VOLUME 9, ISSUE 47
September 14, 2014
Dick and Nancy Ponzi established Ponzi Vineyards in 1970 in Beaverton, Oregon, 15 miles southwest of Portland. They were from California where Dick worked as an engineer for Disneyland creating rides. They developed an interest in Burgundy and traveled to all the wine regions of Europe. California seemed too warm for Pinot Noir and no one was producing Pinot Noir of note in California at the time. With three children and some cats and dogs in tow, they moved to the Willamette Valley, becoming one of Oregon's early wine pioneers.
The first vintage of Ponzi Pinot Noir was 1974. For 14 years, Dick taught engineering at Portland Community College to supplement his income. The sale of Ponzi wines gradually increased and they broke even in 1984.
It wasn't until the 1985 vintage that Oregon got national recognition with a New York Times article and Dick was able to quit his day job teaching and begin making wine full time. Nancy was in charge of selling it. In 1988, Dick made Robert Parker's list of World's Best Winemakers.
Dick has been active in promoting Oregon’s wine industry for years. He was a founding member and first president of the Oregon Winegrowers Association, and served as a founding Director of the Oregon Wine Advisory Board (now the Oregon Wine Board). Nancy helped create the first Discover Oregon Wines guide, co-founded the International Pinot Noir Celebration, the Salud Oregon Pinot Noir Barrel Auction and, most recently, Oregon Pinot Camp. In 1997 they created a regional tasting room and a full service restaurant showcasing local wines and food called The Dundee Bistro. Ponzi Vineyards is one of Oregon’s top 20 Oregon wineries by brand with over 30,000 cases produced annually.
Ponzi Pinot Noirs have won critical acclaim through the years. The wines have always been intense, savory and concentrated. Consistency has always been a hallmark, even during the uneven vintages of the 1990s. My Oregon wine epiphany was a 1992 Ponzi Reserve Pinot Noir made from a single vineyard that was 18 years old at the time and I have continued to enjoy many Reserve bottlings since.
The three Ponzi children, Michel (Operations Manager) , Anna Maria (President) and Luisa (Winemaker), grew up helping out in the vineyard and in the family’s winery and operate the family business now. All of them pursued other careers initially, with Luisa studying pre-med, Anna Maria began working for a magazine on the East Coast, and Michel was a jazz musician in Los Angeles. They had a strong pull to the land, the seasons and the harvest and eventually returned. They are continuing the family tradition of community and wine industry service. Even their eight grandchildren are now being introduced to viticulture and the operation of the winery at an early age. Luisa is a highly respected winemaker who was trained in Burgundy and now is married to another notable winemaker, Eric Hamacher.
Luisa Ponzi watched as her parents built Ponzi Vineyards beginning in 1970 and worked in the vineyard and cellar most weekends. After graduating from Portland State University in 1990 with a Bachelor of Science, she moved to Beaune, France, to study winemaking. In 1993, she received the coveted Certification Brevet Professionel D'Oenologie et Viticulture. At the time, she was the only American woman to earn such a credential. While in France, she worked at Domaine Georges Roumier.
The Oregon Wine Board recently presented Dick and Nancy Ponzi with a Lifetime Achievement Award at the annual Oregon Wine Symposium in Eugene, Oregon. The award is put forth by colleagues currently working in the Oregon wine industry.
A new Ponzi winemaking facility was completed for the 2008 harvest. It is located closer to the estate vineyards on the east and north faces of the Chehalem Mountains. The 30,000-square-foot sustainable, gravity-flow winery is named Colina de Sogno (Hillside of Our Dreams) and was designed by Dick Ponzi. It is plenty large for Ponzi's 45,000-case annual production. The new winery is one of the first to be certified under the LIVE Winery plot program. The new winery is not open to the public, but he current tasting room at the old winery will remain open.
The Pinot Noir lineup includes Tavola, Willamette Valley, Reserve, Il Luce Vineyard, and Abetina Vineyard. A value-priced label, RouteStock Cellars, is made for Wilson Daniels group. 40% of the fruit used for Ponzi wines is estate grown at several sites (130 acres), with the remainder coming from vineyards owned by others but managed by Ponzi. All estate vineyards and most of the contract grapes are certified through the Oregon LIVE and Salmon Safe programs.
