Passion for the Depth and Breadth of Oregon Wine

When you think passion what comes to mind? For me it is definitely #wine. That is the same for Carrie Wynkoop of Cellar 503 in Oregon. Recently, I had the pleasure of attending a virtual tasting organized by Kim of The James Collective and I was impressed with not only the wines but the concept of the club. 

Carrie loves wine and wanted to begin a career in the industry, but she didn’t want to own a winery or become a distributor. One day, while talking complaining to her husband about the inability to try wines from small producers in the region she loves, the idea for Cellar 503 was planted. In 2014, that idea became a reality. She chose the name by using the area code that use to represent the entire state of Oregon.

Carrie focuses on wineries that produce less than 10,000 cases within the 21 AVAs of Oregon. Her sweet spot are those wineries that are between two and five thousand cases. “These are specially curated wines that you are not going to find on any supermarket shelf” Carrie happily boasts. Carrie works hard (someone has to do it) at visiting each winery, sitting down with the winemaker and tasting through the portfolio prior to selecting them to be part of her club. 

There is no fee to join the club and you can cancel at any time. You can choose to either have two or four bottles shipped to your door monthly or four bottles quarterly and you get to decide all red, all white or mixed. Included in your package are tasting notes and winemaker stories. In addition to receiving exceptional hand picked wines the additional benefits include: 

  • Complimentary tastings (for you and up to three guests) at our monthly wine club events in Portland. Outside of Portland? We travel frequently and if we hold a tasting event in your town you’ll get free access to those events!
  • A 10% discount when you buy two or more bonus bottles in addition to your subscription.
  • Refer your friends to Cellar 503, and if they join, you’ll both get $20 off your next shipment.
  • Members-only pricing for Cellar 503 special events, including our annual wine festival, Pour Oregon.
  • Members-only pricing for renting the Cellar 503 tasting room for private events.

Although wine is always fun, Carrie adds to the entertainment of the wines she curates by choosing themed packages. For example, for Mother’s Day, all the wines in the May shipment are from female winemakers. The “Back to School” shipment is dedicated to learning about new varietals and my favorite which was in March of this year, Winery Dogs.

During the chat, I tasted through the July selections. The theme was “Old World Wines, New World Style.” (media samples; opinions and thoughts are my own)

The history of wine is largely the history of Europe.

Conquering Romans planted the first vineyards in the Loire Valley in the first century A.D., and the wines there became the most-desired wines in Europe by the High Middle Ages. In Alsace, wines alternately took on characteristics of French and German wines as the region changed hands — particularly Pinot Noir, originally from Burgundy, but taking on many of the white wine characteristics predominant in Alsace. And of course, the Italians lead the way with big red wines, with regional variations that have held for centuries.

But here in Oregon, the history of wine is much more recent, with the first vines planted here in the mid-1960s. And since its inception, the Oregon wine community has tried to mimic the old world wines all the while putting an Oregon spin on them.

This month, we’re celebrating winemakers that produce Old World varietals with a New World style. Our first red is a big bold Bordeaux style blend from club favorites Kriselle Cellars. Our second is a Gamay reminiscent of Beaujolais from Stedt Wines. Our first white is a popular French varietal, Roussanne, from Southern Oregon’s Weisinger Family Wines. Our second white is a Bordeaux style white blend from Gersing Cellars.

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2019 Weisinger Family Winery Roussanne

John Weisinger moved to Oregon in the early 1970’s in pursuit of becoming a winemaker. He began with a small farm on the south end of Ashland, Oregon and Gewürztraminer. Ten years later, he built his winery and began making his own label until 1997 when his son Eric, took over the winemaking. 

👀 pale lemon
👃🏻 light aromas of gardenia, apricot and lemon
👄 dry, medium acidity, low alcohol, medium body, medium flavors almond, grapefruit, lemon, long finish
💭 100% Roussanne, Rogue Valley, Fortmiller Vineyard, 13% ABV, 110 cases produced, SRP: $28

2017 Stedt Wines Impulse Gamay Noir

Located in the Umpqua Valley, Stedt Winery is known for the single vineyard, single varietals. Chris Lubberstedt and his wife Ja’Nien began making wines in 2015. Originally from California, they fell in love with the camaraderie of the Willamette Valley, and knew this was where their wine life belonged. 

I loved the jellyfish on the label on this wine. As you may know, I studied biology and Stedt Impulse bottlemarine biology in undergrad and graduate school. Jellyfish “invented” neurons. These are the cells that build brains and nervous systems, and were among the first to develop the ability to use a sting as a protective poison, but according to Chris, he chose this label because “Like the movements of a jellyfish, Gamay Noir is impulsive.” I guess that works too! 🙂 

👀 medium ruby
👃🏻 pronounced baking spice, black pepper, sour cherry
👄 dry, medium acidity, medium tannin, low alcohol, light body, pronounced flavors cedar, red plum, raspberry, red cherry, long finish
💭 Rebecca’s Vineyard, 60 cases, SRP: $28

2017 Kriselle Cellars Belle TouVelle

Kriselle Cellars is located in the Rogue Valley in southern Oregon. Between their bottle of Kriselleestate and purchased fruit they produce approximately 4000 cases specializing in Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Malbec and Tempranillo blends. Kriselle Cellars is proud to give back by supporting local nonprofit organizations and causes. The name, TouVelle, is in recognition of the state park located down the Rogue River from the winery.

👀 medium ruby
👃🏻 medium aromas anise, dark fruit, coffee and smoke
👄 dry, high acidity, high tannin, medium alcohol, medium body, pronounced flavors black cherry, earth, leather, dark chocolate and violets, long finish
💭 50% Merlot, 25% Malbec, and 25% Cabernet Sauvignon,14.3% ABV, 300 cases

I’d like to thank both Kim and Carrie for including me in this virtual tasting. The wines were stellar and the club concept is not only unique, but brilliant. I love the idea of being able to sample new boutique wineries from a localized region without ever having to leave my home! If you are interested in joining Cellar503, use code “ILOVEWINE” for $20 off your first month. 

~Sláinte! 

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