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Van Duzer Vineyards

Owner(s) Carl Thoma, Marilynn Thoma
Web site
Link to this site

Located on a hillside in Oregon's southern Willamette Valley, the scenic vineyard here benefits uniquely from the blessings of the gentle west wind which blows through the Van Duzer Corridor to the interior Willamette Valley. Van Duzer Vineyards chose a Zephyr, the gentle west wind of Greek mythology, to grace its label.

In 1998, Carl Thoma, managing partner of Chicago-based Thoma Cressey Equity Partners and his wife Marilynn bought the run-down Van Duzer Vineyards property which had been established in 1987. The couple had developed an enthusiasm for wine when they both attended Stanford University to study for their MBAs. Thomas had been a managing partner in Parducci Wine Estates in California, and like so many Oregon wineries before, Van Duzer benefited from an enthusiastic outside investor. Jim Kakacek was hired to upgrade the estate’s 65 acres of vineyards, manage the winemaking, and direct construction of a new winery. New plantings of Pinot Noir were complemented by field grafting of Dijon clones to 15-year-old established Pinot Noir vines. Vineyard plantings now total 82 acres and include Pommard, Wädenswil, and Dijon 113, 115, 667 and 777 clones. Two clones of Pinot Gris are also planted. The vines have 9’ x 4’ spacing and VSP trellising which improves light penetration spray coverage, disease resistance and induces moderate stress in the vines.

By 2001, the efforts began to show in the wines and success has followed. The new winery was finished in time for the 2006 harvest, increasing capacity to 20,000 cases when the entire estate is producing. The old winery was a source of brettanomyces in Van Duzer wines and was part of the Van Duzer ‘style’ in the 2002, 2003 and 2004 vintages. The problem was curtailed by 2005 and eliminated beginning with the 2006 vintage when all wine was vinified in the new winery.

In 2010, a new winemaker, Jerry Murray, replaced Jim Kakacek. Murray, who has a stellar reputation for producing Pinot Noir at Patton Valley Winery since 2005, is a veteran winemaker with years of experience in wineries in Oregon, New Zealand and Germany. His first Van Duzer wines from the 2010 vintage were released in May 2011.

Pinot Noir offerings include both estate and block-designated limited production wines. Total production is 14,000 cases of Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris.

A new state-of-the-art winery and hospitality center was opened in time for the 2006 vintage. The tasting room at 11975 Smithfield Rd in Dallas is open 11-4 during March-December. Tours are by appointment. 800-884-1927. Great spot to picnic with expansive views of the Baskett Slough Wildlife Refuge.

Reviewed Wines

2010 Van Duzer Estate Willamette Valley Pinot Noir

13.3% alc., pH 3.53, TA 0.56, 4,300 cases, $30. The first vintage made start to finish by a new winemaking team consisting of winemaker Jerry Murray, assistant winemaker Florent Merlier, and vineyard manager Bruce Sonnen. Aged 11 months in 35% new French oak. · Medium reddish-purple color in the glass. Demure aromas of black cherries, briar, spice, and cedary oak. Flavors of earth bound cherries and plums wrapped in well-mannered tannins, finishing dry with a reasonable intensity. Nothing to criticize but doesn’t wake up my palate. Good. Reviewed November 24, 2012 ARTICLE »

2008 Van Duzer Dijon Blocks Willamette Valley Pinot Noir

13.9% alc., pH 3.62, TA 0.56, $45. Dijon 828 667, 114 and 115 clones. · Moderate reddish-purple hue in the glass. Aromas of dark red berries and cherries, underbrush and subtle oak. Hi-spirited mixture of berry fruit with a nutty, earthy bent. Wellstructured with refreshing acidity and a hint of oak on the finish. Good (+). Reviewed August 13, 2011 ARTICLE »

2008 Van Duzer Westside Blocks Willamette Valley Pinot Noir

13.9% alc., pH 3.60, TA 0.58, $45. 50% Dijon 667 with smaller amounts of Pommard and Dijon 113. · Moderate reddish-purple color in the glass. The nose is closed for business. Moderately rich core of brandied black cherry, spice and anise flavors that are currently reserved and linear. Slightly better the next day from a previously opened and re-corked bottle. Warrants several years in the cellar. Good (+). Reviewed August 13, 2011 ARTICLE »

2007 Van Duzer Vinter’s Cuvee Willamette Valley Pinot Noir

13.1% alc., pH 3.59, 4,500 cases, $20. A blend of six Pinot Noir clones with a focus on the younger vines on the estate. After cold maceration, yeasts are chosen specifically for each clone to enhance and preserve the terroir. Aged in 35% new, 30% once-used, and 35% neutral French oak barrels for 8 months. · Complex aromatic profile of dark raspberries and plums, smoky oak, spice and graham. Moderately rich dark fruits with a hint of root beer and oak in the background. Soft tannins and a very pleasing smooth mouth feel. A solid daily drinker. Reviewed September 5, 2009 ARTICLE »

