Maestro of Malbec

Meet the man leading the movement

Valcan Cellar’s owner and winemaker Juan Pablo (JP) Valot.  ##Photo by John Valls
The “trifecta” of Valcan Cellars: “Bare,” the pale “white” Malbec, the pink is rosé of Malbec, and “Carmin,” a vibrant crimson-colored sparkling Malbec. ##Photo provided by Valcan Cellars
Attendees sampling Oregon-produced Malbec wines at Malbec in the City. ##Photo by Foundry 503
A tango dancing demonstration during Malbec in the City. ##Photo by Foundry 503
A lineup with some of the many Valcan Cellars’ offerings. ##Photo provided by Valcan Cellars

By Paula Bandy

“To me, Malbec should be king,” says Juan Pablo (JP) Valot, Valcan Cellars’ co-founder, owner and winemaker. “It has everything you’re looking for in a wine. Malbec sits right in the middle. If you don’t know what everyone likes, choose Malbec.” Argentinian-born Valot knows great Malbec. In fact, he’s a veritable wealth of wine knowledge. He considers Malbec a hidden gem in Oregon and sees it as the bridge between Pinot Noir and Cabernet Sauvignon. “One of the best places in the world for Malbec is Oregon,” Valot states.

Valot, whose heritage is French and Italian, was raised within a family of wine industry entrepreneurs in Mendoza, Argentina. He visited Oregon…went back to Argentina…then returned, and met Doris Cancel, now his wife. Valot has been making wine in Oregon for a couple decades, with all but the last two as winemaker for Sylvan Ridge. He began working with Malbec 15 years ago and immediately became a vocal advocate for the grape variety. Valot and Cancel created Valcan Cellars in 2012 as a legacy for their two children.

The name Valcan comes from the blending of their two surnames. The wine labels are stylized from a petroglyph of two kissing birds. Inspired by original indigenous drawings, the design was created to honor his wife’s Puerto Rican heritage and Valot’s Argentinian family.
In 2019, two short years after releasing their first wines, Valcan Cellars received a Best of Show award at Oregon Wine Experience for its 2015 Syrah, sourced from Belmont Vineyard in the Rogue Valley.

We spoke while he was preparing for a combined work and leisure trip to Argentina. He explains, “to see how things are going– next month, they’ll start harvesting. Like back in June, when I was in Tuscany, sometimes I see methods very unique to the place. Occasionally, you see techniques that can be brought back, that could work here. I like to be involved in different ideas so I don’t get isolated from the rest of the world.” He continues, laughing, “So many cultures are making wine, it’s overwhelming sometimes to think about the amount of time people spend on wine.”

Valot promotes tradition in innovative ways, from the creation of the first white Malbec in the U.S. to the continuing reinterpretation of Malbec in a dozen unique styles. His “trifecta” comprises his original three Malbecs: “Bare,” the pale “white” Malbec, the pink is rosé of Malbec, and “Carmin,” a vibrant crimson-colored sparkling Malbec. Each represents the distinctive taste of the grape but with individual flavor “hues,” or saturations.
Valcan Cellars’ tasting room is the first in the heart of downtown Corvallis. Located in the Old World Deli building, you can bring in deli fare from next door to enjoy while sipping your favorite Valcan wine.

Currently, Valot makes eight different styles of Malbec, plus four blends. From white, to “Doris,” a Méthode Champenoise named for his wife (released at last year’s inaugural Malbec in the City) along with a traditional red he calls Black Malbec. Valot states, “Innovative Malbecs are fun and exciting.”

He also couldn’t help making Piquette and Pét-nat Malbecs. “I always thought it a crime basically when you do a white version of a red variety,” he muses. “You gently press and the skins are intact; they’re beautiful, full of color, flavor and aroma…the white wines are beautiful, but then you discard the skin…” Valcan Piquette is a sparkling made from the skins not used during his white Malbec production. Valot says, “I’ve discovered that unusual wines draw new people…innovation has been great for me.”

