Oregon's Tendril Pinot noir
Oregon Winemaker Tony Rynders' Personal Wine - TENDRIL
Consulting Winemaker for Revana, Cornerstone, Swiftwater
by Jean Yates
"After twenty years making wine for others,
it's time to make some for myself!"
- Tony Rynders, on the label of
his new Tendril Pinot noir 08
During his ten vintage tenure at Oregon winery Domaine Serene, Tony Rynders grew the winery's production from 2500 to over 25,000 cases. Remarkably, all of his Pinot noirs sold for over $30 - and up to $225. No other winemaker in Oregon made as much "ultra-premium" wine as Tony.
Now a consulting winemaker, he makes the wines for several prestigious projects. He has also started a personal wine label, Tendril. Tendril wines are handcrafted and made in very small quantity (500 cases or less). Tony will make both Pinot noir and Washington big reds. They are made without the restraints of working for someone else, in his own unique style.
Speaking with Tony recently, he summed up his winemaking philosophy:
"Winemaking is a story - a story that starts fresh each year at bud break, and ends when the wine is in the bottle. The "juicy parts" of the story start when the grapes begin to develop in the vineyard."
Here are the "juicy parts" of Tony's story - starting with his progress from Bucky the Badger to Oregon Beavers.
photo by Andrea Johnson Photography
From Bucky the Badger to Oregon Beavers
Tony Rynders is a Wisconsin native, born in Milwaukee and a graduate of the University of Wisconsin in Madison - so he's a Badger - ("Bucky" is the school's mascot). He's a science geek, with a degree in microbiology. But his first job out of college exposed him to Pacific Northwest wine country and changed his life.
Tony's first job took him to eastern Washington, where he worked at Green Giant and spent his weekends wine tasting through the Yakima and Walla Walla Valleys. Along with the fun of being in his '20s in an area with lots of great wine, he became seriously interested in the wine business. After pitching the job at Green Giant for his "quarter life crisis," he backpacked through Europe, drank a lot of French and Italian wine, and returned to the States ready to change direction.
Moving to California, Mirasou Winery in San Jose, California hired Tony for their lab, and after a few months, he knew that "winemaking was for me." He changed jobs at Mirasou, working as a cellar rat, building his skills. He added a new degree to his resume along the way.
Tony received his Masters in Viticulture and Enology from UC Davis in 1993. As part of his studies, he worked in Australia and Italy. In Italy, his skills in microbiology led to a job with a lab developing wine yeasts. The job gave him an insider's access to dozens of hard to visit wineries. He worked the 1991 harvest in Friuli and the 1992 harvest in Brunello, and learned the Italian way of making red wine.
Traveling from Italy to Australia as an Intern in 1993, Tony learned to make red wine again - Australian style. While there, Tony met Brian Crozer of Petaluma Winery. Brian is co-owner of Argyle Winery in Dundee, Oregon, with one of Oregon's best known winemakers, Rollin Soles. Brian referred Tony to Rollin for a job, and Tony was hired as assistant winemaker at Argyle for 1994 and 1995.
Expanding his experience to Northwest big reds, Tony moved to Washington State, where he was Red Wine Winemaker at Hogue from 1995 through August 1998. He left in July of 1998 to join Domaine Serene.
Forever a Wisconsin "Badger", Tony moved to Oregon State University "Beaver" country (where Avalon is located, and an hour or so from Domaine Serene). He took one of the most prestigious jobs in the Willamette Valley's growing wine industry.
Ten Vintages at Domaine Serene
It's rare that a winery as large as Domaine Serene sells exclusively "ultra premium" wine. During Tony's ten vintages at Domaine Serene, the winery's production increased from 2500 cases a year to over 25,000, an exponential increase. The huge increase in volume was a remarkable accomplishment - made more so by the high ratings and high prices the wines received. While Tony was at Domaine Serene, the winery never sold bulk wine or made a lower cost second label. Domaine Serene's Pinot noirs sold for $30 to $200+.
Tony developed the single vineyard wines at Domaine Serene, and redefined the composition of their Reserve wine to be called "Yamhill Cuvee". He created their top wine, "Monogram", a bigger, more extracted style of Pinot noir only made in the best vintages, from a cuvee of the very best barrels in the winery. it sold out quickly at over $200. Tony also conceived of and developed Domaine Serene's successful Rockblock Syrahs.
