NEWS / FEATURES

#8 Story: An Elevated Lifestyle

First Published in the November 2009 Edition
Story by Karl Klooster | Photography by Andrea Johnson

Oregon winery people are one industrious bunch. The very nature of the business demands it. Successfully growing great winegrapes and making fine wine is a full-time job and more, especially for hands-on owners.

Some, however, manage to find time for projects that reach well beyond the norm. None more so, quite apparently, than Laurent Montalieu and Danielle Andrus Montalieu. This couple draw their energy and inspiration from a seemingly bottomless well.

Consider what they have already done together, add to it an ambitious venture they launched just two years ago, then stack on top of that their newest undertaking. The sum total seems mind-boggling, yet the Montalieus take it all in stride.

Their latest project departs from previous ones in that it is as much about real estate as wine. Still, the two go hand in hand. The one couldn’t happen without the other. But, before getting into the details, a recap of the past ten years provides perspective.

In 1999, the then engaged couple bought 80 acres of prime property in the Yamhill-Carlton District AVA. The vineyard they planted was appropriately named Domaine Danielle Laurent.

It’s the estate grape source for Soléna Cellars, a small, premium winery they started in 2001. As a top-tier, boutique producer, Soléna stands alone. But it has proved to be just the first piece of a considerably larger picture.

In 2003, the Montalieus partnered with local investor John Niemeyer to form N.W. Wine Company. The impetus for this new entity came from Laurent’s recognition of a rapidly emerging industry need.

More and more growers wanted to make their own wine but couldn’t afford to build their own winery. It presented the perfect opportunity to start a custom crush operation that would attract the best of these potential customers.

The former Pillsbury pie plant on N.E. Orchard in McMinnville, where Niemeyer’s Oregon Wine Storage & Services was already operating, fit their needs to a T.

They turned the 115,000-square-feet facility into a state-of-the-art winery. Today, NW Wine Company processes more than 85,000 cases annually for 25 clients from 55 vineyards and 15 AVAs, making it the sixth largest winery in Oregon.

As a complementary adjunct, they opened the NW Wine Bar in downtown McMinnville in 2006. The wine tasting and retail outlet features a selection of local and imported wines that patrons can enjoy in a contemporary setting along with light, bistro-style fare.

Laurent’s 22 years of experience in winemaking lies at the core of all these endeavors. From his native Bordeaux to California to Oregon, he developed and honed a high level of knowledge and skills now being put to most effective use.

No less knowledgeable about the inner workings of the wine industry, Danielle began working at her family’s winery in the Napa Valley at the tender age of ten.

She helped her father, Gary Andrus, launch Archery Summit in Dundee and now applies her management skills and experience to overseeing the couple’s expanding enterprises.

Once again in partnership with Niemeyer, in 2007 they purchased one of Oregon’s oldest and largest vineyards. Hyland Vineyards, located in the McMinnville AVA’s coastal foothills southwest of McMinnville, was first planted in 1971.

Its 129 planted acres consist of Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Riesling and Müller-Thurgau, all of which are pre-sold under contract to top wineries in the area including Bergström, Ponzi, Penner Ash, Erath, Sokol Blosser, Retour and Soléna.

Wineries, wine bars, custom winemaking, vineyard ownership and development. None are new concepts. And done well, they’re all proven winners. Building on this base, the Montalieus decided to stretch traditional boundaries a bit.

Their recent endeavors embody archetypal entrepreneurship, calculated risk taking, gambling on your gut instincts reinforced by a keen sense of selected markets.

Given that mindset, in 2008 the Montalieus embarked on an entirely new and innovative undertaking in partnership with winegrowers Steve and Marian Bailey.

Grand Cru Estates is a private club offering members the experience of handcrafting their own Pinot Noir each year under the tutelage of Laurent and fellow winemaker Tony Rynders.

Additional benefits included numerous wine and dining experiences executed by Chef Philippe Boulot, a James Beard Award recipient and culinary director at the Heathman Restaurant in Portland, plus educational seminars and exclusive use of members-only facilities incorporated into the innovative Grand Cru Estates winery, which became operational just prior to the 2009 harvest.

As if all this weren’t enough, the announcement of the couple’s latest project tops them all—literally. The venerable Hyland Vineyards, situated at an elevation of 600 to 800 feet, will soon be called Hyland Vineyard Estates.

The Montalieus and Niemeyer have divided the entire 154-acres into nine parcels ranging in size from 7.6 to 15.67 acres. The property, all on a south-facing hillside, is reached by a private road, offering total privacy.

Criteria determining the configuration of each parcel included an advantageously situated residential site and producing vineyard acreage of sufficient size to generate annual agricultural revenue that meets at least minimum state land-use requirements.

Longtime viticulturist Joel Myers, owner of Vinetenders, manages Hyland Vineyard and, under the planned ownership agreements, will remain in that vital role. Grapes will be sold under long-term agreements.

A bumpy ride in an SUV is all one needs to quickly grasp the uniqueness and exclusivity of this offering. Although some parcels afford more dramatic settings and/or more spectacular views than others, not one of them fails to excite the imagination.

Owning a custom-built home, with vineyards at one’s doorstep in a rural environment of serenity and seclusion may be out of reach for all but a few, but envisioning what it would be like costs nothing.

Merely having the opportunity to take a look at Hyland Vineyard Estates a few years from now would, in itself, be a thrill. Those of you who might be in the position to do more than merely look, can call Kendall Bergström at Equity Group at 503-799-2596.

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