January 25, 2023 by Alyssa Taylor
Meet the Maker: Norris Wines
“Being in the heart of Ribbon Ridge AVA is a special thing”, says winemaker, Robert McKinley.
Resting on the Western edge of the Chehalem Mountains, the Ribbon Ridge AVA measures a mere 3.5 miles long by 1.75 miles wide. Not only is it the smallest appellation in Oregon, Ribbon Ridge is perhaps the most coveted vineyard land within the entire Willamette Valley. Warm days and coastal winds that cool down the nights. These cool nights lead to extended hang time on well-drained ancient marine sedimentary soils. This seems to be the key in Norris wines production and makes their wines so special.
The sole source for Norris wines, the Norris McKinley Vineyard was planted in 2007 to approximately 10 acres of Pinot Noir (Coury, Wädenswil, Dijon 667, 115, Pommard) and about 2 acres of Riesling (Clone 9 Geisenheim and Clone 12 Neustadt). The established, unirrigated vines reach deeply into the well-drained ancient marine sedimentary soils. Our vineyard features six different types of the famed Willakenzie soil series that consists of fine-grained oceanic sand and siltstone. The west-southwest facing site slopes to Chehalem Creek, providing ample afternoon sunlight to ripen our fruit and crisp maritime evening winds to provide extended hang time.
Winemaker, Robert McKinley is a Southern California native that got the wine bug from traveling Europe with his family at a young age. His family purchased a piece of property on Ribbon Ridge almost 20 years ago, and little did he know that he would be farming vines and making wine there one day. He graduated from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo with a degree in wine and viticulture. After school he worked extensively in the vineyards, cellars, and tasting rooms of several iconic domestic wineries including Williams Selyem, Jonata/The Hilt, Trisaetum, and WillaKenzie, among others. His international experience includes cellar work at Craggy Range of Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand and Torbreck of the Barossa Valley, Australia.
The McKinley family farms the vineyard following organic practices – Believing that this is the right thing to do for the crop and land, even if it takes more time and labor. Robert is very passionate about low intervention winemaking; trying to make the best wine out of the best grapes. His motto: “wine is made in the vineyard, and I am just here to guide it to the bottle.”
Producing less than 1,000 cases of each wine, our Director of Imports, Lexi, was so excited to bring the Norris wines into our portfolio. “I met the McKinley family about two years ago now, and have been looking forward to the release of this wine ever since. These wine has everything I am looking for; The care and precision that went into their production is unparalleled. This is Robert’s first vintage under the Norris label, and we are so excited to show you that wines from Oregon can really pack a punch.” – Lexi Jones
Fun Fact: Robert has a black lab named Zeus that follows him all around the vineyards and winery.
Robert’s favorite quote: “It takes good beer to make great wine.”