In 2003 the Durants decided to make wine under their own label. With 30 years of grape growing experience under their belts they knew they should stick to their knitting, but they also knew they had something special to showcase. Paul Durant explains, “We have a passion for farming and we want to show that through the wine.” The Durants wanted wines that told the story and showed the personality of the individual vineyard blocks. The Durant vineyard includes blocks at three distinct elevations: higher sites at 600 feet with predominantly Jory soil; middle sites with rocky Jory soils; and lower elevations composed of Woodburn and Jory soils. The family’s original Bishop block, planted in 1973 still contains significant amounts of ungrafted vines. “I planted some of those blocks myself. I don’t want them blended into a homogeneous Durant wine,” explains Paul Durant. The solution – match vineyard blocks with six hand selected winemakers.
Because the Durants have such a long history in the Oregon wine industry, these matches occurred organically. Isabelle Dutartre, 1789 Wines and De Ponte Cellars, has a 20+ year relationship with the Durant family. When the opportunity arose for Dutartre to craft the Raven Chardonnay and Bishop Pinot noir the sentiment from both parties was “Hell yes, let’s make some wine.”
Marcus Goodfellow, Matello Wines, encountered Durant fruit through Dean Fisher at Adea Winery. “Dean always wanted Durant fruit for Adea.” In 2009 Goodfellow jumped at the chance for fruit from Durant’s Bishop and Heron blocks. “The Durant family have been farming [vineyards] since I was five.” Goodfellow was eager to work with such experienced and knowledgeable farmers. In addition to his own wines, including Matello Durant Vineyard Chardonnay, Goodfellow crafts Heron Pinot noir for the Durant label.
Chad Stock, Minimus Wines and Omero Cellars, was recommended by Master Sommelier Nate Ready as a winemaker with “attention to detail.” Stock works with the Olivia Grace block. This is the coolest of Durant’s vineyard blocks and planted with the youngest Pommard. Terraced and facing true east, it receives less ripening sun. Before Stock’s influence these grapes were used for rose. His 2012 Durant Vineyards Olivia Grace Pinot noir is fresh and floral with darker fruits.
Each winemaker has an individual style and philosophy that leaves a thumbprint on the wine. Dutartre feels that a relationship with the vineyard site takes several years to develop.”I have stopped working with some vineyards because we were just not meant to be together.” She refers to the finished wines as her “babies” explaining that wines are like kids and need to go through stages. “My wine making style is ‘lazy.’ I respect the fruit and try not to extract too much or push malolactic fermentation.” Her trademark wines have finesse and elegance.
Goodfellow’s M.O. is later release. Using whole clusters his goal is to make Burgundian style wines meant to age. He offers the analogy of giving a young child a set of wooden alphabet blocks. “You might remove the more difficult letters, Z and Q. The child can make words but won’t build a broad vocabulary.” Wines, too, can be enjoyed young, but he prefers making wines that develop into a more complex experience.
Stock seems open to experimentation and challenge. His signature style is “freshness, brightness, and wines centered on aromatics.” He points out that he, Goodfellow, and Dutartre all have a reputation for low impact, minimal intervention wine making, each with a different interpretation. The winemaker’s signature shows in the style of the wine. Stock believes the Durant practice of matching winemaker with vineyard block creates unique tastes, stark differences in the wines, and an adventurous experience for the consumer.
In addition to these winemakers, Durant partners with Jess Lange of Lange Estate, Dean Fisher of Adea Winery, and Joe Dobbes of Dobbes Family Estates. Bottle prices range from $25 for Pinot noir from the Lark block to $65 for Pinot noir from their oldest block, Bishop. More information can be found at Durant Vineyards at Red Ridge Farms.