The Teutonic Wine Company makes totally insane wines (And you're going to love them)
As always when I want to chat to a winemaker who’s wine I dig, I create a list of questions I would like to ask them. If I am going to interview them to get their story, then I want to ask them about where they come from, how they got where they are, and why wine? But thats writing an interview, not telling a story. I wrote up about seven questions I was curious about asking Barnaby and Olga Tuttle of Teutonic Wine Company. I made it through one, and then Barnaby and I went off on a tangent about life, wine, and Black Sabbath. Screw the interview, this couple has a real story to tell.
This Frasier shit is real
Wine is supposed to be loved and enjoyed, shared amongst friends. Wine is certainly not meant to test people, and you should never feel like you are taking an exam. But it does reward those who thirst for more knowledge. Those who desire to learn more about the wine they drink will be unlock its hidden talents and secrets. Its magical, mystical even, or as Barnaby put it "this Frasier shit is real!"
You have to take a step back to when Barnaby Tuttle was a wine buyer for Papa Haydn restaurant in Portland. Then take another step back to when he was an ironworker, yeh let's start there, because it was leaving that job to work in the restaurant business that would change his life. But Papa Haydn realized that Barnaby needed an education in wine, and he somewhat reluctantly went along. Not because he did not want to appreciate wine, but because he was a fish out of water.
“It was all these pretentious folks, and here I was pulling up in my 65 Barracuda. I couldn’t believe it though. We were all taking the same notes, tasting the same thing. Then we tasted a a bunch of Pinot Noir wines. Same vineyard, same years, same climate, but from different parts of the estate. Thats when I realized this shit was real".
Terroir. It may seem like a crazy, magical term but it IS real. It is the place that makes the wine, just like the city makes the artist or band. You could say Liverpool made the Beatles, or how Queens made the Ramones, but Birmingham fucking MADE Black Sabbath, and Barnaby was about to find his Birmingham.
Poetic justice, and a little luck
This is where the story takes on the theme of a series of signs and strikes of lightning. Asked to buy Riesling for the Papa Haydn, Barnaby ended up meeting Ewald Moseler who brought with him 14 Rieslings from the Mosel valley. Read that sentence again, a man named Moseler was bringing Riesling from Mosel. Maybe it was poetic justice, maybe it was the terroir screaming in each and every bottle, but Barnaby bought ALL of the wines and started the largest German wine list in Portland.
But why stop there? Rockstars in the making are never content with learning cover songs. That riff you play in your bedroom is just the start of something amazing. You want to create, you want to rock. So Barnaby went home to his wife Olga and said he needed to learn how to make these wines. It takes guts, but there would probably not be a Teutonic without Olga. Together they were about to create something that was unique in the Portland wine world, a world full of stuffy Pinots that lacked imagination. Barnaby had a different vision altogether, something that said everything about the place. Oregon is not a pretentious state, Portland is one of the quirkiest cities in the country, and creating something that was true to the terroir means it has to be true to the people as well.
As luck would have it they were given access to farmland in Alsea, Oregon from which they would start their first vineyard. Friends helped them plant some 2000 vines, and they kicked off their wine making journey with Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier, and some Pinot Blanc. It was all culminating in a philosophy inspired by the Mosel valley. Keep it high, dry, and cool, and that way you get the truest expression of the place, the terroir.
So what makes the Teutonic Wine Company so cool?
Perhaps the wildest thing about the concept of terroir is part played by tradition. Outside of France I have to confess I never really understood that part. But talking to folks like Barnaby I understand it in a whole new light. You cannot forget how much the culture of the people making your wine plays a part in the goodness of your wine. Not just quality, but its intrinsic being, its the part that creates the true soul of your wine. Teutonic Wine Company make wines they are passionate about, and made to share with friends. They all work the vineyard, they all work the bar at the tasting room, even when they collaborated with the Portland metal band Red Fang they got the guys to pitch in and do the hard work. Thats because these wines are not made to score points in some magazine or lauded over by pretentious critics. These wines are made for friends. Led by Barnaby and Olga, Teutonic Wine makes killer Rieslings sure. In fact they make killer Rieslings from both Oregon and Germany! But their combined love for Mosel and Oregon shows up in stunning Pinot Gris, Gewurtzraminer, and Pinot Meunier among many others.
Ask Barnaby what his favorite wine is and you half expect to have him say some obscure dry Riesling, because he can’t be this cool right? There has to be a wine ponce in there somewhere. But no, he tells you about his favorite food, crab, and how he made the perfect wine for it, his Alsea Blanc. It even has a crab on its label. Its half Pinot Blanc and half Pinot Meunier in a white wine. Its unexpected, and shows his love for the wine runs deep into the feeling that a truly great wine is something that speaks to your heart.
Having talked to Barnaby and Olga and gotten to know these people for less than 40 minutes, I was stoked to share their story. Writing down all I could, drinking wine, but more importantly sharing the wine with my friends. I want us to drink Teutonic wines forever, I want to bring them to all my parties, and I want people to enjoy this wine with me. Teutonic Wines are too good to drink alone, and I cant see Barnaby approving of me keeping it to myself because these wines are made for friends, and friendships. With each sip I feel Barnaby and Olga, and the team at Teutonic Wine Company, are becoming my closest friends. Drink their wines and you'll become friends with them too.
Thirsty? Here’s what we were drinking
2015 Pinot Gris - An explosion of tropical fruit that wowed even the die hard red wine fans. This is what white wine should be like, fun, pleasant, easy to drink, and makes you happy.
2016 Willamette Valley Riesling - I love getting totally nerdy about my Riesling. Drinking Riesling is like listening to Kraftwerk or Genesis for me. But this wine was so much more, like I could drink it all day and still be totally happy. It goes with you on the journey like The Dark Side of the Moon and has that ability to rock out and blast your speakers as much as it bends your mind. Its not too dry either, with the pleasantness of a crisp apple and floral notes will make you wish were here with another lost soul swimming in a fish bowl, year after year.
2016 Alsea Blanc - Okay, so we have yet to try this one... yet! But when the winemaker tells you this is his favorite wine and you feel both hungry and thirsty then you have to try some. It pairs with delicious, sweet crab meat, but here in Boston I'm starting to think this could be our ultimate lobster roll partner. Hurry though, only 2 barrels were produced!