Red Thread™ | Penner-Ash Wine Cellars | Willamette Valley

binNotes | a food, wine & travel blog

Penner-Ash Wine Cellars | Yamhill – Carlton AVA | Willamette Valley

by L.M. Archer, FWS | Bourgogne ML

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Red Thread™ |  Penner-Ash Wine Cellars | Willamette Valley


Quick – who holds Oregon’s title as first woman wine maker?

 If you answered Lynn Penner-Ash of Penner-Ash Wine Cellars, you are correct!

I first learned of wine industry pioneer Lynn Penner-Ash and Penner-Ash Wine Cellars while doing freelance features on the Willamette Valley  and Oregon’s !Salud¡ program a few years ago.

Her wines, her professionalism, and her generosity of spirit all left a deep impression.

So much so that I vowed to include her when rolling out the Red Thread™ wine maker series.

Here, binNotes make good on that promise with this interview, the first in a series showcasing Willamette Valley wine makers during

 Oregon Wine Month | May 2015.


RT ™:  Who or what brought you to wine making?

LPA: I originally wanted to be a botanist for the Smithsonian Institute.  I was advised by the curators there to head to UC Davis.  While at Davis I met a group of outdoor adventurers who were all native to Napa Valley.  Spending time with my new friends meant I was also spending time in Napa.  One summer I was offered a job working on the harvest deck of Domain Chandon and from there I changed my degree to Viticulture, spent a year working at Chateau St Jean and returned to UC Davis for the Enology degree.

RT ™:  Tell readers a bit about the history of Penner-Ash Wine Cellars. How did you make the‘leap of faith’ from working at Stag’s Leap Wine Cellar in Napa to Rex Hill Winery in Oregon?

LPA:  I’d been in the industry in Napa for almost eight (8) vintages, four (4) of which had been year round at Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars.  I wanted more experience and more responsibility but was not being offered the assistant winemaker’s job at Stag’s Leap.  When I applied for the job and was told I didn’t have enough experience, but was asked to help train the new assistant winemaker, I realized it was time to make my mark somewhere else.  As I was looking to move on, Paul Hart of Rex Hill called and asked if I’d be interested in a winemaking position in Oregon.  I interviewed with Paul, he offered me the job the same day and I moved North.  I was interested in an assistant winemaker’s position and instead found myself as a winemaker at 25 and the first woman winemaker hired in Oregon!  It was a huge leap of faith on Paul’s part and on mine.  The WV in the mid 80’s really didn’t have a huge support network like Napa did.  It was hard to find equipment.  I ordered most of our winemaking supplies from my past contacts in Napa.

RT ™:  What things did you learn in Bordeaux-steeped Napa that still resonate for you today as a wine maker in the Willamette Valley?

LPA:  I’ve always felt if you’ve got a solid background in winemaking it can be translated to any region.  The challenge is to learn that region and respect the place in your winemaking.  I’ve never been heavy handed and have tried to let our wines speak of the place.  When I was down in Napa it was at the time of the “heated” AVA discussions so I quickly learned that there are strong connections to where your fruit is grown and as a winemaker you don’t want to lose that sense of place.

RT ™:  Let’s talk terroir. Penner-Ash Wine Cellars draws from an abundance of quality sites within the Willamette and Rogue Valleys. Each site has specific flavor profiles. What informs your decisions each vintage when choosing what to pull from where?  Do you have a favorite site?

LPA:  I have sourced our fruit based on what it brings to our blends.  I love doing individual vineyard designates that let me honor each vineyard we work with but ultimately, I am trying to make our Willamette Valley Pinot Noir style consistent year in and year out.  I’ve focused on sites that I feel will do that for me.  Cooler sites, warmer sites, particular clones and rootstocks – it all plays into our decision when selecting a new site to purchase fruit from.  I have several sites that I love but my reasons are varied.  I have my favorite growers, my favorite blocks with in vineyard sites and favorite sites to visit as some sites will make you stop and enjoy the moment.  The correct answer here is of course, our ESTATE site is my favorite site….

RT ™:  In your experience, how much of your approach to wine making is science, and how much ‘art.’ 

