PEOPLE DON’T generally think of Oregon as zinfandel heaven, but for one Portland-area winemaker, it is.
When Ed Fus and his wife, Laureen, moved to Oregon, one of their goals was to plant a little vineyard in the Eola-Amity Hills near Salem. He loves pinot noir, and she’s really into zinfandel. So she tried to get him to plant some zin.
“I said, ‘Sorry, honey, we can’t. We gotta move to California to do that,’ ” he said.
Neither was interested in making a move south just to be able to grow heat-loving zinfandel, so instead he found zinfandel north of the Columbia River.
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When he launched in 2007, he called his winery Three Angels, named for his wife and their daughters, Morgan and Alex. But a winery with a similar name took Fus to task — and threatened to take him to court — so he changed his winery to Angel Vine and moved on.
Fus uses grapes from five Washington vineyards to make zinfandel, primitivo and petite sirah. Out of his 2,000-case production, zinfandel is by far his biggest share, and nobody in the Pacific Northwest has a greater focus on zinfandel.
Why the fascination? While living in Colorado, Fus starting getting into the Italian grape. When he and his family arrived in Oregon, he looked around and realized nobody else was focusing on zin.
“It just seemed to be more fun, have more potential, was more challenging, more everything.”
While Fus does not have an undying allegiance to Washington zinfandel, he has no interest in going to California for his fruit. He also hasn’t found any available zin in Oregon that has excited him — though he does keep his options open just in case.
His No. 1 grape source in Washington is StoneTree Vineyard on the arid, remote Wahluke Slope. StoneTree, owned and farmed by Tedd Wildman, is considered one of the top vineyards in the state, and Fus is thrilled to work with the grapes. Harvest can be a bit grueling, however. Round trip, picking up grapes there means a 14-hour day.
Angel Vine wines have solid distribution in the Seattle and Portland markets, as well as in California, Alaska, Idaho and a bit in Florida.
If you’re a fan of Dry Creek Valley zins, it will be well worth the effort to try Angel Vine’s offerings.
Andy Perdue is editor and publisher of Great Wine Northwest, a news and information company. Learn more about wine at www.greatnorthwestwine.com.