Patricia Green Cellars
Fabulous Wines from Former Tree Planter
by Christina Kelly
Everything about Patty Green defies appearance.
The 48-year-old winemaker didn’t follow the usual path to wine country. In fact, her arrival followed a long history of working in non-traditional professions, including tree planting, sailboat crewing, work in construction and geophysical surveying.
At 5-feet tall, she doesn’t look like a winemaker, although up close, her small frame contradicts a physical and inner strength often overshadowed by a beaming smile.
With nearly 17 years of winemaking experience, Green finally opened her own winery, Patricia Green Cellars, in the fall of 2000. This also didn’t happen the way most transactions occur in the purchase of a winery. In fact, Oregon’s wine industry almost lost Patty Green that year.
At right - Patty Green in her Estate Vineyard
How it Began
In 1986, Green began working at Hillcrest Vineyards in Southern Oregon at the request of a friend. With an innate sense of how things work and a mechanical aptitude, Green performed a number of jobs at the winery. When the 1987 harvest came in, she made wine and in 1988, became the official winemaker.
She left Hillcrest in 1989 and took work in the construction industry. However, she continued to keep one foot in the wine industry, working the harvest for Adelsheim in 1990-91. For the following two years, Green made wine for La Garza Winery in Southern Oregon.
Torii Mor hired Green in 1993, where she worked for the next seven years. It was during this time that Green developed a loyal staff that stayed with her after she left Torii Mor. The parting was not easy.
Green was uncertain what she would do next. She didn’t think it would be in the wine industry.
“I was ready to change my life,” Green recalled. “I was burned out, fed up and tired with the wine business. I don’t think people understand how hard this work can be.”
Making wine for other people was sometimes frustrating, especially if winery owners and the winemaker didn’t always see eye to eye.
Although Green was ready to leave the wine industry, it was not ready to let her go. She left Torii Mor in 2000 without knowing where the future would lead her. It was deja vue with Green—following instincts when the path before her was as clear as a desert sand storm.
In the past, Green always landed on her feet, happy to pursue another adventure in her life. This time, however, grape growers and winemakers urge her to stay in the industry and produce wine.
Vineyard owners told Green they wanted to sell their fruit to her. She explained she had nothing—no winery, no equipment, no staff. But Green promised to consider their offers if something fell into her lap.
“A short time later, I walked into Panther Creek Cellars and there were a number of (Willamette Valley) winemakers doing a tasting,” Green recalled. “As I walked over to their table, they all applauded me.
“It was the spurring on from people in the wine industry that kept me here,” she added. “I am very thankful to those people in the Oregon wine industry.”
Winemaker Ken Wright said he doesn’t believe Green would have left the industry.
“Her internal compass would have brought her back,” Wright said. “She so obviously loves what she is doing and she wears that enjoyment. She loves it right down to her soul.”
On March 1, 2000, about two weeks after she left the wine industry, Jim Anderson, who worked at Torii Mor with Green, and left at the same time, received a call from Tom and Wendy Kreutner, owners of Autumn Wind Vineyards. The couple offered to sell their winery. Green and Anderson had a friend who wanted to be a silent partner in an Oregon winery so all parties began discussions.
“By July 21, we closed the deal and looked forward to harvest,” Green said. “It was pretty fateful alright.”
The estate has 26 acres, although Green and Anderson farm 60 acres of property for grapes. Green lives at the estate with four cats—they take care of the house and farm just fine when their owner is on the road.
Were it not for the loyalty of her friends and employees—Anderson (her business partner and cellarmaster), Jose Garcia (her vineyard manager who worked with her at Torii Mor) several vineyard workers who have been with her for years and others who helped out when it was needed, Green said the winery would only be a dream, not a reality.
“I think when you go to a winery, there is a feeling about it, an ambience,” Green said. “We are a cohesive bunch. We are a loyal group and I think it shows.
“I don’t do all of this by myself—it’s physically impossible to do it all. If you take care of the people around you, you will get rewarded.”
The Patty Green Wines
Most people familiar with Patty Green wines say they are accessible from the moment the cork pops, and age well in the cellar. Green is able to get great fruit extraction from her wines, and wonderful aromatics.
