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

Burgundy’s Alternative Wine Auction | Hospices de Nuits-Saint-Georges

 binNotes | a wine blog

by L.M. Archer, FWS | Bourgogne ML

Burgundy’s Alternative Wine Auction  | Hospices de Nuits-Saint-Georges

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In the shadow of Burgundy’s mega-watt Hospices de Beaune lies an alternative wine auction – the annual Hospices de Nuits-Saint-Georges.

Held each March, the Hospices de Nuits-Saint-Georges makes up for in attitude what it lacks in media attention. This year, the 54th Annual Hospices de Nuits-Saint-Georges takes place March 14th & 15th, 2015. Activities include a fitness-friendly semi-marathon, luxury chocolate festival, exclusive tastings and dinners, and a wine auction at Château du Clos de Vougeot. Proceeds benefit Hospices de Nuits-Saint-Georges and the ELA Foundation.

Every year, wine aficionados travel from throughout France, Europe and the United States to the Cote d’Or for a chance to wave their paddles over more than 100 barrels of premier and villages cuvées. While most proceeds fund the hospital, one barrel benefits a designated charity. Bidders employ the expertise of local negotiants to steward them through the process, from tasting, to auction, to élevage  the ‘raising up of the wine’ to final aging, bottling, unique auction labeling and shipping.

Each barrel roughly equals three hundred bottles, or approximately twenty-five cases of wine, important facts to consider when working out the logistics for final delivery of the finished wine. 

Founded in 1270 by the sisters if Hotel-Dieu in Beaune, Hospices de Nuits-Saint-Georges moved to its current site in 1633; remnants of the original structure remain. Originally built to care for lepers, over the years the hospital expanded to aid soldiers, respiratory patients and others in need. Currently, the 132-bed public health facility caters primarily to the elderly.

Throughout its benevolent history, grateful locals have donated to the Hospices de Nuits-Saint-Georges. The estate today comprises 12.4 hectares, including choice parcels from within the wine communes of Nuits-Saint-Georges, Primeaux-Prissey, Vosne-Romanée, and Gevrey-Chambertin. Planted mostly to pinot noir, the estate does include a few acres of chardonnay used to craft a small amount of premier cru white.

Moreover, the addition of an updated cuverie in 2002 ensures enhanced productivity methods and increased quality levels.

It’s no secret that as the price of Burgundy soars, more and more wine collectors consider Hospices de Nuits-Saint-Georges an attractive alternative to the pricier Hospices de Beaune wine auction. All the more reason to enjoy the fun – and wine – while Hospices de Nuits-Saint-Georges remains relatively obscure!

For more information:

The 54th Hospices Nuits-Saint-Georges wine auction happens March 14-15, 2015.

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

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Copyrighted binNotes 2015. All Rights Reserved.  All images courtesy Hospices de Nuits-Saint-Georges.

TGLF | Saint Vincent Tournante Wine Festival

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by. L.M. Archer, FWS | Bourgogne ML

 binNotes latest feature in The Good Life France is out!

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Greeting, dear readers! You can read my latest feature on Burgundy’s St. Vincent Tournant in The Good Life France here.

Care to share? Feel free to leave your comments below…Santé!

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Copyrighted 2012-2015. All Rights Reserved. |  Images: Courtesy St. Vincente Tournante

SVT | Burgundy’s OTHER Famous Wine Festival

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by. L.M. Archer, FWS | Bourgogne ML

“Jamais en vain, toujours en vin.” (“Never in vain, always in wine.’)
-Motto of Confrérie des Chevaliers du Tastevin

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You may know about Burgundy’s annual Hospices de Beaune Wine Auction held each November. Maybe even about the entire Trois Glorieuses, of which the auction is a part. But did you know about Burgundy’s OTHER famous wine festival – the St. Vincent Tournante?

Celebrated in late January each year, the festival honors the January 22nd feast day of St. Vincent, patron saint of wine.

Originally organized by medieval wine guilds under the Church’s aegis, the event eventually fell into obscurity. However, during the 1930’s, the Confrérie des Chevaliers du Tastevin, or Brotherhood of the Knights of the Tastevin, revived the festival as a means of attracting attention to Burgundy and its wines.

