Grape(s): Pinot noir
Localization: Willamette Valley, Oregon, USA
Tasting Notes: Fresh strawberry and cherry aromas and flavors are everywhere, and impossible to resist. It's that kind of juice, similar to the Old Vines, that's pure, fresh, silky, and sexy.
94 points Wine Advocate: Pale ruby-purple, the 2018 Pinot Noir Old Vines has an alluring perfume of blueberries, violets, and dark cherries with accents of earth and amaro. The medium-bodied palate offers intense, broody fruits framed by muscular tannins and bright freshness, and it finishes long and full of flavor. It’s still youthfully coiled and may improve with another year or two in the bottle.
Notes: Jim blends old vine Pinot Noir fruit from Maresh and other Dundee Hills vineyards. An immediate hit with customers and reviewers, the wine shows the character and complexity of Pinot Noir made from 40+-year-old grapevines.
The Domain: Maresh Vineyard produces some of the most sought-after and acclaimed fruit in Oregon. Planted predominately to Pommard and Wadenswil clones, the vineyard contains some of the oldest vine Pinot in the state. It is the 5th oldest vineyard in the state and the oldest on Worden Hill Road.
Meeting Jim Maresh is like meeting a slice of Oregon history. He is a force to be reckoned with, one of the pioneers of the Oregon wine industry since planting his first grapevines in 1970. Along the way, he profoundly influenced the direction of Oregon’s future, helping protect Oregon farm laws by pushing through legislation and agricultural zoning protections on both county and state levels.
Beyond all the trappings and tales he is a farmer. It is his care for the land that has built his legacy, and his roots are fully grounded in his 160-acre vineyard in the Dundee hills, the 5th oldest in Oregon.
It’s in the handshake: everything in that first impression. His hands are strong, the nails blunt, with calluses along with his palms. They are hands that work hard and have for years. In Jim’s firm yet gentle handshake is the story of the man.
The Story Begins
Jim Maresh was born in 1926 and grew up outside of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, attending the University of Wisconsin at Madison. In 1944 he joined the Navy and, while at a Prom in Marquette, met Loie, his future wife. They married and had five children together: Jim, David, Martha, Joe, and Mary-Grace. Between 1944 and 1954 his military duties took them all across the country: Wisconsin, Oregon, California, New York, and finally, back to Oregon and a permanent address. Jim began a career as a business analyst in Portland that would continue through 1982, and in 1959, the family moved to the country.
Jim never planned to be a farmer, but he fell in love with the red hills of Dundee. So he moved his family from Portland to a 27-acre farm covered with plum, cherry, and hazelnut trees.
Jim had a support system in place before he got rolling. There was Loie, his ever-supportive if slightly dubious wife and five children with quick hands to use as “free labor.” So armed with enthusiasm and an appreciation for the unspoiled area south of Portland the Maresh family became farmers. (Well, some appreciation. Martha, the middle child, remembers that the move wasn’t easy for five rambunctious city kids and their long-suffering mom. At least not at first.)
Jim laughs when asked if he had any prior agricultural experience. “My only exposure to Agriculture was when I passed the Ag building on the Madison campus!” he says.
Fortunately for Jim, he was taken in hand by the “Wise Old Men” of the Dundee Hills. These were farmers who had been working the land generations before Jim arrived. “They taught me everything about how to farm,” he says.
This training – learning by doing from those who learned by doing – served Jim well. The methods he was given by these farmers are the hard-fought, carefully tested secrets of farming the red hills. They taught him how to read the soil and the earth. Emil Sanders and Joe Herring were especially generous mentors, patiently explaining whatever he needed to know.
Jim developed a reputation as a careful, respectful steward of the land. When his mentor farmers retired they were happy to sell their land to him. They trusted him to buy it and treat it right. Over the years, he grew his farm to 160 acres at the top of Worden Hill Road with a spectacular view of the Willamette Valley below. The trust was not misplaced.