Irvine & Roberts Vineyards – Making Great Pinot Noir in the Rogue Valley

When I tasted the Irvine & Roberts Pinot Meunier last month, I was smitten and selected it as the Please The Palate Wine of the Week. But, I loved their Chardonnays and the Pinot Noirs, as well as the story of owners Dionne and Doug Irvine, which I wrote about in the Napa Valley Register and am sharing here.

When thinking about wines from Oregon, the Willamette Valley is what first comes to mind. But located in Oregon’s southernmost grape-growing region in Oregon, near the California border, is the Rogue Valley.

The Rogue Valley is where three mountain ranges – the Klamath Mountain, the Coastal Range and the Cascades – converge, resulting is a diverse landscape that includes mixes of metamorphic, sedimentary and volcanic-derived soils, such as sandy loam and hard clay.

The Rogue Valley is made up of three valleys with progressively warmer microclimates. While the west side has mountain and ocean influences that make it suitable for cool-weather varieties, the east side is warmer and has elevations of nearly 2,000 feet, making it the highest in Oregon’s wine grapegrowing regions. The east side of the Rogue Valley is home to Irvine & Roberts Vineyards.

Irvine & Roberts Vineyards is a family-owned vineyard and winery located near Ashland in southern Oregon. Doug Irvine, who is originally from southern Oregon, was working in land development in the Inland Empire and met his wife Dionne, who was working in real estate. In 1997, they moved back to Oregon, purchasing an 80-acre property in the mountain town of Ashland to raise their three daughters. In 2005, while in Italy, Doug tasted a Gaja Nebbiolo and he was hooked. He came home and decided to plant a vineyard on his property.

After planting a number of different grape varieties, Doug and Dionne noted that the Chardonnay and Pinot Noir flourished, while other grapes did not ripen as well. The first vintage was in 2009, producing 200 cases. And they realized that “the wines were really good, and we were on to something,” Doug explained. This is because they are located in an anomaly in the Rogue Valley. Located between the Cascade Range and the Siskiyous Mountains at a height of 2,100 feet, their site, with east-facing vineyards, is cooler and perfect for Pinot Noir and Chardonnay to ripen slowly and steadily.

Starting with only four acres of vineyards, today Irvine & Roberts Vineyards consists of 108 acres, with 25 acres under vine (and 25 more to come). They are currently making 6,000 cases per year with the ultimate goal of 15,000 cases.

With winemaker Vince Vidrine, formerly of Staglin in Napa Valley and Domaine Serene and Brittan Vineyards in the Willamette Valley, their goal is to make extraordinary Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. They have six clones of Chardonnay and seven clones of Pinot Noir planted, as well as .85 acres planted to Pinot Meunier. They employ site-specific, small block plantings, each of which are farmed and fermented individually.

Tasting the wines:

—2018 Irvine & Roberts Rosé ($28) – With aromas of ripe strawberries, white peach and flowers, as well as a savory quality, the wine fills the palate with a mouth-watering finish.

— 2016 Irvine & Roberts Chardonnay ($32) – Spending 12-14 months in 30% new French oak, the wine has tropical, citrus and stone fruit notes with a hint of vanilla. A shower of acidity falls across the tongue and notes of green apple, ripe lemon and minerality are on the finish.

— 2016 Irvine & Roberts Reserve Chardonnay ($60) – The Reserve Chardonnay, a barrel selection, is more structured with a lighter nose of lemon and tangerine peel and more linear on the palate.

— 2016 Irvine & Roberts Pinot Noir ($35) – This Pinot Noir is a blend of all six clones (667, 777, 115, 4407, Pommard and Wädenswil) planted on the property. The wine has a warm rich nose of cherry, spice and earth notes and bright acidity on the finish.

— 2016 Irvine & Roberts Reserve Pinot Noir ($65) – Made from 95 percent Pommard clone, the wine has bright cherry notes.

— 2016 Irvine & Roberts Wädenswil Pinot Noir – The single clone Pinot Noir is more structured with bright cherry notes and a linear finish.

— 2016 Irvine & Roberts 115 Pinot Noir ($45) – The single clone Pinot Noir has aromas of black cherry, cranberry, blueberry and cedar and a long, dense finish.

— 2016 Irvine & Roberts Pinot Meunier ($35) – A translucent garnet-purple color, the wine has bright notes of tart cherry, brambly black raspberries, wild strawberries, rose hips and spice as well as savory leather notes.

Irvine & Roberts Vineyards is definitely on to something with their high elevation, 2,400 annual growing degree days and 20 inches of annual precipitation that contribute to the delicious wines.

Read the original story in the Napa Valley Register.