Omero Cellars settles in on Ribbon Ridge
Business partners David Moore and Sarah Cabot met in Seattle while serving wine to restaurant patrons. Their affinity for the fermented grape grew with each new experience.
Ultimately, Cabot pursued a compulsion that could not be denied. She wanted to make wine, so she enrolled at the Northwest Wine Academy in Seattle to learn the trade.
Even before her course of study was complete, she decided pinot noir was the wine that most excited her passion for production.
“It’s a difficult grape and a demanding wine,” she said. “But if you can overcome the challenges and do it right, the reward is well worth the effort.”
Moore’s passion was on the other end — producing high-quality grapes.
The road to pinot noir production led south. In 2007, they moved to the Yamhill Valley.
She landed a position on the harvest crew at Belle Pente Vineyard, and under the tutelage of owner/winemaker Brian O’Donnell, her enthusiasm grew to even greater heights.
“Brian is a generous person and a marvelous mentor,” she said. “His help got us off the ground.”
In 2008, the Moore and Cabot partnership bought a ton of pinot noir grapes from Chehalem owner Harry Peterson Nedry and made their first-ever Omero wine at Belle Pente.
“We ended up with a total of 50 cases,” she said. “That’s when David’s parents got involved, and we haven’t looked back since.”
With financial support from Bill and Staci Moore, the partners started looking for a place to grow their own grapes. That search concluded with a fabulous find, particularly given the demand for prime vineyard property.
They were able to purchase 50 acres on Ribbon Ridge featuring primarily Willakenzie soil. They planted 26 acres of estate vines there in 2009, establishing a vineyard sweeping from southeast to southwest at elevations of 350 to 550 feet above sea level.
Some 22 acres are devoted to the pinot noir clones of Pommard, Wädenswil and Dijon 113, 114 and 115. The other four are devoted to pinot gris clones 146 and 152.
“We are excited to have found such a great site in the Ribbon Ridge AVA,” Moore said. “It’s the smallest AVA in the state, and we are confident it will produce some of Oregon’s best wines.”
As vineyard manager, Moore is determined to preserve the natural health of it ecosystem foremost in mind. “We are focused on maintaining the natural bio-diversity of the land through minimal intervention, native cover crops and the integration of livestock,” he said
By livestock, Moore is referring to sheep. They are using a flock of 21 wool-covered, four-legged friends to naturally “mow” the cover crop they have established between rows of grape vines.
Despite all the activity under way, they still hadn’t hit on a name for their new venture. Obvious choices like Moore and Moore Family were already taken.
“Finally, we hit on the idea of scrambling up the letters of our name, and there it was, “Omero,” Moore said.
They didn’t consider the fact that it sounds Italian, which they’ve decided isn’t such a bad thing.
Entirely by coincidence, they learned Omero translates to “Homer” in Italian. So they couldn’t resist calling one of their wines “Iliad.”
Does that mean “Odyssey” is on the horizon?
To oversee their investment as closely as possible, Moore decided to move to the site with his wife, Amanda. They built a house that allows them to oversee every step in the process.
Moore and Cabot are in the process of competing design work on a multi-level, gravity-flow winery. Winemaking is Cabot’s realm, and she can hardly wait.
Omero is currently a Carlton Winemakers Studio tenant, so the 33-year-old winemaker spends most of her time there. But she likes to keep an eye on the vineyard as well, as that promises to pay off in the end.
“I’m familiarizing myself with every block in the vineyard,” she said. “Each one of them has its own distinctive character that I want to get the most expression from.”
Cabot is a committed advocate of whole cluster fermentation for pinot noir. As the ferment begins, she actually gets into the fermentation tank with a bathing suit on.
She works the must, finding cold spots and moving them around.
One wonders what she’ll do with chardonnay.
She said her goal is to emulate the crisp, steely freshness of a Chablis Grand Cru. Now that’s something to aim for.
As for pinot gris, if her first effort is any indication, this is going to be a gris people will gobble up on release. The 2011’s fresh fruit expression and piquancy on the palate are nothing short of delightful.
Karl Klooster can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 503-687-1227.