Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Meeting Bill Holloran from Oregon and Tasting His Holloran and Stafford Hill Wines

Picture: Christian G.E.Schiller with Bill Holloran

Washington DC native and Georgetown alumnus Bill Holloran was back in Washington DC and at MacArthur Beverages to show his latest releases of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay from his vineyards in Oregon.


Holloran Vineyard Wines is in the Willamette Valley, were about two-thirds of Oregon’s wineries and vineyards are. Buffered from Pacific storms on the west by the Coast Range, the valley follows the Willamette River north to south for more than a hundred miles from the Columbia River near Portland to just south of Eugene. But Oregon is not only about Willamette Valley. Oregon’s vineyards span the whole State, rising up and falling over the rolling hills and gentle valleys of more than 12,000 acres (4,858 hectares) of wine grapes. Oregon’s major wine regions are the Willamette Valley, Rogue Valley, Umpqua Valley, and the Columbia Gorge. Some regions straddle the border between Oregon and the States of Washington and Idaho.

Picture: The wine regions of Oregon

Wine was made in Oregon in the 19th century already, when Italian and Swiss immigrants planted wine grapes and started bottling wine. Oregon's wine industry was suppressed during Prohibition. It wasn’t until1961, when Richard Sommer set up shop in southern Oregon and planted Riesling, that the modern Oregon wine industry was borne. Other pioneers include David Adelsheim, Dick Ponzi and Bill Sokol-Blosser. Then the French also came with Domaine Drouhin bringing European sophistication to Oregon. In the past 40 years, Oregon has become one of the country’s top three wine States, with 350 wineries producing an average of 5,000 cases each a year. Most of it is Pinot Noir, but there’s also Pinot Gris, Chardonnay and modest amounts of Riesling and Merlot.

Oregon produces wine on a much smaller scale than its southern neighbor California. Oregon's biggest producer ships only 125,000 cases per year and most produce under 35,000 cases. The State features many small wineries which produce less than 5,000 cases per year. With 3,000 to 4,000 cases per year, Bill Holloran Vineyards is one of the smaller wineries. In contrast, E & J Gallo Winery, the US’ largest winery, produces about 70 million cases annually. The majority of wineries in Oregon operate their own vineyards, although some purchase grapes on the market.

The Wines of Bill Holloran

Bill Holloran's story is: technology executive moves to Oregon to raise his family, starts to dabble in wine, hires one of the best young winemakers in Oregon (Jay Somers), buys a famous vineyard (Le Pavillon), and starts turning out classic Willamette Valley wines at high quality.

Bill moved to Oregon in 1999. The Holloran label is now recognized as one of the top producers in Oregon. Bill also has a second label called Stafford Hill. I had meet Bill last year at Cecile’s in McLean, Virginia and wrote about it here.

The winery is located at the northern end of the Willamette Valley, just south of Portland at 2636 SW Schaeffer Road in West Linn, Oregon.

Pictures: Bill Holloran

Until recently, Bill Holloran's winemaker was Jay Somers, better known for his culty J. Christopher label and his co-operation with the German wine giant Ernst Loosen. Bill Holloran and Jay Somers partnered in 1999 and they built the small winery on Holloran's farm. In return for making Holloran's wines, Jay used the facility to make his own J. Christopher label, which he had launched in 1996. Recently, Jay Somers has teamed up with Ernst Loosen, the owner of Weingut Dr. Loosen in the Mosel wine region in Germany. Ernst Loosen makes wine in Germany and in the US. As for the US, first, he makes the Eroica Riesling, in collaboration with Chateau Ste. Michelle, the huge Washington State winemaker. Second, he makes 2 Pinot Noirs in Oregon with Jay Somers – Two Worlds, an entry level wine, and Appassionata, an ultra-premium wine. Though Jay Somers is very busy now with Ernst Loosen, he is still consulting with Holloran and Stafford Hill Wines, Bill Holloran said.

The Vineyards

(1)The Le Pavillon vineyard is located in the Dundee Hills AVA and is over 35 years old. The soil type is Jory, an ancient volcanic soil. The producing blocks are Pinot Noir, Riesling and Chardonnay. Farmed organically since 1999, biodynamically since 2005. (2) The La Chenaie vineyard is located in the Eola-Amity Hills AVA. Pinot Noir, Tempranillo, Chardonnay and Riesling are planted on south, east, and southwest-facing slopes. Farmed organically. (3) The estate Vineyard Meute de Chiens has 6 different clones of Pinot Noir. Farmed organically.

Acreage Planted: 13.6 acres; varieties planted: Pinot Noir - 7.5 acres, Riesling - 3.1 acres, Tempranillo -3.0 acres.

The Labels

The top cuvees are offered under the Holloran label and provide flavors and aromas that are representative of their source vineyard or AVA. The Stafford Hill line is the second label. Bill Holloran developed the Stafford Hill label to feature pure, ready-to-drink wines sourced from his own and from other vineyards up and down Oregon's Willamette Valley. Bill Holloran currently produces 3000 to 4000 cases annually.

What Bill Poured

2008 La Chenaie - Pinot Noir Holloran $29.99

Bill Holloran's La Chenaie is always a Oregon classic – spicy and redolent of strawberry and raspberry fruit. There’s plenty of concentration and depth, but also a silky texture and sense of transparency that I like so much in Oregon Pinot Noir.

Picture: The wines Bill poured

Amity Hills - Chardonnay Stafford Hill $18.99

Perfectly ripe Chardonnay fruit receives a cool fermentation in stainless steel and then rests briefly on the lees before going directly into bottle - no wood barrels involved! The result is a bright, zippy wine loaded with green apple and laced with fine minerality and a touch of citrus.

2008 Amity Hills - Pinot Noir Stafford Hill $19.99

All the fruit was sourced from Bill Holloran's La Chenaie Vineyard located in the Eola-Amity Hills AVA, located 20 miles south of the Dundee Hills. In addition to Pinot Noir, Bill has planted Tempranillo, Chardonnay and Riesling on its south, east, and southwest-facing slopes. A typical Oregon Pinot Noir.

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