1)  Left Coast Cellars chef Linda Harding brushes the already-hot wood-fired oven, a Forno Bravo, preparing it for the next pizza. 2) Sierra Starns rolls the dough thin for Left Coast’s popular pizzas. Elsesser 3) After topping the pizza, Left Coast Cellars chef Linda Harding slides it onto a wooden peel before moving it into the hot wood-fired oven.  4) The pizza sizzles in the oven, baking to perfection. 5) Harding slices the pizza straight out of the oven. 6) The finished pizza, Left Coast’s most distinct pie, features fresh pear, thin-sliced prosciutto, arugula and a drizzle of estate honey.  ##Photo by Kathryn Elsesser

All Fired Up

Wineries ignite passion for wood-oven pizza

By Mark Stock

As ingrained as the stuff is in meta culture, you’d think pizza has been around for millennia. The savory pies are just about everywhere, regardless of the genre of restaurant you’re dining at or the country you’re in. Yet, the modern version we’re so accustomed to is only about 130 years old.

Eager to impress royalty, an Italian baker prepared one of the first margherita pies in the 1880s. It was doubly impressive in that it reflected the colors of the national flag, with white mozarella, green basil and red tomatoes. Those in Napoli had been eating something called pizza since the 1500s, but it was more like a galette. Focaccia, a relative of sorts, dates back to the Romans, but the addition of toppings did not come until much, much later.

The Americanization of pizza was practically scripted. There’s hardly another dish that can be simultaneously so simple, so appealing and so adaptable. By mid-20th century, the TV dinner crowd was hungry for something easy to make — perhaps even deliverable. Enter a host of mass producers, buoyed by mascots ranging from Noids to tiny Roman dictators, all singing pizza’s praises.

As food culture shifts back to its rustic roots, the convenience of freezer aisle pies has given way to homespun or wood-fired versions. From the perspective of the time-traveling purist launched forward a couple of generations, unimaginable toppings are now the trend, from fruit to grilled game to pickled carrots. It’s a delectable evolution of pizza’s DNA — baked dough and tomato — into something so involved that cookbooks, shows, competitions and enthusiasts are steadfastly devoted to it.

Wood-fired ovens, of course, are about as old as baking itself. Dough has turned to bread in these brick hothouses for more than a thousand years, especially in Europe. Fast-forward to today, and the scene is not entirely different, as outdoor ovens dot the Italian countryside, inviting people to slow down and eat up.

Back in the states, there are varying styles based on both ritual and region. New York is known for its dollar slices, taken on the go and often with few toppings outside of cheese and pepperoni. Chicago has its deep dish, with thick crust and enough gusto to take on a Midwest winter. California pizza is light and airy, much like its surroundings, with veggies and other healthier toppings. Even St. Louis has its name in the pizza hat, creating an ultra-thin-crusted version with a cheese combo base.

Oregon knows a thing or two about the stuff. Access to copious amounts of seasonal ingredients makes crafting pizza in the Northwest easy and enjoyable and perhaps best yet: no two styles need to be exactly alike. Prominent names like Ken Forkish of his eponymous bakery have twirled pies so tasty they’re part of the reason people travel from all over to taste Portland’s edible offerings. Just recently, Bon Apetit named Pizza Jerk one of America’s best new restaurants.

Oregon wineries know of the power of pizza and are incorporating them as an edible backdrop for their wines. Whether created in-house or from a mobile kitchen, these pies arrive at a time when seasonal produce is at its best and harvest is in full gear. It’s been said a million times that it takes a lot of beer to make good wine, but it probably requires a good savory slice or two, as well.

Pizza and a Pour

Left Coast Cellars

4225 N. Pacific Highway 99W, Rickreall, OR 97371

General Hours: Daily, noon to 5 p.m. (summer Saturdays until 7 p.m.).
Pizza Time: Saturdays and Sundays.

Guests enjoy Left Coast’s outdoor ambiance while sipping wine and eating pizza. ##Photo by Kathryn Elsesser

Most Popular Pizza: Classic Margherita: House-made tomato sauce, fresh tomatoes, fresh mozzarella and basil.
Pairing: Left Coast Cellars 2014 Cali’s Cuvée Pinot Noir.

Most Unusual Pizza: Sliced fresh pear, thin-sliced prosciutto, arugula and a drizzle of estate honey.
Pairing: Left Coast 2015 The Orchards Pinot Gris.

What makes your pizzas and/or oven special? Our wood-fired Forno Bravo oven is fueled by oak logs from our estate. Our dough is homemade and used to hand-craft thin-crust Neapolitan-style pizza.

Pizza Advice: Get your oven as hot as possible (ours runs around 750°F).
Pre-heating a pizza stone makes this easier to achieve.


Willamette Valley Vineyards

8800 Enchanted Way S.E., Turner, OR 97392

General Hours: Sat.–Wed., 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., Thurs.–Fri., 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Pizza Time: Fri.–Sun. (see times above).

Most Popular Pizza: Caprese: vine-ripened heirloom tomatoes (Kundalini Farms), Italian buffalo mozzarella, fresh basil, sea salt and zesty basil vinaigrette.
Pairing: Willamette Valley Estate Chardonnay.

