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Scott Paul Wines

Scott Paul Wines

Scott grew up around wine. “For some weird reason my Dad got turned on to wine, and he especially loved burgundy and champagne,” he remembers.

That was pretty unusual in 1960s-era Chicago, where a shot and a beer was more normal drinking fare. But what was even more odd was that the young Scott was brought along with his father’s enthusiasm.

“He was the kind of person who, when he liked something, went way over the deep end, instead of just dabbling with it,” says Scott.

That enthusiasm led to an extensive cellar and plenty of choices for Scott to sample.

“Every night at the dinner table when I was a kid, we had a bottle of champagne, a nice bottle of white burgundy, and a nice bottle of red - and he started teaching me about the wines,” says Scott.

Scott took what he’d learned about wine with him as he grew into adulthood - including the love of burgundy - but wine as a career didn’t appear to be in the cards.

Scott’s naturally mellifluous voice and interest in music led him into broadcasting. Starting out in radio, Scott became a disk jockey, working up the ranks to the major markets of New York and Los Angeles, and even achieving national prominence with a syndicated show in the 1980s. And all the time he continued to buy and collect wines.

“At that point, I probably never gave a thought to wine becoming a career.”

Moving from on-air talent to station management, Scott soon segued into the music end of the business. He spent time as a national promotion and marketing executive with Sony music, and then formed his own consulting company, working on marketing and promotion with record companies and performing artists - including helping in the launch of what Scott calls “the Britney Spears project” (work that Scott’s 15-year old self would undoubtedly have appreciated as much as the 1959 La Tâche!).

With a successful career in a lucrative field, Scott found that “I started having the ability to even further indulge my passion for great burgundy . . . at some point it crossed the line from being an amazing passion to an obsession.”

But even as his love of wine grew, Scott’s enjoyment of the music business dimmed. Finally, in the mid 1990s, Scott and his wife decided on a major life change and moved to Yountville, in the heart of Northern California’s prime wine country. Going from music industry maven to wine-making neophyte may have seemed like a big change, but it was one that Scott was emotionally ripe for.

Move to the Wine World

Relying on some sustaining music industry consulting, Scott started integrating himself into his new life.

“I had made friends with a number of winemakers up there, and people who I sort of idolized and really dug their wines,” says Scott. “The two most prominent were Greg La Follette at Flowers and Ted Lemon at Littorai. I just started making a pest of myself, offering to drag hoses and asking questions, until I convinced them of my sincerity.”

It was only a short step from offering to work at wineries for free, to wanting to make wine for real. In 1999, through diligent networking and obvious desire, Scott found himself ready with fruit and winery space at Flowers to make his first batch of Chardonnay.

But the siren song of pinot noir still played for Scott. After getting to know grower Gary Pisoni, Scott was able to purchase a packet of pinot fruit from the famed Santa Lucia Highland grower. But, as he drove a rented truck down to pick up the fruit, Scott found that he had no place to make his wine (Flowers was out of space). Even as he drove back toward Napa, Scott had no final destination for his fruit . . . until the last minute, when a friend located a spare tank - and directions phoned to him as he drove his grapes north.

Yet even as he began making his first vintage, Scott was beginning to realize that if he wanted to make the kind of pinot noir he cherished, he might have to look elsewhere to do it.

“As wonderful as the Pisoni fruit was, and the privilege it was to be able to work with it, it was not truly my style of pinot noir,” he says. “I believe pinot noir at its peak is a wine of texture and elegance and finesse - and Pisoni makes really gorgeous big, deep, fruity wines . . . As a matter of personal choice, if I was going to really express what I wanted to do with pinot noir, I didn’t feel I could do it in California.”

On to Oregon and Scott Paul Wines

Having now started his Scott Paul Wines company, Scott found Oregon beckoning. Soon the Wrights were back in the housing market, but this time looking in Oregon for a new home, and perhaps a place to make wine.

At about the same time, Domaine Drouhin Oregon (DDO) was in the market for a new general manager—and Scott had all the credentials. As only the second general manager in DDO’s history, Scott took to the job with all the élan his marketing background and winemaking passion could muster. Yet as successful and engaging as that position was, Scott’s ultimate aim was to develop his own wine under his own name: Scott Paul Wines.

In the middle of 2004, Scott left DDO (in the capable hands of his friend and colleague David Millman) to work full time on his Scott Paul Wines label.

“My winemaking philosophy has boiled down to this: get really good grapes and do absolutely nothing if at all possible. ”

Scott calls his winemaking style “old school.” “It’s all about listening to the fruit and letting the fruit go where it wants to go, and trying to let it be the best it can be rather than trying to push it in any one direction.”

To that end, Scott tries to live up to the ideal of the non-interventionist winemaker.

“I de-stem everything, I ferment in 2-4 ton small batches, I do all wild fermentations - no inoculation, no inoculation for malo - I try to do everything by gravity, don’t do any yeast nutrients - nothing goes in.”

The only time intervention is desirable, says Scott, is when it is necessary to prevent the wine from being faulty.

“My style of wines are modeled on the wines of the village of Chambolle-Musigny in Burgundy. I like that end of the spectrum of pinot noir: beautiful perfume, hopefully nice silken texture in the mouth, great length, and power without any weight - let’s call it a sort of sneaking concentration and intensity. I look for fruit, and try to make wine, that has the potential to go in that direction.”

Scott’s wines come in two main releases: the Cuvée Martha Pirrie, and Le Paulée.

Cuvée Martha Pirrie is named after Scott’s daughter, and is intended to be, in visionary words, “the best $20-or-under pinot noir in the New World.” The wine is intended to be “very accessible, with up-front fruit, immediately enjoyable upon release, and delivers a lot of bang for the buck. It gives you a glimpse of what pinot noir can be at that price point, and it makes you want more!”

Le Paulée, named after the traditional burgundian end-of-harvest party, is intended to “be more of everything,” according to Scott. “More concentration, more structure, more complex flavors, longer in the mouth, and it will probably develop in the bottle over a number of years.”

Scott is particularly fond of older pinot noirs, and hopes that buyers of his Le Paulée wines will lay some down in their cellar. “I like wines after they’ve had the time to add secondary and tertiary characteristics, and I want to make some wine every year that has a chance to do that,” he says.

In 2003 Scott also made a new cuvée he calls Audrey. “I like to say that there are a lot of people these days making what we call Pamela Anderson wines - sort of artificially pumped up. We’re trying to make Audrey Hepburn wines!”

What's Still to Come

Scott has come a long way since that 1959 La Tâche! And while he may not yet have made its equal under his own name, it still shines as the kind of wine he aspires to making.

Scott Paul Wines are made at the Carlton Winemakers Studio, a unique facility housing a number of boutique producers - and a far cry from his first vintage experience.

“ We’ve got tremendous equipment, great resources, wonderful camaraderie, and a beautiful tasting room which is full of people seven days a week. This place is a good draw - it’s sexy! For right now this is a fantastic place to be,” says Scott.

And for right now, making his own pinot noir his own way is a fantastic place for Scott Wright to be.

reprinted with permission from Oregon Wine Report

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