Asked about his success at making so much highly rated wine over so many vintages, Tony used one word: "consistency."
The word "consistency" comes up again and again in talking to Tony. In the vineyard, it's longterm managment with strong planning and an experienced vineyard management and crew. In the winery, it's using the very best fruit to make the vintage's best wines. And it's making a wine that buyers can depend upon, year after year, for a consistent quality, style, and flavor.
On His Own - Tony Rynders Consulting
Departing Domaine Serene in 2007, Tony put his shingle out as Tony Rynders Consulting, filling his schedule with some of the most exciting projects under development in the Northwest. With his expertise at making both Pinot noir and "big reds", his projects encompass a range of varietals and styles. From a major resort destination winery to small, exclusive projects for some of California's top wineries, he is expected to continue to make sought after, highly regarded, ultra premium wines.
One of Tony's first consulting projects since leaving Domaine Serene is with Revana Family Vineyards, making a new Oregon Pinot called Sitar. Considering that Revana's "other" winemakers are Lynn Penner-Ash (Penner Ash ) and Heidi Peterson Barrett (Screaming Eagle), and that Revana could hire just about any winemaker in Oregon, it's clear that Tony has a fantastic reputation.
Dr. Madaiah Revana is not (yet) well known in Oregon's wine world, but he is a super star in California - his Revana Family Vineyard 2007 Cab, made by Heidi Peterson Barrett, recently received 97 points from Wine Spectator.
Sitar is a collaboration of a vintner, a winemaker, and an artist. The name "Sitar" was chosen by vintner Dr Madaiah Revana as a metaphor for Pinot noir - the instrument is complex, requiring fine tuning and constant maintenance - sound like Pinot? As winemaker Tony has created a very limited, allocation-only wine, to be made for only five vintages. The label art shows the contribution of the third member of the collaboration, artist Thomas Arvid. The five vintages will show the evolution of the label design from charcoal drawing to finished piece.
In Washington State, Tony is consulting winemaker at another prestigious project, Swiftwater Cellars, a luxury resort complex of golf course, event center, restaurant, and winery. The retreat is owned by the Watts family, whose Zephyr Ridge VIneyard is a source of fruit for the Swiftwater wines.
As Swiftwater's consulting winemaker, Tony worked with owner Don Watts to develop a brand encompassing wines from both Oregon and Washington. Tony has a small stake in one of the Swiftwater vineyards on the Oregon side of the Walla Walla appellation. Some of the Swiftwater grapes may end up in the Tendril wines.
Cornerstone Oregon is a collaboration of Tony and Cornerstone Cellars' Craig Camp. The Oregon winery of Napa Valley's Cornerstone Cellars, they made fifty cases of their 2008 vintage of Oregon Pinot noir. Tony's personal project, Tendril, shares Cornerstone's winery, just outside Gaston, Oregon.
Tendril - Tony Rynder's Special Project - A "Personal" Winery
To us, Tony's most exciting project is his personal winery, Tendril. His inaugural wine, a 2008 Pinot noir, was released in late November of 2010. Tony will also produce a "big red" as the Washington side of the Tendril lineup.
For this personal project, Tony can take risks and try out new ideas. He wants to explore the interesting, complex, and unique characteristics of the best of the grapes he receives each year. He will use a "wider range of sites" for the makeup of his Tendril wines, concentrating on making the most consistent, best wines from each vintage. He will focus on the unique climate and the long daylight hours of the growing season in the Pacific Northwest.
Tendrill has started and will stay small. He made 500 cases of the 2008 vintage, and in the next five years, may increase to as many as 1000 cases total. His primary focus is on his consulting business, with Tendril his "special project" where he pushes his limits and experiments with new ideas and in new directions.
Tendril Pinot noir 08
Tony Rynders, winemaker at Domaine Serene for ten years, created their highly rated signature style. Now on his own, he is consulting winemaker at some of Oregon's hottest new wineries.
Tendril is special - it is Tony's personal winery. This exceptionally good 2008 Pinot noir - his first vintage - incorporates his persona l vision with his famous Domaine Serene style.
The experience starts with a nose of spicebox, blackberry, and black currant. Add flavors of deep, dark, sweet berries, black currant, and creamy, rich, silky tannins. It finishes long, showing a touch of blackberry leaf, minerals and sumptuous, refined sweetness. It's a wine for cellaring, enjoyable now but promising at least five years of continued development.