Alexana Takes Shape
By Mark Stock
Winter in the Dundee Hills can be so quiet; it can take on a certain fragility. When the frozen silence occasionally cracks, it’s the work of nesting birds, foraging deer or the pruning hands of a vineyard worker.
Up Worden Hill Road, well past Erath and tucked away beside Two Barns Vineyard, there are signs of construction. Against a backdrop of wind and rain is the dull crack of shovels and the quiet, deliberating voices of those behind Alexana’s soon-to-be-realized winery.
Hints of the state-of-the-art facility set to open by harvest 2012 exist already. In fact, the tasting room - a modern three-story house on steroids - is complete, opening its doors for the first time last October. There’s a crispness about this brand new LEED-certified Gold building. Balconies extend from every corner, and the bar is flooded with natural light. The interior is warm and spacious, with little to distract from the restful vineyard views.
Next door, a sizable pit marks the beginning of Alexana’s three-tier gravity-flow winery. By fall, some 8,000 cases of estate wine will be produced here by acclaimed local vintner Lynn Penner-Ash. The wet winter conditions have muddied it some, but the pit serves as a geological cross-section, and one can almost make out the individual layers of 18 soil types that occupy this 80-acre stretch of the valley - for an actual version of this, check out the highly educational bar table in the tasting room.
There’s a youthful energy everywhere at Alexana. The label will turn six this harvest, but is already responsible for some outstanding Pinot Noir. Almost everything was planted on the 57-acre vineyard between 2003 and 2007, including unlikely clones like the Coury selection, mislabeled as Pommard, a Samsonite selection brought into the state from Alsace by Oregon wine pioneer Charles Coury. A brand new block of Chardonnay rests just below winery space. Previously, all of the wine has been produced at Penner-Ash’s eponymous winery outside of Newberg.
Green plays a thematic role here as well. A large solar panel is already operational, providing power to the tasting room. Additional solar panels will rest atop the new facility, set on a slanting roof that, witnessed from afar, will look very much like a natural fold in the landscape. And while the winery itself will not be LEED-certified, it will be a low-impact and environmentally conscious endeavor. According to Alexana’s Christie Shertzer, they are looking into the Carbon Reduction Challenge, which pushes Oregon wineries to drastically limit greenhouse gas emissions.
Alexana is owned by cardiologist and wine enthusiast Dr. Madaiah Revana. With a growing scientific philosophy that red wine benefits the human body, Revana sees Oregon Pinot Noir as part art form, part cure. He was raised on a farm in India and has continued in the agricultural tradition with winemaking properties in Oregon, California and, soon, Mendoza, Argentina.
Revana is also known for his Sitar label, a collaboration with Oregon winemaker Tony Rynders. The 23-string instrument is a fitting choice for his label. By all accounts, Revana possesses a special attention to details and artistic complexity that is normally reserved for a world-class vintner.
Despite the winter gloom, the Alexana project has a sunny future, one touring oenophiles should add to their to-do lists for 2012.
Alexana’s new tasting room, located at 12001 N.E. Worden Hill Rd., Newberg, is open 11 a.m to 5 p.m., Friday–Monday. The Carlton tasting room remains open, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., Thursday–Monday. Both aim to be open daily this summer.
Mark Stock, a Gonzaga grad, is a Portland-based freelance writer and photographer with a knack for all things Oregon. He currently works at Vista Hills Winery in Dayton.