A Great Northwest Wine Time Machine

By on March 8, 2014

The late Max Ulver, a longtime Oregonian, saved the labels from some of the favorite Northwest wines he tasted during the 1970s.

The late Max Ulver, a longtime Oregonian, saved the labels from some of the favorite Northwest wines he tasted during the 1970s. (Photo illustration by Eric Degerman/Great Northwest Wine)

RICHLAND, Wash. — Some folks save corks from Pacific Northwest wine they find special.

Max Ulver took a more hands-on approach. The longtime Oregonian soaked the bottles, saved the labels and collected them as if they were baseball cards. One of his first was from a 1975 Pinot Noir by Erath Vineyards in Dundee.

His daughter, Teresa Schott of Richland, Wash., recently shared with some of the labels from her father’s estate in Whitefish, Mont., and these postcards of the region’s wine history have inspired the launch of an occasional series we’ve dubbed, “The Great Northwest Wine Time Machine Project.”

“Dad truly appreciated the artwork that is found on wine labels,” Schott told Great Northwest Wine. “I grew up in Boring, Ore., and when I was in high school, Dad built a wine rack and put it in a small room under the stairs.

“This was the closest he ever got to having a wine cellar,” she continued. “He decorated the walls with a collage of wine labels that he had soaked from bottles. It was so beautiful and colorful. I have the wine rack in my basement, but unfortunately there was no way to get the wine labels that he had affixed to the walls of the house in Oregon.”

The late Max Ulver collected wine memorabilia and cuttings from Northwest vineyards.

The late Max Ulver collected wine memorabilia and cuttings from Northwest vineyards. (Photo courtesy of Teresa Schott)

Ulver, a civil engineer with the Federal Highway Administration, traveled throughout the West for road work.

“When he came home, he and Mom would go wine tasting and sometimes they would take us kids with them,” Schott said. “For a kid, going to a winery or tasting room was so boring. Eventually, they left us home and went alone. Thank goodness!”

The backyard of their home included grapevines, and some of the Merlot that Ulver grew likely stemmed from cuttings via one of his favorite wineries, Preston Wine Cellars in Pasco, Wash., she said. Ulver also made his own wine, and his interest drove him to California for winemaking seminars.

“Being a civil engineer, he had a fascination with chemistry and he was very creative,” Schott said. “When he fashioned his own label for the wines that he made, he incorporated his German heritage. Ulver is the family name, and schloss means “castle” in German.  He entered his wines in the county fair and won quite a few blue ribbons.”

The late Max Ulver's collection of wine memorabilia includes this Great Northwest Railway wine glass. Samuel Hill, whose father, James, founded the railroad company, created the Maryhill Museum of Art.

Max Ulver’s collection of wine memorabilia includes this Great Northern Railway wine glass. Samuel Hill, whose father James founded the railroad company, created the Maryhill Museum of Art. (Photo courtesy of Teresa Schott)

While Schott could not have cared less about visiting wineries as a child, the research administrator at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory operated by Battelle in Richland now understands her father’s love of wine.

“Wine tasting is probably my favorite hobby,” she said. “My husband, Roger, and I have met so many warm and friendly people in tasting rooms throughout the Northwest.

“A few months before Dad died, he came to visit and we went wine tasting in the Yakima Valley. He tasted the reds, and I tasted the whites and we had a great day. He did buy a Gewürztraminer — probably to appease my taste — and several bottles of reds.”

The series will begin with winemaker Rob Griffin’s look back at the Preston Wine Cellars 1976 Pinot Noir he helped produce.

* Have something for the Great Northwest Wine Time Machine? Send a high-res image and a bit of background to info@greatnorthwestine.com.

About Eric Degerman

Eric Degerman is the president and CEO of Great Northwest Wine. He is a journalist with more than 30 years of daily newspaper experience and has been writing about wine since 1998. He co-founded Wine Press Northwest with Andy Perdue and served as its managing editor for 15 years. He is a frequent wine judge along the West Coast and contributor to Pacific Northwest Golfer magazine, the region's longest-running golf publication.

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