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Teutonic

Marginal Gains: Delicious, Livewire Wines from the Willamette’s Heights
Teutonic

You can blame it on the Mosel. I’m sure each of us can trace our love of wine back to what Andrew Jefford has termed “a single moment of astonishment”. For former wine-buyer Barnaby Tuttle, it was a tasting of 14 racy, low-alcohol, mineral-driven German Rieslings in the early 2000s. And while he listed every one of those wines, Tuttle’s epiphany would have far more significant ramifications than his new wine list.

In 2005, Barnaby and Olga planted their first vineyard, Alsea, on a friend’s farm just outside the AVA boundary of the Willamette Valley on the eastern flank of the Coast Range. Just 30 kilometres from the ocean, this parcel of land was considered at the time too marginal to plant a successful vineyard. Oregon pioneer David Lett heard a similar argument when he planned to plant Willamette’s first vines in 1965. He was told he would be frosted out every spring, rained out every autumn and get athlete’s foot up to his knees. Today, the Tuttles’ stubborn insistence on planting Alsea has proven a masterstroke.

Alongside Alsea, Teutonic works with several organic or sustainably farmed sites throughout Willamette Valley. Instead of searching for tried and trusted terroirs, Barnaby and Olga have hunted out old, dry-farmed vineyards in Oregon’s coolest and highest places. One such site is the misty Laurel Vineyard atop Bald Peak, Willamette’s highest, at a lofty 381 metres. Here, slow-ripening and longer hang time provide Tuttle with the intense fruit with high acidity that forms the blueprint of his taut, pure, crystalline style.  

In Teutonic’s Portland city cellar, a vineyard-activated pied de cuve kick-starts each fermentation. Almost all the wines are raised in old oak barrels without additions except for a tiny nip of sulphur to keep everything bright and squeaky clean. Keeping with the Germanic theme, all the wines are bottled, unfiltered, into their distinctive Alsatian flutes. 

Perhaps fitting for a state whose motto is Alis volat propriis—She flies with her own wings—Teutonic’s stimulating, vivid, electric wines have lit up the Oregon wine scene. They can be found on the lists of the finest restaurants across the US, and if there is justice, we suspect the same will soon be said of Australia. Prost!

The Wines

Teutonic Candied Mushroom Riesling 2022

Teutonic Candied Mushroom Riesling 2022

Nicknamed the Umami Tsunami, the Candied Mushroom was inspired by chef and MSG champion David Chang of Momofuku and is Barnaby Tuttle’s ode to umami in Riesling form. Though a purist at heart when it comes to Riesling, the creative and curious beast within Barnaby must be fed. “I have to act outside my comfort zone, stay creative and dream of new things and methods,” he told us. “If you don’t experiment, you become stagnant.” So, the first iteration of this wine came in 2017, in a season that saw a high degree of (good and healthy) botrytis on the fruit. Rather than try to mitigate the influence of the noble rot in the wine, Barnaby leaned in, soaking the fruit on skins as whole clusters for a few days to allow the fungus to develop and grow. He then pressed the fruit to barrels and allowed a layer of flor to develop—adding layer upon layer of complexity and depth—and bottled the wine at low abv with some residual sugar. Savoury, racy and mineral, the wine was a hit, and Barnaby makes the Candied Mushroom every year that conditions allow.

The fruit is sourced from the Tuttles southernmost vineyard source, the Crow Valley vineyard in the southern Willamette Valley, some 35 kilometres west of Eugene. The south-facing four-hectare site—first planted in 1979 to Riesling and Gewürztraminer with later additions of Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir in ‘97 and 2000 respectively—is owned and operated by Denea and Jackie Farrar. These own-rooted vines on loamy soils are dry-grown and farmed organically (not certified). The fruit was hand-harvested and macerated on skins for four days with foot stomping. The wine was then sent to old oak for fermentation.

Staying true to his Mosel inspirations, Barnaby bottles Candied Mushroom with a lick of residual sugar (11.5% abv with 11.2 g/L). His reasoning is as sound as the wine delicious: “The architecture provided by a touch of residual sugar makes the wine more food-friendly; anything salty, fatty, smoky, gamey or cheesy will do. A little bit of RS turns the wine into a chameleon with food.”

Teutonic Candied Mushroom Riesling 2022
Teutonic Borgo Pass Vineyard Pinot Meunier 2022

Teutonic Borgo Pass Vineyard Pinot Meunier 2022

The Borgo Pass vineyard is located in Monroe in the southern Willamette Valley, north of Eugene and south of Salem. The Pinot Meunier vines were planted in 1985 by Mark Debose and Jan O’Banion on their 17-hectare vineyard, which at the time was already planted to Pinot Noir, Gamay, Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay. Approximately 40% of the vines on the property are over 40 years old, and all are on their own roots. Like Alsea vineyard, Borgo Pass is home to Bellpine soils—a variant of the famous Jory soils found in the Willamette Valley—which are rich in iron and have excellent drainage. The dry-farmed site sits at 140 metres elevation and is organically managed.

The fruit was handpicked, sorted, destemmed and fermented in open-top vessels using a pied de cuve started in the vineyard. After four weeks with daily punch-downs, the wine was pressed and settled before going to old barrels for maturation. A lover of great food as well as wine, Barnaby Tuttle made this wine with game in mind. Full of brambly fruits and spice, it will shine even brighter paired with the right wild bird. Pheasant would be a fabulous place to start. 

