There is something to be said about people in the wine business. They’re a great group and it's very rare to find a dud in the bunch. If you make wine or you own a vineyard, chances are you’re a happy person (my personal opinion with no statistics to back it up!). Some people studied wine in college and knew their path, while others had a full career in another industry and came to wine for a change of pace and/or to pursue their passion. Such is the case for Doug & Dionne Irvine.
Irvine & Roberts is a family-owned estate vineyard and winery at the southern end of the Rogue Valley AVA in southern Oregon wine country. Many are familiar with the Willamette Valley spanning from the Portland area in the north to the Eugene area in the south. Southern Oregon is also a growing wine region. In fact, there are about 40 wineries within 30 minutes of Irvine & Roberts.
So how did land developers from Southern California end up making wine in Oregon Wine Country? Doug actually grew up on a ranch in southern Oregon. He went down to California for school and landed at UC-Irvine, ironically. He then became a successful real estate developer in southern California, which is how he met his wife, Dionne. In 1997 and after three children, they decided to make their way back to Oregon for a slower life and to raise their kids in the country. We haven’t even gotten to wine yet!
In the mid-2000’s Doug & Dionne found themselves on vacation in Italy and after a revelatory experience with a bottle of Gaja Nebbiolo, they wondered if they might try their hands at making wine. At that time, the southern Oregon wine scene was brand new and the barrier to entry was low. They decided to take a chance and made 250 cases that first year with the Irvine Wine Company.
In 2012, Doug’s sister Kelly Roberts and her husband Duane joined the business and the winery name changed to Irvine & Roberts. They expanded and bought more acreage at that time. Now, they have nearly 40 acres planted to Chardonnay, Pinot Noir plus a little Pinot Meunier. Their goal is to make thoughtful Chardonnay and Pinot Noir of true character and regional identity. In my words, they make what I like to call: honest, regional wines. Speaking of local, their winemaker Vince Vidrine, came from Domaine Serene in the Willamette Valley.
With land ownership, in my opinion, comes the responsibility to give a f*ck about the environment. They are L.I.V.E. and Salmon-Safe Certified, employ an integrated pest management strategy and utilize cover crops, owl boxes, and insect vectors. They are not certified organic, but they did initiate organic grape growing practices in 2017. This was also the year their onsite winery was inaugurated.
We received a warm welcome when we arrived at the tasting room. And I can attest that this is one of the most beautiful tasting rooms I have been in. The pictures speak for themselves. And with their spectacular wine, you are sure to enjoy their visit. Below are the standout wines that I tried:
When I tried the 2016 earlier this year, I was blown away. This one also did not disappoint. A focused and acid-driven Chardonnay with notes of stone fruit, white flowers, and wet stone/minerality. This is HANDS DOWN my favorite of the Irvine & Roberts portfolio.
How often do you get to try a varietally labeled Pinot Meunier? I have to say, this was my first! They’ve got less than 1 acre of Pinot Meunier planted, so this is a special wine. This vintage had only 237 cases produced. Red fruit and rose petals plus an earthy herbaceous quality.
Their entry-level Pinot, which is distributed and can be found in many states. The requisite Pinot notes of red fruit + earth and spice.
They also have a couple of single block Pinots: the 777 Block and the Wädenswil Block. Also, they will soon release their first vintage of the Convergence Pinot Noir. This wine will be barrels that Vince personally selects. It's not clone or block driven, but rather a snapshot of what is working in the winery at that moment.
So, what's next for Irvine & Roberts? They are dappling in Gamay (see my article about Oregon Gamay HERE), Pinot Meunier, and a sparkling program. We even got to pop in the winery and see the sparkling wines resting in bottle. Can't wait for those beauties!