Cristom Vineyards: One of America’s Greatest Wineries Delivers (Again)
Cristom was founded by Paul Gerrie, a petroleum engineer and researcher that had a passion for wine. On his
many travels to France, he found the traditional growing practices of Burgundy to be appealing and realized
that soil and site, the mainstays of terroir, were key in producing complex Pinot Noir. After attending the 1991
International Pinot Noir Celebration in McMinnville, Oregon, he was inspired enough the following year to leave
the East Coast with his family in tow to pursue his love of Pinot Noir in Oregon’s burgeoning wine country. He
bought a small winery and vineyard in the Eola-Amity Hills, and named his new winery Cristom, after his two
children, Chris and Tom.
Gerrie’s dream could not be complete without a winemaker. Enter Steve Doerner, a biochemist by training
whose passion for Pinot Noir was inspired by working at Calera Vineyards with owner Josh Jensen and
studying under Jacques Seysses of Domaine Dujac in Burgundy. Doerner considers Jacques as his most
The engineer and the biochemist worked together to develop their vision in 1992 and have since established
Cristom Vineyards as an iconic Oregon winery producing outstanding Pinot Noirs with a Burgundian sensitivity.
Paul Gerrie has now retired, but his son, Tom, carries on as the current proprietor and manager.
Today, Cristom Vineyards consists of nine distinct vineyards on 65 acres in the Eola-Amity Hills of Oregon’s
Willamette Valley. All but Marjorie Vineyard are planted to high density (about 2300 vines per acre) and yields are
The Pinot Noir vineyards (named after Paul Gerrie’s family members) include Marjorie Vineyard (the only one
of the currently existing vineyards retained when the property was purchased in 1992 and the only one kept on
its own roots with the original spacing of 605 vines per acre), Louise (9.31 acres and the first vineyard Cristom
began planting in 1993; Dijon clones 113, 114, 115, 77 and Pommard planted in diverse soils), Jessie (11.53
acres established in 1994 and one of the steepest planted in the Willamette Valley; Pommard and Dijon clones
115, 114, 667 and 777), and Eileen (16.61 acres planted in 1997 and 2006, and the largest and highest
elevation planting of Pinot Noir on the estate; Dijon clones 114, 115, 777, Pommard 4 and Wädenswil 1A).
Another Pinot Noir vineyard, the Paul Gerrie Vineyard, was in its third leaf in 2017. Pinot Gris, Viognier,
Chardonnay and Syrah are also planted as separate vineyards. All vineyards are biodynamically farmed and
certified sustainable. Viticulturist Mark Feltz has bee at Cristom Vineyards since its beginning in 1992.
Cristom Vineyards is a rarity among Oregon wine producers in that every varietal produced offers uncommon
excellence and consistency year in and year out. But it is the Pinot Noirs that have caught my fancy for many
years because of their whole cluster inclusion in the ferment and the resulting age ability. Doerner only works
with native yeasts, without a cold soak, employs minimal fining and racking and no filtration. His are not fairy
Many domestic wineries claim to produce “Burgundian” Pinot Noir, but Cristom is one of the very few that can
truly make that claim. Line up some great red Burgundies and 2017 Cristom vineyard-designates and taste
them together blind. Convinced? The balance of these wines leads to improvement in the cellar and the scores
will be even higher when these wines are tasted again in 5 to 7 years.
Taste the wines of Cristom Vineyards yourself. The winery is open to the public seven days a week from
11am-5pm. Walk-in tasting options are only $15 per flight and waived with a 2-bottle purchase. Private tasting
options are offered by reservation. Visit www.cristomvineyards.com. Some of the wines are released in half-bottles
allowing for earlier consumption. There are also magnums available. Availability is good, with the wines
sold on the website and distributed widely to restaurants and retailers.
2017 Cristom Mt. Jefferson Cuvée Willamette Valley Pinot Noir
13.5% alc., 10,000 cases, $35.