When asked how she delivers such consistent, superb wines, Green smiles like the cat that ate the canary. It is a secret, although she will tell bits and pieces of her winemaking style to those who ask at the winery.
What is not a secret is the value of her wines. While many Oregon Pinot Noirs sell for $40 to $75 per bottle, Green’s Pinots, often rated higher than the more pricey wines, retail for less. Her wines sell quickly, despite hard economic times.
Green and Anderson use only native yeast in making their wines. The do not purchase or add commercial yeast to get grapes to ferment. She also puts certain types of lees back into the barrels while the wines are aging. Lees are the seeds, skins and related solids that fall to the bottom of fermenting grape juice. They can add a layering quality to the wine and a berry-like texture.
“It’s a stylistic thing for me,” Green said. “Some people like a lot more wood. Some like tighter wines with higher acid levels. I like a softness and richness in the front of the wine.”
Anderson said his partner has great instincts for winemaking and one of the best noses in the business. He says she is great to work with and has a keen sense of humor.
“She is very intuitive—in the vineyard and in the winery,” Anderson said. “Her wines are very well balanced and great with food. But her best asset is her nose. She has developed a great nose. I think it benefits her more than tasting.”
Balcombe is probably the most popular vineyard for Patty Green wines. The vineyard is on a convex slope and was planted in 1986. The wines made from this site have wonderful fruit flavors, a little sweetness in the finish and layers upon layers in the mouth.
The Estate Vineyard has been under rehabilitation since Green and Anderson purchased the winery. The wines are loaded with black fruit and structure, yet the wine is approachable now.
Shea Vineyards has outstanding grapes and the wine is lush and luxurious and filled with lingering black cherry flavors. Green consistently makes great wine from this vineyard.
Quail Hill Vineyard produces small, intense yields of fruit with hints of herbs and plumy sweetness. When she produced wine from this vineyard for Torii Mor, a bottle of wine cost $100. Now that she creates wine under her own label, the wine is still great, and much less expensive.
Green and Anderson have managed the Eason Vineyard, in the Dundee Hills, since 1994. This vineyard produces dense wine with red fruit flavor that will age well. The Anden Vineyard produces dark fruit with a core of sweet candied cherries. As Anderson says, “Fans of bigger styles will like this wine.”
The winery also produces small lots of Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc.
Patricia Green Cellars produced about 5,000 cases when Green and Anderson took over Autumn Wind Winery. In 2002, she produced 8,500 cases and says that is enough. Today, the winery is up to over 15,000 cases a year. They make custom wines for several very prestigious restaurants across the country and have a huge following.
When she isn’t in the vineyard hovering over crops, or in the winery or on the road selling her wines, Green says she is content to live in wine country and savor her surroundings and her good fortune.
As an animal lover, Green says she once had a fantasy to own and run a ranch, complete with horses and real cowboys. Her life keeps her too busy for ranching, but she doesn’t cross out the idea.
With Patty Green, the next turn in the road could be another adventure.
“My life was never run in chaos,” Green said. “Things just came along that fit—it was part of the momentum of how my life worked.”
A growing number of women are making wine for a career but Green admitted when she first started, it was not easy for her. The difference, she said, was she was ambitious, friendly and hard working.
“I always worked in male dominated industries, so entering this one was no different,” Green said. “I look back now and see it was tough. But when I was immersed in it, I didn’t think I was getting singled out. I was friendly and most people were friendly back.”
Although Green doesn’t get the same amount of media attention as other Northwest wineries, she is content, for the moment, to keep just under the radar as long as she can sell what she produces. Her wines have a loyal following and many people take advantage of purchasing Patty Green futures to have first dibs at her wine.
A recent barrel tasting of Green’s 2010s shows her wine to be right on the money and in danger of radar tracking to bring the world to her wines. Her wines beg to dance with food.
“We’re lucky to have Patty Green in Oregon,” said a neighboring winemaker. “She is a great ambassador for the industry and just a lot of fun. She is the kind of person you would just like to hang out with.”