Monday, March 26, 2012

The Roots of Oregon Winemaker Chris Berg, the Art of Paul Klee, the Wine House of Michael Pearce and the Nice Legs of Al McCosh

Picture: Christian G.E. Schiller and Winemaker/Owner Christian P. Berg

I attended a winemaker dinner at Michael Pearce’s Wine House in Fairfax in Northern Virginia, where Nice Legs owner Al McCosh had brought along owner winemaker Christian P. Berg from Oregon, who presented his wines, including his Klee wine. The dinner was $ 75 per person / $65 wine club members.

Roots Wine Company in Oregon

Born in Racine, Wisconsin and raised in Idaho, Pennsylvania and Illinois, winemaker and winegrower Chris Berg didn't always know he wanted to make wine. In fact, when he graduated from the University of Kansas in Lawrence with a bachelor's in English, he wasn't sure what his future held, as far as a career. Meanwhile his parents had decided to relocate to Oregon from Illinois with the purchase of a manufacturing company in Tualatin. Chris soon followed and helped his parents at the plant, as well as the other reason for the big move: planting a small vineyard. In 1999, the Bergs planted seven acres of mostly Pinot Noir on the 20-acre property near Yamhill in the Yamhill-Carlton District of the Willamette Valley. Chris’ parents Chuck and Dian built a small house on the vineyard, and Chris lived in Portland with his wife, Hilary, also a Jayhawk.

Pictures: Christian G.E. Schiller and Winemaker/Owner Christian P. Berg

The family's business closed their doors in 2000 and the Bergs found themselves full-time winery folk. In 2001, Chris’ parents moved to Arizona and Chris and Hilary were then given the opportunity to move to the vineyard from Portland.

In 2002, the Bergs picked their first harvest of a whopping three tons, which were made into 72 cases of Pinot Noir. In 2003, overall production was increased to 250 cases. In this same year, Roots introduced its reserve bottling, called Racine. In 2004 Chris launched the third label, Klee, which pays homage to Bauhaus artist-in-residence Paul Klee. For the 2005 vintage, Chris also decided to purchase wine grapes other vineyards. In all, 550 cases were produced for the three labels: Roots, Racine and Klee. Over the following 4 years, production increased to 4000 cases. Also, a fourth label was added - the Black Light label for wines made from Washington State fruit.

Chris and Hilary Berg

I did not meet Hilary. “I make the wine, but Hilary tells me what she likes. Hilary designs the labels and runs the social media activities. As editor of Oregon Wine Press, a well respected monthly based in McMinnville, Hilary sits at the center of the wine industry.” Chris said.

Chris’ wine making philosophy is very much grounded in the natural wine approach. The idea behind natural wine is non-intervention and a respect for Mother Nature. Natural wines are hands-off wines produced with as little intervention as possible. Typically, only natural yeasts are used, the fermentation is slow, there is little or no use of new oak barrels; and there are no filtrations or cold stabilization. Commercial yeasts are one of the great culprits in today’s homogenization of wine, imparting their own aromas over those of the grape.

Pictures: Christian P. Berg, Christian G.E. Schiller and Al McCosh. Another Oregon Winery that is very interesting and that Al has in his Portfolio is Dominus IV, which I visited last year: Visiting Patrick Reuter and his Dominio IV Winery in McMinnville, Oregon, US

Chris is true to the “roots” of his wines, believing that, “wine making should represent the place” and that a winemaker’s role is to “just help the fruit to the bottle.”

Chris apprenticed with Lynn Penner Ash during her last year at Rex Hill, with Eric Hamacher of Hamacher Wines, and at Archery Summit. He also worked as a sales person for German wine and I was very surprised about his deep knowledge of the German wine scene.


Estate Vineyard - Roots Vineyard: 6.5 acres Pinot Noir. Planted in 1999 and 2000, our estate vineyard is located northeast of Yamhill in the Yamhill-Carlton District. All fruit is organically grown. “We live there” said Chris.

Vineyard Contracts

Cherry Grove Vineyard: 2 acres Pinot Noir. Just northwest of Gaston in the coastal foothills of the Willamette Valley AVA.

Apolloni Vineyard: 1.8 acres Pinot Noir. Deep in the foothills of the coastal range this vineyard in nestled outside of Banks in the northern most part of the Willamette Valley AVA.

Leroy Vineyard: 3 acres Pinot Noir. This 35-year-old vineyard sits on the far northeast side of the Chehalem Mountain AVA, close to Hillsboro.

49 Rows Vineyard: 3 acres of Pinot Noir. This young vineyard is near Willsonville on the southeastern edge of the Chehalem Mountain AVA.

Washington Vineyard Contracts

Seven HIlls Vineyard, Walla Walla AVA; Pepper Bridge Vineyard, Walla Walla AVA; La Colline Vineyard, Walla Walla AVA; Mirage Vineyard, Columbia Valley AVA; Outlook Vineyard, Columbia Valley AVA.

The Roots Wine Portfolio

The Roots Wine Company has four wines in its portfolio.

Picture: Roots Wine Company Wine Portfolio

The “Roots” line wines are all single-vineyard wines, including from the estate vineyard, both red and white.

The “Racine” line wines are “the upper terrace wines that is a selection of the best of the vintage,” said Chris. Racine, the French word for root, is Chris Berg's own birthplace. The bottles are even stamped with his birth date (June 29, 1970).

The “Klee” line wines are “everyman/everywoman wines” said Chris. The wine is named for German artists Paul Klee, whose artistic philosophy was one of functionalism and elegant simplicity. The wine mirrors Klee’s philosophy, and the label image is inspired by Klee’s 1924 “Aus der Mappe für Walter Gropius.”

