Cristom Vineyards in Oregon Wine Country
I was recently honored to be given a thorough tour of Cristom Vineyards by proprietor Tom Gerrie. What a fine example of all that we can hope for in an Oregon winery: An independent producer of stunning Pinot Noir, a grand vision of maintaining the winery as a family winery for generations to come, a passion for the land and the wine that is as real as it is beautiful, a drive to produce ever better wines through ever better vineyards, and a humility about it all that makes one heave a huge sigh of relief from the realization that none of it is put on, but is as real as the soil the grapes are grown in.
Tom inherited the winery from his parents Paul and Irene at the age of 29 when he suddenly realized that the driving passion of his life was, indeed, that plot of land that was already producing some of the highest quality wine in Oregon. Paul and Irene had bought the property back in 1992 and had grown it to a 10,000 case, premier Oregon winery. Paul has been slowly growing it since then, but has no intention of making it much bigger than where his parents left it.
The powerful expressions that Cristom achieves with its wines, from the Mount Jefferson Cuvee to the single vineyard wines, is clearly the result of the passionate attention to detail from the vineyard to the winery. For example, I witnessed a painstaking effort that went into the pruning details, but I also saw the individual attention that was given to not only each block or row in the vineyard, but to each vine to make sure it was not too vigorous, or to understand why it wasn’t as vigorous. It is truly a labor of love at Cristom!
I noticed the same avid attention to detail in the wine-making process as well, such that when we went through the barrel room in the cellars and tasted through a number of wines, a conscience effort was made to top off the slightest loss of wine in each barrel. The small lots that were fermented separately and then stored in distinct barrels was fascinating to taste as well, since it gave a real glimpse into what was coming in the next couple of years.
Overall, I left inspired by what I saw happening at Cristom: the contagious enthusiasm of Tom and Steve Goerner (the winemaker), the attention to detail, the upbeat attitude of all the staff who are treated like family, the incredible quality of the wines, and finally, a winery that has one intention: the making of wines that are authentic reflections of the soil, wind, sun and rain that make up that particular microclimate within the Eola-Amity Hills of Oregon.