Oregon wines have become well-known around the world, taking their place among some of the best Pinot Noirs. So it’s no surprise that our customers and followers are frequently asking us for recommendations. There are few Oregon wine producers that have committed to sustainable organic and biodynamic farming methods and also create incredible quality wines. However, we do suggest a couple Oregon wines that fit that bill.
Certified Wineries Impact Community and Quality
Oregon has 18 approved winegrowing regions with about 700 wineries, which produce around 72 varieties of grapes. Of these, there are three main certifications that govern sustainable and organic type wine farming. These certifications are Live certified, Organic Certified and Biodynamic certified farming.
LIVE Certification: LIVE independently certifies the sustainable practices of winegrowers in the Pacific Northwest since 1999 and uses the latest in university research and internationally accredited standards. The focus of LIVE certification surrounds preservation, social issues, community considerations and certification.
USDA Organic Certified: USDA certified organic wine is made without using prohibited substances or genetic engineering. It undergoes the same rigorous requirements of USDA organic certification as other products, and is overseen by the USDA National Organic Program. Certification means that it also meets the requirements of the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, especially for sulfite labeling requirements.
Demeter Biodynamic Certified: The Demeter Biodynamic Farm Standard is a comprehensive organic farming method that requires the creation and management of a closed system minimally dependent on imported materials, and instead meets its needs from the living dynamics of the farm itself.
Oregon Wines Using Organic Or Biodynamic Sustainable Farming
Though there are many great wines that come out of the unique ecosystems of Oregon, there are a couple that we are especially fond of. For their sustainable farming practices and their incredible tasting wines, our two favorite biodynamic Oregon Wines are from Soter Vineyards and Montinore Estate. We spoke with representatives from both of these exceptional wineries recently to get some of the details about their philosophies on making amazing Oregon wine and the farming and business practices that make them our favorites.
We have always loved the Montinore Estate wines. We were fortunate to also be able to get to speak with some of the family while attending some biodynamic farming training at the Montinore facilities some time back. But when we recently had a conversation with Kristin Marchesi, the community they have created and the welcoming family spirit become readily apparent.
Montinore Estate sits on about 200 acres in the NW Willamette Valley on the coastal range foothills in Forest Grove, Oregon. Founded in 1982, Montinore Estate has been Organic certified since 2001 and began operating biodynamic in 2005, then received certification in 2008. Their biodynamic practices result in the quality of their fruit being higher and their vines are healthier due to the ecosystem that is more healthy and vibrant. The resulting wines that they produce are better, having more life, being more vibrant and with more character.
Kristin explained to us that they are unique in that they produce wines that are more European in style. They tend to be brighter with higher but balanced acidity, going well with food. They also focus on building a community at the vineyard, where the entire team contributes to the end product, creating an environment that is healthy for the land and is the same way with the company culture. Of course Montinore creates amazing Pinot Noir, but they also grow Pinot Gris, Gewürztraminer, Riesling, Müller-Thurgau, and two Italian varieties Teroldego and Lagrein, which are extremely unique.
This year Kristin is the President of the International Pinot Noir celebration and is regularly involved in the Oregon Pinot Camp, where President Rudy Marchesi and Stephen Webber (Montinore Head Winemaker) are also speakers on the panel.
The Montinore Estate family really love food, and the owners take that to another level with their passion for making their own salami and cheeses, sometimes sharing their creations with their friends, family and visiting customers. Their strong Italian heritage and culture contributes to everything they do within the business, community and their family, finding joy in all moments.
The care they put into farming incredible grapes is a byproduct of how they treat the land, their community and their staff. We truly enjoy the Oregon wines that come out of Montinore Estate and highly suggest that you try them and visit their beautiful farm if you ever get a chance.
Another of our favorite sustainable Oregon winemakers is Soter Vineyards. The Soter winery is situated on the Mineral Springs Ranch that is a 240 acre savanna and grazing land. Their certified biodynamic estate vineyard combines 15 acres of Pinot Noir planted in 2002 and 2003, along with an additional 15 acres in 2006. They currently also maintain two acres of Chardonnay, which were included in the 2006 plantings and are devoted entirely to their sparkling wine production.
We got a chance to speak with Julia Bandy-Smith recently about Soter Vineyards and what makes their wines and business so unique. At the forefront of their business is a sense of being good stewards of the land and making the absolute best wine that they can produce. Julia said that “it’s about being winegrowers, not just winemakers. We farm for very high quality, which not only means low yields but a very hands-on farming approach. We shepherd the vines along through respectful farming and craftsmanship.”
At Soter Vineyard, they have a process where they produce their own compost and natural preparations, some of which are all grown right on the property and used to make micro adjustments to the biology of the vineyard. Julia explained, “when you farm conventionally, you strip thousands of natural organisms and bacteria from the soil that are crucial to quality plant life. Instead we work to maintain the thousands of microorganisms in the soil and that has a direct impact on the quality of our grapes and the resulting wine we craft.
The Soter property has 2 acres of fruits and vegetables and a ½ acre of berries. They raise pigs, chickens and ducks, honey bees, plus a few “token” donkeys and leave untouched forest land and fields on the property to maintain biodiversity across the vast acreage. They even have a wild bobcat and other predators that thrive within the ecosystem of their property. Finally the abundant produce is also used within their tasting facility (which is all by appointment only), to provide a real food and wine experience for their guests.
Everything that Soter Vineyards does can be culminated with how they work with their employees. In fact, every one of their staff has a share in their CSA (community supported agriculture) program, where they each get a share of the farms resulting riches. Their community involvement is another highlight of their business and is marked by their Summer Solstice Celebration, which celebrates the release of their brut rose every year and is also a fundraiser for the local food bank that provides housing assistance and youth services in their area.
Choosing The Best Oregon Wine
When deciding on which Oregon wine is best, you should take into consideration additional aspects beyond brand, taste and character. The Oregon winery that you support should also have their focus centered on sustainability of the land, community as well as employees. We do love the amazing wines that both Montinore Estate and Soter Vineyards produce, because they are some of the best. But we love even more that they have an inspired drive to care for the land in ways that are good for the environment, while being good stewards to those around them. That makes Montinore and Soter our choices for the best Oregon wines that you simply have to buy!