St. Innocent Winery: Mark Vlossak's Oregon Passion Project

9/29/16 -

There are some who are born into wine and some who arrive there later in life. In a sense, Mark Vlossak is a bit of both. Though he started St. Innocent in 1988, his roots go further back. As a child, he began tasting and discussing wines with his father, a wine importer and gourmand. This experience —  along with meals prepared by his French cuisine-inspired mother — would later inform his wine career.

After graduating with a degree in theater, Mark was on the road for several years assisting with lighting projects for dance, opera, and theater companies. Throughout this time, reading about food and wine, in addition to cooking and collecting (especially Champagne), continued to play an important role in Mark's life. After reading an article in 1983 about American sparkling wine in Bon Appétit, Mark decided to move to Oregon to pursue a career in winemaking. He started apprenticing in the mid-1980s with Fred Arterberry, who made Oregon's first sparkling wines and pioneered the practice of bottling vineyard designate Pinot Noirs.

Despite his soft-spoken and contemplative nature, Mark Vlossak is a confident winemaker. From the naturally controlled temperature and humidity in the cellar, to the particular details of cooperage, even the smallest detail is examined. Food remains an integral part of Mark's relationship with wine; St. Innocent is famed for the monthly lunches and dinners prepared by Mark himself for wine club members. (Unfortunately, my visit did not coincide with any of these.)

St. Innocent's fruit is sourced from their estate vineyard (Zenith) and six others: Temperance, Shea, Freedom Hill, Momtazi, Justice, and Vitae Springs. Mark closely works with growers at each vineyard to fine-tune viticultural techniques, including pruning, leaf pulling, crop thinning, hedging, and picking. Each vineyard designate is then matured in varying percentages of oak only to highlight the unique growing conditions of each site. Temperance Hill (certified organic) — the highest altitude vineyard and among the last to ripen in the Eola-Amity Hills AVA — shows in its powerful structure. Momtazi Vineyard (certified biodynamic) — located high above a warm valley that lies between the mouth of the Van Duzer Corridor and the Eola-Amity Hills in the McMinnville AVA — unveils darker fruited flavors and richer textures.

After spending a few hours tasting and talking with Mark, it's clear that his passion for St. Innocent has been informed by his early years honing his palate and inspired by the terroir of the Willamette Valley. We're proud to offer a selection of his 2013 and 2014 Pinot Noirs today, and hope you enjoy them along with dinner. Jonas Mendoza

You have successfully subscribed!
This email has been registered