'Hobby gone awry' is good for wine lovers
What would you choose as a second career?
Scott Shulls plan was to be an organic truck farmer, selling produce and honey to his neighbors in Newberg. But that plan morphed into something much larger and tastier. An engineer by profession Scott is analytical and curious. He had joined The Westside WineMakers Club, led by Dick Erath, in which his scientific background was a big asset. His homemade wines were pretty darn good.
Annie calls it a hobby gone awry, Scott jokes. He is a self-taught winemaker; he learned the art by doing, reading and attending extension service classes on viticulture and enology offered by U.C. Davis, Oregon State University and Chemeketa Community College.
One night he took a couple bottles to Red Hills Provincial Dining in Dundee, and shared one with the chef. He came running out of the kitchen and asked who made this? He said it was better than wine he pays big bucks for. That encouragement plus more nudges from friends and his wife, Annie, was the impetus for founding Raptor Ridge Winery. The Shulls say they founded Raptor Ridge to share in the joy of wine-growing, a calling that brings them purpose through a close connection with the land, their community and Oregons wine industry.
They are celebrating Raptor Ridges 20th anniversary this year and invited members of the media to visit the winery, walk through the vineyard and sample some of their wines.
Raptor Ridges tasting room and wine making facility is about five years old. Prior to having the facility at the vineyard, Scott made wine at other wineries in exchange for consulting or making wine for other growers. At one point he converted an old sheep barn on his property into a winery.
It was tight, he said. We made 2,000 cases of wine in 1,500 square feet.
They made their first wine at their winery in 2010.
Scott says his vineyard and winery have been DIY projects. He and his small crew cleared the defunct cherry orchard of trees and Scott honed his surveying skills setting the vines. Together they bench grafted 18 acres of vines.
Science is everywhere at Raptor Ridge. One wall in the tasting room holds an aroma apothecary of Raptor Ridge wines. Below each wine are small bottles filled with the essences you can detect in each wine: smoke, citrus, lavender, chocolate, etc. The exercise awakens your senses, makes you more aware of what you are tasting.
Out in the vineyard Scott explained that the vines grow in about two feet of Loess soil, which sits on top of red Jory soil. Loess soil is perfect for growing Gruner Veltliner grapes, an Austrian specialty wine. Raptor Ridge is one of just six Gruner growers in the Pacific Northwest and one of 29 in the New World. The wine is crisp and delicious.
Scott said he spent his first years building relationships with growers; he has planted what he wants on his land and buys what he needs to make his wines.
Scott says he crafts wines that are interesting to the palate and to the mind – wines of complexity, finesse and place. He combines art, science and craft into each wine.
Raptor Ridge specializes in hand-grown single vineyard Pinot Noir sourced from select Willamette Valley sites and their own estate, Tuscowallame. They produce about 18 different wines, mainly pinot noir but also Pinot Gris, Gruner Veltliner, Rose of Pinot Noir and their first vintage of Method Champenoise, 2011 Brut Rose Harbinger Vineyard. We sampled their 2015 Auxerrois and Gran Moraine Chardonnay from the barrel. Watch for these in 2016 or 2017.
And of course, there are plenty of raptors at Raptor Ridge. The view from the deck of the tasting room faces east providing a panoramic view of the hills and neighboring vineyards.
Raptor Ridge offers public tastings Sunday through Thursday 11 a.m. - 4 p.m; Friday and Saturday 11 a.m. - 5 p.m. throughout the year. Cost is $15 per person. Private tours are also available.
To learn more visit raptorridgewinery.com or call 503-628-8463. Raptor Ridge is located at 18700 S.W. Hillsboro Hwy. in Newberg.
Scott suggested the 2014 Gruner Veltliner Raptor Ridge Estate pairs nicely with Thai food. Try this curry with a bottle and see if you agree.
Bon Appetit! Make eating an adventure!
Coconut Chicken and Vegetable Curry
Makes 6 servings
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
4 carrots sliced
1 yellow onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breast or extra-firm tofu, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 ½ tablespoons curry powder
1 head cauliflower, cut into small florets
1 cup reduced-sodium chicken or vegetable broth
¾ cup light unsweetened coconut milk
1 cup frozen peas
¼ teaspoon salt
In a large heavy stock pot or Dutch oven, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the carrots, onions, garlic and chicken or tofu, and sauté the ingredients, stirring often until the onions start to brown, 5-7 minutes. Add the curry powder, cauliflower, broth and coconut milk. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat to low, and cover and simmer until the cauliflower is tender, about 15 minutes. Stir in peas and salt and serve over basmati rice.
From PBS Kitchen Explorers