Magazine article Sunset

Tunnell's Vision

Magazine article Sunset

Tunnell's Vision

Article excerpt

An Oregon winemaker trades news for world-class Pinot

"As long as I was in Iran or Chad, I was happy," says Doug Tunnell of his early years as a foreign correspondent for GBS. But world events and compromises took their toll, and he had to extract himself from network news. Turns out it's Oregon that makes him happy now. Tunnell grew up in the Willamette Valley, but he didn't come home for a peaceful life; he came back to make Pinot Noir.

It takes great temerity to make Pinot in these parts. At the 45th parallel-which happens to run through Burgundy, France, too, where the grape is made into some of the most elegant wines in the world-the Willamette Valley produces barely enough hours of light and degrees of heat to ripen grapes. It's a dicey business every year. When the grapes make it, they have a chance of developing lush, complex flavors from that long, slow trip; when they don't, the wine can be underripe and thin. As Tunnell explains, "Greatness has always come from the margins." He seems to revel in being out on the edge at his Brick House Vineyards near Newberg.

The Oregon way

It's a tradition here. The first winemaker to spot Willamette Valley's potential for Pinot was David Lett. In the mid-1960s, against all advice from his former instructors at the University of California, Davis, Lett purposely planted Pinot Noir in this cool-weather climate. Research and instinct told him that wines could be grown here that would rival-not mimic-Burgundian Pinots. …

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