Robust Italian Varietals in the Heart of Oregon Pinot Noir Country

Snooth Mentor Julia Crowley meets the winemaker behind Remy Wines



After a quick tour of the winery, we settled in at the bar and sampled a couple of Remy’s fantastic single vineyard Italian varietal wines: The 2009 Illahe Vineyard Oregon Lagrein and the 2009 Rosebud Vineyard Washington Barbera.
 
The Lagrein was a super dark and inky red color in the glass with a glowing halo of bright ruby red. Vibrant aromas of  plums and raspberries were highlighted by leather and vanilla. In the mouth, round supple tannins and bright acidity with a gorgeous velvet-like texture all played a role in creating this sultry, soulful, dark fruit wine. I absolutely loved it.
 
I loved the Barbera equally, which was quite the old-world style beauty. The nose was all about the blackberries, plums and spice. On the palate, super soft tannins were rounded out by a nice, solid acidic backbone. Medium to full bodied, this wine was filled with jammy, fruity, dark berry flavors that were enhanced by black licorice and pie spice. This is seriously an awesome wine with layers of flavors and great depth of character.
I was dying to know how Remy ended up producing intense robust Italian reds in the middle of the Willamette Valley, and I was about to find out.
 
When asked, at just 8-years-old, what she wanted to be when she grew up, Remy said, “a winemaker.” Growing up in the heart of the Willamette Valley, Remy was surrounded by the pioneers of the Oregon wine industry. She described her life growing up in McMinnville, which ultimately lead her down a path to become the winemaker she is today:
 
“Back then, it was a really, really small [wine] industry. It was the Lett’s, Adelsheim’s, Erath’s, Ponzi’s, and just a few other families, but it was really small, and everybody hung out together–really everybody hung out together, like all birthdays and New Years and…. Well, my mom worked at Nick’s [Italian Cafe], so I had grown up in the restaurant, and that’s where everybody hung out. It was the hub of the Oregon wine industry. The reason for that is because when all these winemakers took their wines around to restaurants, people laughed at them, but not Nick. He supported all these first wineries, so that came back to them supporting him [Nick]. That’s the community I grew up in, and I knew I wanted to be a winemaker since I was a little girl.” Remy continued, “My mom would take me out to help pick at different people’s vineyards during harvest, so as soon as I was old enough to work, at 13, Ponzi gave me my first harvest job, and the rest is history.” 
 
As Remy was giving us a bit of history, she was chopping, cutting, mixing, and preparing a delicious arugula, pine nut, and lemon zest salad along with a fresh baguette, gourmet artisan cheese, and the best fresh salami I’ve ever had, produced by local salumeria Fino in Fondo (owned and run by the daughter and son-in-law of Nick Peirano, owner of Nick’s Italian Cafe). As we sat down and literally broke bread, we toasted with a glass of the 2009 Lagrein.
 
While enjoying every single sip of Lagrein and bite of the lunch Remy had prepared, I was in awe as she continued to tell us about her path that brought her to producing high quality single vineyard Italian varietal wines in an area known for Pinot Noir. From age 13 through high school, Remy worked at Ponzi Vineyards and Erath Winery after school, on weekends and full-time in the summers. After high school, she spent some time in Israel and France, where she attempted to get her degree in winemaking. Juggling French classes, college-level Chemistry courses, and working in the vineyards proved to be overwhelming, and Remy’s stay in France ended after about 4 months. She returned to Oregon, working briefly at Erath Winery again before moving to Pittsburgh. She spent a few years there, managing an Italian restaurant and bakery. As luck would have it, this Italian restaurant and bakery made their own wine in the basement of the restaurant–wine they enjoyed just for themselves.
 
“When I came back to Oregon [from Pennsylvania], I loved that tradition [the winemaking at the Italian restaurant]. I would go to work [at Erath] and I’d be processing a thousand tons of Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, and Chardonnay, and then I went home and I was making Sangiovese in my laundry room in the middle of the night. So when I started Remy Wines, I had learned about these Italian varietals, not in Italy, but in Pittsburgh, because that’s what they were importing: Sangiovese, Barbera, Alicante, Nebbiolo–anything they could get their hands on. It all just went into the same stuff. We had a hand-crank destemmer, and aged [the wine] in whiskey barrels and things like that. It was awesome. And that’s why I ended up not making Pinot; there was no reason to all of a sudden go, ‘Okay, well, I’ve been making these Italian varietals now for three years, and they’re really well received, people really like them and they like the way I make wine….time to make Pinot,’” she explained. “That’s my life in a nutshell.” 
 
Pretty impressive, I’d say. Not only does Remy draw outside the lines with her chosen varietals, but she also goes by strict guidelines when making her wines. Produced in small lots, she sources fruit from single vineyards and wines are 100 percent varietal. Remy ages them for a minimum of 2 years and uses glass Vinolok enclosures instead of cork–keeping the environment in mind while steering away from any cork taint. She’s forward-thinking and innovative–an incredibly talented winemaker.

