Eloquent, Elevated Oregon: The Wines Of Perkins Harter

Shelby Perkins has gone from lobbying for environmental causes in Washington to showcasing the beauty of the Eola-Amity Hills with her brilliant wines. (photo by J. Kemp)

Eloquent, Elevated Oregon: The Wines Of Perkins Harter

"Didn't I used to have a Chanel suit?" Shelby Perkins asks herself as she scoots around in the dirt before blindly sticking her hand inside a gopher trap to pull out yet another of the destructive rodents that threaten her vineyard. "Whatever happened to that?"
What happened was she and her husband Peter Harter moved to the Willamette Valley in 2018 after a career spent largely as a legal advisor to the US Department of Energy, lobbying against nuclear waste. In the course of many academic achievements, including a few law degrees (two in the US, one from Amsterdam), she also studied geology, which she has put to use categorizing the various layers of volcanic substrata in her 15 acre Bracken Vineyard in the Eola-Amity Hills AVA.
Despite working organically and employing some Biodynamic practices, she is making classically poised Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. They are polished but they don't run away from the Willamette's cooler-climate, showcasing high-toned acidity and a vivid precision that make these so exciting to drink. For me, a lover of not just Burgundy but also wines from Oregon and the Mosel, these really hit the spot when it comes to satisfying my penchant for elegant tension and nuanced layers.
Because of the fires in Oregon, this is the first time since June of 202o that these wines have been in New York. I've been a fan since I visited her back in 2019, and after her recent visit to NYC, it seems like she has a lot of new fans at restaurants and wine shops, which is why we only got a small amount to sell — less than a case of the Bracken Pinot Noir. First-come, first-serve!
After the enjoyable chaos of Thanksgiving, I'm ready to drink something thoughtful and subtle that doesn't need to compete for attention. Believe me, these will get your attention anyways.
Image of Perkins Harter Chardonnay Bracken Vineyard 2021
Perkins Harter Chardonnay Bracken Vineyard 2021
From Shelby's own Bracken Vineyard, this is an exceptionally poised Chardonnay. There is such clarity, but not at the sacrifice of pleasure, with a subtle creaminess and some leesy depth that is surrounded by mineral overtones. Not a rich, sultry wine but an exercise in subtle detail and careful balance. 1/3 is aged in new French oak, which I barely detected, but the barrels are rinsed multiple times with salted water, a little-known Burgundian technique that removes the toasty, oaky flavors from the barrel. Another small detail in a wine made of many thoughtful decisions, this is a wine that speaks of craft and intentionality at every step from vineyard to cellar. JK
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Image of Perkins Harter Pinot Noir Bracken Vineyard 2021
Perkins Harter Pinot Noir Bracken Vineyard 2021
100% estate fruit from the Bracken Vineyard. This has a gorgeous blueberry crunch with energetic lift and high-toned fruit to complement the red plum, strawberry, and subtle vanilla notes. It's a zappy, nervy Pinot Noir with just enough ripeness and a savory depth to bring it all home. JK
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Image of Perkins Harter Pinot Noir Sojeau Vineyard 2021
Perkins Harter Pinot Noir Sojeau Vineyard 2021
From the Sojeau Vineyard, which sits just below the Bracken Vineyard and is also farmed organically. Older vines than Bracken, the wine is a touch deeper and more silky but it retains a vivid crunch and chewy texture. Blackberry bramble, fine and invigorating tannic structure, and a long finish. Wines like these are proof positive of the impressive, cellar-rewarding Pinot Noirs being made in Oregon these days, unafraid of acidity and taking cues more from Europe than nearby California. JK
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