LPA:  The science is important to know in the back ground but ultimately many of my winemaking decisions are made because the decision just feels right.  I’ve made many decisions while standing out in a vineyard tasting fruit that I hadn’t planned on picking.  From picking date to an experiment using Whole Clusters or changing the tank style or fermentation regime.  Emotionally something has changed my mind.  I think that’s the art and hard to explain side of wine.

b/N:  You not only make wine, but fulfill various executive roles within the wine industry, including past President and COO of Rex Hill, past Board member and President of IPNC, and current board member for Oregon Pinot Camp.  What drives you to engage so deeply in the Willamette Valley wine community? How do you manage it all?

LPA:  The collaborative spirit is alive in Oregon.  I enjoy working on boards with many of my dedicated peers.  The energy and ideas that we generate are always exciting and give me another creative outlet.  That said, I’ve spent many years on boards and am now excited to see the younger generation step up with new ideas and new energy.  I prefer now to help out on committees, act as a moderator but not with the commitment of boards.  The whole industry has benefitted from a lot of very committed winery owner’s and their passion on these boards – it’s now time for the next generation to give some time.  Besides, there are many adventures ahead for my husband and I now that our kids are grown.  I believe if you commit to working on a board it means you need to be there for the board meetings.  If I can’t wholly commit, I won’t serve.  Our plans to travel more means I wouldn’t be able to honor a board commitment in the way I feel necessary.

RT ™:  You also actively participate the annual ¡Salud! Barrel Auction, an auction that helps fund the Willamette Valley’s eponymous health care program for vineyard workers. Talk about what goes into your decision-making process when you choose your wine for the auction, and why this program matters to you.

LPA:  We taste every barrel in the winery.  There are several vineyards we think partner very well together and ¡Salud! allows us to put together these vineyards in a special cuvée.  We couldn’t do this in a larger volume so it is nice to be able to put together an extraordinarily special wine that is one of a kind.  We not only participate in ¡Salud! but hold 1-2 concerts each year that benefit ¡Salud! directly.  We are committed to ¡Salud! as our vineyard workers deserve basic health care.  Since many crews move between vineyards and don’t necessarily work “full-time” for one site, it makes it hard to offer benefits to these crews.  It is also difficult for these crews to make an appointment, take off work to get to this appointment so the mobile services are very important.  It is a way we can offer a health care benefit. ¡Salud! is also nice for our harvest crews that only come in for a short period of time, we’ve all benefitted from the mobile van stopping by the winery.  Our entire staff gets our flu shots each year.  It helps even our full time staff as something as simple as a flu shot can often mean having to take time off work.

RT ™:  What are your greatest challenges at Penner-Ash Wine Cellars?

LPA:  Compliance and tax laws.  We have to be experts in tax and compliance laws in all the places we ship our wine.  Many times the state regulators themselves can’t give us a clear answer and we are left trying to guess what the law means.  I’ve written checks to states for less than 50 cents to comply with a tax regulation.

b/N:  What motivates you to keep going?

LPA:  Walking into the winery when everything is quiet and I am the only one here.  It gives me personal moment to recognize how much we’ve accomplished and how perfect our winery is.  When our customers arrive and are so in awe of the wines, the winery and the vineyard, I understand as I am also in awe.

RT ™:  One final question: “If wine making has taught me anything, it’s taught me…”

LPA:  There is always more to learn. 


More Red Thread™ interviews here.

More about ¡Salud! here.


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Copyrighted binNotes 2015. All Rights Reserved.

Thank you:

Lynn Penner-Ash | Penner-Ash Wine Cellars

FoodableTV | Four French Bistros Enticing Seattle Consumers


binNotes | a food, wine & travel blog

FoodableTV | Four French Bistros Enticing Seattle Consumers

by L.M. Archer, FWS | Bourgogne ML

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Here’s my latest feature on Foodable TV…

Seattle’s love affair with French bistros proves to be more than a passing fling. French cuisine, long considered the epicenter of the epicurean world, emerges as an enduring courtesan in the Emerald City, one that tempts even the most jaded of palates. Today, Seattle Grande dames like Maximilien Restaurant, Place Pigalle, Cafe Campagne, Loulay, and Le Pichet share the stage with a burgeoning bistro scene. Here, FoodableTV sneaks a peak behind the curtain of some of Seattle’s sexiest French bistros for secrets to their seductive powers. Read more here

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Copyrighted binNotes 2015. All Rights Reserved. | Image: L.M. Archer©2015.