Most Unusual Pizza: Heirloom tomato sauce, zesty Italian sausage with Spanish olives and cremini mushrooms.
Pairing: Willamette Valley Bernau Block Pinot Noir.

What makes your pizzas and/or oven special? Featured in the center of our tasting room is an interactive open kitchen where winery chefs create delicious wood- and vine-fired flatbreads to pair with our wines.

Pizza Advice: Be sure to have good water for the dough and an oven that can get hot enough to crisp the bottom.


Abacela Winery

12500 Lookingglass Road, Roseburg, OR 97471

General Hours: Daily, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Pizza Time: Fridays, 4 to 6:30 p.m.

Most Popular Pizza: Margherita: oven-roasted tomatoes, basil and fresh mozzarella with olive oil.
Pairing: Abacela 2013 Dolcetto.

Most Unusual Pizza: Steak & Egg: grilled steak, arugula, blue cheese and mozzarella topped with a soft-baked egg with olive oil.
Pairing: Abacela 2013 Barrel Select Tempranillo

What makes your pizzas and/or oven special? Our Spanish-style Horno heats up to nearly 700°F, so it only takes two minutes to bake a pizza.

Pizza Advice: High heat, thin crust and not too many toppings.


LaVelle Vineyards

89697 Sheffler Road, Elmira, OR 97437

General Hours: Mon.–Thurs., noon to 5 p.m., Fri., noon to 9 p.m.; Sat.–Sun., noon to 6 p.m.
Pizza Time: Fridays, 6 to 9 p.m. (see schedule online).

Most Popular Pizza: The Three Little Pigs: marinara sauce, cheese and three different types of pork.
Pairing: LaVelle Vineyards 2011 Merlot.

Most Unusual Pizza: Sweet Baby James: marinara sauce, cheese, pineapple, Canadian bacon and sliced jalapeños.
Pairing: LaVelle Vineyards 2013 Willamette Valley Pinot Noir.

What makes your pizzas and/or oven special? Our oven is mobile!

Pizza Advice: Make your own dough.


Ankeny Vineyard

2565 Riverside Drive S., Salem, OR 97306

General Hours: Mon.–Thurs., noon–5 p.m.; Fri.–Sat., noon to 8 p.m.; Sun., noon to 6 p.m. Pizza Time: Fri.–Sun, all day.

Most Popular Pizza: Pigout Pizza: tomato sauce, garlic, onion, pepperoni, Canadian bacon, sausage, bacon, black olives, fresh basil and mozzarella.
Pairing: Ankeny Pinot Noir.

Most Unusual Pizza: Caramelized onions, prosciutto, blue cheese, fresh spinach and mozzarella.
Pairing: Ankeny Pinot Gris.

What makes your pizzas and/or oven special? We try to make everything we can as fresh as we can from scratch in house (dough, sauces, etc.). 

Pizza Advice: Plant a small garden. It can provide you with some of the
freshest ingredients for not only pizza but everything you cook.


Schmidt Family Vineyards

330 Kubli Road, Grants Pass, OR 97527    

General Hours: Sat.–Thurs., noon to 5 p.m. (all year); Fri., noon to 8 p.m. (through Oct., weather permitting). Pizza Time: Sat.–Thurs., noon to 4:30 p.m.; Fri., noon to 7:30 p.m.

Most Popular Pizza: Margherita: olive oil, salt, pepper, tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, basil.
Pairing: Schmidt Family Vineyards 2011 Merlot.

Most Unusual Pizza: Bleu Hawaiian: a traditional Hawaiian with bleu cheese crumbled on top after it is cooked.
Pairing: Schmidt Family Vineyards 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon.

What makes your pizzas and/or oven special? Our oven is outside and runs on a strict diet of Madrone for its heat and clean-burning properties. We make the marinara sauce from tomatoes out of our garden. In fact, most of our veggies come from the garden on our property.

Pizza Advice: Proof your pizza dough balls overnight in the fridge. Then hand-toss them even if the shape isn’t quite right. Do not over handle the dough or use a rolling pin to roll them out. It will squish all of the gas pockets out of the crust leaving it hard and dense.


DANCIN Vineyards

4477 South Stage Road, Medford, OR 97501

General Hours: Thurs.–Sun., noon to 8 p.m. Pizza Time: noon to 7:30 p.m.

Most Popular Pizza: Harlem Shake: House-made mac and cheese on a pizza.
Pairing: DANCIN 2015 Mélange Chardonnay.

Most Unusual Pizza: Moon Walk: Organic local peaches, caramelized onion, mascarpone cheese drizzled with balsamic reduction.
Pairing: DANCIN 2015 Chaine Chardonnay.

What makes your pizzas and/or oven special? No rolling pins allowed. Everything is made in-house, with the dough stretched by hand. True artisan style, wood-fired pizza.

Pizza Advice: Use the freshest ingredients and keep the dough recipe simple.


Lachini Vineyards

18225 N.E. Calkins Lane, Newberg, OR 97132

General Hours: Fri.–Sun., 11:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. (or by appointment).

