Once Upon a Wine
Couple offers storybook experience in Oregon City
Pass the “ruins” marked with detached columns and step onto the patio of what resembles a 12th century medieval church and enjoy the view of the gardens. Below is a pond where catfish playfully bump Mallard ducks from below, and a stone wall surrounds the sweeping view. Swings, benches and cast iron urns with tumbling greenery create hidden nooks. This must be a fairy tale — complete with a grumpy goose best avoided.
Wait, there is a door. It is unlocked. A peek is too tempting. Turn the knob, shed your jacket and clear your fogged eyeglasses; you have entered a jungle.
Moorish lanterns hang from the ceiling, touching banana leaves reaching up. Coffee beans, navel oranges and lemon trees intermingle with a twisted orange glass sculpture. In the corner are plants with thick bare trunks reminiscent of ancient grapevines. A slightly worn Grecian carved wood door decorates the front of a bar; behind it, Burl Mostul has changed from his “gardening” baseball cap to his “tasting room” version. A smile is audible in his voice. He and his wife, Cindy, answer questions about the plants until the enchantment subsides enough to realize: Oh, yes, wine is the purpose of this visit.
You are not standing in an ancient Romanesque structure. You haven’t even left Oregon. You are in Oregon City. It is not a land of magic, but it is the dream of Burl and Cindy Mostul, Villa Catalana Cellars.
“You just have to take risks. Have the courage to try something and forgive yourself if it does not work out.” Burl’s philosophy has steered him to be a surfer, build a clinical psychology practice, introduce hardy banana trees to the Northwest U.S., design a home inspired by Sant Climent de Taüll and, most recently, start a winery.
The couple’s story begins on their second date, driving through old Portland neighborhoods to admire houses. “I wondered what we were doing, but we discovered something very important,” says Cindy. “We had very similar tastes.”
Five years later, they married, and soon, Burl retired from a 20-year career in clinical psychology to pursue a second career: A hobby that began with a book and shovel grew into a nursery business supplying 20 local garden centers with unusual tropical plants.
The Mostuls purchased and cleared a 14-acre hay field in Oregon City and relocated their growing nursery. They were still missing the home they had envisioned during their courting days, one that appeared cobbled by peasants 900 years ago with a conservatory lush with jungle plants. How can you find that in Oregon City?
You build it.
“We always wanted a stone house but did not think we could afford it,” Burl says. So, he learned stonework, and this daring couple, with a minimal crew, built their dream house. Both had grown up on farms resulting in do-it-yourself mentalities, so it felt perfectly normal to build it themselves. “Professional builders do perfect work and then mess it up to make it look authentic and rustic. We just kept our mistakes,” Burl explains.
The property features three ponds, all created by the Mostuls. A “cupola” rises beside the water. It is actually the end of a fiberglass tank covered in blue tile — a junkyard project by the creative Burl. The villa is surrounded by “stone” walls made of broken concrete — the product of 50 dump trucks and the determination of Cindy. Burl points out a grotto where he intends to add stalagmites, stalactites and a dragon. It truly is like a picture from a storybook.
Beautiful home, hobby turned career, freedom to travel — most people would have propped up their feet and enjoyed. Lucky for everyone else, this was not the end of the efforts. Yet another pastime has transformed into a third career.
In 2009, Burl and a friend experimented making a small amount of wine for their own consumption. By 2012, Burl had found a vineyard in Molalla with great soil for Pinot Noir. Some help from Christopher Bridge Winery, courage and, of course, superb grapes started the Mostuls on their next project: a winery.
Winemaking facilities were added, and the conservatory became a tasting room. Villa Catalana Cellars was born, and now visitors can enter a story book and sip.
The architecture may be Romanesque and the landscape tropical, but the wines are all Oregon. As a small producer, fewer than 500 cases, Burl seeks small vineyards with the ideal marriage of soil and varietal. Villa Catalana’s current offerings include Pinot Gris, Chardonnay and Syrah. Cabernet Sauvignon, a Grenache rosé and Petite Syrah will also be released.
The 2012 Pinot and Cascade Berry fortified wine liquor represent the couple’s flagship offerings. They gained the courage to enter these wines into competition and both won gold medals at the 2015 San Francisco Chronicle’s Wine Competition — the Cascade Berry liquor is almost as unique as an Oregon City home modeled after a Spanish church. With only a 24-hour shelf life, these berries last much longer inside a bottle, and the taste is similar to a scoopful of warm jelly on your grandmother’s preserving day — except with alcohol.
Again, growing up on farms, Burl and Cindy could not resist planting the grapevines themselves. Three years ago, they established one acre of Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir, and will soon have the opportunity to work with some of their own crop in addition to supporting small specialized vineyards.
The conservatory/greenhouse extraordinaire and adjacent patio beg for a party, and the Mostuls are happy to oblige. The winery hosts events combining music, food and wine within the fairy tale setting. Their Art in the Garden also offers the opportunity to see artists at work and buy paintings so fresh, they are still wet.
The Mostuls chose to make their dreams a reality, surrounding themselves with beauty. They believe “a pleasant environment brings out the best in people,” confirmed by Burl and Cindy, who can be found hosting guests in the newly opened tasting room, Saturdays, 1 to 4 p.m.
Information about monthly gourmet wine pairing dinners and other events can be found at www.villacata
Jade Helm is the author of Tasting Pour, a blog about wine and food. She is a Certified Specialist in Wine (Society of Wine Educators) and has earned a diploma in wine and spirits from WSET.
Villa Catalana Cellars
Address: 11900 S. Criteser Road, Oregon City
Hours: Saturdays, 1–4 p.m.