Scott’s Blog

The Willamette Valley – 50 years of great wine and counting…

Friday, February 6th, 2015

I’ve seen the pictures, and heard many of the stories, but it’s hard to truly imagine the realities that David Lett and the other pioneers who followed faced when they boldly ventured into the Willamette Valley with a few grapevines and a vision 50 years ago. Conventional wisdom at the time was that wine grapes could not be grown here, it was supposed to be too cold and too wet. (Yet another reminder to not rely too heavily on conventional wisdom!)

Everything great was probably started by someone who was told that whatever it is they wanted to do “could not work”. We owe a huge debt to the Letts, Eraths, Sokol-Blossers, Jim and Loie Maresh, Adelsheims, Ponzis and all who blazed the trail for us here. Then came the Drouhin family from Burgundy, who put Oregon on the world wine map and validated the potential for great wines from our hillsides.

That the Willamette Valley is now a known entity for world-class Pinot Noir is an amazing achievement in just 50 years. The many waves of vintners that came before us worked tirelessly, hell they still work tirelessly, to promote first and foremost “Brand Oregon”. We humbly acknowledge that we have been the fortunate beneficiaries of all of their hard work.

The trail was already blazed when we started 15 years ago. There were about 200 wineries in Oregon at that point. There are over 600 today. 600! That means 400 more dreamers started after we did, and the list keeps growing seemingly exponentially. We are proud to be part of the amazing Oregon wine community. Proud to have had the pleasure to know “Papa Pinot” himself, David Lett, and to have had the chance to buy grapes from one of his vineyards when we were starting out here.

And somehow it feels like we’re still at the beginning of something that will be even greater. All of the investment here from the big boys in California and France points to a very robust future indeed for Oregon wine as a whole. We’re looking forward to celebrating the 50th anniversary of great wines in the Willamette Valley, and tasting some of those amazing bottles from the early days. Come check out our 2000 Cuvée Martha Pirrie as part of a special flight we’re pouring in Carlton on March 14th! (Of course conventional wisdom is that New World Pinot doesn’t age well, you know…)

The heat, the romance…

Monday, January 26th, 2015

We’re having an unusually warm winter so far here in Oregon – lots of days in the 50s or low 60s, and only a few hard freezes earlier on in the season. While this is quite pleasant and comfortable for us, I’m not sure it’s a positive for the vines. Centuries of Burgundian wisdom holds that a cold winter with sustained periods of freezing weather is good for the vines and the soil – letting everything get a good, long, hard winter’s sleep. Our friends in Champagne are in agreement on this as well, and they are all presently quite happy to be freezing their butts off in northern France.

Happy vines in the deep freeze in Champagne

At least you won’t need gloves, scarves and snow tires to come taste at the Fred Meyer wine department in the Hollywood store this Saturday – I’ll be there from 3-6pm pouring our La Paulée and new Wildstock Pinots, just in time for you to stock up for your Super Bowl festivities the next day. I hope you can join us!


Wine is the fascinating thing it is because of the mystery – there is truly so much we don’t know about it. Why it is what it is, how fermentation really works, why grapes grown in certain places taste the way they do, how they develop over time – the mystery of the unknown is what continues to captivate me. Eric Asimov wrote a great piece on this in the NY Times – it’s a good read

In victory you deserve it, in defeat you need it…

Thursday, January 15th, 2015

Those famous words are from Napoleon Bonaparte in reference to the wonderful beverage we call Champagne. At least he was right about something! A nice bottle definitely made the Oregon Ducks loss in the Nat’l Championship game a little more palatable Monday night. Hell, Champagne makes everything better. That is a scientific fact, as far as I’m concerned :-)

When it comes to romance. love or seduction, nothing is remotely as effective, not to mention festive, as a great bottle of bubbly or two. Yes, Scott Paul Wines is getting out of the import business, but we still have some nice bubblies in stock for all your Valentine’s Day needs – and they’re all at wholesale pricing to boot. Plan to join us in Carlton on Saturday, Feb. 14th from 12n-5p for a Valentine’s Day event filled with great Grower Champagnes and loads of our great Oregon Pinots as well, of course.

