Download &
print (pdf)

Privé Vineyard: Looking Back at the Legacy and Gazing Forward at the Bright Future

In 2006, I first made a journey to Privé Vineyard in Newberg, Oregon, with visions of Pinot Noir dancing in my head. My arrival was signaled by two aged oak wine barrels next to a sign reading, “Rue de Privé.” I knew right away that I had found a slice of France in the Chehalem Mountains. Behind a gate and straddled on the northern and southern side of a residence were two well-groomed one-acre vineyards. Heading up the driveway, I was taken by the cutest little French-styled winery I had ever seen. The owners of Privé Vineyard, Mark and Tina Hammond, are Americans, but their Privé Vineyard is every bit French in character with a name that translates in English to “private or independent.”

The couple manage the entire vineyard and winery operation with Mark stewarding the vineyard and Tina making the wines. The Hammonds joke that the division of labor is convenient because Mark can blame Tina and visa-versa if there is a problem with the outcome of the finished wine. Experienced pickers are hired at harvest, but otherwise, this is truly a family-run estate.

Over the years the small production estate-grown wines (about 300 cases of Pinot Noir annually) of Privé Vineyard have been the closest thing Oregon has to a cult Pinot Noir. It is essentially a private winery for those lucky enough to be members of the winery’s allocation list.

The original Müller-Thurgau vines on the property were planted in Jory volcanic soil in 1980 and grafted over to the Pommard clone of Pinot Noir by the Hammonds beginning in 1995 after they had acquired the vineyard. Grapes were sold initially to Patricia Green until the Privé Vineyard label was launched in 2001.The vines have been meticulously hand-farmed organically with a conscious effort to pull back vigor resulting in yields between 1.5 and 2 tons-per-acre.

Four Pinot Noirs are produced, three of which are estate grown. ‘le nord’ is from the upper, northern one acre at 600 feet elevation, ‘le sud’ is from the lower elevation and southern one acre at 500 feet elevation, and a reserve bottling, ‘Joie de Vivre’ (Joy of Life) is a reserve wine crafted in half-barrel quantities and presented in a beautifully etched and signed bottle. The Joie de Vivre is only made from the first pressing from each bin of fermented wine based on the belief that the most intense flavors of a grape are next to the skin, and gentle pressing draws a juice that is slightly darker and more intense in flavor.

A ‘Chehalem Mountains’ appellation bottling is a blend of grapes from several local Pinot Noir vineyards. This last offering was added to the lineup in 2009 as an everyday wine that could be offered to visitors to the winery since the estate Pinot Noirs sell out quickly every year. A few other varietals have been offered to supplement the winery’s income.

Comparing le sud to le nord is a great lesson in terroir. A difference between le sud and le nord is evident in every vintage, independent of the differences in oak barrel regimen. Ripeness varies between le sud and le nord depending on the vintage and the character of the fruit (red versus dark red and black fruits) reflect this. Le sud tends to ripen faster and is picked at a slightly higher Brix, but in cooler vintages le nord ripens quicker and is picked at a higher Brix. Le sud is aged in 100% new French oak barrels as it is more cellar-worthy, while le nord is aged in a combination of new (25%), 1, 2 and 3-year-old French oak barrels.

Tina likes to joke that if a miserable vintage resulted at Privé Vineyard, Mark would have to get a real job. They kid each other about what each one would do. Mark thinks he might pump gas (required by gas station employees in Oregon) since he loves working outdoors.

Tina is a self-taught winemaker who has a knack for crafting Pinot Noir. In the winery, grapes are carefully sorted by hand and 100% de-stemmed (not crushed). The grapes are whole berry fermented after a 5-day cold soak in a 1.25-ton open-top bin. Aging is carried out in Seguin Moreau French oak barrels. The winemaking is consistent with the Pinot Noir wines exhibiting finesse, balance, soft tannins, admirable oak integration, and age-ability. the moderate alcohols in most vintages add to their appeal.

The Hammonds utilized a tiny winery for years that suited their very small production. A new and larger winery designed and largely built by Mark opened in 2015 and the previous winery was converted into a tasting room and hospitality center.

The Hammonds decided to sell their vineyard and winery in 2018 and after an intensive search, Tina notified me in November 2020 that they had found a successor. Tina remarked, “We finally found the perfect person to take the baton and our hope is that she will take Privé to new heights. She is an accomplished young lady by the name of Piper Underbrink. The deal closed on October 20, 2020. We have agreed to spend one year mentoring and after that year possibly continue as consultants. Her intention is to keep all things consistent.” She has promised to honor and preserve the passionate work and style developed over the years by the Hammonds. The photo below in front of the original winery left to right: Piper, Mark, and Tina.

