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Dobbes celebrates a '30-year Crush'

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Joe Dobbes honored for his 30-year career as winemaking, influence to Oregon wine industry


SUBMITTED PHOTOS: DOBBES FAMILY ESTATES - This year marks Joe Dobbes 30th year as a winemaker.

Did you know 30 years ago where your career would lead? Not me. Thirty years ago I was newly married, focused on building a life with my hubby. Eventually, my passion for food and drink would lead to teaching people of all ages how to cook all kinds of food and cuisines, and then progress to food journalism, and this column.

During the past 10-plus years I have introduced readers to thousands of Oregon artisan food growers and producers, specialty beverage purveyors, wine growers and wine makers. I am thankful every day of the friendships and relationships I have made with these people and those who support their industries, who have so graciously embraced me into their ranks. It’s an honor to share their stories.

Included in that circle of friends are the good folks at Dobbes Family Estates.

I have the strong impression that Joe Dobbes had more than an inkling of where his career was heading way back when. Three decades ago he began his winemaking career and to mark the event of his 30-year “crush,” a luncheon was held last week to celebrate his many contributions to Oregon’s wine history. The guests included Joe Campbell, who first hired Dobbes as cellar master for Elk Cove Vineyard in 1986, his first job after his apprenticeships in Germany and France. Joe Campbell had great stories to share about Joe, commenting that he was a “good looking guy who drove a good looking Camaro.” He had fun stories to share about crushing 200 tons of fruit in primitive machinery that could handle just one ton at a time.

Joe Dobbes during in apprenticeship years served in Germany and France.

Another person who spoke was Liz Chambers, proprietor of Elizabeth Chambers Winery, who related that her third-generation winery was just handed to her. “For six months it was fun,” she said. “And for four and a half years it was a struggle. Joe taught me lots, and led me to fall in love with pinot.”

A timeline representing Joe’s career includes periods as winemaker at Eola Hills Wine Cellars, Hinman Vineyards and Willamette Valley Vineyards and Tualatin Estate, and others, as well as consulting winemaking positions and custom winemaking.

WVV Founder Jim Bernau, a close personal friend and fishing buddy of Dobbes, shared a story about how, when he was looking for a winemaker, Dobbes came highly recommended by a European contact as being “a remarkable man.”

Longtime friend Michael Moore, of Southern Oregon’s Quail Run Vineyards and South Stage Cellars, shared more tales of their friendship.

A photo of Joe Dobbes when he was winemaker at Hinnman Vineyards, from 1991-95.

Fast forward to 2002, and the birth of Dobbes Family Estate and Wine by Joe labels. Dobbes also takes on custom winemaking. The Jovino brand launches in 2005, and the accolades continue to come:

In 2008, Wine by Joe Pinot Noir earned a 91 point rating and Best Pinot Noir under $20 at the World Value Wine Challenge; 2011, Wine by Joe is named the No. 1 Hot Small Brand of the Year by Wine Business Monthly; 2013, Dobbes Family Estates is named among the Top 10 Oregon Pinot Noirs by The New York Times; 2014, six Dobbes Family Estate 2012s receive 90 or more points from Stephen Tanzer. You can read the complete timeline on DobbesFamilyEstate.com.

Another photo of Joe Dobbes during his European apprenticeship years.

Throughout his winemaking career, Dobbes has focused on “nature, nurture and artistry” to produce his award-winning wines.

He believes the quality of the wine starts in the vineyard. From early spring until harvest he scrutinizes the vines, selecting the best sites and clones, as well as crop loads with the objective to produce wines true to their varietal character with as much depth, elegance, opulence and balance of flavor possible. His wines are described as “beautifully fruited, rich with aromas and often have a faint impression of sweetness on the palate due to ripe tannins and fruit.”

Joe Dobbes believes the quality of the wine starts in the vineyard.

Joe was the first in Oregon to produce Grenache Blanc and Viognier. He creates six single vineyard Pinot Noirs, and names and stylizes his cuvees after his family: Amelia, his daughter by whom I sat at the luncheon; son Griffin and wife Patricia. Shared at the luncheon were to pre-release wines: 2015 Grenache Blanc and 2013 Patricia’s Cuvee Pinot Noir. In a word they are spectacular.

So what was on the menu? The salad was a Bibb Wedge with Blue Cheese Dressing, Gala Apple, Candied Bacon and Pecan Nibs; followed by your choice of either Seared Halibut, Morels and Farm Carrots with Sorrel Creme Fraiche and Pickled Ramps or Smoked Striploin Steak with Creamy Grits, Nettle Chimchurri and House Steak Sauce and for dessert, Tangerine Glazed Chocolate Cheesecake, Torched Tangerine Meringue and Malted Peanuts. I chose the halibut; all three courses were delicious.

It takes about 35 minutes to get from my front door to Dobbes Family Estate’s tasting room in Dundee, which is open seven days a week from 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Plan a trip soon.

So what will the next 30 years bring? Time will tell, but I’m inspired by Joe Dobbes to make the most of every day and every crush.

Bon Appetit! Make eating an adventure!

Randall welcomes your food questions and research suggestions. She can be reached at 503-636-1281 ext. 100 or by email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Follow her on Twitter @barbrandallfood.com.