Ponzi has always been successful with Pinot Gris which they first planted in 1978. Luisa has also done well with Chardonnay in a style that is somewhere between the big Caliesque wines popularized in California and the more discreet white Burgundies.
Ponzi Vineyards has two tasting rooms. The original tasting room is located at the site of the first estate vineyards and winery at 14665 SW Winery Lane in Beaverton and is open from 11-5 daily. Tours are available by appointment (503-628-1227). The Ponzi Wine Bar is located at 100 SW 7th St in Dundee and is open from 11-5 daily (503-554-1500). The wines are distributed in all fifty states by Wilson Daniels and sold on the website. Ponzi wines are also exported to Canada, England, Sweden, Japan and Hong Kong.
Articles About Ponzi Vineyards
2011 Oregon Pinot Noir All-Americans Second Team (8.47 12/20/2011)
2012 Oregon Value Priced Pinot Noirs Honorable Mention (9.17 12/26/2012)
Chehalem Mountains (7.7 12/17/2008)
Embarrassment of Riches: Oregon (9.1 1/11/2012)
Large Review of 2009 & 2010 Willamette Valley Pinot Noirs With a Few from 2008 & 2011 (9.7 5/9/2012)
Many Oregon Wineries Offering Pinot Noir for a C-Note or More (9.15 11/24/2012)
Memorable Winery Visits (7.2 9/15/2008)
Olympics of Cult Pinot Collectibles (7.1 8/19/2008)
Pinot Briefs (8.46 11/29/2011)
Pinot Briefs (9.23 4/13/2013)
Pinot Briefs (9.15 11/24/2012)
Pinot Briefs (9.33 11/9/2013)
Pinot Gris: Oregon’s Signature White Wine (7.15 3/26/2009)
Ponzi Vineyards (6.52 1/30/2008)
Ponzi Vineyards: 40 Years (8.30 1/27/2011)
Ponzi Vineyards: Setting the Standard for Innovation (7.23 8/17/2009)
Rece$$ion Bumpers (7.15 3/26/2009)
Wine Books of Interest (8.8 12/24/2009)
2010 Ponzi Vineyards Tavola Willamette Valley Pinot Noir
13.5% alc., 5,900 cases, $25, screw cap. Released October 2011. Sourced from seven estate vineyards and includes fruit from sustainably-grown vineyards in the Willamette Valley. 100% de-stemmed, extended cold soak, native yeast fermentation, light pressing just before dryness to ensure a softer, fruit-forward style. Aged for 11 months in 25% new French oak barrels. Bottled without fining and filtration, and aged in bottle for 5 months before release. · Moderately light reddish-purple color in the glass. Pleasant and nuanced on the nose, displaying aromas of redder fruits including raspberries, rose petals, and subtle oak. Medium weight array of sweet red Pinot fruits with a riff of savory herbs. Mild tannins and silky in the mouth. A good introduction to Oregon Pinot Noir. The day I sampled this, it was 90ºF, and after reviewing the wine, I put some ice cubes in my glass. This blunted the aromatics but softened the tannins and brought out the fresh red raspberry and red cherry flavors. Good. Reviewed May 11, 2012 ARTICLE »
2009 Ponzi Vineyards Willamette Valley Pinot Noir
13.8% alc., 5,350 cases, pH 3.69, $35, screw cap. Released April 2011. Sourced from 10 vineyards with the largest portion from Ponzi’s Aurora Vineyard (38%). 100% de-stemmed, 5-day cold soak, lightly pressed at dryness. Aged 11 months in 30% new French oak barrels and bottled without fining or filtration. · Moderately light reddish-purple color in the glass. Reasonably intense aromas of fresh dark plums and berries with a hint of oak and violets. Light in weight, but quite flavorful, with an array of blue and black berry flavors, enhanced by supple tannins and well-honed acidity. A solid, dependable wine year in and year out. Good (+). Reviewed May 11, 2012 ARTICLE »
2009 Ponzi Vineyards Reserve Willamette Valley Pinot Noir
14.0% alc., pH 3.65, 1,350 cases, $60. Released September 2011. A blend of LIVE Certified Sustainable fruit from Ponzi’s Aurora, Madrona and Abetina vineyards, as well as fruit from Linda Vista, Lazy River, Gemini and Lemelson vineyards. 100% de-stemmed, 5-day cold soak, 7-day post fermentation maceration. Aged 20 months in 50% new French oak barrels, then racked and bottled by gravity without fining or filtration. The wine was aged for 5 months in bottle before release. · Light garnet color in the glass. Brooding aromas of ripe dark red cherries and berries with a hint of forest floor and flint. Delicious core of wellripened dark red and purple stone fruits and berries supported by firm fruit tannins and framed by uplifting acidity. Silky in the mouth and easy to drink, with some finishing persistence. Not a blockbuster, but enough core fruit to draw your attention. Will benefit from further bottle aging and has excellent long-term aging prospects. Very good. Reviewed May 11, 2012 ARTICLE »
