio IV

Winemaker Patrick Reuter was a senior studying at the University of Oregon the first time he tried to translate the experience of wine visually. He has spent the decades since painting visual descriptions of his wines, even turning one of the paintings into a label for the winery’s Scorched Earth Syrah. The labels he paints show, in visual language, the way someone might experience one of his wines. They are a marvel.

A label depicting “shape tasting notes” from Dominio IV winemaker, Patrick Reuter.

“The visual powers of the brain are enormous, lightning fast and magnificently perceptive,” Reuter says. “Why struggle with words when you can just see it and immediately, intuitively understand it?” 

Where to go: Dominio IV tasting room, 11570 NE Intervale Rd, Carlton, OR 97111

Taste: Maria Stuart of R. Stuart Wines

Food and wine are Maria Stuart’s love languages. Each harvest season, she feeds the R. Stuart harvest team dinner every single night, based on the recipes she develops for the enormously beloved food and wine pairing newsletter she sends to the R. Stuart wine club. It’s a massive undertaking, with giant heart behind it. 

“Wine tasting is the thing, isn’t it? We don’t go “wine smelling” or “wine touching,” we go “wine tasting.” However, our tasting experience actually includes both aroma and texture and can’t truly be separated from either. Our sensory experiences encompass the senses of our body and also what’s going around us. We absorb it all and it all plays into our experience of a wine.”

Where to go: R. Stuart Wine Bar, 528 NE 3rd Street 

Hearing: Nathan Klosterman of Argyle

It takes a patient soul to wait out the three years for sparkling wine to develop, but winemaker Nate Klosterman never had a problem with this particular Marshmallow Test. Raised by a kindergarten teacher and a veterinarian, his ability to experiment, taste, and wait for that perfect, clear pop of bubbly is the foundation of Argyle’s nationally renowned sparkling program. He’s quiet and thoughtful, the anti-party animal making the world’s best party beverage.

“The sound of a popping cork universally means “time to celebrate,” Klosterman said. “That celebration can take many forms—birthdays, weddings, anniversaries.  For us it means celebration of the vintage and all of the work that went into each and every bottle of our sparkling wine.” 

Where to go: Argyle Winery, 691 OR-99W, Dundee, OR 97115

Smell: Patrick Taylor of Cana’s Feast

Winemaker Patrick Taylor tends to announce himself in every room he enters, wearing vetiver-based colognes he develops himself. Super-sniffing is just one of the talents he brings to Pinot noir — the world’s most fragrant varietal —  at Cana’s Feast. For Taylor, the scent of a wine (let’s call it the bouquet), is the first indicator of a wine’s character, triggering long-ago memories, creating pleasure, and inspiring connections we can’t always pinpoint with words.

“Our sense of smell and taste are primitive senses – the wiring was developed before our higher cognitive functions evolved,” Taylor said.  “We tend to “react” more viscerally to flavors and aromas rather than to make judgments of reason about them.”

Where to go: Cana’s Feast, 750 W. Lincoln Street, Carlton, OR 97111

Touch: Rollin Soles of ROCO Winery 

Soles is the suburban cowboy of the Oregon wine industry, whose jokes belie the seriousness of the has brings to the craft, first at Argyle Winery, which he founded, and now at ROCO Winery. At ROCO, he’s experimenting with adding aged stems to wine to change to texture and structure in The Stalker, a Pinot noir that earns 91 points by Wine Spectator.

“This produces a Pinot noir wine that hits all the levels of texture that tannin can offer,” Soles said. “Skin tannins for smoothness, brown stem tannin for a middle, spiced grip, and seed tannin for just a touch of strong handshake type  to the wine.” 

Where to go: ROCO Winery, 13260 NE Red Hills Rd, Newberg, OR 97132

Sixth Sense

Winemaker Meg Murray’s catchphrase should probably be “I see wine people.” In the runup to the 2016 election, Murray launched Nasty Woman Wines, a wine label featuring a range of varietals that are “unapologetic” in their expression. Wine, she says, has a tendency to spark discussion.

“Wine naturally brings people together and stimulates conversation,” Murray said.  “NASTY WOMAN WINES was created to not only help get more women to the table in policy and leadership by donating 20% of net profits towards that end, but to also get more people around the table and talking about feminist issues.”

Where to buy: Harvest Fresh Grocery & Deli,  251 NE 3rd St, McMinnville, 97128

Emily Grosvenor is Editor of Oregon Home Magazine and head storyteller for #McMinnvilleDentist.  Follow her on Instagram @emilygrosvenor.