The “Black Light” is a fun line of red wines made from Washington State grapes.  With a label that is a homage to the Grateful Dead, Chris and Hilary's playful side comes out. The labels glow in the dark.

Paul Klee

When I was a child I remember, I had a Paul Klee print in my room. Paul Klee was born in Switzerland in 1879. He studied art at the Munich Academy of Fine Art (1898-1901) and later became associated with the Blaue Reiter group. Artists in the group believed that they had a responsibility to "heal the gaping wound that separates man from his environment".

Picture: Roots' Klee Wine

Later Klee taught at the Bauhaus in Weimar and Dessau. With the emergence of Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party in Germany, Klee returned to Switzerland. A large number of his paintings on display in Germany were confiscated by the Nazis as degenerate. Paul Klee died in Switzerland in 1940.

The Wine House in Fairfax

Picture: Winemaker Christian P. Berg and Wine House Owner Michael Pearce with Wine House Manager Dinah Hannif-Ali

The Wine House is a wine store and a wine bistro at the same time. It offers a bistro-style dining experience paired with a large selection of wines from all over the world. I find the atmosphere very appealing – relaxed, sophisticated, and modern.

The wine selection is excellent. You buy by the glass or bottle. When you buy a bottle, owner Michael Pearce explained how it works: “Our wine list is our retail store. Simply pick a bottle off the wine rack at retail price and open it at your table for a $ 10 corking fee. For those of us that enjoy dining out, we know what great value it is to pay retail price versus restaurant mark-ups”. I like this concept very much.

Pictures: Images from the Wine House

What we Ate and Drank

This was a very intimate winemaker dinner. We were all sitting around a communal table – about 12 of us – and talking with the up and coming winemaker Chris P. Berg, tasting his wines and enjoying the wonderful Wine House menu. Al Mcosh, the owner of Nice Legs, joined the conversation as did Michael Pearce.

Pictures: The Dinner Table

Welcome Wine

2010 Roots Pinot Gris $22.99

Light salmon in the glass, hints of peach, pear skin and eastern spices on the nose, really aromatic, the palate is dry but fresh and vibrant, fairly long finish.

I was in particular interested in the wine, after having attended the first Oregon Pinot Gris Symposium last year." Oregon Pinot Gris Symposium at Oak Knoll Winery in Hillsboro"

First Course

Proscuito San Daniel - Roasted Fresh Beet and Shiitake Mushroom Salad with Verjus

2010 Klee Pinot Noir $19.99

Klee Pinot Noir is Chris Berg's (mostly) negoce Pinot Noir made from five Oregon vineyards he works with. Rose petals in the glass, notes of  black cherry, ripe red fruits and brown spice on the nose, good structure,  cranberry, orange peel and clove on the palate, a generous Oregon Pinot Noir.

Second Course

Grilled Salmon Steak - With Sumac, Bok choy in Soy Sauce and Garlic with Sundried Cherry Chutney

2009 Roots Leroy Vineyard Pinot Noir $33.99

A Wine Advocate - 92 points wine: The 2009 Pinot Noir Leroy Vineyard does a fine job of melding the elegance of the vintage with some extra depth, concentration, and complexity. It will continue to blossom for another 1-2 year and should provide enjoyment through 2021. - Jay Miller

Third Course

Duck Confit in a Balsamic Chocolate Glaze Sauce - With Sautéed Potato and Artichoke with Parsley

2008 Racine Pinot Noir $45.99

Dark red in the glass, notes of cherries, wood smoke and Asian spices on the nose, concentrated, elegant wine, amazing silkiness on the palate, a 93/94 points wine. "2008 was a glorius vintage. The wine is starting to give up its fruits, it is a rich wine. it is what the vintage and the vineyard gave us. All I do is to try not to screw it up." said Chris. This wine will clearly improve further over the next couple of years.

schiller-wine: Related Postings

Oregon Pinot Gris Symposium at Oak Knoll Winery in Hillsboro

A Riesling Guru and a Killer Guitarist cum Cult Winemaker: Ernst Loosen and Jay Somers and their J. Christopher Winery in Newberg, Oregon

One of Oregon's Pioneering Winemakers - Myron Redford - with his Amity Vineyard Wines in Washington DC

Wine tasting: Soter Wines from Oregon at Out-of-Sight Wines in Vienna, US

Wine Tasting: The Pinot Noirs of Patricia Green, Oregon, US

The Excellent Wines of Ken Wright Cellars, Oregon

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

The Doctor Made a House Call - A Tasting with Ernst Loosen, Weingut Dr. Loosen, at MacArthur Beverages in Washington DC

Visit: Oak Knoll Winery in Hillsboro, Oregon

Meeting American Wine Writer Paul Gregutt in Oregon, USA

Washington State and Oregon's Best Wines - Paul Gregutt’s Top 100 Wines of 2011

Visiting Patrick Reuter and his Dominio IV Winery in McMinnville, Oregon, US

A Riesling Guru and a Killer Guitarist cum Cult Winemaker: Ernst Loosen and Jay Somers and their J. Christopher Winery in Newberg, Oregon

The Jay Somers Wines of Bill Holloran,Oregon

Meeting Winemaker Dianna Lee and Tasting Her Siduri Wines and Her Novi Family Wines

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

The Doctor Made a House Call - A Tasting with Ernst Loosen, Weingut Dr. Loosen, at MacArthur Beverages in Washington DC

Visit: Oak Knoll Winery in Hillsboro, Oregon

Meeting Glenn and Liz Bartholomew from Oregon and Tasting Their Dominio IV Wines 

No comments:

Post a Comment