2008 Ponzi Vineyards Willamette Valley Arneis
13.7% alc., 250 cases, $20. Something different in a dry wine. First planted by the Ponzis in 1991, they are one of only three Arneis producers in the United States. The grape originated in the Northern Piedmonte region of Italy. Whole cluster pressed and cool fermented in stainless steel and French oak barrels. · Full of vim and vigor, this wine is endowed with bright flavors of pears, green apples and citrus. The lively acidity provides a refreshing finish that has the slightest sweetness. Reviewed August 17, 2009 ARTICLE »
2008 Ponzi Vineyards Willamette Valley Pinot Noir
13.8% alc., pH 3.71, 5,350 cases, $35, screw cap. Sourced from 8 sustainably farmed vineyards with the largest percentage (30%) from Aurora Vineyard. Aged in 30% new French oak barrels for 11 months. · Moderate reddish-purple color in the glass. Nicely perfumed nose with aromas of dark Pinot fruits dominated by black cherries. Intensely flavored with sweet, dark stone fruits and black raspberries with a slight confected note and a grip of citrus in the background. The impressively vivid fruit is wrapped in fine-grain ripe tannins, persisting on the highly aromatic finish. A real crowd pleasure that will drink nicely for several years. Very good. Reviewed January 27, 2011 ARTICLE »
2008 Ponzi Vineyards Reserve Willamette Valley Oregon Pinot Noir
14.0% alc., $60 (sold out at the winery). A blend of several old vineyards primarily grown on Laurelwood soils in the Chehalem Mountains AVA. · Moderately dark reddish-purple color in the glass. Aromas of dark berry jam and plum pudding with a hint of stem and underbrush. Spicy and sweet array of red and black berry flavors robed in firm, muscular tannins, finishing with lively acidity and a floral note. Solid but not exceptional now. Good. Reviewed January 12, 2012 ARTICLE »
2008 Ponzi Vineyards Abetina Vineyard Willamette Valley Pinot Noir
14.0% alc., 100 cases, pH 3.66, $100, etched bottle. From a 2-acre site planted in 1975 as part of an Oregon Clonal Test site with over 20 different Pinot Noir clones planted. Located on an east-facing slope in the Chehalem Mountains AVA on Laurelwood soil. Produced only in special vintages (1998, 1999, 2005 and 2008). 100% de-stemmed. 7-day post-fermentation maceration. Aged 20 months in 50% new French oak barrels. Bottled unfined and unfiltered and aged in bottle for 5 months before release. · Moderately deep, dark reddish-purple color in the glass. Very shy nose, offering subtle aromas of blackberry jam, plums, spice and a hint of toasty oak. Delicious core of ripe dark red and black fruits, especially plum and olallieberry, with a hint of anise and oak. The prodigious fruit has a savory edge and is nicely complimented by firm tannins and juicy acidity. Silky smooth in the mouth with amazing fruit-driven persistence on the finish. A serious wine for connoisseurs that is pouty at present with the structure trumping the fruit. This wine will benefit from several years in the cellar. Very good (+). Reviewed January 27, 2011 ARTICLE »
2008 Ponzi Vineyards Aurora Vineyard Willamette Valley Pinot Noir
