"Maysara Estate Evolves From Owner's Childhood
By Christina Kelly
It took seven years for Mo Momtazi to find a chunk of land in the Willamette Valley that reminded him of his childhood, where his grandparents grew crops on lush farmland in Northern Iran.
Despite the fact that most Americans picture Iran as a desert with mounds of sand, a dry, arid climate, and no water, Northern Iran, near the Caspian Sea, has thick forests, green valleys, and a picturesque mountain range. It is an area where Momtazi's grandparents grew tea, rice, wheat and wine grapes.
"I always wanted to get into agriculture, like my grandparents," said Momtazi, a design engineer by day, and winery owner/grape grower by day and night. "I remember the tastes and flavors of my childhood and for the most part, my grandparents didn't interfere with Mother Nature.
"I wanted to do the same."
Momtazi found his dream farm just west of McMinnville in 1997 and began planting grapes in 1998. His first intention was to grow and sell grapes on the 522 acres, but as he farmed the land, he decided to build a small winery-Maysara Estates.
Wine industry insiders say Maysara is a sleeper, but word of mouth is spreading quickly in the Northwest. Some of the best Oregon wineries are using Maysara fruit, and Momtazi is selling his first commercial releases this year-2001 Willamette Valley Reserve Pinot Noir (available now as a blend of three different vineyards), 2001 Pinot Gris (available now) and estate cuvee (available in April) and a single-vineyard Pinot Noir called Delara (Persian word for unquenchable thirst) which will be released in August.
Maysara will produce only estate wines next year.
The list of wineries lining up to purchase Maysara grapes is impressive. Lynn Penner-Ash, one of Oregon's top winemakers, said she was surprised at the intensity and balance of such young fruit and predicts Maysara will rank highly with the best Oregon Pinot Noir in the years to come.
Other wineries purchasing Maysara grapes include: Bergstrom, Sam Tannahill (Shea Vineyards) for his own label with his wife, Cheryl Francis, Andrew Rich, Adea, Tori Moore, Elk Cove, J. Christopher and Rex Hill, among others.
Meet the Winemaker
Jimi Brooks met Mo Momtazi shortly after the purchase of Maysara Estates in 1997. At the time, Brooks was working as an assistant winemaker at Willikenzie, but dreamed of being the top winemaker.
When he saw development of Maysara lands for planting, and learned through the grapevine that a vineyard would soon be established, Brooks eagerly sought to meet the new owner.
"We hit it off right away," said Brooks. "We have similar interests and similar approaches to farming and winemaking. Mo wanted to start organic farming from the get-go and be as non-intrusive to the land as possible.
"He wanted to move towards biodynamic farming and capitalize on what the land had to offer."
Brooks left Willikenzie in 2000 to become Maysara's top winemaker. Although Momtazi has his own engineering design company, he spends a lot of time at the vineyard with Brooks, learning what his land can yield. The property has five different types of soils, vineyard blocks with warmer days and cooler nights, rolling hills and flat terrain.
"We want the end product to speak for itself, so we've been somewhat low key so far," Momtazi said. "We're gradually working our way into the market, but we're picky about who we sell our grapes and wine to."
When asked what makes his wines memorable, Brooks smiles and says, "It's the land coming through."
"We look for intensity and balance," Brooks explained. "The land has a rustic feeling. Our wines aren't big and overblown, but balanced.
"I try to approach each block (of land) individually. I am not a believer in single-vineyard designates. I think a wine is richer, more complex and more complete in blending. That is the artistic process, after you've captured the essence of the land in the grape."
Brooks finally has his own label-Brooks Wines and plans to produce about 3,800 cases. But his first focus is Maysara, learning the lands and developing richer, fruit driven wine with vibrant acid levels so they compliment food.
When he isn't farming and winemaking, Brooks spends a lot of his spare time with his 7-year-old son Pascal, who helps at the winery with punch-downs and anything else he can get into.
The Future of Maysara
Momtazi will likely have his daughter join the winery in the future. Daughter Tahmiene, 20, is a student at Oregon State University, studying enology and fermentation. His other two daughters, Naseem, 11th grade, and Hanna, 6th grade, get called upon during harvest, along with his wife Flora.
Maysara produced 2,800 cases of Pinot Noir and 1,000 cases of Pinot Gris in 2002. This year, Momtazi expects around 5,000 cases of Pinot Noir and 1,500 cases of Pinot Gris. He expects to increase each year.
Wine industry experts say Maysara is the winery to watch. Demand for their cuvee and single-vineyard designate this year will be high.
If the winery can produce such great fruit after
a few years, says one winemaker, just think what will come from the vineyards
in five years.