David Hill Winery
In Oregon's Northern Willamette Valley, a region known for its Pinot noir, winery David Hill Vineyards is finding a niche with a grape of a different color. The winery successfully produces a white Muscat Port, a product so rare that David Hill is the only winery in Oregon, and one of only a handful in the Pacific Northwest, to produce the fortified wine.
David Hill winemaker Pascal Valadier and vineyard owner Milan Stoyanov took a gamble in producing the white Muscat Port: "We were warned by distributors and brokers that consumers wouldn't accept a white Port, because the color didn't fit the traditional image of a Port," explained Valadier. "But the Muscat grape imparts such a strong, sweet flavor that I firmly believed wine lovers would be receptive."
More About David Hill Winery
White Port gets its color from white grapes, as opposed to the red grapes used in traditional ports. David Hill's white Port, made from the Muscat grape, is golden in hue, a trait owed to the natural oxidation that occurs when the wine is aged in cask. The Port is heady and sweet, with a wealth and intensity of floral and complex aromas.
The Muscat grapes used to make the white Port, with the exception of the 2000 vintage, are estate grown on vines planted at an elevation ranging from 280 to 540 feet. The grapes are cultivated in Laurelwood silt, a soil that is deep and drains well. The fermentation is stopped at 10 percent residual sugar by fortifying the wine with Clear Creek distilled, high-proof brandy. The Port is then aged in 132-gallon French oak puncheons for more than a year, resulting in a finished wine that's between 20 and 21 percent alcohol with intense peach, gooseberry and licorice aromas, and a soft caramel background.
Valadier, a native of France, is well educated in the science of vines and wines, with a bachelor's degree in agricultural biochemistry, and an agronomical engineering degree in oenology. He is trained in all different winemaking techniques, including port wines and brandy production.
"The risk Milan and I took paid off," stated Valadier. "The Muscat Port is a strong seller at our tasting room, and is responsible for nearly 10% of the winery's overall sales." David Hill produced 736 cases of its 2000 Muscat Port, which retails at $20 per 500 ml bottle. The winery also produces a 1997 Tawny Port from a blend of estate-grown grapes and grapes from another Willamette Valley vineyard, and is in the process of building a traditional Solara system for the Tawny Port.
It is doubtful that the Ports will ever make up a majority of the winery's portfolio; Pinot noir is still the main grape employed at David Hill, making up more than half of the planted fields. But in the saturated wine market of the Northern Willamette Valley's, white Port gives David Hill Vineyards a little extra edge.
From the winery
The land was homesteaded in 1883 (it was then known as Rueter's Farm), and grapes were planted at that time. When prohibition came to Oregon in 1913 the grapes were mostly torn out (only a small number of vines were kept for personal use). In 1965 Charles Coury, along with a few other wine pioneers, came north from California to establish vineyards in the Willamette Valley where they believed they could successfully grow Pinot Noir. The property went through several hands until the Stoyanovs bought it in 1992. During 1993 and 1994 the house and winery buildings were extensively restored, while keeping the original exterior shape of the house. (The house is on the Washington County Historical Register.) The house, surrounding yard and gardens is the site for many events, including weddings, receptions of all kinds, corporate meetings, etc.
At this time our vineyard is planted to Pinot Noir (50 %), Riesling (10 %), Pinot Gris (15 %), Chardonnay (10 %), Gewürztraminer (10 %), and miscellaneous varietals (5 %). We offer mostly estate wines.