Brick House Winery is a fascinating operation located in the Ribbon Ridge AVA in Willamette Valley. Proprietor Doug Tunnel, a native Oregonian, returned to Oregon after spending years abroad as a reporter.
Doug has chosen to produce his wines biodynamically, after starting off in 1990 as an organic farmer. The style of the Brick House wines is balanced and restrained, allowing the terroir of Doug's unique piece of Ribbon Ridge to speak with each glass.
Listen to Doug share his beliefs regarding farming practices, his vineyard in Ribbon Ridge and the circumstances surrounding his return to Oregon.
I visited Doug at Brick House on a rather cool, crisp day last autumn. Yes, this video has been kicking around a bit, but there hasn't been much time to play with video until recently. Besides, the wines I tried that day were current releases that would have been hard to find in the marketplace, engendering oh so many comments regarding their general unavailability that I have craftily obviated the need for.
I actually met Doug at an IPNC (International Pinot Noir Celebration) dinner in 2010 and was immediately fascinated by the soft spoken man, his approach to winemaking and the wines themselves. These really aren't your run of the mill Oregonian wines, but then again they are so Oregonian that it almost rains when you drink them.
Production at Brick House Vineyards, aptly named considering the brick house Doug lives in, is rather modest even by Oregon's rather modest standards. It is significant in one regard, the production of Gamay among all the Pinot Noir and Chardonnay of Oregon. This was one of the early facts I learned about the operation, and it is just what made me want to learn some more.
It's not that I am crazy for Gamay, I just like the wines and find them to be very friendly. What I like even more, is a winemaker who says, "I'm going to plant this grape that will make me less money than that other grape, simply because this seems to be the right gape for this spot!"
That is pretty cool. And farming it organically before converting to biodynamics, well that's like catnip. Actually, like something a bit stronger than that, but I'm told this is a family paper.
Anyway, I got to spend some time with Doug, tasted a few wines and found Brick House to have a remarkable, tranquil vibe that permeates the grounds, the wines and the owner.These are not the easiest wines to find, but they are worth the hunt. If you're looking to taste wines of a region and Oregon is on your list, I would say Brick House is not to be missed. And that Chardonnay is worth a look too!
2009 Brick House vineyards Willamette Valley Chardonnay
2 weeks in bottle
Lightly aromatic on the nose with pollen and floral tones, accented by chalky mineral elements and some lightly nutty wood tones. Beautiful in the mouth with rich fruit supported by vibrant acidity lending this a wonderful clear feel. There's a touch of minerality on the back end with excellent purity of citrus rind and bitter apple fruit that show good persistence. I expect this will become a bit rounder with some time in the bottle, but it really shows nice balance and pure fresh fruit already. 90pts
2009 Brick House Ribbon Ridge Gamay Noir
Lovely on the nose with a blend of floral, earthy and herbal scents. Hints of quinine and orange rind lend a Chinato feel to the sweet, light red fruit. Sweet red fruit on the attack is offered up on rather delicate structure. Integrated acids and soft tannins gently support the mid-palate. This is very clean and pure, perhaps a touch simple even with its deliver of fresh fruit, but a pleasure to drink. 88pts
2009 Brick House Vineyards Ribbon Ridge Select Pinot Noir
Nicely intense on the nose and notably soil-driven with a fine sweetness to the raspberry and strawberry fruit tones. There's a nice and sweet herbal top note adding complexity and hints of wildberry muskiness, vanilla, tobacco and barnyard. Nicely broad at first if light and elegant in the mouth. This displays some fine mineral tension and slightly angular tannins on the mid-palate. The fruit is darker than on the nose with some black raspberry tones, yet it remains light and fresh with sweet herbal framing notes and superb length. A long, lingering mineral wash over the finish. 90pts