Monday, July 16, 2012

Pfeiffer Vineyards –Burgundian-Style Pinot Noir in Junction City, Oregon

The previous day I tasted a Pinot Noir from made by King Estate with grapes sourced from Pfeiffer Vineyards. I was curious to see whether the distinct sharp barnyard-tar-earthiness of the wine was a result of the winemaking style or a reflection of the terroir.  So, the first stop of the third day of my adventure through the Oregon wine country was at Pfeiffer Vineyards.

While visiting guests can enjoy the very unique water garden which features small ponds with tiny arching bridges and flowing water falls surrounded by beautiful flowers and trees. Opposite of the hill side vineyard is a small lake with a surrounding forest of trees.

After taking pictures of the beautiful estate I headed into the very unique cave-like tasting room where I met the owners Robin and Danuta Pfeiffer, both of whom are extremely friendly and hospitable. When I met Danuta Pfeiffer (formerly Danuta Soderman) I recognized her as the author, newspaper columnist and former radio and television talk show host who had co-hosted the 700-Club with Pat Robertson from 1983-1988. 

Robin Pfeiffer, Danuta’s second husband, is a retired high school Spanish teacher and counselor. After working as an educator for 30 years he became a viticulturist managing the vineyard utilizing sustainable vineyard practices that bring in consistent premium grapes every year. After retiring from teaching and the media, Robin and Danuta then expanded the vineyard and built the winery to create world-class wines. Danuta also manages Villa Evenings, the winery’s wine-maker dinners given by appointment to groups of 12 or more. A word-of-mouth entertainment venue, these destination events are booked months in advance throughout the year.

The Pfeiffer family moved to Oregon in 1947, purchasing the 80 acres that currently serves as Pfeiffer Vineyards and Pfeiffer Winery. Initially, the property functioned as a sheep farm and the Pfeiffer’s children (Robin, Conrad, Eric, and Karen) assisted their parents with raising and marketing lamb, sheep, and wool. The vineyard was later planted in 1984. It has ideal climate and soil conditions for growing premium Pinot Noir with perfect elevations, aspect to the sun, latitude, soil and temperature. Utilizing sustainable agricultural practices Pfeiffer Vineyards produces very small wines that are not distributed but are sold directly to customers. 

While visiting I sampled the following wines:

The first pour was the 2008 Blue Dot Pinot Noir. The aromas of this wine have a very distinctive earthiness, somewhat tar-like up front followed by dark black cherries, oak, hint of pepper and spice. On the palate the wine is full-bodied and well rounded, with plenty of acidity and mild tannins to give it backbone. This wine sells for $60 a bottle.

The second sample was the 2007 Blue Dot Pinot Noir. This wine is very earthy, with “stinky” aromas of barnyard and a mushroomy mustiness which then dissipates into black cherry, hints of licorice, cola, medium tannins, medium (+) acidity. This is the most Burgundian Pinot I have ever tasted from Oregon. This wine sells for $60 a bottle and I brought one home to share with friends.

The next two wines were somewhat of a disappointment. Following the two superb Pinots I tasted the 2007 Merlot which displays aromas of dried fruits, very intense and concentrated notes of cherry pie filling and on the palate it is very dry, soft, medium (-) in tannin and acidity somewhat flabby. This wine sells for $30 a bottle.

The final pour was the Red Table Wine (Non-Vintage) blend of 70% Merlot and 30% Marechal Foch (pronounced “mar-esh-shall-fosh”). In general, this is just a basic non-descript soft table wine with a mix mash of red and black fruits on the nose and palate with medium(-) tannins, medium acidity and a medium length finish. However, while the wine was nothing to rave about it was a new experience as it was the first time I had ever come across Marechal Foch in a tasting room. It is an inter-specific French-American hybrid red wine grape variety named after the French marshal Ferdinand Foch (1851-1929), who played an important role in the negotiation of the armistice terms during the closing of the First World War. It was developed in Alcase France by grape hybridizer Eugene Kuhlmann and more than likely it is a cross of Goldriesling (itself an intra-specific cross of Riesling and Courtiller Musque Courtiller Musqué) with a Vitis riparia - Vitis rupestris cross. However, some contend that its pedigree is uncertain and may contain the grape variety Oberlin Noir (Oberlin 595), a Gamay-riparia cross once commercially cultivated in Burgundy. It tends to be grown in cold climates such as Canada’s Niagara Peninsula and Nova Scotia, New York’s Finger Lakes, the north Atlantic States, and in viticultural areas of the northern Midwest as it ripens early and is resistant to fungal diseases. Marechal Foch is often considered to possess Burgundian characteristics, having a vibrant, deep purple color, with a light-medium structure and dark berry fruit characteristics. With age it can have similarities to Burgundy Pinot Noir which explains why there are a few acres of it grown in Oregon’s Willamette Valley.

To visit or for more information:

Pfeiffer Vineyards
25040 Jaeg Road
Junction City, Oregon 97448
Hours: Sunday - Thursday 11 to 5 p.m.; Friday - Saturday 11 to 9 p.m.
Phone: 1-541- 998-2828


  1. Danuta, are you still a Christian?

    1. Luara, thank you for reading my post. However, I don't think you should expect Danuta to ever read your question as this is not her blog, let alone reply to it. While visiting I only talked to Danuta and Robin, her very friendly husband, about wine and not their religious or political beliefs. In case you are wondering, I am and will always be a Christian.