Winemakers Series Part II: Roots Wine Company
What makes the Willamette Valley so special? Of course the wine has a lot to do with it, but who makes the wine? The people! More specifically, we can thank the pioneers who first came here in the 1960’s and planted the first vines. We can also look to today’s pioneers who continue to innovate and learn how to improve their wines year over year, either through winemaking techniques,altering the varieties of grapes they grow here, or bringing in grapes from other regions.
My purpose with this series is to highlight some of my favorite modern-day pioneers who are further elevating what quality wine is in the valley to the benefit of us wine enthusiasts!
The Roots’ roots start in Racine, Wisconsin where Chris Berg was born to Dian and Chuck Berg. In 1999 Chuck and Dian made their way to Oregon and bought a small vineyard in Yamhill. They planted 7 acres of Pinot Noir on their 20 acre property. Meanwhile Chris met his wife Hilary at University of Kansas and persuaded her to come with him to Portland. When it came time for the senior Bergs to relocate to Arizona in 2001 to be close to Dian’s parents, Chris and Hilary moved to the house on the vineyard full time and realized Chris’s dream of running the place. What was once a 72-case winery in 2002 now makes 5000 cases annually and Dian has returned to run the tasting room.
Hilary, a journalism graduate and magazine industry veteran, found local work as editor of the Oregon Wine Press in 2006, saving it from extinction. For 16 years she presided over the go-to publication for Oregon wine news, which is now a staple in wineries and businesses throughout the Valley. Hilary handed over the reins at OWP earlier this summer for new challenges, including a more active role at Roots Wine. Their son Theo rounds out the family plus 2 super friendly winery dogs, Bluebird & Ditto
Chris has expanded beyond his estate-grown Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Pinot Gris, which are all delicious and well respected, into innovative blends such as their 2021 Rosé of 50% Pinot Noir, 25% Sauvignon Blanc and 25% Trousseau Noir (Trousseau, isn’t that a woman’s wardrobe? See below). Long-term relationships with other vineyards give Chris access to a wider variety of grapes than what he can grow here in Yamhill. All vineyards are managed using organic practices and native yeasts so the purity of flavor extends beyond just his estate-grown fruit. Nearby Fairsing and Saffron Fields entrust their fruit to Roots Wine, a testament to his reputation as an excellent winemaker.
Back to Trousseau Noir, an oddball (for Oregon) grape Chris has sourced. This wine originates from the Jura region of eastern France. It is one of several grapes grown in Portugal for Port Wine. Roots’s crop may possibly be the only planting in Willamette Valley? Yes trousseau also means, the clothes, household linen, and other belongings collected by a bride for her marriage. No relation to the grape.
I counted 15 Pinot Noirs on the Roots Wine website, so to say Pinot pays the bills wouldn’t be an exaggeration. After the Pinot Gris (2021, my personal favorite on the day I tasted) and 2020 Chardonnay, we get into some interesting stuff: Sauvignon Blanc from Eola Amity AVA, Rose of Pinot Noir Sparkling and Sauvignon Blanc Sparkling, available in cans (for ease of transport and great for a picnic or poolside!). They even have a version with CBD for those extra chill evenings! First time I’ve seen a CBD/wine combo but it makes perfect sense to me (I have seen CBD shots offered at a coffee shop, that makes no sense!)
The Wisconsin connection is evident in their reserve Racine (meaning roots in French) Pinot Noir label and Sheboygandy Pinot Noir, a play on Sheboygan (a town in Wisconsin) and Burgundy. An adaptation of favorite artist Paul Klee painting adorns Root’s second label: Klee. Art Brut Blanc de Noir methode champenoise sparkling wine profits benefit the American Art Therapy Association.
Roots Wine Company represents one of many family owned and run wineries in the Willamette Valley that maintains its homey and original feel. Wines are both classic and creative and give their customers a nice variety of grape types and styles. I dare you not to find a wine (or several) to love here, coupled with meeting the owners (with 2 legs and 4 legs), it provides the quintessential Oregon experience!