Paul O’Brien Winery is a partnership between two friends, Dyson Demara and Scott Kelley, who met while working for esteemed winemaker Robert Mondavi in Napa Valley. Both men saw Oregon’s Umpqua Valley as a wine region still with much-untapped potential. Even though Oregon’s first Pinot noir grapes were planted there in 1961 by University of California-Davis graduate Richard Sommer, within the next decade, other new grape growers were focusing their efforts to the north, in the Willamette Valley. While Pinot noir made its Oregon debut in Roseburg, the spotlight soon shifted away from the region and has never received the same attention as its northern counterpart.
Dyson was so intrigued by the area that he purchased Richard Sommer’s Hillcrest Winery– Oregon’s first commercially bonded winery– in 2003. A decade later, he and Scott joined forces and launched their Paul O’Brien Winery in a cavernous, former Chevy dealership in downtown Roseburg. As the Umpqua Valley’s first urban winery, I’m sure these two winemakers will continue to innovate and bring more awareness to the region’s wines.
Fumé (pronounced fu-may) blanc was actually coined by Robert Mondavi in the late 1960s after trying to differentiate his barrel-aged Sauvignon blanc wine from other, non-oaked versions being produced in California. With a nod to Blanc Fumé, a similar style made in France’s Loire Valley, he swapped the word order and effectively created a new world wine brand in the process. It seems more than fitting that Scott and Dyson would pay homage to their former boss with a Fumé blanc of their own.
Immediately after harvest, the Sauvignon blanc grapes were whole-cluster pressed, then fermented and aged in 100% neutral oak barrels for 6 months. Weekly lees stirring, often called sur lie or sur lees, coupled with the time in oak added even more texture and nuance to the finished wine. A versatile, very food-friendly bottle of wine, so be sure to order some from the Paul O’Brien website soon!