Orange County’s Greg Sanders Found Pinot Noirvana in Oregon

Greg Sanders, the owner of a successful manufacturing company, and resident of Corona Del Mar, acquired the 10-acre White Rose Vineyard in the Dundee Hills of Oregon’s Willamette Valley in the summer of 2000. He’d found satisfaction in the business world, but sought an outlet that offered an emotional connection. He found it in wine and the White Rose Estate.

White Rose Vineyard was planted to the Pommard clone of pinot noir on its own roots between 1978 and 1982, making it an “old vine” vineyard. It’s planted in volcanic Jory soils and is well placed with several prominent producers nearby, including Archery Summit, Domaine Serene, and Domaine Drouhin Oregon. Sanders has called it “one of the 10 best vineyards in the world.”

He is largely a self-taught producer who made his first commercial wine at White Rose Estate in 2001, but has evolved his winemaking approach over the past 13 years, tied to the emotional connection he has with wine. In recent vintages, he’s embarked on a program he terms “The Neo-Classical Objective,” a highly innovative approach for Oregon, and somewhat polarizing in its theory. 

Simply put, neo-classical refers to an alternate presentation of wine that elevates “pinotnoirness” above everything else. The three-part objective: (1) to farm an old vineyard in a desirable location planted to the proper clones and exposed to ideal growing temperatures, creating an expectation of age-worthiness, (2) to employ 100 percent whole cluster fermentation (the entire grape bunch including the berries and stem is fermented), a technique practiced in the Old World for centuries before the advent of the mechanized de-stemmer, and (3) to use enriched winemaking techniques targeting the source of astringent tannins for an improved condition of early drink ability but also age ability.

The most recent vintages are ethereal wines that display haunting floral and exotic spice aromas and flavors associated with 100 percent whole-cluster ferments. For many pinot noir enthusiasts, whole cluster aromatics are like catnip to humans. These elegant, fresh wines can be enjoyed upon release, but have the backbone to easily age for 10 years or more.

I would encourage readers to experience these wines for their unique qualities. Unfortunately, you will have to travel to Sanders’ tasting room in the Dundee Hills to do so (a worthwhile trek), or order them from the winery’s website store at The wines are not in local retail distribution. Both the 2011 and 2012 vintages are available, with the latter receiving the most well deserved hype.

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