The Universal Language of Wine:  Fullerton Wines

“Great wine speaks profoundly, a universal language transcending any one culture.”  ~The Fullerton Family

Have you ever heard of Fullerton Wines? If you haven’t, they are a small producer of elegantly crafted Pinot Noir and Chardonny based out of Beaverton, OR.

The story of Fullerton Wines goes back to 1969. When 14 year old Eric Fullerton was visiting his grandparents that summer, they pulled up to a home surrounded by steep slopes that had grape vines planted on them. Out of the house came an unknown (to him) woman. This woman, named Annie, spoke to his grandparents in broken Danish and was a German-Jew. Annie had attended the school that Eric’s great-grandparents built in the town of Haslev, Denmark. When the German Gestapo took over during the chaos of World War II, Eric’s family smuggled about fifteen Jewish refugees to a nearby church.

During this time, Eric’s mother started a community choir, which served as a front for bringing food and supplies to the refugees. Eventually, the community was able to arrange for the refugees to get to Sweden, where they remained until the war concluded.

That fateful day in the summer of 1969 served as a pivotal one for young Eric. Annie’s husband, an injured WWII veteran who fought for Germany, made his way around the vineyards with Eric. For Annie’s husband, this was a feat in and of itself. A few months later, Eric found himself as part of their crew. As the young buck of the workers, Eric was often given the tough, dirty jobs. While doing the “dirty work”, a seed was planted.

Fast forward 43 years later, Fullerton wines launched. Their first vintage of elegant Pinot Noir and Chardonnay was a mere 350 cases. Today, that number has risen to 4500, and Fullerton Wines is truly a family business.

Eldest son Alex is the winemaker. Alex comes with a distinct pedigree of having worked at some of Oregon’s most prestigious wineries, Penner-Ash and Bergström. His philosophy for winemaking comes from his respect for the vineyard sites. He works as a guide to help the grapevines produce healthy, balanced fruit that is concentrated with flavors. Alex takes a “less is more” approach to winemaking.

While visiting the Fullerton Wines facility for a sit-down vertical tasting, I had the opportunity to taste the fruit of Alex’s labors. We tasted 11 wines, which are listed with tasting notes below.

2015 Pinot Noir Rosé: A lower-acid rosé, the nose on this is full of muted, sweet red fruit and bubblegum on the nose. The palate is an explosion of ripe strawberries. This screams for food.

2016 Pinot Noir Rosé: A contrast to the 2015, this is a higher acid rosé with the same red fruit nose, but acidity, minerality, and a crisp stone fruit mixed with bright red fruit note on the palate make this a definite porch pounder. It would also pair well with Thanksgiving dinner (if you can hold on to it for that long).

The next five wines were from the line that represents the family. FACES is an anagram for Filip, Alex, Caroline, Eric, and Suzanne, the family behind Fullerton Wines.

2014 Five FACES Chardonnay: slightly buttery, but the fruit also shines through. Pair this with herb & wine marinated chicken or pork tenderloin.

2015 Five FACES Chardonnay: This is a super crisp, acid-driven, fruity Chardonnay that would pair well chicken in cream sauce.

2012 Five FACES Pinot Noir: This was the first vintage that Fullerton commercially produced. The 2012 showed notes of bright, dark cherry, licorice, and tobacco with a leather funk nose. Time has been kind to this wine, per Alex Fullerton.

2013 Five FACES Pinot Noir: The second vintage of Fullerton wines produced a pinot noir that has a stunning acid/tannin balance and hints of caramel as it opens up.

2014 Five FACES Pinot Noir: A subtle forest floor funk and Rainier cherry note make this silky wine intriguing.

2013 Croft Vineyard Pinot Noir: Dark fruits and a pine needle/resin nose greet you and leads into flavors of strawberry and cherry on the palate. As it opens up, there is a cherry cola note on the nose.

2014 Croft Vineyard Pinot Noir: This one was interesting. Bright strawberry notes mingled with brambleberry made for an intriguing, and fun, experience.

2013 Momtazi Vineyard Pinot Noir: Momtazi is, without a doubt, one of my favorite vineyards. All of the wines that I’ve had from Momtazi Vineyard are big and bold. This was no different. Smoky dark fruit with hints of cherry cola makes for a stunning wine that still has lots of time to develop.

2014 Momtazi Vineyard Pinot Noir: Again, this is what I call “classic Momtazi fruit” with a big, bold structure, but with the 2014 there was a softness due to vintage variation. There is still the smoky notes, but the 2014 reflected more of a smoky pine and floral characteristic while still retaining it’s earthiness.

As we were wrapping up for the evening, Alex shared a very profound quote, “If wine didn’t have the mystery, it would lose the romance.” And it’s true. The mystery of wine is what romanticizes it. The romance of wine makes it mysterious.

In closing, Fullerton’s wines are well worth the time and effort to seek out.

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