Not Fooling Around
By Karl Klooster
Marcus Goodfellow launched his wine brand in 2002 by making 186 cases of Pinot Noir at Westrey in McMinnville.
He called the fledgling operation Matello, which means “little fool” in Italian because, as he says, “I’ve always had an affinity for jesters and fools, and it seems to be a bit of a totem. Whether it suits the winery or we suit the fool is beyond me, perhaps a bit of both.”
Goodfellow’s self-deprecating demeanor undoubtedly helps him maintain perspective in a world where Murphy’s Law often applies. And his focused approach minimizes the ever-present possibility that something could go wrong. On the flip side, his playfulness belies a serious side that tends toward the philosophical. Take, for example, the quote greeting visitors on the Matello website:
“We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.” - T.S. Eliot
Whether or not Goodfellow has yet rediscovered the place from which he came, he knows well where he is today, how he arrived there and what it means to be a winemaker in this place at this time.
As a farm boy growing up in the mid-Santiam Valley near Silverton, he formed a strong attachment to the land and respect for its significance. But growing winegrapes and making wine were still a few steps away.
“I took a weird route to get here,” he said. “I majored in kinesiology, the study of body dynamics, at Pepperdine University in Southern California. My fascination with this field stemmed from the fact that I grew from five feet to six feet tall in less than three years. I became something of a perfectionist along the way, which carried over into everything I did.”
One thing he did was to work in restaurants in the L.A. area, where his farm-centered youth raising livestock and growing food intertwined with its final destination at upper-end eateries. Perhaps even more importantly, that work experience introduced him to the world of wine and, not incidentally, the character a wine inherits from the soil and the place the grapes are grown.
“I had the opportunity to taste some of the best imported wines and discover the signature character of the type. I also met well-known people in the business who encouraged and mentored me.”
In 1994, he returned to Oregon. With the experience gained in L.A., he was able to land a job at the Heathman Hotel in downtown Portland.
The hotel’s eponymous restaurant boasted one of the region’s best wine lists, not to mention Philippe Boulot, one of the finest chefs ever to command a commercial kitchen in the Beaver State. During his years there, Goodfellow rose through the ranks to become the wine buyer. In that role, he met virtually everyone who was anyone in wine.
Those acquaintances grew into friendships and close contacts that would come into play when he began making his own wine.
Of all the fine wines from around the world he had the opportunity to taste, just one rose to the top of his most preferred list. That wine, Pinot Noir, specifically Oregon Pinot Noir, captured his full attention.
“It is a fickle grape that only grows and produces the extraordinary wines it’s capable of in places with the perfect geography, soil and climate,” Goodfellow noted. “Oregon’s warm, dry summers and cool, prolonged falls are ideal for ripening this unique and beautiful grape.
“It takes a remarkable confluence of great vineyard site, great farming and great weather, along with care, respect and attention to detail in the winery to produce the world-class Pinot Noirs that Oregon does.”
Carrying this belief to its ultimate expression, he also noted, “My one consistent demand is that the vines not be irrigated. I believe in terroir. That there is a voice to each special place that Pinot Noir is grown and that irrigation is not a part of that voice.”
From those first 186 cases in 2002 to the nearly 3,300 cases he produced from the 2012 vintage, Goodfellow has adhered unswervingly to that philosophy.
He made his wine at Westrey through 2005; then, as growth demanded, he moved to larger quarters at ADEA Wine Co. in Gaston through 2010 as Matello production rose from 800 to 2,000 cases.
“Then,” he said, “the time had come to be a winery on our own.” Goodfellow had his eye on a building in McMinnville’s Granary District, also called the Pinot Quarter because of the cluster of wineries in the vicinity.
“Like so many of the buildings there, this one belongs to Kelly McDonald,” he said. “We came to an agreement and even got a brand new look in the bargain.” He is referring to the horizontal natural wood plank treatment that now adorns the winery’s exterior at 925 N.E. Seventh St. The handsome façade attracts many admiring looks from motorists heading north on Lafayette Avenue.
It wasn’t until 2009 that Goodfellow finally quit working in Portland and moved to McMinnville. Now that he has settled in, he can fully concentrate on the job at hand: crafting dry-farmed grapes from four contracted vineyards — Whistling Ridge, Winter’s Hill, Deux Vert and Bishop Creek — all in the northern Yamhill Valley, into 15 different wines.
I love whites as much as reds,” he said. “I just can’t help myself. Being exploratory, constantly seeking to learn more is in my nature. So I’m following it right along with bowing to Mother Nature.”
Also admitting to being meticulous, he fusses over each detail. Currently, he makes six different Pinot Noirs, three single-vineyard and three blends, along with five whites and a rosé. As much as Pinot is a Matello mainstay, Goodfellow finds equal fascination in working with Syrah, Riesling and Viognier.
Collegiality is another aspect of Oregon’s wine industry he prizes. “You learn so much talking with other winemakers and growers,” he said. “And, of course, I have tenants.”
He is referring to the four wineries — Grochau, Love & Squalor, Vista Hills and Ribera — currently sharing space and equipment under Matello’s roof.
“We have a solid synergy,” Goodfellow said. “I can’t tell you how much it adds to the enjoyment of what I’m doing.”
ADDRESS: 925 N.E. 7th St., McMinnville
HOURS: Appointment only