Failla Stakes A Claim in Oregon
Failla (pronounced FAY-la) was originally founded in 1998 as Failla Jordan, taking its name from the husbandand-
wife team of winemaker Ehren Jordan and fellow debtor Anne-Marie Failla. After three vintages, legal
issues arose over the use of the word Jordan, as in Jordan Winery, forcing a name change to simply “Failla.”
Ehren Jordan is quite a vagabond. He is an East Coast transplant who majored in art history and classic
archeology at George Washington University while working part time in a retail wine store. The experience
convinced him to go West and he settled in Aspen, Colorado, where he skied and became a sommelier at a
restaurant. He then set his sites on the North Coast region of California. When he arrived in Napa Valley, his
first job at Joseph Phelps was a tour guide but he soon was hired to do cellar work and winemaking. He then
moved to Europe to work in France’s Rhone Valley, returning stateside to take a winemaking job at Neyers in
1994 and then Turley in 1996.
Under the Failla label, Ehren has crafted praiseworthy Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Syrah almost exclusively
from cool-climate sources in the North Coast including an Estate Vineyard located in the Fort Ross-Seaview
Still on the move, Ehren’s quest for seeking out outstanding vineyards in unique places culminated with the
establishment of a base in Oregon, and he began fashioning wines from both Oregon and California. Ehren
initially made Pinot Noir from Oregon’s Seven Springs Vineyard at his California winery, but in 2016 began
making Oregon wines in Oregon at the Carlton Winemakers Studio.
In May 2018, Failla Wines moved its Oregon operations to Zenith Vineyard in the Eola-Amity Hills. The 83-acre
Zenith Vineyard was first planted in 1989 by Pat and Patti O’Connor but was owned most recently by Tim and
Kari Ramey. The vineyard has been the source of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grapes for 20 winery clients, and
in 2017, 16 wineries produced a Zenith Vineyard-designated wine. In December 2017, Zenith Vineyard
acquired the winery and tasting room on the property that was established in 2008 by a partnership between
Zenith Vineyard and St. Innocent Winery. St. Innocent’s Mark Vlossak had been the Zenith Vineyard
winemaker since the first vintage in 2006. Ehren became the winemaker for Zenith Vineyard beginning in 2018
and Mark moved his St. Innocent Winery to another location in Salem.
A recent release announcement e-mail approached the question, “What is the difference between Oregon and
California wines?” Ehren responded, “Easy. Everything. Soil, climate, average rainfall, clonal material, degree
days and historic geographic events are just some of the differences that I can think of. They couldn’t be more
The vineyards that Failla Oregon works with are Bjornson, Chehalem Mountain, Eola Springs and Seven
Springs. In 2016, Failla offered six Pinot Noirs from throughout the Willamette Valley and in 2017 the lineup
was expanded to include Chardonnay, Riesling and Grüner Veltliner. Future plans call for developing an 80-
acre vineyard site in Dallas, Oregon, located southwest of the new winery tasting room off Zena Road in
Failla will continue to produce Pinot Noir and Chardonnay from California, double dipping as it were. The spring
releases of 2017 vintage wines were just announced and include a Sonoma Coast Chardonnay, an Estate Fort
Ross-Seaview Chardonnay, a Hudson Vineyard Chardonnay, a Haynes Vineyard Chardonnay, a Sonoma
Coast Pinot Noir, a Keefer Ranch Pinot Noir, a Pearlessence Vineyard Pinot Noir and a Savoy Vineyard Pinot
Failla Wines has a tasting room in St. Helena, CA open by appointment and a tasting room in Oregon open
daily and by appointment. Several tasting options are offered at both locations. Visit
www.faillawinesoregon.com and www.faillawines.com. The wines are sold primarily through a mailing list.
A podcast featuring Ehren Jordan’s Oregon foothold is available at www.ildrinktothatpod.com, #456,
recorded October 19, 2018.
The 2016 vintage wines reviewed here struck me as more “California” in style than many Oregon Pinot
Noirs in that the fruit was riper and the wines had significant extraction and structure.
2016 Failla Willamette Valley Pinot Noir
13.3% alc., pH 3.55, TA 0.59, 2,000 cases, $28. This
wine was featured in the previous issue in the article about Oregon Pinot Noir wines priced at $30
or less. Native fermentations, 30% whole cluster, aged 11 months on lees in French oak barrels,
15% new. Bottled unfined and unfiltered.
Moderately dark garnet color in the glass. Deep and
intoxicating aromas of black cherry, black raspberry and dark rose petal. Full-bodied core of black
cherry and boysenberry fruits offering an intense attack and expansive mouth feel. A modest oak
accent is evident as is a savory herbal thread. Fruit-forward, with healthy tannins and a long,
sweet, fruit-driven and somewhat astringent finish. The aggressive tannins need time or decanting to
2016 Failla Chehalem Mountain Vineyard Chehalem Mountains Willamette Valley Pinot Noi
pH 3.62, TA 0.57, 143 cases, $45. Oregon wine industry pioneer, Dick Erath, first planted this vineyard in 1968.
Clone 115. Native fermentations, 30% whole cluster, aged 11 months on lees in French oak barrels, 15% new.
Moderate garnet color in the glass. Aromas and flavors of strawberry, cherry, purple grape and nutty oak in a
delightfully balanced, mid weight style with a silky mouthfeel and some finish purpose. I was wanting for a little
more flavor impact, but found the wine appealing.
2016 Failla Eola Springs Vineyard Eola-Amity Hills Willamette Valley Pinot Noir
14.1% alc., pH 3.56, TA
0.57, 140 cases, $42. Vineyard originally planted in 1972. Pommard clone. Native fermentations, 30% whole
cluster, aged 11 months in French oak barrels, 15% new. Bottled unfined and unfiltered.
Moderate garnet color
in the glass. Beautifully crafted, with aromas and flavors of blackest cherry and toasty oak. Sleek and juicy in
the mouth with comfortable tannins and a somewhat arrested finish.
2016 Failla Bjornson Vineyard Eola-Amity Hills Willamette Valley Pinot Noir
14.1% alc., pH 3.45, TA
0.62, 144 cases, $48. Vineyard planted in 2006 in a mix of
Nekia and Jory soils. Clones are Pommard, 777 and
Wädenswil. Native fermentations, 30% whole cluster, aged
11 months on lees in French oak barrels, 15% new. bottled
unfined and unfiltered.
Moderately dark garnet color in the
glass. Beguiling scents of black cherry and turned earth. A bold charge
of delicious black fruits fills the mouth with goodness, maintaining
exuberance through a persistent and generous finish. The wellbehaved
tannins make for harmonious drinking. This wine displays all
the charm of Oregon Pinot.
2016 Failla Seven Springs Vineyard Eola-Amity Hills Willamette Valley Pinot Noir
14.1% alc., pH 3.61, TA
0.58, 189 cases, $60. Vineyard established in 1984 by Al MacDonald and dry farmed biodynamically. Native
fermentations, Wädenswil clone. 50% whole cluster, aged 11 months in French oak barrels, 15% new. Bottled
unfined and unfiltered.
Moderately dark garnet color in the glass. A little heavy handed on the barrel treatment
with aromas of cherry, spice, marzipan and bark. Plenty of red cherry and berry fruit sprinkled with herbs and
framed by redeeming tannins that keep the fruit in line. The finish is particularly notable for its length.