New Wine on the Block

Pinot noir grapes abound at Abbelone Vineyard

Kristian Ferry at Abbelone Vineyard
Kristian Ferry at Abbelone Vineyard

“Our property used to be Christensen Brothers Ranch, a working rodeo stock ranch for horses,” says Abbelone Vineyard co-owner Angela Ferry. In the routine operations of running the winery, “we find lots of remnants from those days, like horse bits and fencing,” she says.

Ferry, a financial recruiter, and her husband, Kristian Ferry, a surgical oncologist, bought their 34-acre property in 2002.

“We planted our first vines that spring,” Ferry says.

Now, 6 acres of the Abbelone site is planted with vines of pinot noir.

Abbelone Vineyard takes its name from Kristian Ferry’s mother: “It’s a Danish name, and she passed away the year that they bought the land,” explains general manager Heather Jackson. “She was such an inspiring woman that they named their vineyard after her.”

Nestled on the backside of Spencer Butte (across from the Cascade Raptor Center), Abbelone sits “in a bit of a valley,” Ferry says, “and we think this is why our site is unusually hot.”

When it comes to pinot, a little heat is a good thing. Though considered around the world to be among the finest wines, pinot grapes are also some of the trickiest fruit to grow, as their densely compact clusters make the grapes particularly vulnerable to several kinds of rot.

A couple of years ago, for example, many wineries in Yamhill County, renown for its pinot, lost a great percentage of their yields to persistently cold and rainy weather, throughout a summer that should have been hotter and drier. The warmer weather would have allowed the fruit to ripen and to develop the naturally sweet, complex and earthy flavors that we love about pinot.

So perhaps Abbelone’s warmer clime helps ensure a good crop, buffering them from the fickle, fussy nature of the pinot vine itself.

“We produce a bolder, bigger style pinot noir,” Ferry says.

Growing is step one. But becoming a vintner?

“Kristian makes all of the wine,” Ferry notes. “He is self-taught.”

Kristian Ferry worked early on at Sineann Winery in St. Paul, Oregon, and then learned locally from winemaker friends.

“And he continues to get local advice from them,” Ferry says. “We have a great community of winemakers who help each other out.”

Glasses of Abbelone’s sumptuous pinot

While not certified biodynamic — which is a “spiritual-ethical-ecological approach to agriculture” that proponents suggest promotes a healthy self-sustainability — Abbelone operates as such. “We put everything back into the vineyard and use nothing that is inorganic,” Ferry says.

After nurturing the fruit for a few years, the Ferrys first bottled their 2006 vintage, which was “a very small batch,” Ferry says. “Then our wines started selling wholesale to local super markets and wine shops with our 2009 vintage.”

Abbelone offers pinot noir, a rosé of pinot noir, a pinot noir blanc, pinot gris and a syrah, made with fruit bought from the Rogue Valley.

Abbelone’s ’14 gris has a light straw hue, smelling faintly of melon and hay, with a bright, spicy flavor studded with green apple, pear and fennel.

Their ’14 rosé has a bright petal color, a “slight hint of a recently legalized herb” with grapefruit, rose petals, and morning rain, cinnamon and carnations.

Their sultry ’13 noir is a rich cola color with notes of oak, chocolate, cherry and pepper.

Abbelone’s ’13 syrah is complex, with hints of smoke, roasted meats, currants and light jam.

“We are only sold locally in Eugene and on the coast right now,” Ferry says. “All of the Market of Choice stores carry Abbelone, and some bottle shops and a few restaurants, including Marché.”

If you can’t settle on a bottle, Ferry invites customers out for a tasting.

The Cellar at Abbelone Vineyard and the Vineyard Courtyard are open every weekend Memorial Day through Labor Day, 5 to 9 pm Friday and Saturday, and noon to 5 pm Sunday, at 85505 Christensen Road. To contact the tasting room, call 541-344-6358.