Doing It to a “T”

By Karl Klooster

James and Andrea Frey feel that “fate and good fortune” have shaped their lives thus far. Most people would call it being good at what you do, knowing what you want and going for it in a way that stacks the odds for success on your side.

First, the fate part. The Freys met at graduate school in Tucson, Ariz. and quickly discovered they had a great deal in common. That’s in addition, of course, to finding each other quite interesting and attractive.

Both were country kids. Andrea was raised on a Wisconsin farm and James in California’s Santa Cruz Mountains. Both loved rural life but realized making enough money to ultimately attain it meant working in an urban environment, at least for a time.

Knowing what they wanted meant being together. Marriage and corporate careers came soon thereafter. And, both being good at them, their marriage was mutually supportive and their careers lucrative. Children were the big bonus.

Rural being a given, fate stepped in once again to bring wine into the mix. Yosemite Valley was their honeymoon destination, but the spectacular site was snowbound when they arrived, so they headed north to a warmer valley called Napa.

If the newlywed couple wasn’t into wine when they hit Highway 29, they were by the time they had repeatedly tarried on the way back down the Silverado Trail. It was, apparently, love at first sip.

Ultimately, they agreed that their palates were most pleasured by Pinot Noir and Riesling. A backyard vineyard and home winemaking merely whetted their appetites for more and better.

Good fortune came their way in the form of good investments, which, once again, sounds much more like keen insight than kismet. Regardless, now having the means, they began looking for a rural place where those two grapes could flourish.

It didn’t take long for them to put the North Willamette Valley at the top of their list. In 2002, James made two unsuccessful solo trips in search of potential property.

The following year, the couple traveled together and, the day before their planned return home, came across 52 acres in the coastal foothills just northwest of McMinnville. The property had a neglected old farmhouse but a lot of potential.

James’ parents, who had recently retired, offered to fix up the farmhouse. Good fortune again, as far as the Freys were concerned. Two years later, the house was restored and 22 acres of Pinot Noir were in the ground.

But this was only step one in the master plan for Trisaetum, named after the Frey’s two children, Tristen and Tatum. To do it right, they needed an additional vineyard with a suitable winery site.

At this point, what could be called a serendipitous series of acquaintances brought things together.

They consulted with Kevin Chambers, chief executive of Oregon Vineyard Supply and co-owner of Resonance Vineyards. Chambers introduced them to Lisa Neal, vineyard real estate specialist and co-owner of Coeur de Terre Vineyard.

Neal found a site on Ribbon Ridge. Her husband, Scott, lent them equipment and advice. Matt Novak and Luke Pedotti, vineyard managers of Results Partners, of which Chambers is also a part owner, were engaged to develop the vineyard.

The site Neal selected borders Beaux Freres on one side and Brick House on the other. Their respective owners and winemakers, Mike Etzel and Doug Tunnell, also have been generous with their advice and encouragement.

The defining component in this synergistic scenario came when Josh Bergström agreed to work with the Freys on their winery design as well as consult on both vineyard management and winemaking.

With such a high-powered team, how could things turn out any way but favorable? Frey said he couldn’t have found a better way to learn than first-hand from such acknowledged experts. He and his co-winemaker, Greg McClellan, have benefited greatly from the experience.

Putting the final stroke to the creation of this masterpiece-in-the-making, no expense was spared in the winery or vineyards.

Trisaetum’s winery is not only a handsome physical structure; its design and construction reflect careful thought as to function and tasteful artistry as to form.

That shouldn’t be surprising once one knows that James Frey is an accomplished artist and photographer. Just off the tasting room is a 1,500-square-foot gallery devoted to his work.

Acrylic on canvas serves as the medium for large, abstract expressionistic statements, some incorporating grapevines and vineyard soil collage. Photographs of real-life objects take on their own abstraction captured through light and reflected color.

The winery, a paragon of efficiency and state-of-the-art equipment, incorporates innovative techniques to achieve a meticulously crafted end product.

A vacuum device normally used in the berry industry sucks leaves, particles and even insects away as the freshly picked grapes are off-loaded to the sorting table. Double-sorting ensures removal of green or moldy berries from the clusters.

More innovations occur on the lower level. Gravity-fed conduits are built into the foundation. The barrel cellar is a manmade cave containing 12 arched niches on either wall, each niche capable of storing 10 barrels.

Frey’s artwork graces the labels of the two artist series Pinots in their first-ever estate releases from the 2007 vintage. A third is called Estate. All three, blends from their Coast Range and Ribbon Ridge vineyards, exhibit classic characteristics.

The two Rieslings, Trisaetum and Lassa, express totally different profiles but equally charming, Germanic varietal attributes.

Does all this sound like merely fate or good fortune? If it is, then it’s the kind most of us would like to have. Either that, or we can visit Trisaetum Estate, enjoy their young, but already excellent Pinots and Rieslings, and hope that some of the luck will rub off.


Trisaetum Estate
Address: 18401 Ribbon Ridge, Newberg
Hours: 11 a.m.–4 p.m., Thur.–Sun.
Information: 503-538-9898 •

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