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There is no doubt that Cristom is one of this country's greatest wineries. Since its inception, the wines have been amongst the most terroir driven and balanced, complex and food friendly. This is why they... Read More
There is no doubt that Cristom is one of this country's greatest wineries. Since its inception, the wines have been amongst the most terroir driven and balanced, complex and food friendly. This is why they are the most featured producer on the wine lists of this country's best fine dining establishments with enough stars to fill the milky way.
It all started back in the 1990’s when domestic wines of this style were a rare breed. In that era of power over everything, founder Paul Gerrie decided he was going to make wines that were more reminiscent of the wine he had the pleasure of drinking in Burgundy. On his many travels to the Cote d'Or he took inspiration from their traditional growing practices and realized that soil and site, the mainstays of terroir, were the key to producing complex Pinot Noir.
In 1991, Paul attended the International Pinot Noir Celebration in McMinnville, Oregon. He quickly realized that the hills of the Willamette Valley were the perfect spot to produce Pinot Noir. Inspired by the rugged beauty and the incredible terroir of the region, within a year he had packed up the family and like many before him made the journey from the East to the West Coast to pursue his dream. This was just as Oregon was starting to make its mark on the world of Pinot Noir and when a winery on what he believed to be an exceptional site came up for sale he jumped at the chance. A new winery was born and he bestowed upon it the name Cristom after his two sons, Chris and Tom.
As luck would have it, around the same time Steve Doerner was looking for a job. Steve is a biochemist by training whose passion for Pinot Noir was inspired by working at Calera Vineyards with owner Josh Jensen and studying under Jacques Seysses of Domaine Dujac in Burgundy. Jacques and the wines of Dujac are Steve's greatest inspiration, a fact that is very recognizable when you crack open a bottle of Cristom. Paul and Steve along with an incredible team of hardworking folks established Cristom Vineyards as an iconic producer of Oregon Pinot with Burgundian sensibilities and have contributed mightily to the region's well deserved reputation as one of the world’s best.
Paul Gerrie has now retired but Steve Doerner is still at the helm on the winemaking side. Paul's son Tom, carries on as the current proprietor and manager. Today, the estate consists of nine very distinct vineyards spanning over 65 acres in the Eola-Amity Hills. Named after family members all but Marjorie (the only vineyard that was planted before Cristom with own-rooted vines) are planted at high density, about 2300 vines per acre with yields strictly limited. Farmed by viticulturist Mark Feltz who has also been there since the beginning, the vineyards are tended using biodynamic practices with almost half a decade of zero synthetic inputs. Along with Steve's prodigious talent, Mark's intimate knowledge of the vines and soils of Cristom are a large piece of the puzzle.
The wines of Cristom are and have always been a benchmark and the team of incredibly talented folks who make them could have easily chosen to continue making wines as they always have. Year in and year out they used a recipe of sorts with brilliant results. But mother nature and the need of talented people to evolve has led to some minor changes on the winemaking side that have raised the bar for these nonpareil wines. This is expressed in a slightly more electric energy in their youth making them pleasurable to drink straight out of the gate. But what has always been true still remains. However good the wine is upon release, in 5-7 years time they will be that much better.
Doerner only works with native yeasts, without a cold soak, employs minimal fining and racking and no filtration. While the many wineries claim to be Burgundian in style few can deliver on this claim like Cristom. Especially with age they become as transparent and deeply complex as the best from France.