Hillcrest Vineyard is the state’s oldest estate winery, first bonded in 1963. Founded by Richard Sommer, a University of California, Davis wine program graduate, he is now considered the father of Oregon wine. Richard was determined to grow Pinot noir and Riesling, and after much research and study, decided Roseburg had the perfect climate for growing grapes. His professors and friends told him grapes couldn’t grow in Oregon, yet Richard proved them all wrong and his pioneering spirit single-handedly launched the state’s wine industry!
Purchased by Dyson and Susan Demara in 2003, the couple has continued the wine legacy started by Richard Sommer. Dyson, an enthusiastic winemaker with a thirst for knowledge, has worked all over the world yet found that Oregon’s Umpqua Valley held the key to his heart. With over 150 different soil types and hillsides that have growing aspects in all directions of the compass, this wine region may be the oldest in Oregon but has yet to live up to its full potential.
Matt and I first visited the Umpqua Valley a decade ago, in February, and Oregon was still in the throes of winter. However, during our first winery stop of the day, the sun broke through the constant overcast clouds! We basked in the much-missed sunshine down by the edge of a raging river. It was downright magical! As we drove the windy roads visiting more wineries, up one hill and down another, we experienced weather conditions from all seasons, including a dusting of fresh snow, hail and rain, and again more sunshine as we visited other wineries. Known as the Land of One Hundred Valleys, the weather that day really proved that to us.
Dyson knows this land and terroir still offers many mysteries to grape growers and winemakers. (Click here to read more about terroir.) In fact, it’s quite possible that the best grapes for the various micro-climates have yet to be planted in the Umpqua Valley. Imagine that… there are infinite discoveries still to be made! The Demaras are determined to solve some of the valley’s mysteries by experimenting with different varietals planted in unique soils.
Their Old Stones Malbec has proven to be a wildly successful experiment! Made with unirrigated Malbec grapes, Dyson destemmed and crushed all the fruit and fermented it for 50 days on the skins in special, patented concrete fermenters. After aging for three years in neutral barrels, this Malbec spent two more years in stainless steel, allowing the wine even more time to integrate, before bottling. Yup, you read that right… Dyson aged this wine for a full five years before bottling! It literally sings with food so be sure to plan a special meal when you enjoy it.
On a personal note, I must say that it very much reminded me of the Mendoza Malbecs from Argentina that my friend used to bring back to the US in her suitcase after visiting her family there. Even after 15 years, these wines are still imprinted on my wine heart! Today, do yourself a favor and buy some of this wine from Hillcrest’s website before it sells out.
Earthy // black tea // tayberries // mulberries // leather // black soil
Mulberries // iron // concentrated flavors // black plums // tart cherries // textured mouthfeel // tayberries
Food pairing suggestions:
Carne asada tacos // eggplant and tofu with plum sauce // venison pot roast
Michele Francisco, a founder and regular contributor to Winerabble, a blog primarily about Pacific Northwest wines, is living the dream in Portland, Oregon. Her passion leads some to believe she's got wine running through her veins. Contact Michele at firstname.lastname@example.org & be sure to visit her online portfolio at www.michelefrancisco.com.