Teutonic Borgo Pass Vineyard Pinot Meunier 2022
Teutonic Bergspitze Pinot Noir 2021

Teutonic Bergspitze Pinot Noir 2021

Bald Peak in the Chehalem Mountains sub-AVA is the Willamette Valley’s highest point. The Laurel Vineyard sits atop Bald Peak at a lofty 381 metres and was originally planted to Pinot Noir in 1981 by owner John Albin for use in his sparkling and rosé programme. When Barnaby Tuttle first approached John to purchase fruit to make the first Bergspitze (mountaintop in German) Pinot Noir in 2009, many considered it a foolish endeavour. Surely the site was too cool and the fruit too lean? Again, Barnaby proved his detractors wrong, crafting an elegant and ethereal Pinot Noir that instantly made waves in the restaurant scene and quickly sold out. In Barney’s words: “It went viral”.

It wasn’t just the lofty elevation that drew Barnaby to the Laurel vineyard. The Pinot Noir clone is the Alsatian Coury, brought to the region from Alsace in a suitcase by Charles Coury in 1965. The soils are loamy and volcanic, rich in nutrients and with a unique ability to regulate temperature. The site is dry-farmed and managed organically.

As is the norm at Teutonic, the fruit was left on the vine for as long as possible before being handpicked, sorted, destemmed and fermented in open-top vessels using a pied de cuve started in the vineyard. After three weeks with daily punch-downs, the wine was pressed and settled before going to old barrels for maturation. Sitting at a subtle and restrained 12%, the 2021 bursts with bright fruits and elegant, ageworthy structure.

Teutonic Bergspitze Pinot Noir 2021
Teutonic Alsea Vineyard Pinot Noir 2015

Teutonic Alsea Vineyard Pinot Noir 2015

The Alsea Vineyard is the only coastal vineyard in the northern Willamette Valley. When Barnaby and Olga Tuttle first planted the site in 2005 on their friend's farm, it was met with a good deal of scepticism. Unlike most vineyards in the nearby Willamette Valley (this vineyard lies just outside the AVA’s border), Alsea is on the western flank of the Coast Mountain Range, just 30 kilometres from the ocean. Consequently, it is cooler and wetter than those sites on the eastern side of the range, and for those reasons, most thought it unsuitable for growing grapes. The Tuttles succeeded and have been crafting cool, refined, complex Pinot Noir from this site for 15 years.

Alsea is home to Bellpine soils, which, coupled with the rainfall levels, facilitates dry farming. No chemicals are used; farming is organic, and the Tuttles use cover crops and seed balls that act as natural fertilisers for the soil. They also keep bees but don’t harvest the honey.

The 2015 vintage was warm and bountiful, creating wines of power and presence in the Willamette Valley. But Alsea’s altitude and proximity to the coast went a long way to preserving Teutonic’s cool, refined style. Compared to 2016, you’ll find a touch more weight and structure here. As is the norm at Teutonic, the fruit was left on the vine for as long as possible before being handpicked, sorted, mostly destemmed and fermented in open-top vessels using a pied de cuve started in the vineyard. After three weeks, the wine is pressed and settled before going to old barrels for maturation.

Like all Teutonic wines, Alsea Pinot Noir is built to last, and we’re pleased to be able to offer some bottle-aged examples from this unique plot of land. Perhaps Neal Martin summed it up best: “The Pinot Noir from the Alsea Vineyard is certainly great terroir, and a vertical demonstrated its propensity to hit a sweet spot 5-6 years after bottling.” 

Teutonic Alsea Vineyard Pinot Noir 2015
Teutonic Alsea Vineyard Pinot Noir 2016

Teutonic Alsea Vineyard Pinot Noir 2016

The Alsea Vineyard is the only coastal vineyard in the northern Willamette Valley. When Barnaby and Olga Tuttle first planted the site in 2005 on their friend's farm, it was met with a good deal of scepticism. Unlike most vineyards in the nearby Willamette Valley (this vineyard lies just outside the AVA’s border), Alsea is on the western flank of the Coast Mountain Range, just 30 kilometres from the ocean. Consequently, it is cooler and wetter than those sites on the eastern side of the range, and for those reasons, most thought it unsuitable for growing grapes. The Tuttles succeeded and have been crafting cool, refined, complex Pinot Noir from this site for 15 years.

Alsea is home to Bellpine soils—a variant of the famous Jory soils found in the Willamette Valley— which, coupled with the rainfall levels, facilitate dry farming. No chemicals are used; farming is organic, and the Tuttles use cover crops and seed balls that act as natural fertilisers for the soil. They also keep bees but don’t harvest the honey.

The 2016 vintage saw a return to more classic conditions after the three preceding warm years. As is the norm at Teutonic, the fruit was left on the vine for as long as possible before being handpicked, sorted, mostly destemmed and fermented in open-top vessels using a pied de cuve started in the vineyard. After three weeks, the wine is pressed and settled before going to old barrels for maturation.

As with all the Teutonic wines, Alsea Pinot Noir is built to last, and we’re pleased to be able to offer some bottle-aged examples from this unique spot. Perhaps Neal Martin summed it up best: “The Pinot Noir from the Alsea Vineyard is certainly great terroir, and a vertical demonstrated its propensity to hit a sweet spot 5-6 years after bottling.” 

Teutonic Alsea Vineyard Pinot Noir 2016

“What you have here are cool, pale, low-alcohol, ‘transparent’ wines that would not look out of place in Alsace or the Jura... They are well-crafted and full of character, and they pass the crucial test that I call: ‘Would you refill your glass?’” Neal Martin, The Wine Advocate



“Portlander Barnaby Tuttle and his New Jersey-born wife and business partner Olga are rendering some of the most improbable and distinctive wines I’ve tasted from anywhere, as part of a project that only dreams could inspire.” David Schildknecht, The Wine Advocate

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