Johan Vineyards
Oregon wine country revisited, part 3


Johan was a great visit.  Nice place, lovely early evening light, nice people, and some real surprises with the wines. It's not every day you find an Oregon vineyard making orange wine, Gruner Veltliner and Blaufrankisch, after all.

It’s owned by Dag Johan Sundby (above), who was originally from Norway. He grew up just outside Oslo, but came to the USA to be groomed for big business in 2004. He worked for a while with one of his father’s colleagues (his Dad, Nils Johan Sundby, was in mergers and acquisitions). And within six months he’d bought a vineyard in Oregon. ‘He supports me because I’m his son,’ says Dag of his father. ‘He drinks pilsner, he’s not really a wine guy.’

We met with Dag and his viticulturist/winemaker Dan Rinke (above), who Dag cites as a big influence on him. ‘I wanted to go organic and not spray herbicide on soils, but I didn’t know about biodynamic farming until I met Dan.’

The farm has 87 acres of vineards; 40 were planted in 2002, and the remainder planted in 2009. Dag and Dan use 63 acres and lease out three blocks to others. Since 2010 the vineyard has been certified biodynamic. Theirs is a 3000 case winery.

There’s something a bit different about the wines here. ‘I look at wines as living individuals,’ says Dan, ‘and I don’t want to do too much to change that. I want to show what the vineyard can do and stay out of the way.’

UK agent is Indigo Wines.


Johan Vineyards Méthode Champenoise Brut Nature 2010 Oregon, USA
Five barrels of Chardonnay and two barrels of Pinot Noir make the base wine for this. It’s a full yellow colour with powerful notes of herbs, apple and citrus. Lively, intense, taut and crisp. Full flavoured and a bit herby with brioche, pear and apple notes. Vivid, powerful and quite delicious. 92/100

Johan Vineyards Grüner Veltliner 2012 Oregon, USA
There are about 6 vineyards plating with GV in Oregon. This gets four days skin maceration at 12 C and then it’s pressed, settled overnight and goes to barrel (neutral 500 litre). Lively and full with citrus, herb, pear, a bit of spice and some pepper notes. Real presence with nice fruit density and a bit of richness. 90/100

Johan Vineyards Chardonnay Konkret 2011 Oregon, USA
Konkret means ‘concrete’, as in precise, in Norway. Fermented in concrete then barrel aged in half barrels (fouillards). Very distinctive and textured with fresh pear and citrus fruit. Real restraint here, with a mineral core but also some warm, spicy cinnamon and vanilla notes. Intensely textural with spicy acidity and a hint of fennel. A lovely wine. 93/100

Johan Vineyards Visdom Chardonnay 2011 Oregon, USA
1% lees is blended back into the barrel so less SO2 can be used at bottling. Dag describes this as ‘rich with nerve’, and it’s a fabulous wine. Very lively and focused with citrus and pear fruit. Textured and fresh with some spicy notes. Very stylish, complex, fruit driven and lively with amazing purity and acidity, and a briny edge. 95/100

Johan Vineyards Pinot Gris Drueshall 2009 Oregon, USA
16 days’ skin contact. Copper/pink colour. Lovely textured, fresh supple tangerine and grape notes. The mouthfeel is fabulous with a bit of spice, and there’s a hint of raisin, but this is really fresh and balanced. 93/100

Johan Vineyards Pinot Gris Drueshall 2012 Oregon, USA
Aged in Acacia barrels. Copper/pink colour. Lively, spicy, herby nose with some peach and grape notes. Fresh and lively with tangerine, lemons and grapes, and fine peppery notes, with some grip. Lovely wine. 93/100

Johan Vineyards Estate Pinot Noir 2011 Oregon, USA
10 different clones of Pinot are grown here. Fresh, lively and precise with some black cherry fruit and dense structure. Some grippy tannins, but also lovely freshness and juicy cherry and raspberry fruit. Bright, with nice spicy detail. 93/100

Johan Vineyards Nils Pinot Noir 2011 Oregon, USA
Floral aromatics. Cherries and herbs with some liqueur-like notes . Fresh, bright palate with herbs and spice, a bit of grapefruit, and bright cherries. 50% whole cluster here. Zippy, lively and youthful. 92/100

Johan Vineyards 3 Barrels Pinot Noir 2012 Oregon, USA
This is a selection of the three favourite barrels, and it’s 100% whole cluster. Suppl, fine, expressive with lovely floral red cherries and nice depth, and a rounded, spicy personality. Some generosity here: silky and complex with a taut personality, and a hint of grapefruit on the finish. 94/100

Johan Vineyards Nils Pinot Noir 2007 Oregon, USA
This was the first vintage made by Dan. Hints of spice and leather with some spicy, tarry grip and fine cherry and plum fruit. Good acidity and structure. Still fresh and juicy. 91/100

Johan Vineyards Blaufrankisch 2011 Oregon, USA
Picked November 6. Taut, reductive raspberry and blackberry fruit nose. Lovely vivid, bright wine with fresh black cherry and raspberry fruit, and keen acidity. Dense and taut with real restraint. Savoury and tight; bloody and ferrous. 93/100

Johan Vineyards
J Christopher
Big Table Farm
Walter Scott
Antica Terra

See also:

Visiting Oregon, July 2008 (series)

Wines tasted 07/14  
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