13.5% alc., pH 3.70, 50 cases, $100, etched bottle. Over 70 acres, first established in 1991. This bottling comes from a special section planted as own rooted Dijon clone 777 in 1995. 100% de-stemmed. 7-day post-fermentation maceration. Aged for 20 months in 50% new French oak barrels. Unfined and unfiltered and aged 5 months in bottle before release. · Moderately dark reddish-purple color in the glass. Offering very little charm on the nose with demure scents of dark red fruits, polished woods and brioche. Intense and mouth coating flavors of dark red cherries and raspberries, with a citrus note in the background. The massive fruit is largely buried in substantial tannins and the wine is not offering the whole package at this time. Much better two days later from a previously opened and re-corked bottle. A little more showy and youthful than the companion Abetina Vineyard bottling. Cellar at least 3 to 5 years and then open the wine on a special occasion. Reviewed January 27, 2011 ARTICLE »
2007 Ponzi Vineyards Willamette Valley “Rosato” Rosé of Pinot Noir
12.9% alc., $17, screw cap. 100% Pinot Noir either sourced for Rosato or the result of a saigneé. Grapes come from Ponzi Estate Vineyard and Dion Vineyards. · Appealing salmon color. Pinot Noir in its most pure state, fresh and lively strawberry and red cherry flavors. A good wine for summer BBQ. Reviewed September 15, 2008 ARTICLE »
2007 Ponzi Vineyards Willamette Valley Pinot Gris
13.3% alc.,8,200 cases, $17, screw cap. Initial Pinot Gris plantings at Ponzi date to 1978. Fermented in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks. · Crisp white peach aromas and flavors with lively acidity in an Oregonian rather than Alsatian style. Ponzi excels at this variety and I found it perfectly suited to summer dishes. Reviewed September 15, 2008 ARTICLE »
2007 Ponzi Vineyards Willamette Valley Pinot Gris
13.3% alc., 8,200 cases, $17, screw cap. · Faint yellow- color. Tropical fruits and grass with a hint of petrol. Demure fruit with racy acidity, a hint of spritz and a dry finish. Reviewed March 26, 2009 ARTICLE »
2007 Ponzi Vineyards Willamette Valley Chardonnay
11.86% alc., 542 cases, $20, screw cap. Stainless steel fermented. Sourced from seven vineyards including Ponzi Estate and Dion Vineyards, both over 30 years old. · Bright and frisky with enjoyable tropical aromas and flavors including banana and pineapple. A good food companion. Reviewed September 15, 2008 ARTICLE »
2007 Ponzi Vineyards Tavola Willamette Valley Pinot Noir
13.2% alc., 5,104 cases, $25. A blend of sixvineyards and consisting of all LIVE Certified Sustainable fruit. After an extended cold soak, fermentation continued was driven by native yeasts. Aged in 25% new French oak for 11 months. Following a barrel selection, the wine was racked and bottled by gravity without fining or filtration. · A mid-weight wine with nicely spiced red cherry aromas carrying over to the flavors. Silky textured with fine tannins and a refreshing finish with lively acidity. Reviewed March 26, 2009 ARTICLE »
2007 Ponzi Willamette Valley Pinot Noir
13.6% alc., 6,764 cases, $35. A blend of fruit from multiple sustainable vineyards. 100% de-stemmed, 5-day cold soak, fermenters aerated or punched down before lightly pressing at dryness. Aged in 30% new French oak barrels for 11 months. Aged in bottle 5 months before release. · This wine was served along with the two 2007 red Burgundies from Domaine Fourrier and got somewhat lost in the competition. The Fourrier wines were two of the best I tasted during my July visit to Oregon this year. That said, the Ponzi Willamette Valley is a dependable wine that is styled more elegantly than the Reserve. Red fruits were at the forefront with hints of savory herbs, oak and grilled meats. Nicely composed and quite decent. Reviewed August 17, 2009 ARTICLE »
2006 Ponzi Vineyards Tavola Willamette Valley Pinot Noir
13.5% alc., $25, 4,000 cases, screw cap. A blend of six vineyards. · Light in color. Nice cherry aromatics, modest and pleasant red fruits with an herbal and chocolate note and healthy acidity. A great picnic wine. Reviewed January 30, 2008 ARTICLE »
2006 Ponzi Vineyards Reserve Willamette Valley Chardonnay
14.2% alc., 416 cases, $30. Barrel fermented, 100% MLF Chardonnay from Dijon clones. 18 months of barrel aging and 6 months of bottle aging. Unfiltered. · Buttery and fruity but retains brisk acidity. Mildly viscous in the mouth with attractive notes of tropical fruits, tart apple and honey and a little spice to boot. Restrained but showy and a winner on all counts. Reviewed September 15, 2008 ARTICLE »
