DAYTON, Ore. — If any place could be described as the cradle of the Oregon wine industry, it could be argued that it’s in the Dundee Hills, about 30 miles southwest of downtown Portland.
The red-tinged volcanic soils and the wines produced from them prompted winemakers and consumers to recognize the Dundee Hills early on as a special place. Here is where David Lett established pinot noir in the Willamette Valley. In fact, many of the early pioneers planted grapes and built wineries here, including Dick Erath, the late Cal Knudsen, Bill Blosser, Susan Sokol Blosser and the Maresh family.
In 1993, Gary Andrus founded Archery Summit Winery and planted pinot noir near the top of the Dundee Hills. Fifteen years earlier, he created Pine Ridge Vineyards in Napa Valley’s famed Stags Leap District. With Archery Summit, Andrus looked north to join Oregon’s emerging wine country. He used a magnificent winery with underground caves to create an iconic brand.
Andrus died in 2009 at age 63, but his vision for Oregon pinot noir lives on with Crimson Wine Group, which now owns both Archery Summit and Pine Ridge, Seven Hills Winery in Walla Walla, Double Canyon in West Richland, as well as Seghesio Family Vineyards, Chamisal Vineyards and other California wineries.
Crafting world-class pinot noir requires skill and patience, but Archery Summit continues to do it well. It’s keyed by controlling the process, starting with low yields in estate vineyards, and careful winemaking, led by Ian Burch, who honed his craft in California and the Southern Hemisphere before arriving in Oregon.
Burch has had a passion for hand-crafted beverage much of his life, working for Starbucks while earning a science degree in viticulture and enology from California Polytechnic State University San Luis Obispo.
He built his resume by working at Penfolds, Bonny Doon and Gallo prior to moving to the Willamette Valley and helping establish in 2008 the fascinating Evening Land Vineyards project in the emerging Eola-Amity Hills and working with famed Burgundy producer Dominique Lafon. After seven years, Burch became winemaker at Scott Paul Wines in Carlton before Crimson hired him last summer to replace Chris Mazepink at Archery Summit.
“It’s been a beautiful thing for me,” Burch said. “This has allowed me to discover the Dundee Hills, and we’re starting to make more chardonnay. We’re at almost 15 percent chardonnay, and I’d like to see that increase.”
Burch works with various clones of pinot noir, then ages the juice in French oak barrels. The results are typically complex and spectacular, reflecting the high-toned red fruit profile emerges from the red Jory soils of the Dundee Hills. The wines are special, collectible and ageable examples of great Oregon pinot noir.
Fans of stellar wine continue to seek out Archery Summit, which have proven their place amid top Oregon wines for 25 years. And there’s an exciting new chapter being written by both Burch and Nicolas Quille, the Pacific Northwest’s newest master of wine, who oversees winemaking for all of Crimson.
“He hasn’t said ‘No’ to me once since I began, and he’s very good at letting you own the idea,” Burch said. “It’s been lovely.”
Tastings and tours of the Dundee Hills caves are available. In Seattle, there is Crimson’s The Estates Wine Room in Pioneer Square, where several Archery Summit wines are poured daily alongside those from Seven Hills and Double Canyon.
Here are four Archery Summit pinot noirs we’ve recently tasted. Ask for them at your favorite wine merchant or contact the winery directly.
Archery Summit Winery 2016 Pinot Noir, Dundee Hills, $65: A product of 10 clones, the delicious example of the Dundee Hills is a seductive red built primarily from Arcus and Red Hills vineyards. This replaces the Premier Cuvee and brings a theme of red cherries, ripe raspberry, cocoa powder and a hint of black licorice. Supple tannins and bright acidity set the stage for a long, memorable finish.
Archery Summit Winery 2016 Archer’s Edge Pinot Noir, Dundee Hills, $90: Decade-old vines create this textured, delicate red that’s loaded with aromas and flavors of black cherry, red raspberry, ripe strawberries and other high-toned red fruit. The combination make it a classic pinot from the Dundee Hills, all backed by velvety tannins that give way to a memorable finish.
Andy Perdue and Eric Degerman operate Great Northwest Wine, an award-winning media company. Learn more about wine at www.greatnorthwestwine.com.