Phelps Creek Vineyards: A Unique Burgundian Collaboration
Robert Morus founded Phelps Creek Vineyards to focus on estate grown Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. He was
raised in the San Francisco Bay Area and experienced the Northern California wine explosion first hand. After
serving in the Air Force and becoming a Delta Airlines pilot, he chose to becoming based in Portland, Oregon,
hoping to plant a vineyard that was a sensible driving distance away. His first trip to explore the wine districts of
Oregon led him to the Columbia Gorge, where he found a 60-acre site perfect for grapevines with a steep
southern slope and a magnificent view of the Hood River Valley. He also explored the Willamette Valley but
was drawn back to the Columbia Gorge site.
After acquiring the property, he would later learn that the Hood River Valley enjoyed the same rainfall
(averaging 36 inches of rain annually) and heat as Oregon’s Dundee Hills, although the best vineyard locations
for Pinot Noir in the Columbia Gorge sit at a higher elevation. Robert would admit that his planting of Pinot Noir
and Chardonnay in the Columbia Gorge was a “lucky, slightly educated guess at the time.”
Columbia Gorge Wine Region
The visually stunning Columbia Gorge wine region is located less than 60 miles east of Portland,
Oregon. Over 30 different grape varieties are grown within this 40 mile stretch of diverse
microclimates. The land is defined by the Columbia River as it cuts through the Cascade Mountain
Range and makes its journey to the Pacific Ocean.
The Columbia Gorge wine region is unique in that it is composed of wineries and growers on both
shores of the river in Oregon and Washington. The Columbia Gorge is part of two appellations
(AVAs) including the western edge of the Columbia Valley AVA, and encompassing all the
Columbia Gorge AVA, which was established in 2004.
The Columbia Gorge is a relatively new wine region, long known for pears, apples, cherries and
other fruits. It wasn't until the 1970s that growers started planting wine grapes. Currently, over 70%
of Gorge-grown grapes are exported to other wine regions in Oregon and Washington.
There are now more than 30 wineries and 45+ vineyards dotting the shoreline of the Columbia
River in the Columbia Gorge winegrowing region. Relaxed, uncrowded tasting rooms offer a
special experience. Visit www.columbiagorgewine.com for a touring map and brochure.
The name of the winery is derived from a tributary of the Columbia River that runs a path just below the Phelps
Creek vineyards. The creek is named after Phelps who was a cooper and died in a tragic rafting accident on
The estate vineyards consist of 30 acres of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, both self-rooted and grafted plants with
initial plantings of Pinot Noir dating to 1990 and Dijon clone Chardonnay in 1992. From the initial 7 acres,
planting has incrementally increased, and today there are 25 acres of Pinot Noir (Pommard, Dijon 777 and
115), 4.5 acres of Chardonnay (mostly Dijon 75 and 76 and 200 plants from cuttings of Celilo Vineyard’s Wente
clone), and .5 acre of Pinot Gris. Elevation ranges from 950 feet to 1,200 feet (600 feet would be considered
high in the Willamette Valley), and soils are primarily volcanic.
The first harvests went to King Estate and later Ponzi Vineyards, with winemaker Peter Rosback producing a
Phelps Creek vineyard-designated Pinot Noir from 2000 to 2006. The first Phelps Creek Pinot Noir started with
the 2002 vintage, and by 2007 Phelps Creek kept all estate grapes for their own production. In the same year,
Robert met Alexandrine Roy and coaxed her into joining the Phelps Creek team.
Alexandrine Roy, who crafts some of the most elegant wines in Gevrey-Chambertain at her family’s Domaine
Marc Roy, became a contributing winemaker at Phelps Creek initially, eventually becoming the Director of
Winemaking beginning with the 2012 vintage. A fourth generation winemaker, Alexandrine flies to Oregon
three or four times a year to oversee the winemaking at the estate. From 2007 through 2011, she primarily
made Cuvée Alexandrine, a reserve level Pinot Noir, Fleur de Roy Rosé of Pinot Noir and most recently Coeur
de Roy Pinot Noir Blanc. In 2011, wine production was moved to a facility on the estate. Since she took over
the reigns, the wines have become spectacular. Photo below is of Alexandrine at a previous IPNC event.
Current production is 5,000 cases annually primarily from estate grown fruit including Pinot Noir, Rosé of Pinot
Noir, Chardonnay, Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir Blanc (a Merlot and Syrah are from sourced grapes). The winery’s
tasting room is located on the Hood River Golf Course and is open daily. Visit www.phelpscreekvineyards for
more information or to order wine.