Tastings continue to be private by appointment (minimum order commitment of six bottles). Magnums of the Estate Pinot Noir wines are available. For more information and to join the Privé Wine Club allocation list, visit There is a waitlist to join the new member list. The 2020 vintage offering for wine club members was in January 2021 on a first-come basis. This vintage was crafted by both Tina and Piper. Although there were wildfires in the Chehalem Mountains in 2020, Piper told me that their vineyard was spared of any smoke taint. However, very low yields resulted as a result of uncharacteristic rain at bloom in June and there will be a very limited amount of wine released from the 2020 vintage.

Through the years, Privé Vineyard Pinot Noir has often appeared on my end-of-the-year All American Pinot Noir list. I have reviewed multiple bottlings for the PinotFile since the 2003 vintage. In this issue, I present short reviews of many past vintages that I have pulled from my cellar and enjoyed over the last few months looking back as a homage to the Hammonds legacy. I also offer reviews looking forward of three of the 2019 vintage Pinot Noirs.

When you talk of passion for crafting Pinot Noir, quality of life and carving out a little niche of heaven, the Hammonds found it. Privé Vineyard has been their answer to Pinot Noir’s elusive romance.

2011 Privé le sud Chehalem Mountains Pinot Noir

13.2% alc. · Surprisingly enjoyable wine from a vintage that was complicated by a cool and wet spring to mid-summer. Bloom in the Willamette Valley was in July! September was relatively dry to the fruit did ripen and some referred to a “miracle harvest.” Light in weight and very elegant in character featuring fresh, bright red fruit aromas and flavors. Gossamer tannins, a shadow of oak and a modest finish There is a personality to every vintage and this wine embodies a survivor. Score: 91

2012 Privé le sud Chehalem Mountains Pinot Noir

13.8% alc. · Dark garnet in color and moderately bold in style, with benevolent aromas and flavors of darker fruits augmented with a sidekick of spice and mocha. Very sleek and polished on the palate, with an glorious finish like a 3 hour movie you don’t want to end. Drink now at the wine’s apogee. This wine was reviewed in December 2013 and referred to as orgasmic. Still is. Score: 98

2013 Privé le sud Chehalem Mountains Pinot Noir

12.9% alc. · Solid, but not special, offering aromas of red berries, dried herbs and subtle oak. Light in weight and color, with flavors of juicy red cherry and berry with a slight herbaceous tone. More fruit and spice elements appear with time in the glass. May not have been a pristine bottle. (See my comments about this vintage for the 2013 Joie de Vivre) Score: 89

2017 Privé le sud Chehalem Mountains Pinot Noir

13.8% alc. · Moderately light garnet color in the glass. Joyous aromas of dark cherry, earthy flora and oak-driven toast. Sensuous and feminine in style, with a core of black cherry and marionberry fruit flavors dressed by a modicum of oak. Even more appealing when tasted the following day from a previously opened and re-corked bottle predicting age-ability. Score: 92

2018 Privé le sud Chehalem Mountains Pinot Noir

13.9% alc. · Moderate garnet color in the glass. A bit of oak-driven mocha aroma and flavor on opening dissipates completely by the following day. Love the aromas of black cherry and Dr. Pepper. Very sleek in the mouth with elegant power, offering voluptuous flavors of black cherry and ripe strawberry, framed by gentle tannins. The dark cherry hangs around on the finish for what seems like a minute. Great in every way when tasted the following day from a previously opened bottle. Two bottles tasted on different occasions with consistent results. Score: 96

2011 Privé le nord Chehalem Mountains Pinot Noir

13.0% alc. · Lighter garnet color in the glass. The wine is on the lean side, offering an array of demure red fruit aromas and flavors. The barrel treatment is overbearing and dominates the delicate fruit core that seems faded. Not as successful as le sud in this challenging vintage. Score: 88

2013 Privé le nord Chehalem Mountains Pinot Noir

12.9% alc. · Soaring aromas of blackberry and spice echoed on the palate in an elegantly styled, delicious wine. The nose is amazingly captivating. A superb wine in every way that has gained in weight and length since last tasted in January 2015. If you have any of this wine in your cellar, pop the cork, for this is a spellbinding wine that wears its age like a badge. (see my comments about this vintage for the 213 Joie de Vivre) Score: 98

2014 Privé le nord Chehalem Mountains Pinot Noir

13.8% alc. · Moderately light garnet color in the glass. The aromas of cherry and spice are fresh as can be. A charge of cherries jubilee impresses the palate. Great harmony here, the Pommard-driven cherry goodness lasting for what seems like a minute. Even better when tasted the following day from a previously opened bottle indicating this is a 15-year wine at least. Score: 96

