Bill Holloran (left) and winemaker Mark La Gasse prepare the new winery in the Dundee Hills, where Holloran Wines will now be produced. ##Photo by Neil Zawicki
A vintage Silver Streak trailer doubles as an eclectic employee lounge at the Hollorans’ Le Pavillon Vineyard, not far from the new facility. ##Photo by Neil Zawicki

All Set to Grow

Holloran expands with facility in Dundee Hills

By Neil Zawicki

After quitting his day job — or rather, selling his Oregon City-based software business in 2013 — Bill Holloran had finally freed up more time to devote to his second career of many years: running a winery. Three years later, his dedication remains and his brand has grown, along with his square footage.

Holloran’s new 14,000-square-foot facility in the Dundee Hills is almost complete. A jump from 6,000 square feet in West Linn, where Holloran Vineyard Wines has been in production since 1999, the winery, which broke ground in May 2015, will open early September.

If anyone can make the case for the extra room, it’s Holloran’s winemaker, Mark La Gasse. Since 2005, he’s been crafting wine for the growing company, challenged to work efficiently with a barrel chalking system.

Built by Andrew Scott Construction, the new facility contains a luxurious amount of space to stack barrels, not to mention a drive-in cooler to hold fruit before or during processing. But maybe the biggest boon to the new space is its surroundings, a sea of vineyards. Of Holloran’s 45 planted acres, 20 surround the winery at ANA Vineyard.

Holloran acquired ANA in 2013. Planted in the mid-1970s, the site holds some of the most mature vines in the Dundee Hills. In addition to blocks using vertical shoot position (VSP) trellising, some of the old, self-rooted Pommard Pinot Noir blocks utilize Scott Henry trellising.

“[Scott Henry] spreads the nitrogen out during flowering to minimize bunch stem necrosis and shatter, which these old vines are often prone to,” said Holloran. 

He says the difference in trellising is dramatic for the older plants, but he has to give credit to his neighbor, Dick Erath, gesturing to his house on the next hill. Having lived in the hills for likely as long as anyone, Erath knows of what he speaks, says Holloran.

“In between hands of poker, I listen to Dick,” said Holloran, as he eases his extra-cab truck onto a slope, rolling past the vines on the way to Le Pavillon, his other Dundee Hills vineyard.

At 10 acres, Le Pavillon, planted between 1972 and 1974, produces Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Riesling — with some grafted to Pinot Gris. The name derives from its easily recognized gazebo — seen from Worden Hill Road.

Back in the truck, Holloran speaks with a casual humor about the hair-splitting technicalities involving planted acres versus total acreage, which goes as well for the new winery; while the total usable space is 14,000 square feet, the footprint is 12,000, and he wonders aloud which one is more relevant.

Still, he had to take a second to recall the total size of his new building in the first place, which brings us to the Silver Streak. Counting the pavilion, the trailer — think Airstream — is the third structure among the two vineyards, and clearly his wife, Eve’s, favorite. We’re driving to it because she mentioned it as a must-see when we arranged the interview, and Bill was both unprepared but not surprised to be including it on the tour.

Parked under a shed roof at Le Pavillon, the classic trailer offers a patio outside and a brightly appointed interior — reminiscent of a Frida Kahlo painting — complete with couches, throw pillows and a gas range. Acquired in 2003, it’s used as a sort of employee lounge, a retro oasis on the hilltop.

This theme of structures seems to be indicative of the Holloran story, beginning with the original West Linn house and horse barn Bill and Eve bought in 1999, from which they produced 500 cases that first year.

“I guess that put it just north of a hobby,” Holloran said of their inaugural production.

Four years later, the couple expanded production and moved it into an adjacent pole barn. Now, they’re set to produce 6,000 cases this year, selling in 16 states, plus the United Kingdom and Canada. Still, citing the fact his son is now 22, Holloran considers the new facility and their planned move to a smaller house at their La Chenaie Vineyard near Rickreall more of a downsizing.

While Holloran produces almost 80 percent Pinot, 10 percent Tempranillo, plus Chardonnay and Riesling, it is the latter that captured the attention of La Grasse. He discovered and was impressed by Holloran’s Riesling while working as a buyer. After earning his winemaking degree from Chemeketa’s Northwest Viticulture Center, he began working with the same fruit.

Standing in the empty new facility, voices echoing through the cavernous space, La Gasse, ready for his 12th vintage, muses aloud that it’ll be a very busy place in September. In the meantime, he, Holloran and a part-time assistant are doing the actual moving, gradually transitioning over summer.

And while the new building is quite modern, the towering French oak barrels stand as a symbol of the traditionalism that truly marks Holloran wines.

Neil Zawicki landed in the Willamette Valley after meeting and marrying the most beautiful woman he will ever see. There are children now. In the years before, he spent his time as a reporter in Alaska, and a sailor with an address in a California marina. He’s a student of history, a painter sometimes and a late night guitar player.

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