Valot prefers to disgorge the Pét-nat and Piquette (something many winemakers don’t do). These new, rather trendy wines are often viewed more “au naturel” by leaving sediment within the bottle. “Lots of sediment is not my style,” Valot explains. “They aren’t filtered, but, by disgorging, less sediment remains in the bottle. I love the color and want people to see and drink it when it’s crystal clear.”

“Valcan Cellars did great in 2023,” says Valot. “We came out with two new labels, Famille Valot and Famiglia Gerlini; it was the first year of our new wine club and Malbec in the City came to life.”

Malbec– the grape

The history of Malbec goes back about 2,000 years. Originating in France, it has long been one of the few grapes allowed to blend with Bordeaux wines, intensifying complexity. While bold, dark and full-bodied in flavor, the grapes have found luster as a popular Argentine varietal in the sunny, warm vineyards of the mountainous Mendoza region. The Malbec there tend to juicier tastes with softer tannins and floral notes of violet. Rogue Valley Malbec sits somewhere between the two regions, with touches of floral and smooth tannins, full-bodied with dark red fruits, including plum and raspberry.

Malbec, multi-layered and complex, tends toward a more rustic style with notes of spice and smoke, combined with hints of violet. Southern Oregon, both Rogue and Umpqua Valleys, grow high quality Malbec because the thick-skinned grapes prefer sunshine, drier weather, and higher elevations, with diurnal temperature shifts of hot days and cool nights. Valot observes, “More sunshine means more tannic– like melatonin.”

The expression of Malbec is terroir-driven, presenting various characteristics depending on the environment. Versatility is often used as a descriptor. It’s an easier grape to grow in Southern Oregon, producing a “more minimalistic and hands-off approach.” Valot explains, “You need to start with outstanding grapes in order to make outstanding wine. Even for me, I was initially surprised at the quality. When the overall quality is good, the grapes are superb. Malbec is really a natural for Southern Oregon.”

Malbec in the City

Last April, Malbec in the City, the premier event showcasing Malbec wine in the U.S., took place in Portland. Only Oregon-grown and produced Malbec were presented. There were 18 Oregon wineries, with over 40 Malbec wines available for tasting and sale. “The Rogue Valley was the most represented at Malbec in the City,” states Valot, the event founder. “While there were some Northern Oregon wineries present at the event,” he continues, “the grapes were mainly sourced from Southern Oregon, with about 90 percent coming from the Rogue Valley.”

Since World Malbec Day is April 17, Valot designed Malbec in the City as a kind of “cultural immersion,” featuring tango dancers, live music and finger foods that pair particularly well with the wine. While he wants people to focus on wine, he considers this event a “show where people can relax, be immersed in wines and enjoy the entertainment as well.” Malbec in the City focuses on creating an experience around a particular wine– Malbec in all its variations. Valot says, “We must have diversity on different levels.”

The second Malbec in the City takes place April 20, noon to 5 p.m., at Castaway Portland, with the first hour exclusively for VIP guests. Tickets are at “It’s all about promoting Oregon Malbec. You can buy wine at the event directly from participating wineries and take it home. It’s great for small label wineries. We sold a lot of wine last year.”

“Malbec,” Valot concludes, “is easy to say. Malbec is Malbec. It’s Malbec in French, it’s Malbec in English, and Malbec in Spanish.” Salud!

Saturday, April 20
noon – 5 p.m.
1900 N.W. 18th Ave., Portland
$80 General admission
$100 Early entry

Valcan Cellars
341 S.W. Second St., Suite 3, Corvallis
(541) 360-3194

Paula Bandy, a writer transplant from the flatlands of Illinois to the mountains of Southern Oregon, is currently the bi-weekly wine columnist for Rogue Valley Times. She’s covered wine, lifestyle, food and home for Southern Oregon Magazine, and additional national and international academic publications. She was a writer and on-air commentator for Jefferson Public Radio, the Southern Oregon University NPR affiliate, for a decade. She’s also a Certified Sherry Wine Specialist (CSWS) and jewelry designer, pb~bodyvine. Connect with her at

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