Mark Vlossak stands behind his vines (and wines). Photo: Jonas Mendoza

St. Innocent Winery: Mark Vlossak's Oregon Passion Project

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There are some who are born into wine and some who arrive there later in life. In a sense, Mark Vlossak is a bit of both. Though he started St. Innocent in 1988, his roots go further back. As a child, he began tasting and discussing wines with his father, a wine importer and gourmand. This experience —  along with meals prepared by his French cuisine-inspired mother — would later inform his wine career.

After graduating with a degree in theater, Mark was on the road for several years assisting with lighting projects for dance, opera, and theater companies. Throughout this time, reading about food and wine, in addition to cooking and collecting (especially Champagne), continued to play an important role in Mark's life. After reading an article in 1983 about American sparkling wine in Bon Appétit, Mark decided to move to Oregon to pursue a career in winemaking. He started apprenticing in the mid-1980s with Fred Arterberry, who made Oregon's first sparkling wines and pioneered the practice of bottling vineyard designate Pinot Noirs.

Despite his soft-spoken and contemplative nature, Mark Vlossak is a confident winemaker. From the naturally controlled temperature and humidity in the cellar, to the particular details of cooperage, even the smallest detail is examined. Food remains an integral part of Mark's relationship with wine; St. Innocent is famed for the monthly lunches and dinners prepared by Mark himself for wine club members. (Unfortunately, my visit did not coincide with any of these.)

St. Innocent's fruit is sourced from their estate vineyard (Zenith) and six others: Temperance, Shea, Freedom Hill, Momtazi, Justice, and Vitae Springs. Mark closely works with growers at each vineyard to fine-tune viticultural techniques, including pruning, leaf pulling, crop thinning, hedging, and picking. Each vineyard designate is then matured in varying percentages of oak only to highlight the unique growing conditions of each site. Temperance Hill (certified organic) — the highest altitude vineyard and among the last to ripen in the Eola-Amity Hills AVA — shows in its powerful structure. Momtazi Vineyard (certified biodynamic) — located high above a warm valley that lies between the mouth of the Van Duzer Corridor and the Eola-Amity Hills in the McMinnville AVA — unveils darker fruited flavors and richer textures.

After spending a few hours tasting and talking with Mark, it's clear that his passion for St. Innocent has been informed by his early years honing his palate and inspired by the terroir of the Willamette Valley. We're proud to offer a selection of his 2013 and 2014 Pinot Noirs today, and hope you enjoy them along with dinner. Jonas Mendoza

 

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St Innocent 2014 Willamette Valley Villages Cuvee Pinot Noir

It's difficult to find a quality Oregon Pinot Noir under $25, let alone one that pairs remarkably with food. St. Innocent blends the fruit from their estate vineyard (Zenith) with that from several other sites within the northern Willamette Valley. Red and black cherry and dried cranberry fruit aromatics and flavors are underlined by blood orange zest, thyme, and meaty undertones. The wine is juicy and fruit-forward, yet maintains brightness and acidity to pair with lighter meat dishes and roasted fall vegetables. Jonas Mendoza

  • Out of Stock
  • red
  • 0 in stock
  • $23.99

St Innocent 2013 Eola-Amity Willamette Temperance Hill Pinot Noir

Temperance Hill is my favorite single vineyard Pinot Noir from St. Innocent and among my favorite vineyards within the Willamette Valley. The vineyard's high-altitude (~800 feet), volcanic soil, and regular exposure to cool Pacific breezes impart a purity of fruit and a distinctive herbal component. Dried cherry, rhubarb, and cherry pit flavors merge effortlessly with hints of dried tarragon and charcuterie. A beautifully structured wine that is perfect with pork chops or roast turkey with herb and cranberry stuffing. Jonas Mendoza

  • Out of Stock
  • red
  • 0 in stock
  • $36.99

  • Organic

St Innocent 2013 Willamette Valley Momtazi Pinot Noir

The grapes from Momtazi come from four blocks at the top of the plot on steep, wind-exposed hillsides. The wines tend to be darker-fruited and more intensely flavored and structured that Temperance Hill or Villages Cuvee. Ripe black cherry and blackberry fruit flavors integrate seamlessly with subtle new oak notes of clove, mace, and cinnamon. Pair with a filet mignon or roast pork. Jonas Mendoza

  • Out of Stock
  • red
  • 0 in stock
  • $34.99

  • Biodynamic