The embodiment of the Cristom style combining whole cluster inclusion and native fermentation
with a focus on special vineyard sites. A blend of grapes from each of the estate vineyards (60%)
and fruit sourced from neighboring vineyards in the Willamette Valley (40%). Stylistically the most
approachable Pinot Noir in its youth. Clones 113, 114, 115, 667, 777, “828,” Pommard and
Wädenswil. 47% whole clusters, native yeast fermentation, aged 11 months in French oak barrels,
20% new. Fined with egg whites and unfiltered.
Moderate garnet color in the glass. The nose is
more savory than fruity, featuring aromas of burnt tobacco, exotic spices and turned earth. Mid weight flavors of
purple and black berry fruits are laden with earthiness. Silken in texture, with modest tannins showing up on
the finish. Unchanged when tasted the following day from a previously opened and re-corked bottle.
2017 Cristom Jessie Vineyard Eola-Amity Hills Willamette Valley Pinot Noir
14.0% alc., pH
3.71, TA 0.54, 917 cases, $65. this vineyard is one of the steepest vineyard sites in the Willamette
Valley. 51% whole clusters, native yeast fermentation, aged 18 months in French oak barrels, 53%
new. Fined with egg whites and unfiltered.
Moderately light garnet color in the glass. A beguiling
nose of black cherry, black raspberry and baking spice aromas. The core of gently oak-embossed
darker berry and stone fruits attracts notice on entry and finish. Trim and toned, with reserved
tannins and a spectacular finish that lingers. I was still taken by this wine when tasted the following
day from a previously opened and re-corked bottle.
2017 Cristom Louise Vineyard Eola-Amity Hills Willamette Valley Pinot Noir
14.0% alc., 725
cases, $65. Unfiltered.
Moderately light garnet color in the glass. Enthralling aromas of muddled
cherry and sous bois. Very juicy, with vivid flavors of purple and black fruits and spice. Impeccable
balance, with an energetic and extremely long finish. Choose any superlative you want. I fell hard for
this one that was still enchanting when tasted the following day from a previously opened and recorked
2017 Cristom Eileen Vineyard Eola-Amity Hills Willamette Valley Pinot Noir
14.0% alc., pH
3.63, TA 0.56, 876 cases, $65. Clones 114, 115, 777, Pommard and Wädenswil. 48% whole
clusters, native yeast fermentation, aged 18 months in French oak barrels, 67% new. Fined with egg
whites and unfiltered.
Moderate garnet color in the glass. This wine has more tannic “guts,” but also
the most concentrated fruit. Lovely aromas of dark red cherry, spice, brioche and rose petal. Mid
weight plus in style, featuring waves of dark red and purple fruits that saturate the palate. Bold, yet
charming, with enough juicy acidity to balance the tannic backbone. I was more enamored with the
wine when tasted the following day from a previously opened and re-corked bottle. Merci!
2017 Cristom Marjorie Vineyard Eola-Amity Hills Willamette Valley Pinot Noir
14.0% alc., pH
3.60, TA 0.55, 384, cases, $65. Clones are Pommard, Wädenswil and Dijon 115 and 777. 51% whole
clusters, native yeast fermentation, aged 18 months in French oak barrels, 75% new. Fined with egg
whites and unfiltered.
Moderate garnet color in the glass. Brooding aromas of black cherry, rose and
leaf. The fruit trends more to the dark red spectrum in this middleweight wine. The ripe tannins are in
gorgeous balance, and the lasting finish soars with exceptional cherry goodness. More expressive
and more seductive when tasted the following day from a previously opened and re-corked bottle.
2017 Cristom Eola-Amity Hills Willamette Valley Estate Syrah
13.5% alc., pH 3.51, TA 0.63, $50. Produced
from only 1.24 acres in extremely limited quantities. This wine has a cult following. 31% whole clusters, native
yeast fermentation, full malolactic fermentation in barrel, aged 19 months in French oak barrels, 36% new.
Fined with egg whites and unfiltered.
Dark garnet color in the glass. Aromas of black cherry, sassafras, spice,
fertile earth and botanical elements. Mid weight plus in concentration, offering an array of purple and black
berry fruit flavors with a bit of tobacco oak chiming in. The suede tannins make for easy approachability and
there is noticeable density and length on the boysenberry-led finish.