October 28th, 2019

Tiny Travels: The Wine Country Detective investigates why Stoller keeps winning all of these awards

Right on the heels of a case I had closed like Forever 21 I got a hot tip about a place out northeast of McMinnville that has tongue’s wagging and wine lovers up in a tizzy. They call it Stoller Family Estate. I’ve read in the local rags that it’s been raining awards over there. Best Tasting Room in the Country. One of the Best Family-friendly Wineries. First winery in the world to achieve LEED Gold certification.

I don’t like to be rated. I like to get out in front. Get a little lead, take a little breather in the backstretch, and then come home free. But there’s one thing that I can’t figure out. What makes Stoller run. The wine country detective is on the case.

Like a painter repainting the same canvas all over again, I follow a series of clues that can only add up to a full picture.

It’s the drive in.

You might call it a long and winding road. I might call it deliverance. The drive in might have enough curves to soften the most hard-boiled of detectives. Farm country bucolic with a finish in a parking lot pointed towards Mt. Hood. She doesn’t always show up though, that femme fatale. As a wise friend once said, when you’re an ancient mountain, you do what you want.

It’s the place.

You might find it funny. Look at a mountain in the parking lot, gaze at the hills once you’re in the place. But here, the eyes are on the prize. Rows of grapes planted on a family farm that’s been around since 1943. I’ve heard it’s founder Bill Stoller’s favorite view. I stopped liking things in 1997 but if I know people, I’ll say you’ll like it, too. You can’t tell just by looking at it, but that’s planted 70% with Pinot noir, 25% with Chardonnay, 5-8% with 10 other varieties going about their business in plain sight.

It’s the people.

Inside, I turn my attention to the staff. They’ve got their stories straight. It’s a tale of a farm where 700,000 turkeys once lived, transformed in 1993 to a family estate vineyard. First vintage in 2001. A new net-zero building. LEED certification. B-Corp status. By all accounts, Stoller’s one of the good guys. I tease out more and find they are helpful sources. They’ve learned on the job. They know the wines. They don’t hold back. I hear them send tasters to friends at other wineries down the road like it isn’t a dog-eat-dog world we’re living in.

It’s the wine.

I try a flight and end with a 2015 Reserve Pinot noir. I remember that summer. Hotter than a July blacktop. The nose is perfume. Aromatics of black cherry, cedar and licorice. It’s tannin on the tongue. Hints of ripe red fruits. I’m a tough guy. I’ve been sapped twice, choked, beaten silly, shot in the arm until I’m crazy as a couple of waltzing mice. But now I’m going to do something really tough not ask for another.

It’s the Adirondack chairs.

This is one mystery where the clues add up. I take a seat on one of the rows of white Adirondack chairs pointed towards the hill. Down below, a tire swing hangs from an old oak. A family plays frisbee golf on the lawn. Pooches curl around their owners legs as they sip. Cloud tendrils float across the sky. Did I just say “tendrils?” A man’s in danger of getting a little sentimental. It’s a done deal. In the case of Stoller, it’s not one thing. It’s all the things.

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