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Stoller Family Estate adds winemakers to handle growth
DAYTON, Ore. — Dundee Hills star Stoller Family Estate, one of the Pacific Northwest’s most innovative and acclaimed wineries, is executing its growth plan for Oregon and preparing to crush 25 percent more fruit in 2015.
Harvest of the 195 acres at Bill Stoller’s property, the largest continuous vineyard planting in the Dundee Hills, began Wednesday. And longtime winemaker Melissa Burr added three members to her team help her crush 750 tons of grapes within Stoller’s new vinification facility.
“I am excited to have a strong team in place with a shared mission of continuing to elevate the quality of Stoller wines,” Burr said in a news release.
Last year, the work of Burr and vineyard manager Robert Schultz led to Wine Press Northwest magazine naming Stoller Family Estate as its 2014 Pacific Northwest Winery of the Year.
Burr prepares for 13th vintage at Stoller
This year marks Burr’s 13th vintage for Stoller, and she’s recruited Ben Howe and Kate Payne Brown as associate winemakers and cellarmaster Marcus Mejia to help create more award-winning Chardonnay and Pinot Noir within the 32,000-square-foot addition designed for larger production lots.
Stoller will continue to reduce its vineyard contracts with other wineries as it eventually expects to produce an additional 40,000 cases a year — tripling its current production to approximately 60,000 cases, which would rank it among Oregon’s top 15 largest wineries. And each of Burr’s new hires comes with a résumé that would seem to fit well within Stoller’s expanding portfolio.
Payne Brown was assistant winemaker at Dundee Hills property Archery Summit, so she’s accustomed to working with Dundee Hills fruit.
Mejia, a product of OSU and Walla Walla Community College’s viticulture and enology program, has worked at Charles Smith Wines in Walla Walla as well as Giant Steps, the single-vineyard project of Innocent Bystander in Australia’s Yarra Valley. Seattle iconoclast Charles Smith makes more than 650,000 cases of wine annually, which ranks No. 3 in Washington state.
Innovations continue for winery launched in 2001
This summer, Stoller helped sponsor the fifth annual Green Sports Alliance Summit in Chicago, and Stoller’s latest expansion was constructed in an environmentally sustainable fashion that fits the original winery that Burr helped design. When erected in 2006, Stoller’s production facility became the first in the world to achieve LEED Gold certification.
“Our expansion facility will enable us to meet increasing demand for our wines and ensure that we maintain our quality focus as we grow,” said Stoller Family Estate President Gary Mortensen. “It will serve as the eventual home of our Dundee Hills tier and allow us to focus our original winery on our smaller lot reserve and Legacy wines.”
It’s been a steady rise since 2001 when winemaking partner Harry Peterson-Nedry helped launch Stoller Family Estate for Bill Stoller with a few hundred cases produced at Chehalem Wines in Newberg. Burr created more than 17,000 cases in 2013 and again in 2014 — not far behind the levels of production at Chehalem.
This year, Stoller Family Estate will top 20,000 cases.
“This is going to be a blockbuster vintage,” Schultz said. “It was a challenging growing season given the heat. However, our vines are in great condition thanks to our deep Jory soils that can tolerate extreme temperatures and the cool evenings we’ve had in August.”