2006 Ponzi Vineyards Willamette Valley Pinot Noir
13.5% alc., 6,000 cases, $35. Fermented in small lots with five days of cold soak. Manual punchdowns before lightly pressing at dryness. Aged in 30% new French oak for 11 months. Bottled without fining or filtration and aged five months in bottle before release. · A decent Pinot with simple aromas and flavors of cherries, cranberries and strawberries with an oaky component. Slightly velvety in texture with a good acidic charge on the clean finish. Reviewed September 15, 2008 ARTICLE »
2006 Ponzi Reserve Chehalem Mountains Pinot Noir
14.3% alc., 700 cases, $60. Produced from LIVE Sustainable vineyards planted primarily on Laurelwood soil. The blend is selected from Ponzi’s Madrona, Abetina and Aurora Vineyards as well as fruit sourced from Gemini, Linda Vista Vineyards and Lazy River Vineyards. 100% destemmed. Five day cold soak. Fermenters were aerated or manually punched down twice a day for 12-20 days. 7-day post-fermentation maceration. Aged in 50% new oak barrels for 20 months. Unfined and unfiltered and aged in bottle five months before release. · A regal wine with a lovely perfume that is both floral and intensely fruity. In the mouth, beautiful dark fruits are nicely spiced and adeptly framed by oak. Long, stylish and smooth with impeccable balance. Simply a great wine and an impressive followup to the incredible 2005 Ponzi Reserve. Reviewed December 17, 2008 ARTICLE »
2006 Ponzi Vineyards Reserve Willamette Valley Pinot Noir
14.3% alc., 700 cases, $60. The flagship Pinot Noir of Ponzi Vineyards and an outstanding wine in each vintage. The blend is selected from older vines of Ponzi’s Madrona, Abetina and Aurora vineyards as well as purchased fruit. Winemaking is similar as for the Willamette Valley blend except a seven day postfermentation maceration is used to increase structure and length. Aged in 50% new French oak barrels for 20 months. Bottled unfined and unfiltered and aged in bottle for five months before release. · A complete wine of great breeding. Lovely aromatics featuring bright cherry and Satsuma plum fruit nicely spiced. Gorgeous stone fruit with subtle earth, oak and tea notes expands in the mouth leaving a lasting and memorable impression. Very harmonious, smooth and stylish. Still tight and will need another year or two to reach a more lofty peak. I have been buying this wine every vintage since 1992. Reviewed September 15, 2008 ARTICLE »
2006 Ponzi Vineyards Reserve Willamette Valley Pinot Noir
14.3% alc., 2,100 cases, $60. An outstanding wine in every vintage and one that I have been buying since 1992. The wine is a blend of grapes from the older vines of Ponzi’s Madrona, Abetina and Aurora vineyards with smaller amounts of purchased fruit. Fermented in small lots with 5 days of cold soak. 7 days of post fermentation maceration to increase structure and length. Aged in 50% new French oak barrels for 20 months. Bottled unfined and unfiltered and aged in bottle for five months before release. · Enticing aromas of black cherry and Satsuma plum nicely spiced. The stone fruits deluge the mid-palate with richness which is augmented by subtle notes of earth, oak and tea. Very harmonious and stylish. Drinking beautifully now but will last. Reviewed August 17, 2009 ARTICLE »
2006 Ponzi Vineyards Reserve Willamette Valley Pinot Noir
13.8% alc., $85 (current winery price). A blend of several vineyards, primarily Laurelwood soils in the Chehalem Mountains. · Initially brooding, but opens over time in the glass to reveal appealing scents of dark red and black Pinot fruits with a hint of black tea, earth and spice box. Ripe, dark fruit flavors, vivid and concentrated, with soft tannins. Reflective of a warmer vintage, this remains a beautiful representation of the year and will find fans of intensely fruity Pinot Noir. Very good. Reviewed January 27, 2011 ARTICLE »
2005 Ponzi Vineyards Willamette Valley Pinot Noir