Mentioned in this article

Comments

  • Snooth User: JonDerry
    Hand of Snooth
    680446 2,962

    Cool story.

    Jan 22, 2013 at 3:47 PM


  • Snooth User: zinfandel1
    Hand of Snooth
    154660 995

    Great story. I suppose there is no distribution of her wines to the east coast.

    Jan 22, 2013 at 4:21 PM


  • Snooth User: Julia Crowley
    Hand of Snooth
    1094165 55,964

    @zinfandel: Remy wines are distributed in VA, MD and DC, and she ships, too!

    Jan 22, 2013 at 6:56 PM


  • Ships to Florida?

    Jan 23, 2013 at 1:07 AM


  • Snooth User: Julia Crowley
    Hand of Snooth
    1094165 55,964

    @Sharon - I believe so, but you will want to check with Remy. She's active on her facebook page - search: Remy Wines. Cheers - Julia

    Jan 23, 2013 at 1:24 AM


  • Snooth User: SM
    1097030 218

    An awesome story Ms. Crowely, I do believe that the end of the day that's what wine is all about, a great story. Something that inspires us and moves us, it does take a pioneer and a visionary to break out of a box but the results can be outstanding.

    I doubt that I will ever get to taste Ms. Remy's wines as I live in a country where Cabernet Sauvignon is king and Chardonnay is queen (Taiwan), but it is an enchanting story all the same. If I ever have the good fortune to be in the Williamette Valley I will definitely seek out Ms Remy and her spectacular wines.

    Cheers!

    Solomon Mengeu

    Jan 23, 2013 at 6:53 AM


  • What is the prize range does any body know?

    Jan 24, 2013 at 10:01 AM


  • Snooth User: Julia Crowley
    Hand of Snooth
    1094165 55,964

    @Lazaro - the Barbera is $35 USD and the Lagrein is $48 USD. Cheers - Julia

    Jan 24, 2013 at 2:17 PM


  • Thank you Julia!

    Jan 24, 2013 at 7:25 PM


  • Snooth User: Ken Arkell
    113629 14

    To me, your wonderful story reflects my experience of visiting the Willamette Valley wine country in Oregon. It is an enchanting place where you can still meet the people who work in and make the wine, in midst of a a countryside that for some reasons reminds me of Burgundy. At one very good winery, I remember being the only one there tasting and a young man in a t shirt and jeans wanders into the tasting room and we begin a conversation about wine. When I ask what he does at the winery he says I am the cellar manager. His passion for wine was incredible and I remember him smiling and saying "I live in a small apartment in which the refrigerator is empty but I drink very good wine." It was his way of saying I am not making much money, but I am living a life I love. If you haven't been, go to visit the Willamette Valley in Oregon. The people are very real, very wonderful, the wines are incredible, and if you stop and look around you, you will feel the passion of people doing what they love. I found a great app that will get you to many wineries with wonderful notes about the wineries and the people who created them called "Oregon Wine" (download from iTunes). No, I don't work in the industry or have anything to do with the app. I do however, feel strongly, that this is a place where people are going about creating wine and a wine experience right.

    Jan 25, 2013 at 1:05 PM


  • Snooth User: Julia Crowley
    Hand of Snooth
    1094165 55,964

    @Ken - thanks for sharing your experience, and you are right on about Oregon. It's one of the many reasons why I love it here. May times I've gone into tasting rooms, only to find out the owner and winemaker just hopped off the tractor, dirt stained hands and all, to come in and pour me a glass of their labor of love. There's a certain pride exhibited here that is not seen too many other places around the world.

    I'll check out hat Oregon Wine App - first I've heard of it! Cheers -

    Jan 25, 2013 at 2:48 PM


  • Snooth User: Julia Crowley
    Hand of Snooth
    1094165 55,964

    @Lazaro - my pleasure!

    Jan 25, 2013 at 2:50 PM


  • Snooth User: Ken Arkell
    113629 14

    Julia,
    My apologies. The app was written by Katherine Cole, the wine columnist for the Oregonian newspaper and the magazine Mix. When you said you hadn't heard of it my first thought was that I had forgotten the title, which turns out to be the case. The actual title of the app is Oregon Wine. Since last July I have received at least one update and it now also contains a section on dining and sleeping in the area as well. By the way she describes and reviews Remy Wines in her app.
    Thank you for taking the time to reply to my comments about Remy wines.
    Cheers,
    Ken

    Jan 26, 2013 at 2:31 AM


  • Snooth User: Julia Crowley
    Hand of Snooth
    1094165 55,964

    @Ken - Thanks for the update, and it sounds like an app I will love! Cheers -

    Jan 28, 2013 at 11:38 PM


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