Winemaker Rendezvous: Melissa Burr of Stoller Family Estate

Today we welcome a rendezvous with Melissa Burr, winemaker at Stoller Family Estate in the Dundee Hills AVA of Oregon’s Willamette Valley.

Winemaker Melissa Burr
Melissa Burr, Winemaker at Stoller Family Estate in Dundee Hills AVAW (Willamette Valley, Oregon)  Photo Credit: Andrea Johnson

Ms. Burr is the first winemaker to be featured in my Winemaker Rendezvous Project, an interactive interview utilizing questions gathered from my twitter friends… I’ve asked many of my twitter connections:

What would you ask your favorite winemaker?

From this collection of excellent inquires, I’ve gathered a selection for Melissa’s response.  You’ll see many more of these rendezvous moments with winemakers from around the world. Thank you to Melissa for getting us started. We’ll get to her comments momentarily, but first let me paint a picture of the circumstances that shape Melissa’s job at Stoller Family Estate.

Views at Stoller
The views at Stoller Family Estate. Photo Credit: Stoller Family Estate and Photographers Andrea Johnson, tasting room exterior; Carolyn Wells-Kramer, tasting room exterior; Mike Haverkate, views from tasting room.

Stoller Family Estate is located Southwest of Portland in the Dundee Hills AVA in Oregon’s world-class Willamette Valley. There they grow seven varietals, primarily Pinot Noir (including six clones) and Chardonnay (including three clones). They run sustainable vineyards and are certified Low Input Viticulture and Enology (LIVE) and Salmon Safe. The Stoller team values innovation, applicable scientific research and the use of natural predators for pest control. The estate is owned by Bill Stoller, a professional, preservationist and experience winery proprietor. The grapes are grown on Bill Stoller’s family land, and through Bill’s vision are farmed with preservation foremost. This approach has earned these vineyards the first-ever LEED Gold certification in the world.

All releases are 100%  estate grown, from the 373 acre property (approximately 190 are under vine). Elevations range from 220 – 640 feet. The tasting room building harvests all necessary energy by utilizing a solar panel installation and is designed by Ernest Munch, Architect Urban Planner, LLC, a “Portland-based specialist in environmentally-inspired architecture”.

Stoller faces
The faces of Stoller Family Estate include Burr along with Vineyard Manager Rob Schultz and Bob Stoller, proprietor. Photo Credit: Stoller Family Estate and Photographers Brie Mullin, Andrea Johnson and Mike Haverkate

The estate welcome visitors daily from 11:00 and 5:00 and offers three unique and comfortable guest houses for on-property lodging in the vineyards. The setting is calming and beautiful and does not distract from the essence of Oregon that makes Dundee Hills the natural gem that it is. It’s in this setting that Melissa Burr makes wine and she’s offered to share her experiences and impressions with us:

How old were you when you tasted a wine that changed everything?

I was around 23 when I became interested in wine. I lived by a gourmet grocery store while I was in college and became intrigued.

Which one of your wines was the most difficult to craft and what did you learn from the experience?

There are always challenges with wine that continually arise. The 2013 vintage in particular had a unique set of obstacles; most notable was that the Willamette Valley broke the record for rainfall for one day in late September. There was still fruit remaining to be harvested in the vineyard and the logistics of bringing in fruit that went through 12 inches of rain in two days was challenging as well as processing and fermenting the fruit. Fortunately there are many tools to use in the cellar and the wine is lovely however many hours of worry went into it.

What are you most concerned about in your area? Water scarcity, soil erosion, pests…etc…

Labor is an issue and will continue to be one. Migrant workers, labor laws and rising minimum wage in addition to a rapidly growing industry bringing increased labor demand add to a major problem that we all are going to be effected by.

What are your challenges making the new vintage?