2017 Privé le nord Chehalem Mountains Pinot Noir

13.8% alc. · Pleasing aromas and flavors of dark Bing cherry with a dusting of oak. Silky in the mouth with inviting elegance, offering good cherry-driven length on the palate and on the finish. May need a few more lengths for optimum enjoyment. Fine, but not exceptional. Score: 92

2018 Privé le nord Chehalem Mountains Pinot Noir

13.8% alc. · Moderate garnet color in the glass. Darker and riper fruits are featured compared to le sud in this vintage. Aromas and flavors of black cherry and black berry that entice over time in the glass. Well-proportioned tannins and acidity add harmony and the finish goes on and on. Superb when tasted the next day from a previously opened bottle. Score: 95

2005 Privé Joie de Vivre Yamhill County Willamette Valley Pinot Noir

13.0% alc., 132 bottles. · Good color, black cherry and spicy oak (a subtle hint of Brettanomyces). Mid-weight, with a a core of black cherry fruit, dark chocolate and smoky oak. Silky in texture and persistent in length. This wine has aged beautifully and is surprisingly very drinkable at 16 years of age. Score: 91

2013 Privé Joie de Vivre Chehalem Mountains Pinot Noir

13.0% alc. · A bombastic wine that is superb in every way. Strikingly elegant yet offering waves of black cherry goodness. An incredible wine from a vintage that was not highly lauded. The growing season was warm and late summer brought monsoon-like rains to the Willamette Valley. Some vineyards in the Chehalem Mountains received 7 inches of rain in September. After the rains, the weather remained cool and dry and some resilient grapes were harvested. Accomplished producers vinify special wines in most every vintage. This wine is a testament to the importance of paying more attention to the producer than the vintage. Score: 97

2017 Privé Joie de Vivre Chehalem Mountains Pinot Noir

13.8% alc., 300 bottles. · A lighter wine in this vintage, but plenty of oak-kissed red cherry and spice aromas and flavors. Very seductive in demeanor with a finish that won’t quit. Considerably more giving when tasted the following day from a previously opened and recorked bottle predicting a long life ahead for this wine. Score: 93

2018 Privé Joie de Vivre Chehalem Mountains Pinot Noir

13.9% alc., 288 bottles. · An excellent young wine from one of the best vintages of the decade. Moderate garnet in color, with penetrating aromas of cherry, spice and rose petal infused with a compliment of oak. Gracious and satisfying on the palate with plenty of black cherry goodness. Impeccably balanced with a ridiculously long finish. This wine is impressively open and giving at such a young age. The wine was retasted December 31, 2021, 7 months after the previous tasting and was one of my most memorable drinking experiences of 2021. The wine was beautifully composed with a core of gorgeous black cherry goodness, perfect harmony and a finish that would not quit. It was extraordinary when tasted the following day from a previously opened bottle indicating a long life ahead. Score: 95/99

2019 Privé Chehalem Mountains Pinot Noir

13.5% alc., $55. · Dark garnet color in the glass. Well-ripened fruit aromas of blackberry and boysenberry. There is a hint of VA. Mid-weight plus and fruit-driven in style, offering flavors of blackberry and cassis with subtle floral, spice, earth and oak notes framed by nubile tannins. The finish offers good juiciness and modest length. This wine pushes the ripeness envelope. Score: 88

2019 Privé le sud Estate Chehalem Mountains Pinot Noir

13.5% alc., $75. · Moderately dark garnet color in the glass. Nicely perfumed with aromas of wild blackberry, earthy flora and a touch of oak spice. Mid-weight in style, with a core of earth-kissed purple and black berry fruits that persist through a very long finish. Wellintegrated tannins and complimentary acidity. There is a very subtle herbal savoriness in this wine Still young and brooding, but much better when tasted the following day from a previously opened bottle. Probably way too early to review this wine. Score: 92

2019 Privé le nord Estate Chehalem Mountains Pinot Noir

13.2% alc., $65. Aged 12 months in French oak barrels, 25% new. · Moderately dark garnet color in the glass. Seductive aromas of black cherry and baking spices. Much more giving than le sud at this stage, offering all the best qualities of the Privé style. Refined and polished, with welcome tannic support and impeccable harmony, The typical Pommard black cherry sumptuousness is on display. An uplifting and bright wine that can be enjoyed now or cellared because of the spot-on balance. Score: 94

Print entire newsletter

Wineries in this Article