Not All Wineries Sell To Big Factories!

I Cringe When Wineries Sell

So far especially in the last few years, just when I thought there were no wineries that held on to the passion they had for the land they once farmed and the brand they built, when some giant mass producer waived a big 1/2 million dollar check or more in front of their faces. I have watched some of my favorite wineries go from first to totally worst when they just get buried into a big conglomerate’s portfolio who just buys the “BRAND” and winds up destroying the quality and the passion and the original owners walked away from the deal with zero emotions. In the 1990’s one of the Oregon Wineries that got me hooked on Pinot Noirs from Oregon was Rex Hill. Vintage after vintage this wine was family owned and farmed and the quality was right at the top of the game. When I read in 2007 that the original owners were selling, from my past experiences, that was the LAST BOTTLE of Rex Hill I ever bought. I thought in 2018 it was time to re visit this old go to. 

The Rex Hill Story

In the 1920’s Willamette Valley, Oregon was booming. Not with wineries but the agriculture scene was on fire. Nuts, Pears, Prunes, Orchards everywhere. By the 1960’s most of the small mom and pop DRIERS (Dry Fruit Houses)_ were forced to close their doors. One defunct drier on REX HILL in Newberg Oregon became home to a pig farm and a commune before it was finally left empty in the late 1970’s. Paul Hart and his wife Jan Jacobsen came along in 1982 and fell in love with that poor building– but they fell even harder for the hillside on which it sat. It was perfect, they knew, for a new kind of Willamette Valley farm: the vineyard. They cleared out the barn, invited their friends to celebrate, and planted Pinot Noir. Over the next two decades, they added on a little here and a little there and the winery grew along with the vines.

In 2007, when Paul and Jan were ready to retire, they didn’t sell to a big wine conglomerate. They could have like most do today and take the money and never look back.  They handed the keys to the founders of A to Z Wineworks– another family owned Oregon winery. Bill and Deb Hatcher, Cheryl Francis, and Sam Tannahill took over as stewards of this phenomenal piece of Oregon.

From One Family To Another

Rex Hill Owners

Founded in 2002 by Bill and Deb Hatcher, Cheryl Francis and Sam Tannahill pictured above was the small family farmed winery of A-Z Wineworks. With so many Washington and Oregon brands and even boutique Napa Valley just taking the money and run, the previous owners of Rex Hill couldn’t live with that. They handed the torch over to another equally caring and passionate family from Oregon who wouldn’t destroy the brand and possibly even enhance it. That kind of transaction these days is such a rare occurrence. Some big players currently buy BRANDS and currently hold as much as 150 different labels  under their belt and not one of them, has the quality gone up but way way down. They market brands not wine. Thank Goodness, Rex Hill didn’t follow that path.

Winemaker Michael Davies

Rex Hill Winemker Michael DaviesA small town New Zealander, Michael completed a Bachelor of Arts in Economics, Scandinavian Studies and Political Science at the University of Auckland and tested the unusual employment possibilities that afforded, before returning to Lincoln University for a post-graduate diploma in Viticulture & Enology. Prior to joining A to Z, he served for 6 years at Chehalem as the Vineyard Manager and Assistant Winemaker. He has also worked in Burgundy, California, the Hunter Valley of Australia and numerous regions of New Zealand. They farm their own vineyards all bio-dynamically and they select growers who share the same philosophies of viticulture. 

2015 Rex Hill Willamette Valley

Pinot Noir, Oregon

Rex Hill Front

Rex Hill Rear

100% Pinot Noir (Of Course it is Oregon Not California)

2015 was the earliest harvest in decades, but all in all, the quality for the 2015 vintage in Oregon was exceptional with fantastic phenolic development, balanced sugars and acids. This wine was aged for 11 months in French Oak and thank you thank you thank you Michael… ONLY 29% of which were new barrels. Just the way I like my Pinots. 5,196 cases produced and 13.5 % on the money ABV


My Review
Rex Hill Glass 1
Rex Hill Glass Side
Of course I had to bring out the Oregon Pinot Noir Glasses. Wow it’s been a 11 year boycott for me since they were sold but I guess I just figured they were sell outs like all the rest… MY BAD.  Beautiful, dark ruby red almost POM JUICE color in the glass with a slight variation on the rim. Can you say A R O M A T I C??? What a nose of dark black cherry, smoke, twizzlers, butterscotch, on the palate a giant “F” for FRUIT. Not a Fruit Bomb but flavors of Boysenberry, Mulberry, Red Plums, Blueberry, Cola, all just dancing around the mid palate it sails towards a slightly spicy and integrated tannic finish. The wine is precise and focused and extremely handcrafted. You can taste the Passion. It is Screaming and I mean Screaming for a Pan Seared, Crispy Skin, Medium Rare, Duck Breast. This would be a textbook pairing. I totally loved this wine. I will score it 95 out of 100 points.

The Summary

I have literally said this since 2002… IF IT STARTS WITH THE WORD PINOT White Or RED… ONLY and I Say ONLY Do I recommend you drink Oregon. Although everyone has a different Palate, It still baffles me after tasting a 100% Pinot Noir of this Caliber at $29.99 how anyone would want to even bother with Pinot Noir (Mostly Blended, Mostly Sugarfied, Mostly Overpriced) from anywhere else besides OREGON. I just don’t get it. Mr and Mrs Hart, you done good!! Your winery is in great hands with A-Z Wineworks. From one Family to another from Oregon, you have come a long long way since 1982 as you can see in this picture below. Hand Picked, Hand Sorted…Hand Crafted. Great Job Michael Davies. Seek out this wine!

Rex Hill 1982 Before Development

Grape-fully yours, Larry







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