Getting to Know Omero
By Karl Klooster
Falling in love with wine while working at a restaurant proved the catalyst for creation of Omero Cellars. One of Oregon’s newest wineries, it produced its first vintage in 2008.
Business partners David Moore and Sarah Cabot met in Seattle while serving wine to restaurant patrons. Their affinity for the fermented grape grew with each new experience.
Ultimately, Cabot pursued an undeniable compulsion. She wanted to make wine, so she enrolled at the Northwest Wine Academy in Seattle to learn the trade. Even before completing her course of study, she decided Pinot Noir was the wine that most excited her passion for production.
“It’s a difficult grape and a demanding wine,” she said. “But if you can overcome the challenges and do it right, the reward is well worth the effort.”
With Cabot’s passion for Pinot and Moore’s interest in grapegrowing, the two moved south to Yamhill County in 2007.
She landed a position on the harvest crew at Belle Pente Vineyard, and under the tutelage of owner/winemaker Brian O’Donnell, her enthusiasm grew to even greater heights. “Brian is a generous person and a marvelous mentor,” she said. “His help got us off the ground.”
In 2008, Moore and Cabot bought a ton of Pinot Noir grapes from Chehalem owner Harry Peterson Nedry and made their first-ever wine at Belle Pente. “We ended up with a total of 50 cases,” she said. “That’s when David’s parents got involved, and we haven’t looked back since.”
With financial support from Bill and Staci Moore, the partners started looking for a place to grow their own grapes. That search concluded with a fabulous find, particularly given the demand for prime vineyard property. They were able to purchase 50 acres on Ribbon Ridge featuring primarily Willakenzie soil. They planted 26 acres of estate vines in 2009, establishing a vineyard sweeping southeast to southwest at elevations of 350 to 550 feet above sea level.
Some 22 acres are devoted to the Pinot Noir clones of Pommard, Wädenswil and Dijon 113, 114 and 115. The other four are Pinot Gris.
“We are excited to have found such a great site in the Ribbon Ridge AVA,” Moore said. “It’s the smallest AVA in the state, and we are confident it will produce some of Oregon’s best wines.”
As vineyard manager, Moore is determined to preserve the natural health of its ecosystem foremost in mind. “We are focused on maintaining the natural bio-diversity of the land through minimal intervention, native cover crops and the integration of livestock,” he said
By livestock, Moore is referring to sheep. They are using a flock of 21 wool-covered, four-legged friends to naturally “mow” the cover crop they have established between rows of vines.
Despite all the activity under way, they still hadn’t found a name for their new venture. Obvious choices like Moore and Moore Family were already taken. “Finally, we hit on the idea of scrambling up the letters of our name, and there it was: Omero,” Moore said.
They didn’t consider the fact that it sounds Italian, which they’ve decided isn’t such a bad impression. Entirely by coincidence, they learned Omero translates to “Homer” in Italian. So they couldn’t resist calling one of their wines “Iliad.”
To oversee their investment as closely as possible, Moore decided to move to the site with his wife, Amanda. They built a house that allows them to oversee every step in the process.
Moore and Cabot are in the process of completing design work on a multi-level, gravity-flow winery. Winemaking is Cabot’s realm, and she can hardly wait.
In the meantime, Omero is a Carlton Winemakers Studio tenant, so the 33-year-old winemaker spends most of her time there. But she likes to oversee the vineyard as well, as that promises to pay off in the end.
“I’m familiarizing myself with every block in the vineyard,” she said. “Each one of them has its own distinctive character that I want to get the most expression from.”
Cabot is a committed advocate of whole-cluster fermentation for Pinot Noir. As the ferment begins, she actually climbs into the fermentation tank wearing a bathing suit. She works the must, finding cold spots and moving them around.
One wonders what she’ll do with Chardonnay… She says her goal is to emulate the crisp, steely freshness of a Chablis Grand Cru. Now, that’s something to aim for.
As for Pinot Gris, if her first effort is any indication, this is going to be a Gris people will relish on release. The 2011’s fresh fruit expression and piquancy on the palate are nothing short of delightful.
OMERO CELLARS TASTING ROOM
Address: 116 W. Main Street, Carlton
Hours: Daily, noon to 5 p.m.