Stoller Family Estate adds winemakers to handle growth

By on August 28, 2015
Stoller Family Estate moves into its new 32,000-square-foot winemaking facility in time to crush the 2015 vintage. Head winemaker Melissa Burr will continue to make the reserve and Legacy wines at the nearby LEED Gold-certified facility, a stone's throw from the tasting room in Dayton, Ore.

Stoller Family Estate moves into its new 32,000-square-foot winemaking facility in time to crush the 2015 vintage. Head winemaker Melissa Burr will continue to make the reserve and Legacy wines at the nearby LEED Gold-certified facility, a stone’s throw from the tasting room in Dayton, Ore. (Photo by Carolyn Wells Kramer/courtesy of Stoller Family Estate)

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

Melissa Burr has been the head winemaker for Stoller Family Estate since 2003.

Melissa Burr has been the head winemaker for Stoller Family Estate since 2003. (Photo by Andréa Johnson Photography/courtesy of Stoller Family Estate)

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.

Howe, a Oregon State University grad, has served as vice president of operations for King Estate — the largest wine producer in Oregon at more than 400,000 cases in 2014.

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

Stoller Family Estate in Dayton, Ore., generates all of the power its new tasting room requires via the solar panels on its roof.

Stoller Family Estate in Dayton, Ore., generates all of the power its tasting room requires via the solar panels on its roof. (Photo by Mike Havertake/courtesy of Stoller Family Estate)

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.”

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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