White Rose has been growing pinot noir in Oregon for decades and have been making wine from their famed vineyards since 2001. White Rose was the first winery in our Sedimentary Wine Importers portfolio. In the last few years their status has grown immensely as more and more people are taking notice of this artisinal, pinot noir only winery.

This week we interviewed Gavin Joll the general manager of White Rose. He”s a pinot nut and all around great guy.

Sedimentary: Oregon is one of the most exciting qualitative pinot noir  regions in the world. Yet, everyone seems to be experimenting with varietals other than pinot noir (riesling, gamay, pinot blanc etc). Why has White Rose remained a pinot noir only winery?

Gavin: There are some great white wines being produced in the Willamette Valley and there is a demand for these wines at both the local and international level.  For years our customers and distributors have expressed a desire for us to produce a white wine, yet we remain reluctant for several reasons.  The primary reason is our owner, Greg Sanders, had a very clear purpose when he founded the winery in 2001 and that was to produce world class Pinot noir.  His, passion, our focus, and 100% of our efforts remain committed to making the best expression of Pinot noir possible.  We are also a pretty small winery that makes about 3-4000 cases annually.  We like being small and specialized and wouldn’t want the production of other varietals to disrupt or distract our pursuit of making great Pinot noir.\r\n<div>

Sedimentary: Much is made of clonal selection in the pinot noir world: What to plant, where to plant it and how to treat each clone in the winery. How do you handle your different clones at White Rose, both in the vineyard and the winery? Can you speak a little bit about massal selection and what role you see it playing, if any, with respect to how pinot noir clones are handled in Oregon moving forward?

Gavin: White Rose Vineyard is mostly self-rooted Pommard with one block of Dijon 115 on American rootstock.  The other vineyards we work offer several different clones including Dijon 114,115, 667 and 777, Pommard and Wadensvil.  While we believe the different clones do have distinct flavors and characteristics, we base our decisions in the winery and vineyard on location, vine age and conditions of the vintage.  We will select our preferred clones (Pommard and 777) and propagate by massal selection as we plant additional acreage in the coming years.Massal selection is similar to the philosophy of ‘survival of the fittest’ where new plants are propagated only from the budwood of the most outstanding plants in the vineyard.  Rather than pick a particular uniform clone to plant, you get greater genetic variety buy selecting a group of outstanding vines.   We began identifying the best plants in White Rose Vineyard in 2005.  Our White Rose Vineyard “Hand Select” is a wine produced from these specific plants.  It’s something we believe in, but I’m not aware of anyone else doing it and doubt it will play a significant role in Oregon in the near future.

Sedimentary: White Rose is known for using whole clusters during fermentation. What do you guys see as the benefits of whole clusters and do you think whole clusters are especially beneficial in Oregon Pinot in particular? 

Gavin: Whole cluster fermentation is something we began experimenting with in 2004 and now is the foundation of our winemaking philosophy.  Our belief is that whole cluster fermentation is crucial for the most authentic expression of Pinot noir.  It allows for the fruit character, secondary characteristics, structure and balance we aspire to achieve in our wines.

Thanks to Gavin for dropping some pinot knowledge on us and offering a look at pinot philosophy in Oregon.

For our latest White Rose Offer go here.