The challenge each vintage is to make the best decisions for the wine as possible in combination with mapping out the process logistically, working with the unique vintage parameters (mainly weather) and hoping that the intern team is amazing. Again labor is concerning; and one of my favorite sayings about interns is that they are like a box of chocolates; you never know what you’re going to get. We hire a handful of interns every year to work in the winery for harvest.

Which vintage (yours or another vintner’s) will you drink over dinner?

I am not sure, but likely a Chardonnay from Talley in Central Coast CA. I just ordered a few of their wines which arrived yesterday and I need to support the statistic of most wine that is purchased in the US is consumed within 24 hours.

How did you get into wine-making?

I came to wine through studying medicine. I was a student at PSU working on my bachelors of science degree and got intrigued by wine and decided to study fermentation science and work in the industry and have been hooked ever since.

stoller three
Photo Credit: Stoller Family Estate and Photographers Carolyn-Wells Kramer, Mike Haverkate and Andrea Johnson

Do you have a favorite local chef that might recommend a recipe or pairing for your wine for this post or another project?

Definitely; there are two. Sean McKee is our culinary director at Stoller and he is amazing. He is very focused on farm to table and seasonal ingredients. The second is Paul Bachand from Recipe in Newberg. He is a friend as well as a celebrated local chef who works magic in the kitchen.

Is there someone that works on your estate that you’d like to to highlight, thank, gush about?

Great question; the visionary and proprietor Bill Stoller is a third generation Oregonian who has patiently created this amazing vineyard and winery and assembled an incredible team. We truly have a wonderful group of passionate, talented and dedicated people who collaborate well together and have invested their efforts into Stoller. It’s not always perfect, but nothing is, and it’s a very special group, arguably the best team in the Willamette Valley.

What is the last bottle you drank?

I drank a 2015 Stoller Dundee Hills Chardonnay last night with my neighbors.

Can you recommend a wine book?

Passion for Pinot by Jordan McKay. It focuses on Oregon and California Pinot Noir history, people and the land and has beautiful photography.

WV-Wineries-Map-Poster

Thanks to Ms. Burr for allowing  L’occasion to rendezvous with winemaker from Stoller Family Estate!

Stoller Family Estate is  open to visitors daily from 11 am to 5 pm. The tasting flight is $15, and waived with a two bottle purchase. Wine club members enjoy four complimentary tastings each visit.

The estate kindly request reservations for groups of six or more. To schedule your preferred date and time, please contact Stoller Family Estate at 503.864.3404, or by email at tastingroom@stollerfamilyestate.com. They also now able to prepare picnic lunches here in house. Please call or email to make arrangements with at least one week’s notice.

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8 Comments Add yours

  1. Jill, Thank you so very much for this thoughtful piece. We are looking forward to enjoying more Winemaker Rendez-vous!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jill Barth says:

      Thank you! It was my pleasure. What a gorgeous place & inspiring winemaker. Cheers!

      Like

  2. It’s nice to see Oregon featured here, as I’ve lived in Central Oregon for over 20 years on the high desert. It’s over on the East side of the Cascades of the Willamette Valley, but I know of one vineyard here, called Maragas Winery. I have not tried the wine from it yet. It surely must be challenging considering our high altitude, volcanic soil, and climate.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jill Barth says:

      How interesting. I’d love to learn more. Lately I’ve had opportunity to explore a few Oregon estates & I’m fascinated.

      Thanks for your comment. Let me know if you taste a Margas; meanwhile I’m going to look them up!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. It is Maragas with 3 a’s in case you have trouble finding it. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Jill Barth says:

          Thank you — I’m excited about learning all that I can!

          Liked by 1 person

  3. Thanks for writing about Stoller, Jill. This is a local winery for me and one my favorites. Very nice people including one my friends and wiring colleagues who just took a job as their tasting room manager. Nice to see Melissa featured.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jill Barth says:

      Hi Jade… thanks for mentioning your connection with Stoller. It was my pleasure to write about Melissa & the estate. So beautiful, meticulously high-quality wines… really outstanding!

      Like

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