TGLF | Chardonnay Day Burgundy


binNotes | a food, wine & travel blog

by L.M. Archer, FWS | Bourgogne ML

The Good Life France | Chardonnay Day Burgundy

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 My most recent contribution to The Good Life France:

Did you know that May 21st is Chardonnay Day in the Bourgogne (Burgundy)? Now an international event, Chardonnay Day celebrates all things Chardonnay. And while the event got its start six years ago via social media in California, the history of the Chardonnay varietal starts in the Burgundy wine region. Read more

Care to share? Feel free to leave your comments below. 

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Copyrighted binNotes 2015. All Rights Reserved.

Foodable TV: Seattle’s Top Bladesmiths Share Their Tips for Keeping Knives Sharp

binNotes | a food, wine & travel blog

by L.M. Archer, FWS | Bourgogne ML

Foodable TV: Seattle’s Top Bladesmiths Share Their Tips for Keeping Knives Sharp

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Foodable TV: Seattle’s Top Bladesmiths Share Their Tips for Keeping Knives Sharp

Contributor: L.M. Archer

Like a samurai warrior, a chef’s choice of blade denotes mastery.  More than a mere tool of the trade or means to an end in food prep, a chef’s blade serves as a medium of self-expression – steel and chef joined  together in a seamless act of creation. Read more at FoodableTV


Laminated steel is at the heart of Murray Carter’s craft and one of the reasons his knives perform so well. This video helps explain the concept: Murray Carter on the Advantages of Laminated Steel.

Thank you to Murray Carter and Carter Cutlery for providing this information.

Care to share? Feel free to leave your comments below.

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Copyrighted binNotes 2015. All Rights Reserved.

Red Thread™ | Napa Narrative | Jericho Canyon Vineyard

binNotes | a food, wine & travel blog

by L.M. Archer, FWS | Bourgogne ML

Red Thread™ |  Napa Narrative  | Jericho Canyon Vineyard 

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 Stories about wine, the Red Thread™ that binds us all.


Welcome to the third in a three-part binNotes | Red Thread™  wine maker interview series Napa Narrative.

Jericho Canyon Vineyard | Napa CA.


How high would you climb to realize your dream?

If you’re Marla and Dale Bleecher of Jericho Canyon Vineyard in Napa, the journey starts in the 1980’s with a move to an old Civil War vet’s land grant at the base of Mt. St. Helena, replete with 100-year-old farmhouse, forests of oak, and a creek.

At the time, most locals looked askance at the young couple so adamant about terracing their terrain to resemble the Tuscan hills for which they both shared an affinity.

In time, however, the premium uality Bordeaux varietals planted at Jericho Canyon Vineyard won over their neighbors, including Chateau Montelena and Pride Vineyards.

Eventually, award-winning wine maker David Ramey claimed the fruit for himself, first at Rudd Estate, and later at Ramey Wine Cellars.

Since 2006, Jericho Canyon Vineyard crafts epoynmous premium wines from their state-of-the-art boutique winery.

In 2011, son Nicolas, a UC Davis Viticulture and Enology grad, assists wine maker Aaron Potts and international blending consultant Michel Rolland.

Here, the Red Thread ™ tastes through the terroir of Jericho Canyon Vineyard with owners Marla and Dale Bleecher.



Jericho Canyon Vineyard tucks into the northeast corner of Napa Valley on a hilly region of the Mt. St. Helena foothills. Replete with a bevy of mini-microclimates in this little pocket of paradise, diurnal shifts allow for chilly mornings, warm summer days, and cool nights. Coastal fog creeps in through a gap in the Mayacamas Range, adding further to the region’s complexity.

The estate comprises 40 acres, divided into 24 blocks, each with its own personality. Soils include easy-draining volcanic clay and gravel loam. Varietals include Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Petit Verdot, and Sauvignon Blanc.