2007 Van Duzer Estate Willamette Valley Pinot Noir

12.7% alc., pH 3.52, 7,500 cases, $30. After selective harvesting, the grapes were gently destemmed and fermentation was immediately started by inoculating yeasts. Fermentation lasted two weeks with selected tanks undergoing extended maceration post-fermentation to balance the tannins and other components. Aged for 10 months in a mixture of new and older oak barrels. · Moderately light garnet color. Very attractive pure and bright aromas of dark red stone fruits and berries with a note of oak-derived roasted marshmallow in the background. Light in weight but flavorful, with attractive tastes of dark red fruits, earth, mushroom, and oak. Very silky and refreshing with an appealing gentleness. Reviewed September 5, 2009 ARTICLE »

2005 Van Duzer Estate Willamette Valley Pinot Noir

12.5% alc., $24. · Sweet and floral scents with some farmyard and animale. Succulent blue and black fruits, tangy acidity and commendable balance. Reviewed January 30, 2008 ARTICLE »

2005 Van Duzer Estate Flagpole Block Willamette Valley Pinot Noir

13.5% alc., $45. Note: Van Duzer has had Brett in their wines and it has been part of the Van Duzer ’style,’ especially in the 2002, 2003 and 2004 vintages. In 2004, the Brett aromas were initially masked by the intense fruit, but with time as the fruit intensity dissipated, the Brett became obvious. I believe the problem was curtailed in the 2005 vintage and will be eliminated from the 2006 vintage on when the wines are produced in a newly constructed winery. Although there was no typical Brett aromas in the above wines, the aromatic profiles were a bit unusual and some may find them off-putting. That said, the wines are drinking quite nicely now. · Darkest in color of the three Van Duzer wines. The aromatics are strange, if not unpleasant showing some reduction with vanilla and floral notes and an unidentified chemical component. The dark fruit flavors, however, are luscious and layered, rich but not cloying. Acidity and tannins are reigned in and the whole package is nicely balanced. Reviewed January 30, 2008 ARTICLE »

2005 Van Duzer Estate Westside Block Willamette Valley Pinot Noir

13.5% alc., $45. · Similar aromatics as above, very floral with added earthiness. Black cherries and black raspberries are a bit tart and the tannins are forefront. The mouth feel is soft and inviting. Reviewed January 30, 2008 ARTICLE »

2005 Van Duzer Homestead Block Willamette Valley Pinot Noir

13.05% alc., pH 3.64, 300 cases, $45, May 2009. Pommard clone vines located where the original homestead of this property was located. The vines are nearly 30 years of age. This is the fourth Homestead Vineyard-designated bottling. 100% de-stemmed, cold macerated, aged 9 months in 50% new and 50% one-year-old French oak barrels and then returned to the barrels for 5 additional months of aging. Bottled by hand, unfined, and allowed to bottle age 2 years before release. · Moderately dark reddish-purple color. Darkly fruited aromas, particularly mu shu plum sauce and black raspberries, draw you into the glass. Earth-dusted black fruits cascade through the palate still encased in noticeable but refined tannins. Oak plays a supporting role in the background. A full-bodied fruit-driven wine displaying the appealing smooth texture characteristic of all the Van Duzer Pinot Noirs. This wine is still a Lolita and will benefit from even further cellaring. Decant if you can’t wait. Reviewed September 5, 2009 ARTICLE »

2004 Van Duzer Dijon Block Willamette Valley Pinot Noir

13.5% alc.. Sourced from estate vines originally planted to Chardonnay in 1982 and grafted over to Dijon clones 113, 115 and 777 in 1998. · Perfumed with floral and cherry notes, the nose draws you in. A bit lighter on its feet and more elegant than the other vineyard designate Pinots. Reviewed August 14, 2006

2004 Van Duzer Flagpole Block Willamette Valley Pinot Noir

13.5% alc.. One-third of an acre of old clone 2A planted in 1982 and located near the entrance to the property. This steep vineyard takes its name from the flagpole located at the top of the slope. · Enticing aromas of spice box, raisin and licorice. The fruit profile includes dried cherry and cranberry. Still a bit closed at this early stage, but the admirable balance insures a long life ahead. Reviewed August 14, 2006

2004 Van Duzer Homestead Block Willamette Valley Pinot Noir

13.5% alc.. Aged 20 months in French oak. Tasted pre-release. 100% Pommard clone planted in 1982. The vines grow on the gentle slope that was the site of the original homestead for the Van Duzer property. · A toasty cherry nose leads to red (Jolly Rancher red cherry) and black (plum) fruit flavors. A fat wine enhanced with a deft touch of oak and brown spice. Reviewed August 14, 2006

2004 Van Duzer Estate Willamette Valley Pinot Noir

7,000 cases, $29. · A luscious and hearty Pinot Noir that has a very long finish. Rich, round, mature, sweet fruit saturates the mid palate and leaves a demure and creamy sensation. Reviewed August 14, 2006

2004 Van Duzer Dijon Blocks Willamette Valley Pinot Noir

13.5%, $39. All of the three Van Duzer Pinot Noirs tasted were darker-colored and richer in style than any of the other Pinot Noirs in the lineup. Also worth a look: 2004 Van Duzer Homestead Block Pinot Noir 13.5% alc., $39, and 2004 Van Duzer Flagpole Block Pinot Noir 13.5% alc., $39. · I liked this one for its floral notes in the nose and on the palate. Nicely balanced, with a tangy finish featuring a citrus edge. Reviewed February 12, 2007 ARTICLE »