Vineyard dogs and cats were the true masters of grape in Napa Valley. Their ambassadorial roles are witnessed by the thousands of visitors each year and even the subject of coffee table books—multiple coffee table books.
Carey embraced the vineyard dog scene thoroughly. We threw sticks and soggy tennis balls, scratched little chins, looked under sunny porches, got muddied by paws, inquired in tasting rooms, and, of course, took pictures all over Napa and Sonoma. So I had little doubt that Oregon would be any different. Wine simply cannot be made without dogs (or cats).
We had read that the Stoller family had some interesting little creatures onsite, including alpacas and miniature donkeys—and there might even be some pugs in the tasting room. Sadly, they were no where to be seen, but the day was just getting started, and Carey and I were the first visitors of the day, so we couldn’t really blame them.
The Stoller farm is truly an impressive operation set on the most stunningly picturesque hillside—a compound of barns, houses, vines, pastures, and a solar panel-clad winery that would shock even the most ardent Napa enthusiast.
Our tasting comprised 3 outstanding estate grown Pinot Noir selections: the JV Estate, a bright, berry-driven Pinot Noir sourced from the younger vines, the earthy, more complex and concentrated SV Estate, and the most select lot, 118 case, ’05 Cathy’s Reserve. This Pinot Noir is sourced from the oldest vines on the estate, requiring only 5 barrels for aging (3 new, 1 year-old, 1 neutral). Only 7 cases remained on the date we arrived and were only being sold out of the tasting room. We were honored to have gotten a chance to enjoy it.
[Our tour through the winery begins, led by Emily Olds, Stoller’s tasting room manager, Carey in tow, busy taking notes and juggling the last bit of the ’05 Cathy’s Reserve in her glass. Rows of stainless steel fermentation tanks line the walls of the gravity-fed winery looking downright impressive under the massive wood ceiling trusses.]
[Down the stairs at the far end of the room, past the icy Rosé tanks and bottling line, is Stoller’s meandering cellar. French Oak barrels, stacked a few high, and carefully labeled occupied every square inch. Carey was thrilled to find a rubber bung on the floor that had been haphazardly ejected from a barrel of Pinot Noir—which we spent the next few minutes looking for. While bung hunting I came across a few barrels of ’09 Tempranillo—very exciting. As a fantasy winemaker, I imagine secret and/or experimental barrels of wine cellaring happily.]
Hopefully the next time we visit Oregon, Carey and I will be able to officially meet Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, the Stoller Pugs. Maybe there will be a Tempranillo on the tasting menu to look forward to! For more information check out the Stoller website.