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Minimus Wines are unconventional even by Oregon standards. Each wine is an individually numbered, non-repeating experiment with assorted varieties, fermentation, and/or maturation techniques that eschew or break formal winemaking conventions. For example, Experiment #1 was devoted to aging wine in acacia barrels; Experiment #2 focused on co-fermenting Tempranillo with Viognier skins. Nevertheless, to fully comprehend Minimus Wines, you must understand Chad Stock.
Chad initially set out to study business at the University of Oregon, but ended up relocating to his home state of California and graduated with a degree in viticulture and enology from Fresno State. After graduating in 2006, he landed a harvest job at Rudd Wines in Oakville, California. The subsequent year, he returned to Oregon to work at Antica Terra. Afterwards, he worked and consulted for Johan and Durant Vineyards in the Willamette Valley, and Two Hands in Australia's Barossa Valley before launching Minimus Wines in 2011.
A quietly intense person in both the vineyard and the cellar, Chad reminds one of a methodical scientist, but with the soul of a passionate artist: both hard work and inspiration inform and drive his winemaking philosophy and practice. Officially, Chad is winemaker/partner in Craft Wine Company, which markets Omero Cellars and Minimus Wines. Omero focuses on Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Gris; Minimus is their exploratory label where no grape, AVA, or fermentation vessel is off the (sorting) table.
Chad has a laser-like focus (emphasis on laser) on every detail of vineyard, cellar, and business management. While spending several hours with him at Omero's vineyards and tasting room, Chad was able to cite acreage size, soil type, and variety of every block, but also the harvest date, elevage, and maturation of each of the nearly 20 wines we sampled. To further push Oregon's winemaking envelope, he has planted a slew of non-traditional varieties like Mondeuse and Aligoté.
His quiet intensity and unrelentling curiosity is firmly grounded by his underlying humility. To quote Chad: "Minimus is a personal growth project. I consider it to be a continued education of sorts. I just want to be the best winemaker I can be." Jonas Mendoza
Chad Stock's inspiration to make sparkling wine was Brut Nature Cava with long lees aging - a worthy fascination that should inform more new-world sparkling wine production! He has now released Experiment #17 (the same base wine as Experiment #10, disgorged after 24 months on the lees) this time disgorged after 48 months on the lees. Elegance and complexity are not guaranteed to increase with longer lees aging, but in this case the extra two years contributed great length and layers, harnessing the autolytic grit and glamour of our favorite long-aged Cavas. Creamy aromas of almond cake, agrumes, lavender honey, orange blossom, and yellow apple; the palate is dry, textured, long, and lovely, with gentle bubbles permeating the palate of yellow peach, Asian pear, meadow flowers and tea leaves, with gentle yeasty notes of bee pollen, chamomile, almond, brine, and a hint of bitter earth. This is dreamy wine, with enough breadth and complexity to compliment smoked bluefish or game birds. Ariana Rolich
One wouldn't ordinarily expect the German variety Muller-Thurgau coming from Oregon (let alone in pet-nat form), but Chad Stock found some own-rooted vines (circa. 1976) on volcanic soil in the South Salem hills planted by an American military doctor stationed in Germany during his service. The fruit was harvested three times: the first pick for acidity, the second for early ripe flavors of white tea and melons, and the last pick (about 15%) for golden skins and fully developed flavors. The juice was combined and fermentation occurred in half neutral barrique, half stainless steel. Golden apple peel and fruit flavors combine with spearmint undertones and a fine, persistent effervescence. The residual yeast provides textural complexity, and a savory, salty quality that balances out the fruitiness of the wine. Jonas Mendoza
Chad Stock of Minimus builds incredible texture, dimension, and tension into his wines, particularly the whites. SM1 is another thoroughly delectable and thought-provoking example of his rigor and skill, made of 100% Sauvignon Blanc from Stella Maris vineyard in southern Oregon's Applegate Valley, sure to surprise Sauvignon Blanc fans and sceptics alike. Stock notes: "The fruit from Stella Maris never shows any of the grassy green qualities of the [Sauvignon Blanc] grape so I chose to incorporate the stems in the maceration to increase herbal and savory qualities to counter balance the fruit flavors." Following a four-day maceration, the juice was fermented and aged in chestnut casks for 10 months. Equal parts mouth-watering and eye-watering, full yet fine, with marvelous acidity, and filigreed, tear-like salinity joined by juicy, bright fruit of crunchy pineapple and freshly-picked, floral blueberries, resinous thyme, pink peppercorns, lemon balm, and assertive minerality on the long, clear finish, this wine shines alongside a classic flounder meunière recipe with brown butter and lemon, as well as rustic, salty oysters (raw or grilled). Ariana Rolich
From winemaker Chad Stock: "This is 100% Sauvignon Blanc harvested from Stella Maris Vineyard in the Applegate Valley. Flor translates to “flower” in English and this particular wine is my first flor aged wine produced. In the spring of 2012 I began collecting and isolating a flor yeast culture from a local winery that was established in the Willamette Valley in the 1970’s. One of my closest friends was the cellarmaster there at the time and he noticed the culture growing in the cellar on certain white wines in barrel. When he told me about it we decided to begin collecting samples in anticipation of a new Minimus experiment. The year before in 2011, I had tasted a wine called Flor Power, from the Equipos Navazos project in Spain that was a flor aged wine produced with wine that achieved a natural alcoholic concentration of 15% to allow the flor yeast to be buoyant without the need for fortification. This was a highly experimental wine for the region, and I later came to find out quite controversial with the local traditional producers. There was one vineyard in my arsenal that I knew could naturally achieve a potential alcohol of 15% while also maintaining high acidity and concentrated flavors. The Sauvignon Blanc from Stella Maris was chosen for its ability to achieve the necessary chemistry, not because I thought the grape would be an excellent choice flavor profile wise. Over a period of 8 months the flor culture that I isolated was encouraged to develop in a partially full one gallon glass container of wine closed with cheese cloth to allow the yeast to breath. Two weeks before the fruit was ready to be harvested I picked enough fruit to make about 7 gallons of juice. I added the yeast culture to this juice to get it fermenting in advance. Two weeks later the rest of the fruit came in. The juice went to neutral French oak barrique, and my culture was added immediately. Fermentation ensued and halted around 14.6% alcohol just before the fall of 2013 when it developed its first layer of flor. Each fall, winter, and spring following the development of the first layer, it would redevelop, and then die off in the summer when the weather warmed up and the humidity dropped so the wine was not always protected. The wine spent 41 months in barrel. After the evaporative losses over those 41 months, the alcohol concentration increased from 14.6% to a final 15.9%. It was bottled by hand without fining or filtration in February of 2016. 20 cases were produced."
Minimus raises the bar for domestic Grenache. Winemaker Chad Stock picked his Grenache early from the iron-rich sandy soils of Soloro Vineyard (Applegate Valley, southern Oregon) to retain freshness, fermented with whole clusters "to bring spice and structure to the palate for balancing the fruit" and aged the wine in neutral oak for 6 months. This wine is generous and supple, a mouthful of juicy wild red and black raspberries and black currants, with heady purple florals, pie spice, salty black licorice, lemon thyme, and pepper. This is one of the few domestic Grenache wines that I give as a gift to the best Garnacha growers in Spain - it is that good! - and a luscious pairing for meats from the grill or smoker and desserts of fresh berries with chocolate. Ariana Rolich