Winemaker Robert Brittan's Pinot noirs are always focused on a particular vineyard and its unique flavors - the terroir. He refers to his Pinot noirs as personalities, saying:
"Those who understand world class Pinot noir know there is an ethereal complexity that develops as you pay attention to her and she flowers for you. It's deceptive - you don't expect someone as ethereal as a world class Pinot to finish as intense and layered as she does."
More About Brittan Vineyards
Robert makes his own Brittan Vineyards wines and those of Winderlea, Blakeslee, and Youngberg Hill.
Robert Parker's Wine Advocate, in its August 2012 issue, gave Brittan's Pinot noirs some of the highest ratings of its Oregon reviews. The 2009 Gestalt Block received 95 points, and the 2009 Basalt Block received 94 points.
The Wine Avocate describes Brittan Vineyards and Robert Brittan: "After nearly three decades in California – most prominently directing activities at Far Niente and Stags’ Leap Winery – and a long search for the place to pursue his passion for Pinot Noir, Robert Brittan returned in 2004 to his home state, planting his hopes and a wide range of well-mixed vine selections on a high, 180 degree hillside south of McMinnville."
at right above, Robert Brittan punching down Pinot noir grapes, harvest 2009
Robert Brittan's Philosophy of Winemaking - A Gestalt
Every great winery has a gestalt - a presence greater than the sum of its parts. What makes up the gestalt of Oregon's wine producers? Some come to wine via high tech - some, like Tony Soter and Robert Brittan, come via California's finest wineries.
Brittan Vineyards' gestalt is the sum of Robert Brittan's wide ranging experience. Robert spent 16 years as Winemaker and Estate Manager for Stags' Leap Winery in Napa. He is considered possibly the most knowledgable winemaker on Petit Sirah in the world. He sits on the UC Davis advisory board and made some of the most highly regarded Petit Sirahs ever.
Robert's signature style, as he describes it: "the essence of the wine is its structure. It must have an entrance, a midpalate, and a finish of length. It must be complete". No 'doughnut holes' as he calls flat or missing flavors.
Robert's Brittan Vineyards Oregon Pinot noirs are a gestalt of experience and viewpoint, adding up to more than their parts. The gestalt of Brittan Vineyards is still in progress - and following its evolution is a delicious experience.
Why the Move to Oregon!
Robert has a long-time interest in Pinot noir and wanted to make a change. With family roots in Oregon and a strong interest in starting a winery, Robert and wife Ellen moved to Oregon in 2004 and bought their vineyard site.
The site has 128 acres of rocky hillside on a base of basalt and ancient volcanic soils. Of the roughly 18 acres of existing vines, over fifty percent of them have been removed and replanted. They currently harvest grapes from twenty acres of Pinot noir and one acre of Syrah.
In 2006, the unique soil coupled with Robert's understanding and love of Pinot noir varietals yielded their first two wines - the 2006 "Basalt Block" Pinot noir and "Gestalt Block" Pinot noir - named for the specific blocks of vines that were chosen for the wines. Their second vintage, the 2007, earned rankings of #12 (Basalt Block) and #27 (Gestalt Block) by Portland Monthly in their October 2009 article entitled "Top 30 Wines Made in Oregon". In 2011, the 2009 Pinots received Wine Advocate scores of 92 and 93 points.
Love of the Land
While growing grapes and making wine is definitely a top priority, Robert's love of the land goes far beyond viticulture. Perhaps one of the most exciting aspects of this new venture is the Brittan's commitment to wildlife habitat restoration.
In his journal Robert says, "walking and working a property on a daily basis gives you a connection to the land that cannot be felt from behind a desk. Whatever the reasons, I know that we are going to spend the rest of our lives making this 128-acre site a better place for the wildlife and native vegetation to live and thrive. As a result, it will bring a great deal of joy and peace to our lives, which I truly believe translates into the wines we produce from this site."
at right, Ellen Brittan
Daughter Chelsea and golden retriever, Katie Belle, lovingly called the puppy from hell in her younger days, fill out the Brittan family. Chelsea, having grown up in wine country, has wine making in her blood and has been working with her parents since they founded the winery. Katie Belle, goldie extraordinaire, keeps the birds and squirrels in line and has a special propensity for rooting out stray bungs from wine barrels. Brittan Vineyards appears to be a labor of love for the entire family. It is beautifully reflected in the quality of their wines.