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Spindrift Cellars: The Little Winery That Could

This smallish family-owned winery is not located among the popular and well-known Northern Willamette Valley wineries. Rather, it can be found in the Southern Willamette Valley in the town of Philomath. Founded by Matt and Tabitha Compton in 2003, the winery produces multiple varietals under the Spindrift label and Pinot Noir under the Compton Family Wines label.

Matt has been crafting wine in Oregon for over 20 years but is also a grower who owns West Vine Farms, a vineyard management company, and manages most of the vineyards from which Spindrift Cellars sources fruit. Growing up in Wisconsin, Matt caught the farming bug and was driving a tractor and baling hay at the age of 10. After studying horticulture in college on the East Coast for a year, he took a trip around the country. He visited a friend who was attending graduate school at Oregon State University (OSU) in Corvallis and when Matt saw the campus and the town of Corvallis, he was hooked. He moved out to Oregon from the East Coast lacking a job. Matt enrolled at OSU and started working for researchers at the school.

Matt made his first wine as a home winemaker in 1996 while working at OSU’s experimental Woodhall Vineyard outside Alpine. He developed a reputation as a talented farmer, and in 2000, he launched his own company called West Vine Farms initiated with a management agreement for Deerhaven Vineyard (he still manages the vineyard today). Matt became the vineyard manager at Benton Lane Winery as well as managing other vineyards. In 2003, he made his first commercial vintage at 720 cellars, hoping to build a winery business.

In 2004, Matt and Tabitha founded Small World Wine Company with partners Jeff and Diane Cyan. At the same time, the two couples started a wine bar in Corvallis. In 2006, Matt left Benton Lane Winery and together with wife Tabitha started Spindrift Cellars. Domaine Meriwether produced wine at their facility and Matt got to know their winemaker, Ray Walsh, who became an important mentor.

The winery produced 1,000 cases of wine during the first Spindrift Cellars harvest and have steadily increased output, making 8,000 cases of wine from more than ten different varietals in 2015. Today, Matt’s heart is in Pinot Noir and he plans to scale back the number of varietals that Spindrift Cellars offers. West Vine Farms now only manages the vineyards from which Matt gets fruit for his Spindrift wines.

Tabitha manages the day-to-day operation of the winery including sales, advertising, and marketing as well as having the hardest job - raising three boys. Other members of the extended family are also involved.

Matt Compton’s personal label is Compton Family Wines. These wines are reflective of special vineyards that Matt has overseen and managed through the years. A premium sparkling wine is offered under the SEA 02 brand and recently won a Gold Medal at the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition.

The winery’s tasting room is located at the winery in Philomath and is open Friday-Sunday afternoons during winter, Thursday-Sunday afternoons during summer, or by appointment. The wines are sold on the website at and

I am featuring this winery for a couple of reasons. I was impressed with the 2015 vintage wines submitted for review in the past and even more impressed with the 2016 vintage wines currently reviewed. These wines have the handprint of an experienced grower and winemaker. The wines also represent extremely good value, especially since I consider them equal in quality to any wines currently being produced in the Northern Willamette Valley.

The vineyard sources for these wines are from the Southern Willamette Valley. The soils here are shallow, well-drained volcanic basalt combined with marine sedimentary rock and/or alluvial deposits. The two Compton Pinot Noir cuvées show the difference in Pinot Noir grown in these two different soil types.

2016 Spindrift Cellars Willamette Valley Pinot Noir

14.1% alc., pH 3.55, TA 0.49, $22, screw cap. This wine was featured and was one of the top wines reviewed in the previous issue in an article devoted to Oregon Pinot Noir wines priced at $30 and below. Sourced from seven small vineyards, many of which are over 15-years-old and all are dry-farmed. Clones include Pommard, Wädenswil, 115, 777 and 667. The wine was aged in French oak barrels for over 10 months. · Moderately light garnet color in the glass. I was drawn into the glass by the aromas of cherry, strawberry, rose petal, and sandalwood. Light to mid weight in style, with a generous black cherry core of fruit that shows good vigor and intensity. A solid wine with a delightful cherry-embossed finish. Score: 90

2016 Spindrift Cellars BoVine Vineyard Willamette Valley Pinot Noir

13.6% alc., pH 3.55, TA 0.60, 92 cases, $28, screw cap. 5-acre vineyard planted in 2008 by Matt Compton and located in Alpine, Oregon. Clones are Pommard, Wädenswil and Dijon 667. · Moderate garnet color in the glass. Freshness is the word for this wine. Aromas of raspberry, earthy flora and spice with a complimentary hint of oak. Striking attack of Bing cherry, raspberry and baking spice flavors with a subtle oak backwash. An exquisitely balanced wine that is ready out of the gate. Score: 92