Robert continues his duties as a Captain flying B-777s internationally for Delta Airlines, and his daughter,
Becky, has joined the team as Operations Manager and his son, Toby, as Hospitality Coordinator.
2014 Phelps Creek Vineyards Fleur de Roy Columbia Gorge Oregon Rosé of Pinot Noir
13.5% alc., 120 cases,
$26, screwcap. Clone 115. A saignée from estate grapes
picked early made in the fashion that winemaker Alexandrine
Roy employs for her rosé at home in Gevrey-Chambertain.
Fermented in neutral French oak barrels.
salmon color in the glass. This is an exceptional rosé that
leads with scents of fresh strawberries and peaches that
really draw you into the glass. Crisp, with bright flavors of strawberry,
pear and apricot, the wine wraps the palate in fresh fruit flavors, and
leaves on impression on the uplifting finish. Straight and true, this wine
is among the best that Oregon has to offer.
2014 Phelps Creek Vineyards Le Petit Columbia Gorge Oregon Pinot Noir
12.6% alc., TA 0.65, 238
cases, $28, screwcap. Estate grown Pinot Noir. A Cru Beaujolais style wine incorporating whole cluster,
carbonic fermentation. Dijon clone 115. Harvest Brix 22.8º. Aged in stainless tank.
Light cherry red color in the
glass. Heady scents of strawberry, cherry, cake spice and floral bouquet lead to a light weight, pleasant wine
that is easy to like. Spirited by red berry flavor and a cranberry-laced finish, this wine has refreshingly crisp
acidity. Serve slightly chilled.
2013 Phelps Creek Vineyards Columbia Gorge Oregon Pinot Noir
13.4% alc., 1,204 cases, $34. Estate
grown. Clones are Pommard, Dijon 115 and 777. Harvest Brix 23.7º. Aged in French oak barrels, 10% new
Moderate light cherry red color in the glass. Nicely appointed nose with aromas of cherry spice, sousbois
and black tea. Soft and smooth in the mouth, with straightforward flavors of cherry and raspberry framed
by modest tannins. A solid everyday drinker.
2013 Phelps Creek Vineyards “Regina” Columbia Gorge Pinot Noir
13.5% alc., 93 cases, $49. The finest
4 barrels of Pommard clone in the cellar. Oldest plantings of self-rooted vines. Named in honor of owner Robert
Morus’ mother. Harvest Brix 23.7º. Aged in French oak barrels, 25% new.
Moderately light reddish purple hue
in the glass. Engaging aromas of Bing cherry, dark red rose and spice. Plenty of Pinot singing in this wine with
a delicious core of Asian-spiced cherry goodness complimented by subtle oak. Very suave and elegant with a
markedly intense and lengthy finish that sports some ripe fruit tannins that offer textural interest. Extremely
giving and enjoyable now.
2013 Phelps Creek Vineyards Cuvée Alexandrine Columbia Gorge Oregon Pinot Noir
13.5% alc., 244
cases, $54. The winery’s flagship wine consisting of 10 barrels carefully selected from the estate vineyards by
winemaker Alexandrine Roy. Pommard and Dijon 115 and 777. Harvest Brix 23.8º. Native yeast fermentation,
aged in French oak barrels, 25% new Cadus.
Moderately light reddish purple color in the glass. An earthy,
savory nose with hints of black cherry, BBQ spice, tobacco and oak. Quite elegant on the palate with a deep
black cherry flavor accented with dried herbs and anise-laced oak. Very charming now, but not fully
expressive, and more giving the following day from a previously opened and re-corked bottle. I would cellar a
year or two. Do I dare say, “Burgundian?”
2010 Phelps Creek Vineyards “Beehive” Columbia Gorge Oregon Pinot Noir
13.4% alc., TA 0.62, 80 cases, $54. The
Beehive Block is south of the original estate vineyard planting,
the site of abandoned commercial beehives on a field when the
property was acquired. The clone 777 planted here has
extraordinary character in cooler years like 2010. Harvest Brix
23.6º. A 3-barrel selection were aged in once-used French oak
barrels for 24 months.
Medium reddish purple color in the glass.
Unrelenting aromas of black cherry, spice, and potpourri. Wow! Terrific
attack and finish with wondrous harmony and finesse, featuring delicious
mid weight flavors of black cherry, black raspberry and spice. A stunning
wine that has an earthy vein in the background and is not simply fruity.
This wine is currently drinking at is apogee.