Tasting room manager Jim McGuire pours a glass for a guest inside Furioso’s modern space. ##Photo by Laura Swimmer
Furioso Vineyards’ tasting room uses glass for walls, offering an incredible view of the surrounding Dundee Hills. ##Photo by Laura Swimmer

Furiously Unforgettable

Dundee Hills’ new winery a work of art

By Jade Helm

Angular. Edgy. Modern. Industrial. Furioso Vineyards’ tasting room constructed of steel and glass — lots of it — truly commands attention along Worden Hill Road, a popular wine country route laden with vines and visitors. Inside, clean lines and simple, unadorned furnishings abound, but, no tasting bar. In fact, the setting feels more like a cool new museum lobby.

In contrast to the minimalist aesthetic, the scale and detail of the surrounding scenery proves the greatest impact. Glass walls, 14 feet high, offer visitors a bird’s eye view of the estate vines just beyond. The “curtain” raises on the magic of winemaking with a glass walled viewing corridor into the cellar; while windows in the floor offer a peek into the barrel room below.

Jade Helm

Jade Helm is the primary author of Tasting Pour, a blog about wine, cocktails and food. Her expertise is evidenced by credentials from the Society of Wine Educators (Certified Specialist in Wine) and the Wine and Spirits Education Trust (Diploma in Wine and Spirits) and from the Court of Master Sommeliers (Certified Sommelier).

This space captures owner Giorgio Furioso’s style. His artistic mark is evident in the architecture of the building and the design of the furniture, more comfortable than it looks. Furioso created the oversize photographs documenting the establishment of Trovato Vineyard, a more recent holding in the Yamhill-Carlton AVA. Even the label design is from a soldered watercolor paper he burned into beauty. A sample of his vast personal art collection is also on view.

Furioso’s initial love was art, and his aptitude and eye have permeated every project throughout a diverse career. By age 30, he was a tenured professor and head of the art department at Ohio University. He expanded that passion for art into residential and commercial real estate, where he designed buildings combining style and function. His other projects include a film company, art gallery and restaurant. Furioso laughs, “I jokingly told a friend I did not know what else I can lose money on.” When the friend suggested vineyards, Furioso answered, “No.” This was 20 years ago.

Before art became his passion, winemaking was a tradition in his Italian family. Furioso’s most vivid early memories are of his father and grandfather making wine to share with friends and family. With a desire to launch his own wine project and a penchant for Pinot Noir, he bought a vineyard. But not just any vineyard.

Previously Juliard Vineyard, the eight acres of primarily own-rooted Pommard became Furioso Vineyard in 2015. Furioso was thrilled to lay claim to this historic site, and its sought-after fruit, which in past vintages supplied reputable wineries such as Winderlea, Erath and Arterberry Maresh. He’s also establishing the previously mentioned Trovato Vineyard — his mother’s maiden name — located between Willakenzie Estate and Fairsing Vineyard in the Yamhill-Carlton AVA. Here, 22.5 acres are planted, mostly to Pinot Noir, as well as Chardonnay and a little Friulano. Various Pinot Noir clones have been planted for intentional diversity; the first fruits are being made into Furioso wines in the 2018 vintage.

While growing grapes is a new forte, finding talent is not. “I hire really well,” Giorgio Furioso boasts of his wine team, “and I give people the opportunity to shine.” This is a method proven over a career of successful entrepreneurship. It began, though, with a boy smart enough to listen to his mother. “Momma used to say, ‘Tell me who you’re with, and I’ll tell you who you are.’ So I surround myself with smart people.”

This is evident with the quality of the tasting room experience. Guests may notice attentive, knowledgeable attendants in an unrushed experience filled with tidbits about the soil, grapes and vintage. The man behind this level of customer service is Jim Maguire, the direct-to-consumer and tasting room manager. A former naval officer, Maguire recognizes the value of training beyond the job description. His team cross-trains on all aspects of the wine business at Furioso Vineyards. He’s cultivating an environment that draws people with a passion for wine and planting seeds that build lengthy wine careers.

Furioso’s flair for recognizing talent shows in the quality of the wine. Joining him as winemaker is Dominique Mahé. Originally from Brittany, France, Mahé studied wine science at Charles Sturt University in New South Wales and was a “flying winemaker for a while.” In 2002, Mahé discovered Oregon’s potential for Pinot Noir and established roots. Jared Etzel serves as head of wine. Growing up in the vineyards of the Willamette Valley, Etzel received his bachelor’s in enology and viticulture from Oregon State University and continued his education working vintages in the Willamette Valley, Rioja, Priorat, Napa and the Sonoma Coast. Together, he and Mahé execute Furioso’s vision.

That vision is again infused with Furioso’s background in art and design and his beginnings with European wine. Modern art speaks most to him. He explains that to appreciate modern art, one must learn the language of the individual artist. That language at Furioso Vineyards begins with the choice of land. Mahé likes to say, “Our vineyard is in your glass.” The language extends to the sensibility of winemaking itself. Furioso’s favorite paintings reveal the skill, the hand of the artist; his favorite wines do the same.

At Furioso Vineyards, those skills are shown with leaner, European-style wines. Lower alcohol and higher acid make them ideal to pair with food. “In Europe wine is not a cocktail,” exclaims Furioso. His wines are harvested at 22 to 23 brix and are unfined, unfiltered and naturally fermented.

Indeed, the 2016 Kalita Vineyard Pinot Noir tastes friendly and fruity — without being jammy — and is quite quaffable served slightly chilled. The 2015 La Linea Pinot Noir shows a lush quality without being overly so. The 2016 La Linea Chardonnay feels alluring yet elegant, with notes of toasted tangerine zest and creamy marshmallow custard. Overall, a lighter hand with alcohol levels reveals the nuances of flavor and structure — the entire lineup can be enjoyed without the need for a siesta.


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