"Raptor Ridge owners
trade high technology
for deep forest and hand-crafted wines"
By Christina Kelly
Nestled atop a heavily forested ridge in the Chehalem Mountains, Raptor
Ridge Winery owners Scott and Annie Shull are shedding their high technology
cloaking for a simpler country life.
It isn’t less work, and Scott Shull
essentially carries two full time jobs to carry it off, but at the
end of the day, the Shulls are
satisfied in the choice to share their winery with the Raptors living
on their 12 acres.
Scott works for Intel during the day, and spends the rest of his waking
moments, including weekends, on his wines Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, and
Chardonnay. The winery produces a little over 1,000 cases per year. Plans
include some growth up to 2,000 cases per year, but no more.
“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 six 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
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 winery marketing, distribution and planning. In their
10-year plan, Scott hopes the winery will support both of them. Until
then, he is content to work full-time at Intel, then work full-time at
the winery. In October, friends and family come together to help the
winery with the crush.
In a state that’s gaining 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.
Two Pinot Noir wines come from Raptor Ridge Murto and Shea Vineyards.
In a recent tasting of the two Pinots, the panel was split between the
The 1998 Murto was more brooding of the two a dark, inky garnet color
with lots of blackberry on the palate. It actually seemed closer to a
Syrah than a Pinot Noir, although the familiar taste of Pinot Noir was
clearly there. It was spicy, with lots of structure and tannins for aging.
The grapes originated from the Red Hills of Dundee.
The 1998 Shea Pinot Noir had bright red fruit
flavors with bing cherry tones. If the Murto is brooding, this pinot
is a happy-go-lucky fellow,
with a silky texture and a little more finesse. It is lighter than the
Murto, although I think the two wines should not be compared. The fruit
is different, as are the growing conditions and the “terroir.”
Scott is vice president of the North Willamette chapter of the Oregon
Wine Growers Association, and 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 is open only by appointment. 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.
Scott and Annie Schull
have built Raptor Ridge into a promising new winery known for its
excellent Pinot noir, Chardonnay, and Pinot Gris. The winery is nestled
atop a heavily forested ridge in the Chehalem mountains 25 miles southwest
The winery shares its twelve acre estate with
families of Raptors (buteos and accipiters). These birds of prey such
Hawks, Kestrels and Sharp-Shinned Hawks constantly watch over their
every move. Hence the name- Raptor Ridge.
vintage year, Raptor Ridge produces about 1000 cases of wines using
traditional Burgundian winemaking techniques. High quality is the focus,
quantities. Raptor Ridge shares a twelve-acre estate with families
of Raptors (buteos and accipiters)- birds of prey such as Redtail Hawks,
Kestrels and Sharp-Shinned Hawks. We are nestled atop a heavily forested
ridge in the Chehalem moutains 25 miles southwest of Portland, Oregon.
Our foggy ridge is ideally suited to a naturally cool winemaking
regime important in capturing delicate aromas and flavors. Our wines
French oak with racking in synchrony with the full moon. Our goal
is to deliver in our wines all of the natural flavor, delicate aromas
beauty offered by Oregon's Willamette Valley winegrowing region.
NEXT- ---------------------Wine reviews, tasting
notes, and buy the wines