It worked. Today, the event draws thousands of visitors to a carefully choreographed collaboration between the Confrérie, the Church, and local winemaking mutual aid societies. These brotherhoods offer assistance to local vignerons in times of need.

St. Vincent Tournante ‘revolves’ from village to village each year. While the hosting town varies, the ritual remains fixed: a sunrise procession led by the Confrérie des Chevaliers du Tastevin, each brotherhood carrying banners and carved effigies to the Graves of the Fallen (originally honoring those fallen in World War I), then on to Mass, followed by a roast pig dinner and ceremony.

In 2015, Gilly-les-Citeaux | Vouget hosts ‘The Way of the Monks’ St. Vincent Tournante, marking 900 years of Cistercian wine making tradition in Burgundy with a walk from the castle of Gilly-les-Citeaux to the Cistercian Abbey of Clos de Vougeot.

Burgundy owes much to these industrious holy men. The monks considered wine making a spiritual endeavor, seeking to reveal God’s voice through soil, fruit, and wine – deeming pinot noir the most expressive conduit.

The Cistercians not only cleared the lands of Clos de Vougeot and other areas in Burgundy, but also tended the vineyards, erected stone fences (clos), and maintained meticulous records. Their records proved the bedrock to Burgundy’s codification of lieu dits and climats, as well as the inspiration for the more intangible concept of  terroir.

It’s no miracle that the monks of Clos de Vougeot turned Burgundy’s limestone into sublime wines. Passion, hard work, and a desire to give voice to the land – these traditions continue today.  St. Vincent Tournante offers a rare opportunity to share in this unique spirit of Burgundy.


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Copyrighted 2012-2015. All Rights Reserved. |  Images: Courtesy St. Vincente Tournante

Happy Holidays | Feliz Navidad | Joyeux Noel |

Welcome to binNotes | a wine blog.

by. L.M. Archer,  FWS | Bourgogne ML

Happy Holidays!

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Holiday Greetings, dear readers worldwide!

A heartfelt thanks to all of the incredible wine makers and industry professionals who shared their stories with binNotes© | Red Thread™ in 2014:

binNotes takes a break to spend time with family through the holidays.

Join me back here after January 5, 2015 for more of The Red Thread™.


Care to share? Please leave your comment(s) below.

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Copyrighted ©2014. All Rights Reserved. 

Top 5 Obscure, Affordable Wines from Burgundy

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by L.M. Archer, FWS | Bourgogne ML

 Top 5 Obscure, Affordable Wines from Burgundy

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The Way of the Cross - Domaine Romanée Conti, Burgundy.

The Way of the Cross – Domaine Romanée Conti, Burgundy.

Affordable Burgundy is NOT an oxymoron. In truth, Burgundy offers far more than just elite Premier and Grand Crus, boasting a broad spectrum of food-friendly wines for every palate and price point.

However, finding such wines typically means veering off the grand vins route into more obscure areas of this rarified region.

binNotes helps get you there with some favorite hidden gems – just in time for the holidays.

1. Chablis | St. Bris, Grand Auxerrois. Burgundy is not just a two-varietal wine region, nor is Chablis just about Chardonnay.

St. Bris, located in the western corner of Chablis knows as the Grand Auxerrois, is the only commune in Burgundy authorized to grow Sauvignon Blanc. The wines produced here possess a nervy verve, owing to chalky soils comprised of tiny sea creatures. binNotes’ favorite St. Bris producer: J-F Bersun, a father-son operation with cellars dating back centuries.


2. Côte de Nuits: Looking for an economical entry-point into Burgundy’s most illustrious wine subregion? Why not try Cote de Nuits-Villages wines? These consistent-quality quaffers draw from five villages, including Fixin and Brochon in the north, plus Premeaux, Comblachien and Corgolion in the south.

3. Côte de Beune:  Love Chablis, but hate the price? Try St. Romain, a remote village with unique, chalky soils at high elevations producing chardonnays that rival Chablis in tensile brightness, with a touch of chiseled minerality.

