Utopia Vineyard is the embodiment of a dream that began in the mind of its owner, Daniel Warnshuis. He and his family live on the property, in that big house you’ll see as you turn off of Ribbon Ridge Road.
After college, Daniel returned to his home in California and began a successful career in Silicon Valley. Along the way, he opened a retail store in Napa and began spending time with Napa Valley growers and winemakers. Utopia Estate Vineyard was born in 2002 after talks with Oregon growers at the International Pinot Noir Celebration led Daniel on a search for a vineyard site. He found a parcel located just above the old Bergstrom farm on Ribbon Ridge that seemed ideal, and subsequent soil tests proved it to be so. The Utopia Estate Vineyard is perfectly situated at an elevation of five hundred feet in the heart of the Ribbon Ridge Appellation in the Northern Willamette Valley in Yamhill County, Oregon. It consists of a total of 16.8 acres of sloping contiguous south-facing hillsides of Willakenzie soils.
Daniel’s first commercial vintage produced just 413 cases in 2006. It was a good start, but the 2007 was even better, winning the Grand Award of Excellence, the Gold Medal in the 2010 Oregon Wine Awards for Pinot Noir over $35. Subsequent vintages have continued to improve and the first private reserve release, Paradise, was produced as part of the 2009 vintage. In addition to world class Pinot Noir, Utopia also produces Pinot Blanc, made exclusively from certified grapes grown in the Willamette Valley and Pinot Noir Rose, vinified using the French Saignee method. New Chardonnay plantings were added in 2010 and a well appointed tasting room with outdoor seating was built that same year.
Great Wine Begins in the Vineyard
As any wine expert will tell you, location is the most important factor when it comes to wine. Where the grapes are grown is what makes a wine unique. It’s the combination of location, climate, soil structure and other factors that influence the makeup of the wine grapes that grow in a particular vineyard.
The first four-acre block to be planted was comprised of six different types of high-quality Pinot Noir grapes, known to produce fine wines with strong, assertive flavors and character. These grape clones planted in 2002 were Dijon 115, 667, and 777, along with the Pommard, Wadensville and Swan clones. Daniel chose these particular clones because of their diverse, highly desirable flavors, earthy aromas, and interesting spice characteristics on the finish. Three years later, a second planting of five one-acre blocks was added. It contains five different Heirloom or Old World clones from old vine cuttings, the youngest being thirty-seven years old. All of them came from famous and well-established Pinot Noir vineyards in Oregon and California. They were chosen for their blending potential, and they’ve provided Utopia Wines with “maximum clonal diversity,” one key factor in producing wines that are complex and consistently flavorful.
Careful attention to every detail from the vine to the bottle is essential. Utopia is fortunate to have an outstanding vineyard team led by Stirling Fox of Stirling Wine Grapes, working with us to produce the finest wines possible. Stirling's overriding philosophy is to work closely with the winemaker to achieve a consistently high level of quality and balance each year. Needless to say, we’re delighted to have him on our team.
All of the practices that he and Daniel oversee on the vineyard are designed to support sustainable farming and by extension, high level quality fruit production. Utopia was L.I.V.E. certified in 2008 and therefore follows international standards of sustainable viticulture. The vineyard is dry-farmed organically because the holistic nature of this practice ensures grape quality, complexity of flavor and water conservation. Through dry-farming, the deep growing plants interact with the microbes in the soil, absorbing nutrients and minerals that contribute to an increased complexity and structure in the finished product. Come harvest, the fruit is hand-picked and the time from when a cluster of grapes is picked to arrival at the winery is less than one hour.
The Utopia Vineyard is located adjacent to our tasting room. Be sure to take a stroll among these wonderful vines when you visit us.