binNotes | a food, wine & travel blog
by L.M. Archer, FWS | Bourgogne ML
Long before I met Johanna and Don Sandberg and Lynne Pelos of iOTA Cellars, I’d tasted their fruit.
You probably have, too.
Fruit procured by premier Oregon wineries such as Rex Hill and Beaux Frères from coveted Pelos-Sandberg Vineyards.
So déjà vu struck during Pinot in the City 2014.
Imbibing in the wines of iOTA Cellars reminded me of stumbling upon a long-lost friend – the kind of friend that picks up the conversation exactly where you left off the last time you saw them.
Like an old friend, iOTA Cellars wines invite a linger.
Awash with aromas of red fruit, sous bois and loam, deep ruby core, soft tannins, and a complexity that keeps the conversation going.
Not unlike a well-crafted Burgundy – one of those discoveries you know you should keep to yourself, but can’t help sharing with others.
iOTA Cellars features not only artisan wines, but unbeatable views, unspoiled stands of oaks and evergreens, and an unhurried atmosphere.
Recently, the Red Thread™ caught up with Johanna Sandberg at iOTA Cellars to talk about terroir, the struggles of wine making, and the joys of living in Oregon’s Willamette Valley.
RT™: Who or what brought you to wine making in the Willamette Valley.?
JS: A love of great food and wine.
RT™: Tell readers a bit about the history of iOTA – your website does a great job telling the story of how you got from the Minnesota to Oregon’s Willamette Valley. as well as acknowledging the slew of local wine folks helpful to you along the way. Did you ever find yourself doubting your dream along the way? If so, what or who happened to help guide you forward?
JS: When in doubt, we just “hunkered down” and worked harder. We still doubt our dream at times to this day, but we’ve enjoyed the benefit of a great partnership along the way. Don, Lynne and I are there to support each other. It is all about teamwork and family.
RT™: Talk about terroir as it relates to iOTA Cellars. Many refer to the Willamette Valley as a cousin of Burgundy. Your location in Eola Hills near the Van Duzer corridor enjoys an abundance of cool Pacific air, not unlike the breezes blowing through the combes of Burgundy’s Côte de Nuits. Like Burgundy, your site also appears to enjoy a mix of microclimates, as well as complex soil compositions. Unlike Burgundy, soils include basalt, sandstone, siltstone and shale. Do you have a favorite block, and if so, why? Any flavor profile differences between blocks that especially stand out due to differences in soil, aspect, slope, wind, vegetation?
JS: Picking between blocks would be like “picking between our children,” as they say. Each one lends its own special components every vintage to our blend, or flagship bottling, and each one is an integral part of the whole. I tend to really like our Wadenswil block, Abino Hill, from year to year, since it provides some of the spice and mineral features that add that extra layer of depth to our offerings.
RT™: iOTA Cellars devotes itself to ‘harmony with nature‘ through LIVE-certified practices and labor-intensive hand-harvesting. What benefits do you feel these methods have upon your vines and wines?
JS: I think that LIVE methods help ensure that we produce wines of true consistency and complexity. over time, our vines and wines have benefited from a steady hand and judicious mentality. The soils are given back what they need, and are not depleted for example, since we return the cuttings and leftovers of unharvested fruit back to the land. We do what makes sense, and the LIVE certification just puts a ‘label,’ so to speak, on it.
RT™: iOTA means small quantities. What do you enjoy most about owning and operating a boutique winery? What do enjoy least?
JS: We enjoy the lifestyle it affords us. Our business allows us to work and live in a beautiful place with our children, and they get to experience the merits of a ‘country upbringing.”
What do I enjoy least? The paperwork!
RT™: Many readers may not understand that iOTA Cellars supplies grapes to some of the Willamette Valley’s most respected wineries. How does contributing to the success of wineries like Rex Hill and Beaux Frères make you feel – both as a wine grower, as well as a wine maker?
JS: It has been a pleasure and privilege to work with many of our colleagues in the business and to sell grapes to them. Our relationships have lent to our experience both as growers and wine makers, and we are grateful to have worked with reputable people in our industry who recognized the efforts and commitment we placed in our vineyard early on. Now that our vineyard has matured somewhat, and our grapes are in demand, we look at it as a mutually beneficial endeavor that gives our vineyard some additional exposure, and we in return, “give back” and “pay it forward.”
RT™: What are your greatest challenges at iOTA Cellars?
JS: Making a consistently good to great product every vintage, despite seasonal variations.
RT™: What motivates you to keep going?
JS: My family, and the pursuit of excellence.
RT™: Finally, “If wine making has taught you anything, it’s taught you…”
JS: To seek balance not only in the bottle, but in life and how you live it.
See more of what wine making has taught Johanna in the video below.
Care to share? Feel free to leave your comments below.
Copyrighted binNotes 2015. All Rights Reserved.
Johanna & Don Sandberg | iOTA Cellars
Note: Trade samples provided by the winery for this interview.