Last December, I was lucky enough to be gathering last minute Christmas dinner items from Market of Choice at the same exact time Chris Shown, owner of Brigadoon Vineyards, was in the store offering samples of his ’09 Pinot Blanc and the ’09 Lylee Pinot Noir. I had heard about the new Brigadoon Wine Company, but had not had the chance to try their wines; so I eagerly tried each of the Pinot’s.
Both the Pinot Blanc and the Pinot Noir showcased South Willamette Valley’s beautiful fruit with perfection. The Pinot Blanc was complex, yet crisp and refreshing with melon and citrus tones, and their Pinot Noir was earthy and creamy with a hint of dark cherries and spice. I was clearly impressed with both of their outstanding Willamette Valley Pinot’s, and I decided to take home the Lylee Pinot Noir, noting that it would be a perfect match with my dinner party’s main course, a Honey Baked Ham.
The Ham and Pinot Noir pairing was a big hit with my dinner guests, and everyone wanted to know more about Brigadoon. It was then that I decided I would need to visit the Shown family vineyards to find out more about their operation. After hearing of the Shown’s plan to open their property to wine lovers this Memorial Weekend, I decided it was time to take the quick, scenic drive through the beautiful countryside to the outskirts of Junction City to meet with Chris and learn about Brigadoon Wine Company.
“At Brigadoon Wine Company we share a family commitment to fine wine and sustainable agriculture; the journey from field to glass.” –Chris Shown
Brigadoon Wine Company is a family owned and operated business. Chris, his wife, and two sons all have vital roles in making Brigadoon a success. As Chris and I, along with the two family dogs, started our walk around the lush, gently sloping and serene vineyard property that is neatly tucked within the foothills of the coastal range, I learned that Chris’s love for the land and the wine industry began in 1970 on his father’s Napa Valley vineyard in Rutherford, Shown & Sons Vineyards. Since childhood, Chris knew he was a farmer at heart and would someday be working in his own vineyards. In 1990, Chris moved his wife and two young boys to Oregon, and he managed Benton-Lane Vineyards.
Meanwhile, Chris and his wife, Sheree, were searching for their own vineyard property, and in 1991, they purchased the property that is now Brigadoon. Chris and Sheree knew at first sight that it was going to be the perfect place for growing grapes. Their 66 acre farm straddles a creek, and on one side of the creek with eastern exposure, they’ve planted 2 ½ acres of Pinot Noir and a ½ acre of Riesling. The side of the creek that faces west has 3 ½ acres of Pinot Noir, 4 acres of Pinot Blanc, and 4 ½ acres of Rootstock. Chris’s son, Matt, who is the winemaker, joined us for our walk. Matt grew up on the Brigadoon property following his dad through the vines and watching him meticulously tend the land and vines all while practicing hands-on sustainable farming methods.
Matt believes that because of his dad’s hard work in the vineyard, he can create beautiful wines with minimal intervention, which he’s proved he can with recent recognition and awards. Matt earned a Horticulture degree from Oregon State University and then followed with enology classes taken at Chemeketa Community College. Matt said his passion with winemaking comes from being involved in all the processes–from spending time in the vineyard to perfecting the result in the bottle, he loves what he does.
Chris‘s younger son, Nick, recently graduated from a college in Maine with a degree in Environment Studies along with an emphasis in Forestry, and throughout his years in college, he returned home each summer to help with vineyard development. Currently working on organic farms and dairies in Oregon and Sweden, he hopes to someday fully integrate farm to table fundamentals at Brigadoon.
Sheree does the sales and marketing; however, she’s known for her exceptional food and wine palate, and truly enjoys pairing Willamette Valley wines with food grown on their farm, so she also believes in the farm to table dynamism. The family’s involvement and commitment to the success of Brigadoon unequivocally shows in their wines; they’ve been LIVE (Low Input Viticulture & Enology) and Salmon Safe certified for seven years, and they recently won a Double Gold Medal for their ’08 Pinot Noir from Oregon Wine Awards-Oregon’s Premier Wine Recognition program. They were also one of only 14 new wineries to be selected to pour their Pinot Blanc and Lylee Pinot Noir at the 2011 Portland Indie Wine Festival. Current releases include the Double Gold winner ’08 Pinot Noir, ’09 Lylee Pinot Noir, ’09 Pinot Blanc (only 90 cases produced!). Not yet released is a ’09 Tap Root Pinot Noir along with a Riesling that will be available sometime in 2012.
As Chris, Matt, and I, along with the dogs, headed down the road from their home towards the creek-side dock and picnic area, I realized this is where they will be pouring their recognized and award winning Pinot’s for their Memorial Weekend Open House, “a Pinot-Picnic in the Park”.
Encouraged to bring a blanket or lawn chairs and a picnic basket, you’ll have the chance to enjoy the great outdoors while sampling the Shown family’s delicious wines: their ‘09 Pinot Blanc, ’08 Pinot Noir, ’09 Lylee Pinot Noir, and their not-yet-released ’09 Tap Root Pinot Noir. They will be open Saturday, Sunday and Monday from 11am-4pm.
Although they’ve marked off a pristine area above the vineyards to be slated for a near future tasting room that will have a stellar view of the layered, rolling hills and Coastal range, Memorial Weekend will be your chance to see their magnificent property and taste their award winning wines prior to the completion of their tasting room. You’ll be sure to find me sitting creek-side, taking in the fresh air, and enjoying a Picnic and a Pinot this Memorial
Weekend at Brigadoon. Cheers!
Some of you may be wondering, like I was, “Why Brigadoon and not Shown Vineyards or Shown Family Estate Wines?” Chris explained that the name was taken from his and Sheree’s favorite Broadway Musical: Brigadoon. The musical tells the story of a mysterious Scottish village that appears for only one day every hundred years, though to the villagers, the passing of each century seems no longer than one night. The enchantment is viewed by them as a blessing rather than a curse, for it saved the village from destruction. According to their covenant with God, no one from Brigadoon may ever leave, or the enchantment will be broken and the site and all its inhabitants will disappear into the mist forever.
Two American tourists, lost in the Scottish Highlands, stumble upon the village just as a wedding is about to be celebrated, and their arrival has serious implications for the village’s inhabitants as one of the tourists falls madly in love with a villager. [i] It’s a heart-warming love story that takes place in a mystical, magical land of preserved, un-touched beauty. It’s easy for me to imagine the landscape in Brigadoon looking relatively similar to the landscape that graces the Shown family home and vineyards: lush, gently rolling hills of wildflowers and grapevines, with the occasional valley mist drifting through. Brigadoon is quite befitting.
Julia – Writing about Eugene’s Wine Scene