Dag Johan Sundby, a native Norwegian, came to North America in 2004 seeking a new life. The descendant of a long line of farmers, Dag sought to sink his roots deep into the Willamette Valley, to make his mark on Pinot Noir. Inspired by the legendary vineyards of Burgundy, he sought the ideal terroir, finding it in the similar latitude and climate of Oregon. Driven by New World optimism and youth, he is anchored by Old World values and a fierce determination to make premium wines that will stand the test of time.
The Johan Vineyards occupy on 175 acres of gently sloping hills in the Mid-Willamette Valley. Adjacent to the Van Duzer Corridor — an east to west running corridor through the coast range — the vineyards benefit from moderating afternoon ocean breezes. As the valley heats up on warm summer days it creates a sink for the cool maritime breezes that are pulled through the corridor and across the vineyards. The result is a daily beating by the Van Duzer winds lowering the average daily temperatures 2-3°F compared to the Dundee Hills and other sub regions of the Willamette Valley. The cooler, slower growing season allows the fruit to obtain ripe flavors at lower sugar levels and higher acidity. For Johan Vineyards, the Missoula Floods devastation through the valley has resulted in a very complex soil composition, characterized by shallow topsoils with a high concentration of decomposed granite.
The farming philosophy of Johan Vineyards is to integrate natural farming methods with the most advanced viticultural research to produce the highest possible quality fruit that is true to its place. In 2010 Johan Vineyards received both Organic Certification from Stellar Certification Services and Biodynamic Certification from Demeter USA. The winemaker at Johan is Dan Rinke, who previously worked at Domaine Alfred and Rhys in California. The wines are made with all native fermentations and a limited use of new French oak. Because of the long, cooler growing season at the site they get very good lignification (ripening) of the stems and therefore utilize a good percentage of whole clusters in their winemaking. The resulting wines are precise with a beautiful purity and a very savory element. The Johan wines are a food friendly, elegant style of Oregon Pinot Noir.
About Johan, from Johan: “We are diligent. Our wines are inspired. We believe Oregon is a special place to make wine and we believe in our vineyards. We admire Burgundy, but we are not French and neither are our wines. We are not certain why we do everything we do, but we can say with confidence that we love wine and feel compelled to be involved. The work of others in this field inspires us to continue our journey to produce distinct wines. In return we hope to inspire others with our work.
Rather than striving for stylistic preference, we seek balance and energy in our wines. This energy is a mystery to us and we seek to both understand and harness its power. Our observations lead us to believe this energy exists in wines that are made from organic fruit sources combined with wild fermentations with minimal intervention. For this reason we farm our vineyards and craft our wines using organic and Biodynamic® methods. Natural winemaking is our first priority.
We are educated in enology, viticulture, and international business. Our training is used as a tool when needed. We work with determination, integrating our experience into the vineyard and winery to achieve harmony. Our method of work is largely philosophically based. Our decisions are guided by both instinct and observation. We believe that diversity in the biological ecosystem of the vineyard and winery is essential to achieve a true expression of terroir in wine.
Terroir is our guiding principle. We believe in letting nature take its course, but also view the dynamic of a vineyard and winery as being something that requires human involvement to form a unified system. Our goal is to understand and sustain the unity of this system in order to create original and compelling wines with a distinct sense of place. Our place is Johan Vineyards.”