4. Côte Chalonnaise: Looking for the perfect apéritif? For those with champagne taste on a micro-brew budget, try this sub-region’s specialty: crémant, a reasonably-priced sparkling wine made in the méthode traditionnelle from one or more approved varietals, including Sacy, Aligoté, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Cèsar, and/or Gamay.

5. Macônnais: Passe-Tout-Grains. An inexpensive red wine in a subregion that grows 89% white wine? Yes! Passe-tout-grains, a red blend of one-third Pinot Noir with the balance in Gamay and/or a touch of Cèsar, proves the perfect pour for fence-straddlers caught between Burgundy and Beaujolais.

The Rock of Solutre in Burgundy's Maconnais subregion.

The Rock of Solutré | Macônnais | Burgundy.



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Copyrighted 2014. All rights reserved.  

Top 3 Takeaways: Burgundy’s HdB 2014

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by L.M. Archer, FWS

Attention Burgundy Lovers!

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Top 3 Takeaways: 2014 Hospices de Beaune | Burgundy

The highlight for any Burgundy lover, 2014 marked the 154th annual Hospices de Beaune auction, celebrated every third Sunday in November.

Named for Beaune’s charitable hospital founded in 1443 by Nicolas Rolin, Chancellor to the Duke of Bourgogne Philip the Good, the auction features wines from Domaine de Hospices de Beaune, an assemblage of vineyards bequeathed by prestigious patrons over the centuries. Proceeds from the auction fund the charity.

binNotes’ top three (3) take-aways from the 154th Hospice de Beaune auction:


Hospices de Beaune 2014

1. Record-Breaking

This year, Domaine des Hospices de Beaune sales reached € 8,082,525, breaking earlier records of €6.3 million euros set in 2013. The 2014 figures reflect 417 barrels of red wine and 117 of white wine.
NOTE:  Burgundy accounts for just 0.4%  in wine sales globally. What do these astronomical 2014 auction sales mean for the future of one of the world’s smallest wine regions? Only time will tell.

Ludivine Griveau

2. History-Making

Domaine des Hospices de Beaune named Ludivine Griveau its first woman winemaker. Griveau, former principal winemaker at  Maison Corton­ André, takes the reigns from Roland Masse, Hospices de Beaune wine maker for 15 years, who retires this year.

NOTE:  Hats off to Hospices de Beaune for this history-making move.

Hubert de Montille

3. Leave-Taking

While Burgundy’s 154th Hospices de Beaune auction rolled on, Burgundy’s wine community mourned the loss of legendary vigneron Hubert de Montille, made famous in the movie Mondovino, who died on November 1st.

Hubert de Montille died in style – eating lunch with family and friends over a glass of 1999 Pommard Rugiens. Irrepressible, irascible, uncompromising, Hubert de Montille built on his family’s legacy through determination, pragmatism, and a quest for the sublime.

NOTE: In late 2013, binNotes attended a wine-tasting dinner featuring Peter Wasserman, who regaled us with stories of his family’s cherished friend, M. de Montille.

binNotes leaves you with Peter Wasserman’s tribute to the man – may we all live, and die, so well.

Hubert De Montille,
“He was my father’s best friend. Hubert was for lack of a better word one if the greatest men i have had the honor to know. From the earliest memories of being at table with “les grands” the adults, Hubert was the one who taught me how to appreciate good food an great wine. Where as one could butt heads with one parent or another one could not deny Hubert. It was unthinkable. He would have us taste everything we drank, describe it, and if the description was not correct we would have to go back at it until the master was satisfied. He made sure to let us know that it would be a long apprenticeship. He once told me that i would not know how to taste properly until i was at least forty, and Aubert De Villaine to add: and then you will realize you know nothing. Truth be told they were both correct. Hubert was a powerful influence in my life. I will remember the great man till the day I die. He was and will remain one of the great men of Burgundy.” -Peter Wasserman



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Copyrighted 2012-2014. All rights reserved.  

Images courtesy: |Hospices de Beaune | |