Committed to sustainable practice, Jericho Canyon Vineyard employs covers crops to thwart erosion, attract beneficial insects, and prevent the use of pesticides. Bird boxes and insectaries dot the hillsides and forests; a virtual menagerie of local wildlife roam unobstructed throughout.

Just like exceptional Old World vineyards, Jericho Canyon Vineyard’s vertiginous terraces require manual labor to maintain the necessary balance between sunlight, water, and nutrients. These labor-intensive efforts include pruning, suckering, shoot positioning, leaf pulling, crop thinning, and soil amending, efforts which translate into wines of exceptional balance and nuance.

Sustainability doesn’t just apply to the flora and fauna, but to the staff as well. In an industry built on seasonal workers, Marla and Dale ensure that they maintain their vineyard workers and staff year-round.



The simple, elegant redwood winery constructed in 2006 includes a 6,000 square foot energy-efficient cave drilled into the hillside, plus an airy tasting room and imposing barrel room. Tours available by appointment.

The winery hums during late October and early November harvest; the hillsides allow for longer hangtime, which translates into richer flavor profiles. After picking, sorting, destemming, more sorting, cold soak, and fermentation, the wine barrel ages ~ 20 months in French oak before bottling without filtration for 24 months.

The process yields wines of supple tannins accessible enough to drink immediately, yet structured enough to age for several years.


The following wines tasted on premise, courtesy Jericho Canyon Vineyard:

Jericho Canyon Vineyard 2013 Rosé | Cabernet, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot.

Robe: Pale rose petal. Saignée method.

Nose: Acacia, salmonberry, wild strawberry.

Mouth: Dry, Provençal-style, deftly-textured.

Jericho Canyon Vineyard 2013 Sauvignon Blanc

Robe: Pale lemon.

Nose: Citrus, white blossom, tropical notes.

Mouth:  Hint of sur lie (French oak – minimal battonage) rounds the stainless steel edges. Satisfying crispness combined with lilting elegance.

Jericho Canyon Vineyard 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon

Robe: Deep garnet with porphyry rim.

Nose: Dark, dusky fruits, meandering herbal notes.

Mouth: Velvet mouth, silky finish, complex, well-balanced layers.

Jericho Canyon Vineyard 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon

Robe: Dark garnet.

Nose: Red fruit, capsicum, olive notes.

Mouth: Medium plus tannins, medium plus finish.


Red Thread ™ | Jericho Canyon Vineyard | Napa. from binNotes on Vimeo.

More Red Thread™ interviews here.

About the author.

Care to share? Feel free to leave your comments below. | All images L.M. Archer ©2015

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Thank you:

Marla & Dale Bleecher | Jericho Canyon Vineyard 

(Lucca thanks you for free run of the winery :).

Tara Katrina Hole


OWM | Oregon Wine Month | WWYBD?

binNotes | a food, wine & travel blog

by L.M. Archer, FWS | Bourgogne ML

Oregon Wine Month |  May 2015

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It’s almost time!

Oregon Wine Month starts May 1st.

What will you be drinking?!?

Join the conversation on Instagram or Twitter |  #WWYBD  #OregonWineMonth!?!


Care to share? Feel free to leave your comments below.

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Copyrighted binNotes 2015. All Rights Reserved.

Red Thread™ | Napa Narrative | Shypoke Vineyard

binNotes | a food, wine & travel blog

by L.M. Archer, FWS | Bourgogne ML

Red Thread™ |  Napa Narrative  | Shypoke Vineyard 

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Stories about wine, the Red Thread™ that binds us all.


Welcome to the second in a three-part binNotes | Red Thread™  wine maker interview series:

Napa Narrative | Shypoke Vineyard | Calistoga, CA.


Fame requires maintenance. High Maintenance. Especially if you’re a wine region.

Especially if your name is Napa.

Napa today – a glossy, gilded lily adorned with elegant grounds, lavish chateaux, and high-priced tasting rooms, overshadows its en foule founding, one focused upon the land, the vines, and its people.

Many contend Napa’s fame comes at a price.

A steep cost to the soul, a cost some wine makers refuse to pay.

