Internationally renowned German winemaker Ernst “Erni” Loosen has formally launched Appassionata Estate, a high-end vineyard and winery in Oregon’s northern Willamette Valley.
It is the culmination of nearly two decades of planning and investment that began in 2005 with a limited bottling of Appassionata Pinot Noir, a collaboration with J. Christopher Wines. The full Appassionata range of wines now includes three Pinot Noirs of varying age, a barrel-fermented Chardonnay, a Sauvignon Blanc produced in acacia barrels, and a dry Riesling made in the German Grosses Gewächs (GG) style.
Erni is a fanatical and lifelong enthusiast for the great Pinot Noirs of the world. His exploration of Oregon Pinot Noir began nearly 30 years ago, when he first started visiting the Pacific Northwest in his travels as owner of Germany’s Dr. Loosen estate. Intrigued by the potential here, it was only natural that he would soon start to dream about making wines of his own in Oregon.
A few years after the initial Appassionata bottling, Loosen purchased a 40-acre property in the Chehalem Mountains and began to plant a vineyard and build a winery. His long-term vision was to establish a European-style family wine estate dedicated to producing wines that express the true character of the Willamette Valley and possess extraordinary ageability – wines that would live for generations.
“For me, the real character and complexity of a truly great wine don’t emerge until it has developed maturity,” says Loosen. “That can only happen when wines of exceptional quality are given time to develop, in the barrel and in the bottle. It requires extreme patience and cannot be rushed.”
Über-meticulous viticulture, unhurried winemaking, extended maturation, and delayed vintage release are the cornerstones of Loosen’s concept for Appassionata. The three Pinot Noir bottlings are selected for exceptional ageability, matured in barriques for 18 to 20 months, and released three, five and 10 years after the vintage. “There is nothing quite like a beautifully matured Pinot Noir,” says Loosen. “It’s like drinking history, and that’s an experience I want to share with wine lovers everywhere. We can’t hold them 20 or 30 years for you, which is when I like to drink Pinot, but at least we can help get you started!”
This patient approach also extends to the white wines. The Appassionata Chardonnay is fermented in large oak barrels and rests on the full lees for two years before bottling. The Appassionata Riesling GG is fermented in a 3,000-liter German oak Fuder cask and also stays on the full lees for two years. After bottling, it is held for three more years before release, as Erni does with his GG Réserve Rieslings from Dr. Loosen. The tiny Appassionata Über Sauvignon Blanc bottling, produced in large acacia barrels, serves as a fresh, mouth-watering prelude to the rest of the line-up, and is released in the year after the harvest.
Appassionata Estate is located near Newberg, Oregon. It is situated on a gentle knoll with a full range of exposures and soil types, as well as spectacular views of the Chehalem Mountains ridge to the north and the Dundee Hills to the south. It is also the home of J. Christopher Wines, which have been produced here since the 2010 vintage. Erni’s winemaker for both is Timothy Malone, who was assistant winemaker from 2008 to 2015, and returned as head winemaker in 2020. Visitors are welcome by appointment.
Appassionata Debut Releases
2019 Appassionata Pinot Noir, “Allegro” ($95)
2017 Appassionata Pinot Noir, “Andante” ($135)
2012 Appassionata Pinot Noir, “Fortissimo” ($175)
2017 Appassionata Riesling GG ($50)
2019 Appassionata Chardonnay ($75)
2021 Appassionata Über Sauvignon Blanc ($40)