Pizza Time: Saturdays during summer (and for private events).

Most Popular Pizza (tie): Margherita: Buffalo mozzarella, Pomodoro tomatoes, basil and extra virgin olive oil.
Pairing: Lachini Family Estate Pinot Noir.

Most Popular Pizza (tie): Wild mushrooms, lamb sausage with pesto sauce and extra virgin olive oil.
Pairing: Lachini La Bestia Cabernet Sauvignon.

Most Unusual Pizza: Pork shoulder with pear, fresh arugula and virgin olive oil.
Pairing: Lachini Rosé of Pinot Noir.

What makes your pizzas and/or oven special? Being in the middle of a beautiful vineyard with tremendous views to the south (Dundee Hills) and west (Ribbon Ridge/sunsets) is a slice of heaven.

Pizza Advice: Get the temperature of your oven ideally between 750°F to 850°F. Use fine polenta meal or semolina flour to easily slide pizza around/remove from the oven. Use fresh dough (versus store-bought), but if you’re in a pinch, Whole Foods is decent.


Silvan Ridge Winery

27012 Briggs Hill Road, Eugene, OR 97405
541 345-1945

General Hours: Daily, noon to 5 p.m.; Summer Fridays, noon to 9 p.m.
Pizza Time: Summer Fridays, 5 to 8 p.m.

Most Popular Pizza: Margherita: tomatoes, mozzarella and fresh basil.
Pairing: Silvan Ridge 2013 Pinot Noir.

Pizza Advice: Grill it on the barbecue. Eight-inch pies are perfect for sharing.


Benton-Lane Winery

23924 Territorial Road, Monroe, OR 97456

General Hours: Daily, noon to 5 p.m.
Pizza Time: Monthly during the summer and all three-day weekends (see website for dates).

Most Popular Pizza: Steve’s Napolitano Pie: Home-made smoked red pepper sauce, fresh mozzarella cheese, fresh basil and fresh cracked pepper.

Most Unusual Pizza: Smoked red pepper sauce, mozzarella, local mushrooms sautéed in butter, bacon bits, sliced pepperoncini and fresh cracked pepper. Pairings (both pizzas): Any wine that starts with Pinot (Noir, Gris, Blanc and Chardonnay). Yes, Pinot Chardonnay was the first name for Chardonnay; it is actually the child of Pinot Noir.

What makes your pizzas and/or oven special? We have been making pizza at Benton-Lane for eight years. We have a stone wood oven next to our patio overlooking the Willamette Valley. I make my own dough using native yeast developed from the strain on my grapes. My fire uses old grapevines that were replaced over the years.


Hood Crest Winery

1900 Orchard Road, Hood River, OR 97031 

General Hours: Wed.–Sun., 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Pizza Time: Same as business hours.

Most Popular Pizza: Margherita: house-made marinara, fresh mozzarella, fresh basil and garden heirloom tomatoes.
Pairing: Hood Crest 2013 Super Tesscan (Tuscan-style blend).

Most Unusual Pizza: Hood Crest Special: red wine jelly, goat cheese, caramelized onions and dried cranberries.
Pairing: Hood Crest 2013 Merlot.

What makes your pizzas and/or oven special/unique? We are known for our unique gourmet pizzas and wine pairings with our big bold red wines. We make our pizza dough and sauces in house. We are farm-to-table whenever possible; we grow on site and also use local farmers as well as artisan cheesemakers and charcuterie makers. Ours is a state-of-the-art wood-fired (with gas assistance) oven built by Patrik. We now have five-plus years’ experience cooking pizzas.

Pizza Advice: Let your dough rise two times and then wrap and refrigerate overnight for soft dough that rolls out easily, nice and thin. Don't be afraid to add fresh herbs and flavors such as cheese, olive oil and corn meal for texture, and cook it as HOT as you can. 


Moulton Falls Winery & Cider House

31101 N.E. Railroad Avenue, Yacolt, WA 98675

General Hours: Thurs., 4 to 8 p.m.; Fri., 4 to 9 p.m.; Sat., noon to 9 p.m.; Sun., noon to 6 p.m.
Pizza Time: Thurs., 4:30 to 7:30 p.m.; Fri., 5 to 8:30 p.m.; Sat., 12:30 to 8:30 p.m.; Sun., 12:30 to 5 p.m.

Most Popular Pizza: Moulton Falls Combo: marinara sauce, salami, pepperoni, sausage, sautéed onions, peppers and mushrooms topped with black olives and extra mozzarella.
Pairing: Moulton Falls Lemberger.

Most Unusual Pizza: Pesto sauce, feta cheese, roasted chicken, red onion and grape tomatoes.
Pairing: Moulton Falls Lucia Rosé of Petite Sirah.

What makes your pizzas and/or oven special? All of our crusts are rolled by hand in our kitchen and par-baked extra thin, so we can load ’em up a little more than store-bought dough. We like them crispy! We also offer handmade quesadillas and Moulton Melt Sandwiches prepared in our wood-fired oven.

Pizza Advice: There’s nothing like baking on hot bricks for a little smoky flavor and crispness.



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