Northwest Wine

Northwest Wine: Dobbes Family Estate continues tradition of excellence

Seabreeze Vineyard is a 214-acre planting in the Eola-Amity Hills northwest of Salem, Ore.
Seabreeze Vineyard is a 214-acre planting in the Eola-Amity Hills northwest of Salem, Ore. Dobbes Family Estate

His name is still on the bottle, as well as many cans, and because Joe Dobbes placed the right people in charge, the winery and brands he created continue to succeed in downtown Dundee, Ore., and beyond.

In 2017, Dobbes publicly mapped out his retirement from Dobbes Family Estate, Wine by Joe, and the restaurant-focused Jovino. As a result, Gretchen Boock — Dobbes’ first hire back in 2002 — was promoted to CEO. Andy McVay, who arrived in 2008, moved up into the head winemaking position.

Combined, they produce more than 200,000 cases of Oregon wine, pulling from both the Willamette and Rogue valleys, including Seabreeze Vineyard, a 214-acre estate planting just west of the Eola-Amity Hills. Two years ago came the Joe To Go canned project.

Dobbes and his talent helped raise the profile of Willamette Valley Vineyards, and his work in Southern Oregon for the sister Griffin Creek label created relationships that have endured. That’s why Syrah, Viognier and Grenache Blanc from the Rogue Valley remain part of the Dobbes Family Estate portfolio.

The ability to scale up production led to the creation of Wine by Joe, remarkably priced examples Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc, rosé and Chardonnay that are made with fruit from both ends of the state. That’s why they appear on the bottle — or can — with “Oregon” listed as the American Viticultural Area. The Jovino label offers Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris for restaurants.

Dobbes Family Estate remains the luxury brand, which is focused on single vineyards.

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Andy McVay was promoted in 2017 to lead the winemaking at Dobbes. The Oregon State University graduate in food and fermentation science first landed at Dobbes in 2008 as part of the Wine By Joe team. Courtesy of Dobbes Family Estate

McVay’s responsibilities include wines named for the three people who are most important to Joe — wife, Patricia Dobbes, daughter Amelia and son Griffin. Ameila Rose joined the Dobbes Family Estate marketing team in 2018 after graduating from Oregon State University. The Corvallis school has been a pipeline for Dobbes with both Boock and McVay as proud graduates.

Dobbes Family Estate and the brands are within the portfolio of Bacchus Capital Management, a group based in the Bay Area that invests in family-owned wineries and wine businesses in the U.S. In 2017, Dobbes, a rather silent part-owner in the empire he built, launched a post-retirement business — Dundee Mobile Bottlers. The motto is “For winemakers by winemakers.”

During blind-tastings staged during the winter, Dobbes Family Estate earned an invitation to pour its wines at the 34th annual International Pinot Noir Celebration in McMinnville. Organizers decided to postpone rather than cancel the lineup, so Dobbes and the others will be part of the program in July 2021.

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Dobbes Family Estate operates its tasting room and production facility in downtown Dundee, Ore. Courtesy of Dobbes Family Estate

Below are several Dobbes wines that our panels have judged blind and enjoyed in recent months. Some can be found at regional grocers and bottle shops or they can be ordered from the winery.

Dobbes Family Estate 2018 Grand Assemblage Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, $30: Six sites in the Willamette Valley factor into this flagship Pinot Noir for Dobbes that captures the youthful promise many winemakers see from their 2018s. Blueberry cola, dried cherry, dark strawberry and chai spices help describe the aromas. Blueberry and pomegranate flavors expand the profile, which comes with cola, vanilla and lasting juiciness. Enjoy with smoked ham, cedar-planked salmon or soft and mild cheeses.

Dobbes Family Estate 2017 Vista Hills Vineyard Pinot Noir, Dundee Hills, $67: Grapes from the Dundee Hills rank among the most coveted in Oregon, and the profile of this vineyard skyrocketed in 2018 when movie director Francis Ford Coppola bought the 42-acre property. Dobbes winemaker Andy McVay turned his lot into eight barrels of a wine that’s suave and pleasing, starting with aromas of blueberry jam, black cherry, fresh-ground nutmeg and moist earth. It’s supple, juicy and fleshy as blueberries and cherries mix with elegance, capped by orange zest in the finish. Suggested pairings include grilled meats, foie gras and soft cheese.

Dobbes Family Estate 2017 Grand Assemblage Syrah, Rogue Valley, $30: Fortmiller and Sundown vineyards, overseen by the Moore family in Southern Oregon, have been part of the Dobbes resources for years. This is unmistakable Syrah, starting with its fascinating nose of wild game, black fruit and gun metal. The flavor combination of blueberry and pomegranate make for a big, juicy and racy drink that’s ideal for barbecue fare and smoked Gouda.

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Wine By Joe, a sister company of Dobbes Family Estate, produces a delicious Pinot Noir at an affordable price. Courtesy of Dobbes Family Estate

Wine By Joe 2016 Pinot Noir, Oregon, $19: Joe Dobbes launched this second label after the 9/11 attacks to help get Oregon Pinot Noir into more hands at an affordable price. Rather than declassified juice, his disciples now can pull from Seabreeze Vineyard, a 214-acre estate site in the Van Duzer Corridor. And it’s rare to find a Pinot Noir that’s as easy to get into as this price. Black cherry jam, blueberry, baking spice and freshly sliced mushroom help describe the aromas. There’s more cherry jam and pink strawberry on the palate as raspberry and red currant add succulence ahead of a finishing lick of lavender and Simpkin Blackcurrant Travel Sweets.

Joe to Go NV Rosé, Oregon, $7: Wine by Joe continues to grow into the canned space with its Joe to Go brand. Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris both play roles in this brisk and refreshing rosé that is surprisingly bone-dry in its approach and Provence in its appearance. Aromas of strawberry shortcake, white peach and tangerine lead to mouthwatering flavors of pink raspberry and strawberry-rhubarb compote. Joe to Go is available in more than 30 states.

Eric Degerman operates Great Northwest Wine, an award-winning media company. Learn more about wine at greatnorthwestwine.com
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