Hamilton Russells turn to Oregon for new Pinot project

One of South Africa’s leading Pinot Noir producers, Hamilton Russell Vineyards, has begun making Pinot Noir in Oregon.

Anthony Hamilton-Russell, Ken Kupperman and Emul Ross

Using a ‘custom crush’ contract with Jackson Family Wines, Anthony and Olive Hamilton Russell are going to produce two wines from the 2018 harvest, both from sub-region’s in the Willamette Valley – Ribbon Ridge and Eola-Amity.

Production is going to be tiny, Anthony told the drinks business, just 200 9L cases of each will be produced (roughly) and for now the wines are just destined for the US.

As he explained, the driver behind the project was that after years of assiduously building a presence in the US there just wasn’t enough wine from his Hemel-en-Aarde property to go round.

“To justify the expense of maintaining the US market, we felt we would like to put more into that distribution. Making another South African Pinot from another region would go against our concept. But we felt that if we did it in America in a region we have respect for and increasing respect for we would find an elegant solution.”

He continued that Oregon suited them for a number of other reasons as well, both viticultural and economic.

Much as he loved Burgundy, any enterprise there on the budget at his disposal means, “[we] would only ever get access to grapes from lesser appellations and not necessarily the best grapes from those appellations either.”

In Oregon by contrast, “with the good fortune of knowing various people we’ve been able to get out of the starting block with the very best grapes, from the very best sites.”

Stylistically too, Anthony said he was pleased and intrigued by what he saw as, “a more attuned aesthetic set of aims among the producers. Almost a more classic style, less of the overt fruit and soft round easiness.

“Think there’s a wonderful tension, tannin-line and spice element that is being nursed out of Pinot by quite a few producers.”

As well as being exciting, the whole experience had also been a “tremendous learning experience” for all involved.

Ultimately, he went on: “It pays for our winemaker [Emul Ross] to spend time on something that expands his skills.”

As for the future of the project, Anthony continued: “We do plan to grow over time. Would like, ultimately, to settle on a particular AVA but don’t know yet which source of grapes is going to most closely approximate the style of wine we’re most passionate about.”

Driven more by passion than investment, however, the wines will have to be really good if they’re going to be commercial he concluded.

“It has to be really good or it’s not going to help Hamilton Russell as a brand. The wines have to excite us,” he said, reserving the option to blend them away if they weren’t satisfied with the results.

Fortunately though that doesn’t seem like it will happen. “The level of excitement we have now is extremely high,” he said.

Pinot aficionados outside of the US will just have to hope things go well enough that the wines will, one day, filter out beyond American shores.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Subscribe to our newsletters

Marketing Manager

Amathus Drinks Plc
London, UK

Partner Manager - Manged On-Trade

Maverick Drinks
London, UK

Brand Manager

Hatch Mansfield
Ascot, Berkshire

Head of Sales

London, UK

Logistic and Fullfilment - Whisky (and wine) administrator

Stilnovisti Ltd
London, United Kingdom // Dufftown, Keith, United Kingdom

Account Manager

Harviestoun Brewery
Field Based, UK

Buyer - Spain & South America

London, UK

Events Sales Manager

Field based - London or surrounding area

Sales Director Europe

Mirabeau Wine

Argentina Breaking New Ground Masterclass Series

Leeds,United Kingdom
17th Oct 2018

Argentina Breaking New Ground Masterclass Series

Edinburgh,United Kingdom
18th Oct 2018


5th Nov 2018
Click to view more

Global Chardonnay Masters 2018

Deadline : 17th October 2018

Green Awards 2018

Deadline : 19th October 2018

Click to view more

The Global Sparkling Masters 2018

As with all of the drinks business awards, our judging panel is comprised of Masters of Wine, Master Sommeliers and senior buyers making the competition globally renowned.

Champagne Masters 2018

Enter your wines into the Champagne Masters 2018, the only blind competition dedicated to Champagne in the UK.

Click to view more