by Cole Danehower

March/April 2011

Marcus Goodfellow is flat out one of the best winemakers in Oregon—it’s just that not many people know about his wines. Oh, the trade does; the insider industry folks all speak admiringly of the wine as well as the winemaker, and it is almost a rite of passage to indicate your familiarity with the sub rosa Matello label.

Sadly, the average lover of Oregon Pinot Noir has yet to discover what Marcus does.

His own unpresuming character does not naturally push Marcus toward the limelight, and the small quantities of wine that he makes (around 2,000 cases of up to 11 different bottlings) are not widely distributed, necessarily limiting his broader market exposure. But once you taste through his lineup, you find yourself convinced of the charms of his fruit sources and winemaking skills.

Take the newly released 2009 Matello Lazarus Pinot Noir. Only 420 cases were made, with Marcus selecting strictly dry-farmed fruit from vines wine-bottlethat average 20 years old on Whistling Ridge, Winter’s Hill, and Bishop Creek vineyards in the north Willamette Valley (two of which are certified LIVE—Low Input Viticulture & Enology).

The wine’s pale rose color may seem dubious to those who mistakenly judge a Pinot by the intensity of hue, but once you begin sniffing, swirling, and sipping, you realize that this is a wine of grace, elegance, and force. The aromas are signature Oregon Pinot: crushed red fruit scents hovering above a dusty, earthy foundation, with wisps of mint and lavender. In the mouth there is an immediate sense of bright red cherry fruit that slowly devolves into red raspberry and cranberry constituents. There is verve to the acidity that heightens the fruitiness, yet at the same time corsets the flavors and allows the fine tannin structure to emerge.

Friendly and appealing now, this wine is still very young and somewhat tightly wound. A great companion for grilled salmon or squab, this wine will also mature well in the cellar for an additional 3 to 5 years (or more). An excellent Pinot Noir that shows well the qualities of the vintage and the vineyards.

Though Marcus maintains an appealingly unostentatious demeanor, he is a man of strongly held winemaking principles that focus on, as he puts it, “exploring the methods of tradition.” These include: no irrigation, let the character of the fruit be your winemaking guide, and less is more in all you do to grow and make wine—all principles he skillfully employs to create beautiful wines. —Cole Danehower