Bring a date or a mate. Or find one in Carlton perhaps? No guarantees on that front, but we can definitely promise you’ll find some killer bottles. I’ll be on hand to pour all afternoon, and I look forward to seeing you then!

And the New Year begins…

Monday, January 5th, 2015

We’re entering our 16th year, and it truly just keeps on getting better. I hope you had a wonderful holiday, and wish you all the best for a banner year in 2015. I spent the holidays here at home, thrilled not to have to travel for Christmas. Son Kevin was in from Kona for a week, my first grandchild was born Dec. 17th, and Martha, Pirrie & I had some time to relax and enjoy our home and reflect on how blessed we are to live in Portland and to be here doing what we love.

My 2014-2015 Grocery Store Victory Tour continues this month in Portland – I’ll be at New Seasons Progress Ridge on Friday Jan. 9th from 4-7p, and then at the Grand Re-Opening of the Fred Meyer Stadium store on W. Burnside Saturday Jan, 10th from 3-6p, pouring the ’11 La Paulée and ’12 Wildstock Pinots – so please come by and taste and say Hi! It’ll be a perfect time to stock up for the big Ducks game Monday night. I’m super stoked to have the U. of O. in the national championship game, and will be rooting loud and hard for my adopted Ducks!

In the cellar, malo-lactic fermentation is underway on all of our 2014s. Kelley and I will do a thorough tasting when malo is finished, likely at the end of the month or early February. Tastings to this point confirm that the ’14s are a plush, sexy bunch of delicious wines – quite similar to what the 2012s were at the same point. It will be very interesting to see where they go over time. I’m betting the press will say it’s one of Oregon’s best vintages ever, and rightly so. More as it happens…

What a year – musically and otherwise!

Wednesday, December 10th, 2014

Well, it has been one amazing year, to say the least. One of our most abundant harvests ever from a great growing season that gave us superb quality, my first grandchild is about to be born, my 2nd oldest daughter just got engaged, my son moved to Hawaii, Martha’s mom passed away, and our daughter Pirrie just started high school this fall. Oh, and we sold the winery. Other than that, not much going on :-)

As we draw close to the end of the year, I always like to look back over the year in music – my other obsession and former occupation. (OK, chocolate may be another one, as well.)

The Grammy nominations just came out this week, and I’m sad to say it’s generally a pretty sorry lot. If we can’t do any better than Taylor Swift’s horribly plastic, cheesy and disposable “Shake it Off” for a Song of the Year and Record of the Year candidate, we’ve truly hit a new low. When a novelty hit like Meghan Trainor’s “All about the Bass” is also nominated in those categories, we’ve clearly reached the nadir. Yeesh.

There was, thankfully, music that excited me this year. I have become a rabid, passionate fan of Swedish pop-folk-americana duo First Aid Kit (who Pirrie turned me on to two years ago – the kid has great ears!) Think Joni Mitchell meets Simon & Garfunkel meets Emmylou Harris – brilliant stuff. See them live when they come to your town – they are the real deal.

2014 was the year of the Swedes, it seems. I also got into emerging artists Likke Li and Tove Lo, who are both from my ancestral land. (My mom was 100% Swede.)

Closer to home, I’ve been really loving the new Foo Fighters album and accompanying HBO series – Sonic Highways. Dave Grohl is making great music, and has emerged as a talented director as well with vision and something to say. (See his excellent documentary Sound City if you haven’t already – great stuff.)

Best live show of the year – still my guys the Eagles. After 40 years they just may be better than ever. Only Dr. Dré (who sold Beats to Apple for 3 Billion Dollars!) and Beyoncé made more money in the music biz last year. Don & Glen & Joe are still flyin’ high.

