Chehalem Mountain AVA, Willamette Valley, Oregon
Dick and Nancy Ponzi helped put Oregon on the map in the United States and the world, and the Ponzi family has worked continuously for over 50 years leading and innovating in the region and, in the case of Pinot Noir, across the country and indeed the world. Today winemaker Luisa Ponzi continues her work of the last 30 years with the family of Champagne Bollinger, which acquired Ponzi Vineyards in 2021. The estate’s drive to create distinctly pure Pinot Noir, in a distinctly Oregon manner, has never been stronger.
In the late 1960s Dick and Nancy Ponzi uprooted their family to pursue a dream of producing world class Pinot Noir. After research trips to Burgundy and an extensive search, they purchased 20 acres on a small farm just southwest of Portland, Oregon. They believed the climate, soils and vineyard site meet every need of noble cool-climate grape varieties. The winery was founded in 1970, and the family plants their first Pinot Noir. The first 4 barrels of wine produced in 1974. At the time, there are 5 bonded wineries in Oregon with 35 acres in production. Ponzi has since become internationally acclaimed for its Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.
Today the estate is more focused than ever on its vineyards, in fact leading the charge for a new appellation that has been created within the Chehalem Mountains, the Laurelwood District. These favored Laurelwood soils in the Northern Willamette Valley provide an ideal match to the Pinot Noir grape, lending intensity of flavor with balance. The fact the appellation is named after and defined by its soils also makes it unique among all American Viticultural Areas. All the vineyards with the exception of the original Estate vineyard sit, face north, and since 2000 all vineyards have all been LIVE Certified Sustainable, the highest international standard of sustainable viticulture. Ponzi also encourages all grower partners to meet the same LIVE certified standards.
The Ponzi’s state of the art winery was built in 2008 around the principle of allowing gravity flow from grape handling to bottling through 4 progressive levels. It was one of the first wineries to be LIVE certified, a result of its environmentally conscious design. The winery allows Ponzi to follow its philosophy of attentive vineyard labor that ends with gentle cellar handling. Other key tenets you will find throughout the wines: expertise drawn from both the Old World and New World; clonal selection and planting suited to each vineyard site and variety; and consistently outstanding, balanced wines.
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The “classic” representation of Willamette Valley Pinot Noir, this wine encapsulates the experience, innovation, top vineyard sources, and expertise of the pioneering Ponzi family. Among the first to make Pinot Noir in Oregon and the United States and, since the start, among the very best.
This very rare and special Italian varietal is traditionally planted in the Northern Piedmonte region of Italy. During one of the many trips to visit the Currado family of Vietti Winery, the Ponzi family was surprised by the wine’s delightful flavors and lovely balance. Continuing their dedication to innovation in the vineyard and cellar, they returned to their winery and immediately planted cuttings of Arneis in 1991. Ponzi Vineyards is one of very few U.S. producers of this varietal.
This remarkably expressive Pinot Noir Rosé truly showcases Luisa’s style. Graceful notes of strawberries and orange peel intermingle with beautiful floral notes and sweet spice. The acidity on the finish leaves you with wanting more.
For decades, Ponzi Abetina Vineyard, which sits on a spectacular east-facing slope born in 1975 as a clonal experiment for Oregon State University, has produced an impressive Pinot noir with unique and complex flavors. So enthralled by the success at Abetina, in 2005 an exact duplicate was planted at Ponzi’s stunning Aurora Vineyard. The experimental collection of more than 20 Pinot noir clones was planted to the same soil, elevation and aspect, as Abetina. With the added element of youth, the Abetina 2 block at Aurora Vineyard gives this cuvée unparalleled vibrancy and depth.
With its first bottling in 2016, Ponzi Vineyard’s remarkable Pinot noir from Madrona Vineyard showcases the consistently stunning fruit from these 30-year-old vine. It reveals a true sense of place in the bottle. The vineyard was named for the madrone trees which surround the 10-acre site and is own rooted Pommard clone. This stunning expression of the Willamette Valley is handcrafted with tremendous attention to detail.
Willamette Valley, Oregon
Avellana is a “younger” vineyard planted in 2006. Winemaker Luisa Ponzi’s goal is to allow the wines to express these characteristics each vintage through single vineyard expressions. Avellana yields a richer, weightier style of Pinot Noir as compared to the Aurora single vineyard wine.
Willamette Valley, Oregon
Aurora means sunrise and represents an unparalleled combination of bright acidity, texture and freshness of fruit on the mid-palate. Winemaker Luisa Ponzi’s goal is to allow the wines to express these characteristics each vintage through single vineyard expressions. Aurora yields an elegant wine with bright acidity and fruit.
Oregon Chardonnays present an unparalleled combination of bright acidity, texture and freshness of fruit on the mid-palate. Winemaker Luisa Ponzi’s goal is to allow the wines to express these characteristics each vintage through single vineyard expressions. Planted in 2006, Avellana yields a richer, weightier style of Chardonnay as compared to the Aurora single vineyard wine.
Oregon Chardonnays present an unparalleled combination of bright acidity, texture and freshness of fruit on the mid-palate. Winemaker Luisa Ponzi’s goal is to allow the wines to express these characteristics each vintage through single vineyard expressions. Aurora yields an elegant wine with bright acidity and fruit.