13.8% alc., $35, 4,666 cases. A blend of grapes from five vineyards. · Complex nose featuring dark berries and cherries with earthy, woodsy and floral highlights. Dark Pinot fruits, herbal but not herbaceous, soft and full, with a viscous mouth feel, clean finish and an oaky edge to the aftertaste. Reviewed January 30, 2008 ARTICLE »
2005 Ponzi Vineyards Reserve Willamette Valley Pinot Noir
13.6% alc., $60, 3,000 cases. Sourced primarily from the Chehalem Mountain AVA including estate Madrona, Aurora and Abetina vineyards. Aged for 20 months in 50% new French oak. · Aged for 20 months in 50% new French oak. This has a “Oh! My God” nose showing crushed black cherries and baking spices. Very lovely. Dark berry-cherry fruit which is velvety on the palate. Seamless. Very good and maybe even orgasmic. Don’t miss this one. Reviewed January 30, 2008 ARTICLE »
2005 Ponzi Abetina Vineyard Willamette Valley Pinot Noir
13.5% alc., 100 cases, $100, etched . The Abetina Vineyard is a 2-acre vineyard established in 1975 and planted to 20 different Pinot Noir clones. Grapes from this vineyard are often put into the Ponzi Reserve Pinot Noir and a separate vineyard-designate is only made in exceptional vintages. · Redolent with both red and black spiced cherries along with dried herbs and sprinkled with cinnamon, this wine is plush, supple and delicious. There are some unresolved tannins, but they are fine and sweet. This wine charms with its discreet concentrated fruit. A striking wine that is in a class by itself. Reviewed August 19, 2008 ARTICLE »
2005 Ponzi Vineyads Il Luce Willamette Valley Pinot Noir
13.5% alc., $100, 600 bottles, etched bottle. From a 1-acre estate vineyard planted in 2003 with clone 777. · The wine is driven by black cherry and black berry flavors so typical of clone 777. Sandalwood and floral accents enhance the shy aromatics. A decent wine with good intensity and firm tannins, but like a teenager, lacks maturity and is still a bit awkward. Plan to cellar this one. Reviewed January 30, 2008 ARTICLE »
2005 Ponzi Vineyards Abetina Willamette Valley Pinot Noir
13.5% alc., $100, 1200 bottles, etched bottle. From a 2-acre vineyard established in 1975 and planted to 20 different clones. Grapes from this vineyard are often put into the Reserve Pinot Noir. This wine is only made in exceptional vintages. · Wow, superlatives just don’t do this outrageous wine justice. A BIG tasty wine that reminds me of a 2004 Mugnier Bonnes Mares that I drank the night before with a little more New World punch. Plush black cherry extract, dark chocolate, gingerbread and spice. Impeccable balance with a solid tannic backbone for aging and a sensuous satiny texture. Fine to drink now for its hedonism, but this will improve over the next five years. This is just plain terrific and what I affectionately call a “glamazon.” Reviewed January 30, 2008 ARTICLE »
2002 Ponzi Vineyards Reserve Willamette Valley Pinot Noir
13.8% alc.. · Enticing, flamboyant aromas of black cherries and spiced red plums. Flavors of dark red fruits, cherry pie filling and a hint of juicy fruit coat the mouth and fan out on the generous finish. Very harmonious with melded tannins. A marvelous drink at its apogee from one of Oregon’s greatest vintages. I wish I had more bottles in my cellar. Reviewed January 27, 2011 ARTICLE »
2000 Ponzi Vineyards
This beauty is retaining an intense red-violet color and fairly plush black cherry and cranberry fruit. There is a lovely hint of herbs and a touch of alcohol on the nose. Very clean and enjoyable. Tasted November 7, 2008. Reviewed --/--/--
1993 Ponzi Vineyards
Luisa Ponzi's first vintage as winemaker. One of the featured wines in the inaugural Salud Oregon Wine Auction in 1993. A warm, dry vintage with a late harvest, rain not appearing until late October. The wine has a very slight brown-orange rim. Spice and leather on the nose which fades rather quickly. Initially the flavors of raisin, prune and root beer are very appealing but do diminish with time in the glass. Still has commendable acidity. Tasted November 7, 2008. Reviewed --/--/--
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