Download &
print (pdf)

Laura Volkman Vineyards

In many spousal winery ventures, the husband is the principal winegrower and winemaker, and the wife manages the business and markets the wines. At Laura Volkman Vineyards, it is just the opposite, with Laura acting as the driving force who makes all the winegrowing decisions, performs most of the physical work in the vineyard, crafts and bottles the wines, and sells the wines. For the most part, she will not allow anyone else, much less her husband, Jim, touch the vines. Jim says, “She takes every bottle personally,” while she likens her passion to a writer composing a great book who seeks a sequestered location to focus completely on the job at hand. She says with emphasis, “I have blinders on from April until the end of crush.” For a petite woman, you have to admire her gumption. Jim has his own profession, offering support and a helping hand only when needed.

The Volkmans bought a small farm several years ago in Newberg, Oregon, part of the Chehalem Mountains AVA. They cleared the land and planted their 3.5-acre Elle Rêve Vineyard to Pinot Noir in 2002. The vines are primarily Dijon 115, with lesser amounts of 114, 667, 777 and Pommard.

Laura’s winemaking is traditional and meticulous. Working at nearby August Cellars, a cooperative facility in which several winemakers lease space, she keeps fermentations cool to preserve the delicate aromas of Pinot Noir. She uses various yeasts and ferments each clone separately to create distinctive flavor profiles that set apart her two major Pinot Noir bottlings named after her daughter (Rachel Estate) and son (Jacob Estate). Absolutely no pumping is done. Aging is carried out in approximately 50% new French oak barrels. Once the wine has been raised, it goes directly to tank for blending and then straight to bottle by way of gravity flow. All her Pinot Noirs are unfined and unfiltered.

Of the many grape varieties, Pinot Noir is the most temperamental, a fickle prodigy that can be brought to perform brilliantly only through meticulous parenting in the vineyard and in the winery. This explains why some of the world’s greatest Pinot Noirs come from very small producers who can personally nurse the frivolous grape every step of the way. Laura Volkman personifies this ideal and her wines show the result.

Laura recommends that consumers wait a year after release to insure full integration and enjoyment of her Pinot Noirs. This is particularly crucial with the 2008 vintage wines. I previously tasted the 2008 Laura Volkman Vineyards Pinot Noir clonal wines from new oak barrels which eventually were blended with clonal wines from neutral barrels when bottled. She reported that yields had slightly decreased in 2008. The wines were darkly colored due to the prolonged summer heat. She described the wines as “big and lush with plenty of good (astringent) tannins with alcohols in the 13.5% range.” I was impressed with the barrel samples then and even more taken by the finished wines. All of her wines are medium-weighted with silky textures, impeccable harmony and display that elusive sensuality that pinotphiles worship. The lower alcohols and age ability of these wines (the Rachel and Jacob both drank better the next day from a previously opened and re-corked bottle) add a special bonus. The 2007 Pinot Noirs are drinking beautifully now but will not age as well as the 2008 vintage wines. The Rachel Estate tends to be a more shapely wine and the Jacob Estate is slightly more muscled.

2008 Laura Volkman St. James Estate Willamette Valley Pinot Noir

13.5% alc., $25. Named after Laura’s husband, Jim. A blend of all blocks in the vineyard. · Scents of black cherries, allspice, pine pitch and the faintest oak. Moderately generous flavors of cherries, berries and red licorice. Soft in the mouth with supple tannins. A short-term easygoing wine at a fair price. Good.

2008 Laura Volkman Rachel Estate Willamette Valley Pinot Noir

13.5% alc., $40. From the West Block of the estate vineyard including Pommard and Dijon clones 667 and 114. Aged on the lees in 50% new French oak. · Moderate reddish-purple hue in the glass. Very charming scents of plum sauce, mixed berry tart and spice box that led me to write, “You gotta be kidding me!” The attack of dark red cherries and berries is ripe, juicy and vivid augmented by flavors of cherry skins and savory herbs. Slightly more weight than the 2007 version of this wine but not weighty. Finely tuned tannins and impeccable balance. The cherry aromas linger on the finish for more than 30 seconds. This is the kind of Pinot Noir that drives normal people to do almost anything to get their hands on some. Very approachable now, but built to last another 7 to 10 years.

2008 Laura Volkman Jacob Estate Willamette Valley Pinot Noir

13.5% alc., $50. From estate grown fruit in the East Block of the vineyard containing Dijon clones 777, 115 and 114. Barrel aged on the lees in 50% new French oak. · An alluring nose of exotic scents including dark red raspberries, rose petals, Asian spices and seasoned oak. A challenge to describe adequately. Very tasty essence of fresh fruits including plums, berries and pomegranates veering more to the purple spectrum. Ridiculously silky and almost ephemeral, like swallowing flavored air. A wonderful wine with mature dry tannins perfectly balanced by the ripe fruit and lively acidity. Will provide several years of drinking enjoyment.

2007 Laura Volkman Vineyards Rachel Estate Oregon Pinot Noir

13.2% alc., 95 cases, $38. · The nose will bring you to your knees. Merci! Lovely perfume of dark red berry melange, rose petals, cola and oak bark. Delicious well-spiced black cherry and deep red berry flavors with a hint of cherry cola and baking spices. Beautifully composed with soft ripe tannins and a caressing silkiness you can cozy up to. I loved this wine last year when I reviewed it and I am sticking to my guns.

2007 Laura Volkman Vineyards Jacob Estate Oregon Pinot Noir

13.5% alc., 120 cases, $45. · The aromas elevate with time in the glass revealing scents of blackberries, loganberries, bay leaf and oak. Layered flavors of spiced plum, dark berries, dried cranberries, pine sap, savory herbs and loamy earth. As the name implies, a little more masculine wine than the Rachel with firmer tannins. Very good.

The Laura Volkman Vineyards labels display artwork from noted watercolor artist, Terry Peasley, depicting Laura in her vineyard. A Chardonnay from Celilo Vineyard (Wente Clone) in the Columbia Gorge region of Washington, named after the family dog, Bella, is also available ($25). Total production is less than 500 cases. The wines are sold through a mailing list and through the online store at Tasting is available by appointment at the Volkman’s quaint tasting room in a former garage adjacent the vineyard Monday-Saturday (503-806-4047).

Previous article:
Shea Wine Cellars
Next article:
Antica Terra

Print entire newsletter

Wineries in this Article