2016 Spindrift Cellars OSU Woodhall Vineyard Willamette Valley Pinot Noir

13.4% alc., $28, screw cap. This Oregon State University Vineyard consists of 26 acres located about 25 miles south of the University’s Corvallis campus. First planted in 1976, there are 6 acres of Pinot Noir planted on south-facing slopes at 450 to 700 feet elevation. Bellpine series and Dupree Series sedimentary rocks. · Moderately dark garnet color in the glass. An earthbound wine with considerable charm. Wholesome aromas and flavors of dark red cherry and berry in a mid weight plus style. Gentle tannins, a soothing texture and a glorious finish packed with showy ripe fruit. Score: 94

2016 Spindrift Cellars Reserve Willamette Valley Pinot Noir

14.3% alc.,pH 3.55, TA 0.61, 148 cases, $32, screw cap. Sourced from five vineyards, most of which are over 15 years old and all are dry-farmed. Clones are Pommard, Wädenswil, 115, 777 and 667. All vineyard fruit was co-fermented in a 2.5-ton open-top wood fermenter. Aged in French oak barrels for a number of months. · Moderately light garnet color in the glass. Extroverted aromas of red cherry, red berry and sandalwood. Caressing and elegant in the mouth, with intense waves of dark red fruits accented with baking spices. A spirited wine with impeccable harmony and a long aftertaste. I wanted to swallow this one. Score: 94

2017 Spindrift Cellars Willamette Valley Chardonnay

13.1% alc., pH 3.59, TA 0.60, RS 0.07%, 252 cases, $22, screw cap. Grapes were whole cluster pressed, fermented and aged in French oak barrels, 40% new, for 4 months. Partial malolactic fermentation with weekly lees stirring. · Light golden yellow color in the glass. Nicely perfumed with scents of pear, vanilla custard and granola. Cozy in the mouth, with flavors of pineapple, pear and lemon creme with a subtle grassy note. Slightly creamy in texture and easy to like. Score: 91

2016 Spindrift Cellars OSU Woodhall Vineyard Willamette Valley Chardonnay

14.1% alc., pH 3.43, TA 0.64, 142 cases, $25, screw cap. Clone 108 first planted in 1976. · Light golden yellow color in the glass. Aromas of lemon, apple and nori. Classy and vibrant, with fresh flavors of pear, pineapple, vanilla and a hint of flint. Sensual rather than fruity, with gorgeous balance. Score: 93

2016 Compton Alpine Cuvée Willamette Valley Pinot Noir

14.0% alc., pH 3.59, TA 0.60, 401 cases, $38, screw cap. Sourced from multiple vineyards and includes Pommard, Wädenswil, 777 and 667 clones. from the Monroe, Oregon area. Soils are Basalt and Red Jory series volcanic soils that typical show redder fruit aromas and flavors and elegant tannins. Aged 18 months in French oak barrels. · Moderate garnet color in the glass. Assertive aromas of cherry, spice, fertile earth and rock quarry. Welcome charge of juicy black cherry fruit framed by modest tannins and a touch of toasty oak. Satiny in mouthfeel, with a pleasingly luscious cherry finish. Score: 93

2016 Compton Llewellyn Cuvée Old Vine Series Willamette Valley Pinot Noir

13.8% alc., pH 3.53, TA 0.62, 223 cases, $38. Sourced from multiple vineyards averaging 35 years of age and all dry-farmed located in the southern coastal foothills of the Willamette Valley. Clones are mostly Pommard, Wädenswil and Dijon 115 planted in marine alluvial and sedimentary soils that typically show darker fruits, earth tones and heavier and chewier tannins.. Aged 18 months in French oak barrels. · Moderately light ruby red color in the glass. Subdued, but pleasant aromas of cherry, spice cake and fertile earth. Exuberant cherry dominates the fruit profile in a middleweight style with gracious tannins, cohesive acidity, and a cherry-drenched finish. Score: 92

NV SEA 02 Sparkling Wine

13.7% alc., pH 3.33, TA 0.58, RS 0.42%, 1,018 cases, $20, bottle cap. Produced and bottled by Small Word Wine Co. LLC, McMinnville. Winemaker Matt Compton. A blend of Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris and Pinot Blanc grapes. Proceeds from the sale of this wine will be contributed to the Marine Mammal Institute at Oregon State University. Gold Medal San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition. · Moderate pink color in the glass. The nose offers a combination of pink grapefruit, cherry, and botanical aromas including algae. A hearty rosé style wine featuring flavors of red cherry, red raspberry and blood orange with a mild sprinkling of herbs in the background. Bright, upbeat and refreshing, with a slight sweetness on the finish. Score: 90

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