Pirrie & Henley backstage in Portland

I’ve put a bunch of tracks from the new Pentatonix and Idina Menzel Christmas albums on our Xmas Master Mix, which is streaming around the house as I write, looking forward to a joyous celebration with family and friends over the coming couple of weeks. Oh yeah, and lots of great Pinot, Burgundy & Grower Champagne! Cheers, and a very Merry Christmas and Happy 2015 to you!!!

Post-Harvest Thankfulness…

Tuesday, December 2nd, 2014

Ever since the end of harvest in September, I’ve been on the road, spreading the gospel of Scott Paul and Wildstock to our customers and distributors around the country. Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, New York, Washington DC, Chicago, Milwaukee, Miami, Boca Raton, Naples, New Orleans and Baton Rouge – kind of reminds me of my days being on the road with rock bands back in the 90s. (No living on a bus these days though – sometimes winemakers live better than rock stars!)

It was a great trip – lots of great times, great meals, and great people along the way. I love seeing our customers all across the country. And I love being back in Oregon most of all. Now that I’m back home through the end of the year I’ll be out and about doing a lot of appearances and pouring samples at a number of top retail accounts around the state – be on the lookout…

Now that our 2014s are all settled down in barrel, Kelley and I will be tasting through the cellar over the next week or two to get a handle on where each of the lots are at this point. It’s always interesting to see the very significant changes that arrive after the malo-lactic fermentation – which should be finished by February or March at the latest. This was not a high-malic year, but nonetheless when all of that malic acid converts to lactic acid, the overall character of the wines will finally be revealed, and we’ll have a much better handle on the true character and personality of the vintage. What we know for sure is that the quality is outstanding. How that quality ultimately expresses itself remains to be seen.

In Burgundy, all of our friends and producers seem very happy with the quality in 2014, but again they had a woefully small harvest – with 80-100% losses in much of the Côte de Beaune. In Champagne everyone seems very optimistic and quite pleased – lots of good stuff to look forward to there, for sure.

I’m excited to be back home and settling in for the holidays ahead – thankful for the bounty of Mother Nature this year, thankful for the love of great family and friends, and thankful for the opportunity to do what I love. It’s all very good indeed…

Another harvest in the books, and the passing of a legend…

Friday, November 7th, 2014

Harvest 2014 is now put to bed, and man, these are going to be lovely wines. Like everyone in the Willamette Valley, we’ve been scrambling for barrels and space to put it all – the rare combination of quality and abundance have us packed to the gills.

I’ve been traveling the country since the end of harvest, spreading the gospel according to Scott Paul far and wide. It’s nice to finally have enough volume, with our new Wildstock Pinot Noir, to supply top restaurants and retailers on a regular basis. It’s been a blast to get out and see a ton of customers, and so nice to see the wines being so well received.

We celebrated that harvest with our annual La Paulée dinner at Imperial in Portland last Saturday night, with a great group of Pinot-lovers popping a lot of corks over a delicious dinner from chefs Vitaly Paley and Doug Adams (Doug is currently starring on Bravo’s Top Chef!) Too many great wines to mention, but I continue to be blown away by the staying power of my very first wine, the 1999 Kent Ritchie Vyd. Chardonnay. I truly never expected it to go this long…

We toasted Burgundy’s legendary Hubert de Montille, who had passed away that day at age 84 while drinking a bottle of his 1999 Pommard Rugiens with friends in Alsace. Hubert was one of Burgundy’s great characters – you may remember him if you saw the film Mondovino – outspoken, cranky, cantankerous, and larger than life. He is remembered for his long-lived wines (often they took 20 years or more to reach drinkability), and for being the attorney who successfully prosecuted Robert Parker on behalf of Burgundy negociant Maison Faiveley. Parker had accused Faiveley of doctoring the samples they gave him for review. The case was settled by Parker paying a token settlement of 1 Franc, and signing an agreement banning him from ever reviewing the wines of Burgundy again. For this we thank you, Monsieur de Montille!

