North of McMinnville, Oregon, in the Northern Willamette Valley, Chris James Cellars lies nestled amongst the rolling hills of Carlton. Our award-winning winery, vineyard, and tasting room encompass 62 acres of Estate property with stunning views and wildlife. Our approach to wine is creative — we emphasize and preserve the varietal aromatics, and seek intense flavors through harvest decisions and wine-making techniques. Join us at our McMinnville tasting room for an urban setting in the city!
Who We Are
Chris James Cellars is a family owned and operated vineyard and winery that produces unique and interesting wines in Carlton, Oregon. We produced our first wines in 2015 and have since grown to offer a wide selection of white, red, and sparkling wines. Our approach to white wines is to emphasize and preserve the varietal aromatics, flavor and acidity. In red wines we seek to develop intense flavors through harvest decisions and wine-making techniques during fermentation; we focus on mouthfeel and silky texture during maturation.
Finding the Right Place
In 2011 Beth and Chris sought out to find the perfect place to establish a vineyard in Oregon. After a lengthy search, they selected a lot on the western edge of the Yamhill-Carlton AVA in the foothills of the Coastal Range. The site was selected due to its aspects, elevation, and geology. Nearly every aspect is represented on the property and the soils are primarily deep volcanic soils. The volcanic soils of the Willamette Valley are known to contribute to the world class terroir of the region. In September of 2011 Beth and Chris purchased the property and started their journey…
Clearing The Way
Prior to the property purchase the land was covered in tree stumps and overgrown with brush. Chris and Beth contracted the clearing of a portion of the property to make way for the first vineyard planting. The process involves removing tree stumps and removing roots from the soil. Over time, the soil is cleared of sticks and stones to prepare for planting. Soil amendments and cover crop are applied to prepare for planting in the following year.
Putting Down Roots
The vineyard was planted in early 2013 with additional plantings every season since. A diverse selection of grape varietals were chosen to produce estate wines that are new and interesting as well as classic to the region. The varietals include Pinot Noir (Pommard, 777, 828 and Wadensville clones), Sauvignon Blanc, Dolcetto, Lagrein, Gewürztraminer, Gammay Noir, Scheurebe, and Huxelrebe. The blocks are planted on slopes with Eastern, Western and Southern aspects.
Learning & Growing
As the vineyard was expanded and matured Chris explored his interest in winemaking. Chris first attended Chemeketa’s viticulture program and farmed a block at the school’s vineyard. After attending for one growing season he transitioned to the enology program where he was able to make wine from the grapes that he grew (among other grapes!). It was during this time in school that Chris produced his first vintage at an off-site winery from the vineyard’s first harvest….
Our First Harvest
In the fall of 2015 the vineyard yielded half a ton of Sauvignon Blanc and approximately two tons of Pinot Noir. It was a unique vintage as it was the hottest year on record for the region and there was a drought emergency declared throughout Oregon. The lack of water, extreme heat, and young vines produced concentrated and intense wines.
With one vintage under his belt, Chris designed and built the winery in the Spring and Summer of 2016. The winery was completed in August of 2016 in time for the season’s harvest. The winery has a large processing and barrel room, cold room and space for a tasting room (to be finished later)…
Our First Estate Harvest
With the new winery, Chris James Cellars expanded its lineup of white wines as well as purchased Pinot Noir fruit from other vineyards in the Willamette Valley. Chris processed over twenty tons of fruit, including Riesling, Gewürztraminer, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir, Lagrein and Dolcetto.
Tasting Room Grand Opening
During the Winter of 2018 the tasting room was finished and we welcomed our first guests during our Spring Grand Opening! The tasting room features a beautiful outdoor space and a cozy indoor space to sit and relax while enjoying our wines. We regularly host public and private special events such as Star Gazing in the Vineyard.
“Infinity and Beyond”
Today, Chris James Cellars produces nearly 3,000 cases of wines each year. Chris continues to produce a wide range of white wines and has started to produce “big reds” from the Eastern Oregon & Washington region in 2017. The wines of Chris James Cellars have been recognized through awards, positive reviews and remarkable scores.