Brick House

"The wines Doug Tunnell is crafting from recent vintages are going to number among those Ribbon Ridge Pinots that serve as future benchmarks for what is possible with this grape in the Willamette Valley." David Schildknecht

 

It was Pierre-Yves Colin who first mentioned the name, Doug Tunnell, to us. He worked with Pierre-Yves during the 2011 harvest - helping destem each bunch of his Volnay Champans by hand.

Doug enjoyed a long and successful career abroad as a CBS foreign correspondent, much of it in Beirut, covering Lebanon's explosive civil war. In the mid-1980s, still with CBS, Doug moved to a small town in Germany, where he developed a taste for white wines. Then work took him to France and soon he was spending both his weekends and holidays exploring vineyards. When he heard the (then) surprising news that Burgundy`s Domaine Drouhin was buying 120 acres in the Dundee Hills, it was time to head home to the fertile soil of the Willamette Valley.

 

In 1989 a family friend alerted him to an old farm - 40 acres surrounding an old brick house - in the Ribbon Ridge just outside Newberg. A magical southeast-facing, sedimentary strata bowl, at the time overrun by fruit trees and hazelnuts but perfectly situated for growing grapes: "in my mind, I had bought it as soon as I drove through the front gates."  The transition from journalism to winemaking turned out to be a natural and easy one. "It was a great release and very soothing after my previous life. " His first 10 acres of the Pinot Noir `Pommard` clone were planted in 1990, producing his first wine in 1993. Doug is very much self-taught as a winemaker but "I was blessed to have great local friends such as Mike Etzel (Beaux Freres) and Steve Doerner (Cristom) to help and tutor me."

 

Brick House has been certified organic from the start and, in 2005, became one of the very few Oregon wineries to achieve biodynamic certification. "I believe in the certification. It is good for people to step up if they are making the claim and take responsibility to prove it." Tunnell has become one of the U.S. authorities on biodynamic viticulture, a subject on which - even to the cynical- he talks about with real`no nonsense` style.

 

And such style and down-to-earth intelligence is reflected in the Brick House wines too. they ooze soul and character - everything one could possibly desire - and are reflection of the vintage, the terroir and the man himself; both the 2008 and 2005 Dijonnais are sublime but, comfortingly, have evolved differently. I guess the clue is in the opening paragraph. Doug clearly shares our taste and judgement in both wine and personalities, we have that vital rapport.