When in Burgundy I stay in Volnay just around the corner from the de Montille domaine, and saw him often in the village and at events over the years. RIP, Hubert…

Home and Away…

Saturday, October 11th, 2014

It’s a good feeling – all of the grapes are in for the year, the quality is excellent, the fermentations have been smooth and trouble-free, and we can finally breathe for a minute (before getting back to punch-downs, décuvage, press-loads, débourbage, and barreling-down. Whew.)

While Kelley and her crew have that well in hand, I’m heading off for the road.  Look out DC, Virginia, Maryland, New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Chicago, Milwaukee, New Orleans, Baton Rouge, Ft. Lauderdale, Miami, Naples and Bend – I’m on my way! Over the next five weeks or so I’ll be spreading the gospel of Scott Paul and our new line of Wildstock wines to the faithful and not-yet-converted – with lots of tasting events and winemaker dinners in the plans. Watch your email for all the details – we’ll let you know when I’m headed your way.

Speaking of which – great to see our new Wildstock Pinot on the shelves out in the market already – look for this great-value every-day drinker in a store near you now!

You can feel it in the air here, it’s been a beautiful and warm fall, but now it’s really starting to feel like fall. Crisp cool mornings, sunny 65-70 degree days. Perfect time to settle in with some fresh wild-caught Pacific Salmon and a bottle of Scott Paul or two…

I’ll be in touch from the road – stay tuned for more Pinot madness from across the US!

Harvest 2014 – no room at the inn…

Wednesday, October 1st, 2014

Cheek-to-jowl. The winery is packed with fermenters, each tank full of grapes happily fermenting along, and we are filled to capacity and then some. 68.2 tons in total this year. That’s not a lot – many of our neighbors harvest hundreds of tons – but it’s a lot when you’re only expecting about 50 tons!

2014 will be remembered as a great vintage, and also as one when a very rare phenomenon occurred – fabulous quality and abundant quantity at the same time. Generally speaking, higher yielding years are not often the best quality, especially in the world of Pinot Noir. But every once in a great while, nature delivers quality and quantity in tandem. 1999 in Burgundy is the most recent example, and now we’ve got it here in the Willamette Valley in 2014. Yay!

Nice ripeness (we picked everything at 23-23.5 Brix), good acids, nice low pH, and most importantly great flavor development. These are going to be delicious wines when they hit the world in about two years from now. Very similar to 2012, lots in common with 2008. We won’t know the character and personality of the 2014s for quite some time yet, but we already know they’re going to be among the best we’ve made.

Winemaker superstar Kelley Fox and our crush team with Arabella, and Italian intern Sauro are doing a fabulous job keeping up with it all. Kudos to them, thanks to Mother Nature, and full speed ahead. We are very very thankful…

2014 harvest update – Yes, please!

Monday, September 22nd, 2014

We are deep into it now. The winery is starting to fill up, and we’ll be picking all the rest of our blocks Tuesday through Friday this week, unless the weather does something bizarre and unexpected.

So far, the fruit we’ve brought in has been absolutely pristine- there has literally been nothing to remove on the sorting line except for a few leaves. From the first 15 tons we didn’t fill half of a 5-gallon bucket with stuff pulled off of the line – and that was only second-crop clusters that were picked by mistake.

So far this is reminding me a lot of 2008 and 2012, in terms of the pure quality of the fruit. Zero signs of any maladies of any kind, good ripeness, good acidity, pH levels are correct – this should be another superb vintage, if everything else comes in looking like what we’ve got so far.

Temperatures are forecast to dip this week, cooling off into the 70s, which should serve us well. We should not have to worry about any over-ripeness, and the overall balance is really looking nice.

Azana Chardonnay - photo courtesey Kelley Fox

Keep your fingers crossed for us, and I’ll have more updates here as things progress, including our first ever Chardonnay from our ultra-high-density block at Azana vineyard…