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Monday, January 29, 2018

Growing a Passion for Wines

Growing a Passion for Wines

Irvine & Roberts

Story by Valerie Coulman

Photography by Ezra Marcos

 

Ten years after planting their first acres of vineyard, Irvine & Roberts Vineyards are celebrating the next chapter in the vineyard’s story with the addition of a new tasting room and winery facility to their 80 acres of uniquely situated land just outside Ashland.

“We’re one of the highest elevation vineyards in the state,” says Michael Donovan, Managing Director for Irvine & Roberts Vineyards. At 2100 feet, the vineyards are located in a micro-valley between the Siskiyou and Cascade mountain ranges. “That’s a very positive thing for us,” says Donovan of the naturally rich soil and the eastern exposure of their vineyards, eminently suitable for grape growing. The consistent cooler air that moves down from the Siskiyou ranges also has been key in providing a natural aeration that keeps moisture-related issues like powdery mildews at bay in their vineyards. “We want to grow the healthiest plants possible, and hence, better fruit,” points out Donovan.

“We take our farming and our winemaking incredibly seriously,” says Dionne Irvine, co-owner of Irvine & Roberts Vineyards, along with husband, Doug, and Doug’s sister and brother-in-law, Kelly and Duane Roberts. From the original five acres of vineyard planted in 2007, they have grown to twenty-three acres featuring nine clones of Pinot Noir and six clones of Chardonnay grapes.

Through that growth, they have seen the community respond well to both their wines and their expansion. “We’ve had amazing support locally,” says Irvine, as Irvine & Roberts’ signature Pinot noirs and Chardonnays have been welcomed by local shops, wine sellers and restaurants. “It’s been a fantastic segue into opening our own tasting room.”

With over 800 wineries in Oregon, Donovan knows they have created a unique and inviting variation in their new tasting room, where their knowledgeable staff offers a relaxed and informative connection to the wines being sampled. They also offer special events and perks to their fast-growing wine club. “I refer to them as our family,” says Donovan of their wine club members. “They believe in us, and have become part of our story.”

“Wine’s supposed to be fun,” says Irvine, and their tasting room offers club members what Irvine refers to as “expanded tasting experiences” including small, intimate cooking classes with local chefs in their on-site commercial kitchen, or pairing events that showcase their wines. It’s a combination of value, quality, and relationship, says Donovan that ideally suits their vision for their winery and the beautiful setting they enjoy. From the drive up through the vineyards to the Northwest themes of the tasting room overlooking the valley, says Donovan, “We’ve created a warm environment to share the vineyard’s story.” He adds, “Being five minutes from downtown Ashland doesn’t hurt either.”

Just above the tasting room, the new winery was built to be state of the art, says Donovan, but also with an eye to practical realities. “We wanted our winery to be flexible and open, like a basketball court,” he laughs. The multipurpose facility easily adapts to each season with ample room for crush, fermentation, barreling and bottling happening in transitioning stages. Nested into the side of the hill behind it, it also combines the capacity for passive cooling to their many LIVE and Salmon Safe-certified sustainable farming and viticulture practices.

Their team, says Donovan, has been hugely instrumental in bringing this next chapter of the vineyard’s story to fruition. Working with experts like consultant Robert Brittan and Results Partners, it has been a multiyear process aimed at cultivating the potential of their unique blend of location, potential, and experience. With the addition last year of winemaker Vince Vidrine, Irvine & Roberts is looking to build their local connections as well as expand distribution through the western states in their quest for a world-class wine.

“This is a project that’s intended to be a legacy,” says Donovan, looking over the vineyard and winery. “We’ve been charged with creating one of the world’s great wines. We feel very poised to achieve that goal.”

 

Irvine & Roberts

1614 Emigrant Creek Rd., Ashland

541-482-9383

www.irvinerobertsvineyards.com

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