Pinot blanc was planted at Aurora Vineyard in the early 1990s, taking advantage of an ideal portion of the 80-acre site. This versatile white wine is a wonderful alternative to Pinot gris. Beautiful floral aromas of jasmine and magnolia mingle with notes of lychee, lemongrass, beeswax and green tea mochi with a touch of cardamom. The textured mouth is reminiscent of shortbread and the freshness of rainwater and wet slate with bright, juicy acidity that encourages another sip.
"The 2017 Chardonnay Aurora Vineyard was fermented in 45% new French oak and aged 20 months in neutral oak. It offers aromas of spring honey, cut hay, spiced apples and white peaches with a nutty undercurrent. The palate is medium to full-bodied with a silky texture, its concentrated flavors lifted by tangy acidity and finishing very long and layered. So lovely!"
More on Ponzi Vineyards
June 5, 2020 - Food & Wine Magazine reports that Oregon's Willamette Valley officially has two new AVAs: Laurelwood District and Tualtin Hills. This monumental feat is the result of Ponzi Vineyards decade-long efforts…
June 1, 2020 - Oregon Wine Press reports that although it might not be the 50th birthday party bash that Ponzi Vineyards had originally planed for, the pioneering Oregon label is celebrating nonetheless. In…
May 15, 2020 - Katrina René of The Corkscrew Concierge published an extremely detailed, and beautiful story illustrating Ponzi Vineyards' incredible 50 year journey. This past February, René had the privilege to sit down with Founder…
Rivail brings a rich resume in the world of fine wine, wine distribution and international management to his role at Ponzi Vineyards. He has deep family roots in the industry dating back to the 1800s, when his family started as wine merchants in France. After leading international sales for Champagne Vranken-Pommery, Mr. Rivail was hired by Moet-Hennessy and the LVMH group to steer international developments for Hennessy Cognac across the Americas. He most recently held the position of General Manager for the group’s iconic Newton Vineyards in Napa Valley.
Luisa Ponzi graduated from Portland State University, Portland, Oregon in 1990 with a Bachelor of Science. Following her undergraduate studies, Luisa moved to Beaune, France, where she continued her education in viticulture and enology. As part of the required curriculum, Luisa apprenticed with Burgundian producer, M. Christophe Roumier of Domaine Roumier of Chambolle Musigny, France as well as with Italian producer Luca Currado of Vietti in Piedmont, Italy. In 1993, Luisa was awarded the Certficate Brevet Professionelle D’Oenologie et Viticulture, at the time the only woman to earn such distinction.
In addition to her formal studies of enology and viticulture, Luisa has travelled extensively throughout other prominent wine regions including Australia, New Zealand, Germany, Italy, Austria, Slovenia and the United States. Since 1986, she has participated in all the International Pinot Noir Celebrations in McMinnville, Oregon and has attended all of the accompanying Steamboat Technical Pinot Noir Conferences.
Luisa combines her formal winemaking experience with her lifelong work with her father, Dick Ponzi, at their Willamette Valley vineyards and winery. Since 1993, Luisa has brought her knowledge of Burgundian practices combined with her personal experience to the family-owned winery.
Luisa continues to educate herself through contacts with winemakers around the world, frequent winery tastings and winemaking conferences. She currently sits on several advisory and wine organization boards.
For more than two decades, Luisa’s passion and winemaking talent have helped sustain Ponzi Vineyards’ nearly 50-year acclaimed tradition of producing some of the world’s finest wines.
Dick and Nancy Ponzi
In 1969, Dick Ponzi moved to Portland, Oregon and founded Ponzi Vineyards, one of the premier wineries in the state. From the first vintage in 1974, Dick has set the standards for enological and viticultural innovation. His mechanical engineering background has proven a great asset through his many years of winemaking. He fabricated machinery and winemaking techniques in his cellar now commonplace in many wineries across the globe. He planted some of the first Pinot Noir in the Willamette Valley in the late ‘60’s, and some of the first commercial plantings of Pinot Gris in 1978. He has guided plantings of cool-climate varietals throughout the valley since the early ‘70’s, encouraging others to plant and build a quality wine industry in Oregon.
Nancy Ponzi married Dick in 1961. Their mutual love of food, wine and family made their union “storybook” and naturally lead them down a path overwhelmed with the culinary arts. An overly ambitious woman, she has a steady record of taking on “never before attempted” projects and gracefully turning each of them into great successes.
In addition to being one of the first marketers of Oregon wine in the country, she was a founding Director of the Washington County Wineries Association and was instrumental in establishing the Oregon Wine Advisory Board. Nancy has contributed to the conception and establishment of Oregon’s most successful wine events and has played a vital role in promoting the Willamette Valley as a viable wine region. One of the most widely recognized events is the International Pinot Noir Celebration. This is Oregon’s premier wine event which brings together winemakers and aficionados from around the world to discuss, taste and explore Pinot Noir. Nancy also co-founded ¡Salud! The Oregon Pinot Noir Auction, a hugely profitable fundraising event of unique cuvées from Oregon’s most prized vintners. All proceeds provide low-cost healthcare for vineyard workers and their families. Most recently Nancy helped found Oregon Pinot Camp, an exclusive event that privately invites the wine trade to the valley for three days to learn “first hand” about Pinot Noir.