This secret strata of artisan wine makers – wine makers rooted generations deep in Napa’s history – value family and friends over image; wine as art, not business. Much like their ancestors who planted the vines they now tend. But today’s wine makers willingly hold ‘day’ jobs to fund their ‘passion’ projects.  A passion palpable in each pour of their wines.

A tribe of proud renegades toiling to honor their past, savor the present, and preserve a legacy for future generations.

A tribe of wine makers with stories worth sharing.


Today the Red Thread™ talks terroir with one of this tribe,  Peter Heitz of fifth-generation

Shypoke Vineyard in Calistoga.


b/N:  Who or what brought you to Shypoke?

PH:  My great-grandparents got it all going in 1904, with bonded winery #43. 

b/N:  Your family immigrated from Alsace to Northern Napa with the specific intent of crafting fine wines. Tell readers a bit  about the history of Shypoke, and what makes it unique – including, perhaps, a little bit about the winerys name.

PH: My ancestors left Alsace for opportunity in the new world- initially settling south of San Francisco in Pneumonia Gulch.’ Suffering from the damp cool, they struck upon Calistoga with its mineral waters and Mediterranean climate .  Early wineries were in the works (Schramsberg, Krug, Beringer)  and they jumped in. The winery almost made it through prohibition, but they never stopped farming. The other half of the winemaking heritage comes from Lucca, Italy, and came to Calistoga for similar reasons. 

NOTE: The name of the winery, Shypoke derives from the local name for a native species of heron prevalent in the region at that time.

The label derives from an image of Peter’s great-grandfather’s original pruning tool used on the first generation’s farm and vineyard.

b/N:  Shypoke represents five (5) generations of winegrowers. What, if any, historical wine growing and making techniques or traditions does Shypoke still honor today?

PH:  We farm for the future, the thought driving our actions is that this little slice of dirt should be making exceptional wine in another 110 years and future generations will be happy with our stewardship of the legacy.

b/N:  Because your winery enjoys such a rich, unbroken history in the region – any particular memories that resonate for you while your are out working in the vineyard, during wine making, or when you open a vintage bottle of your wine?

PH:  I certainly reminisce on growing up amongst the vines, and making wine as a family.  We honor and carry these traditions on everyday and make future memories each day. We are truly blessed in being grounded to our craft.

b/N:  Your family planted their first rootstock in 1904. You grow some interesting varietals, including Charbono. Are most of your vines heirloom?

PH:  The Charbono is pretty close to an endangered species, our guiding light.  We also grow Sangiovese, Grenache, Malbec (Cot) , Petit Verdot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Petite Sirah (Durif).  A regular farm stand. Diversity keeps it interesting and gives us fun ingredients to work with.

b/N:  Shypokes vineyards contain rich alluvial soils. How has your understanding of the nuances of the land and environment shaped your approach to crafting wines of such elegance, honesty, and sense of place?

PH:  The old family ranch happily sits on a little alluvial fan of limestone that peters out into some lovely gravel and loam.  Each little block has its own thing going on.  All we try to do is capture that spirit.

b/N:  Over the years, your family must have weathered some major storms, both literally and figuratively, including Prohibition. What has been the key to Shypokes success?

PH:  Keep it simple.  Make wine that we want to drink.

b/N:  What are your greatest challenges at Shypoke?

PH:  We pinch ourselves each day at our good fortune. Those pinches hurt a bit.

b/N:  Anything else you care to share with readers that we havent touched on? 

PH:  Thanks for enjoying and supporting the small local farmers in your area. It really is a partnership.

b/N:  Finally, If wine making in Shypoke has taught me anything, its taught me…”

PH:  Youve got this on video! and I have no idea what I said :)

 Here’s what Peter has to say…

Red Thread ™ | Shypoke Vineyard | Napa Narrative from binNotes on Vimeo.™


More Red Thread™ interviews here.

About the author.

Care to share? Feel free to leave your comments below.

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Copyrighted binNotes 2015. All Rights Reserved.  | All photos courtesy of the author.

Thank you:

Peter and Meg Heitz* –  Shypoke Vineyard

*Thanks from Lucca for free run of the farm!