Nestled atop a heavily forested ridge in the Chehalem Mountains, Raptor Ridge Winery owners Scott and Annie Shull shed their high technology cloaking for a simpler country life. The Shulls share their winery with the raptors living on their 12 acres.
More About Raptor Ridge Wines
"Raptor Ridge Owners Traded High Technology
By Christina Kelly
Nestled atop a heavily forested ridge in the Chehalem Mountains, Oregon winery Raptor Ridge's owners Scott and Annie Shull shed their high technology cloaking for a simpler country life. The Shulls share their winery with the Raptors living on their 12 acres. Their wines have received numerous awards and In 2009, Raptor Ridge was named one of Wine & Spirits Magazine's "Top 100 Wineries of the Year."
When Raptor Ridge was founded, Scott worked for Intel during the day, spending the rest of his waking moments, including weekends, on his wines - Oregon Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, and Chardonnay. The winery produces a little over 6500 cases per year. The Schull's 18 acre estate vineyard is called "Tuscowallame," the native American word for "place where the owls dwell."
“We want to stay at the boutique level,” said Annie. “There is something very magical about this place and we want to keep it that way. It is like living in paradise we are so blessed.
Annie moved from St. Paul, Minnesota to Oregon sixteen years ago, where she met her future husband Scott at Intel. As a marketing consultant, Annie worked a more creative side of the industry, but said she always wanted to have her own business.
“I’ve always been interested in having a family business,” she said. “I have an entrepreneurial spirit, and am a country girl at heart.”
Everything fell into place when she and Scott met. A strategic and business planner for Intel, Scott spent his free time making beer, keeping bees and learning about fermentation science. Prior to meeting Annie, a friend introduced him to winemaking about 11 years ago. He offered his first commercial wine in 1995.
“When I first moved out to Chehalem Mountain, many of my neighbors were wine grape growers,” Scott said. “I started out making wine as a hobby in 1989, then I got bit by the bug. I joined the Westside Winemakers Club, where we would get together for the love of wine.”
After the Shulls were married in 1998, the couple focused on a business plan that allowed Annie to leave the high tech industry and dedicate her efforts to the Oregon winery's marketing, distribution and planning. In October each year, friends and family come together to help the winery with the crush.
In a state with a reputation for good Pinot Noir, Raptor Ridge stands on its small production and attention to details nurturing, babysitting and coaxing each barrel produced. Scott says his wines have something a little extra his hand-crafted care and attention.
“Friends tell me that there’s nothing like hand-crafted wines,” Scott said. “They have a unique flavor, aroma and texture. Wines made in mass can be lovely, but they miss something. I concentrate on every single barrel in our winery. It’s just not possible to do that when you produce mass quantities.”
Raptor Ridge (so called because the estate is shared with such birds of prey as Red-tailed hawks, kestrels and owls) wines are aged in French oak, and Scott takes a minimalist approach to the grapes. All the grapes are purchased from growers in the area, although the couple hopes to purchase property more conducive to grape-growing in the future.
Today, Scott makes about 6500 cases of nine different wines per vintage. They include Pinot gris, Grüner Veltliner, Pinot noir rose, several distinct vineyard designates, and consistent blends of Willamette Valley Pinot noir and Reserve Pinot noir.
Several single vineyard Pinot Noir wines come from Raptor Ridge: Meredith Mitchell, Adolfo, Harbinger, Stony Mountain, and Shea Vineyards. Raptor Ridge has made a Shea Pinot noir since 1998.
at right, the original Raptor Ridge label from 1995
Scott is very interested in terroir the soil together with the climatic conditions of a district or vineyard. Oregon, he says, is a very young wine country, and as such, has not fully developed the concept of terroir.
He points out the fact that Oregon wineries are producing other good wines, besides Pinot Noir, but are not getting as much notice.
“Oregon Merlots and Cabernet Sauvignons are overshadowed by California,” Scott said. “And Oregon Chardonnay gets no respect. Our growers are learning, as we all are.
“We are not yet a wine culture in this country, but over the next 20 years, if things go as they are, there will room at the table for other wines. If there is more room, the romantic part of winemaking will meet with the economic side.”
To keep a steady pace of growth, Annie says the younger generations need to learn wine appreciation.
“Baby boomers aren’t always going to be around,” Annie said. “We’ve got to teach the generations coming up about the appreciation of fine wine so we have an audience in the future.”
The winery now has a tasting room, and we suggest you call ahead for a reservation. The Shulls don’t mind sharing a bit of their paradise with those who appreciate the time-consuming efforts of a boutique winery. And, when the fog lifts from the Chehalem Mountains, visitors may get a glimpse of the other families sharing the ridge the noble raptors.