Over the years, many have written or said that McKinlay's head winegrower, Matt Kinne, takes a very "Burgundian" approach. After a recent visit to the winery with Matt, Holly and second generation winemaker Jake, we are revising that statement: "McKinlay takes a very Oregonian approach."
The Kinnes are friendly, humble, hard-working, low-key and welcoming; their wines are a direct reflection. The winery is truly in the cellar -- their house sits above it.
As we tasted every wine they produced from 2014 through 2016, one character emerged above all others: fruit purity. We were transfixed by the unadorned, expressive, delightful fruit quality in each and every pour. Each wine had mouthwatering acidity to both show off and preserve the purity of succulently sweet Pinot fruit. Coupled with little new wood and over-vintage barrel aging, McKinlay wines are authentic, transparent, and straightforward. They are the Kinnes; they are Oregonian.
The Kinne family have a long history in Oregon. In the early 1900's George Angus McKinlay ministered to his flock at the Zena church and dry-farmed cherries, apples, prunes and nuts on well drained volcanic soils on east facing slopes in the Eola Hills, in Oregon's Willamette Valley. He welcomed winter rains, battled springtime frost and predation of local deer, thanked the good Lord for warm summer sun and prayed it would last long enough to harvest ripe crops.
Reverend McKinlay has long rested in the church-side cemetery at Zena and the original family farm is now part of a 4-H camp. But the risk and rewards of farming are pursued by great-grandson Matt Kinne on the southeast facing slopes of Parrett Mountain in the Chehalem Range, 20 miles southwest of Portland, OR.
McKinlay was an obvious moniker for the winery, founded in 1987, celebrating a return by the clan to agriculture. The Eola Hills were an early source of grapes for many of the McKinlay wines of the the late '80s and early '90s. In an additional twist of fate, the original McKinlay farm would have made fine Pinot noir due to its soils, elevation and exposure.
The "new" McKinlay farm was founded on 32 acres in 1989. The Estate vineyard was first planted in 1990 and the below ground cellar and family home were built the following year. While early vintages included Pinot gris and Chardonnay, since 1995 Pinot noir has been the sole focus, that is until 2014 when Pinot gris came back to the portfolio.
The Estate vineyard provides 50% of fruit needs and the balance is grown in three other vineyards, all within the Chehalem Mountain AVA.
In addition to the winery owned Estate vineyard, the La Cantera, Marquis and Tommy T sites are farmed with focus on vine health and lots of hands-on labor to produce low yields of healthy grapes that possess great concentration of flavor.
Matt describes his winemaking methods:
"A wine's potential for greatness begins with the concentration of flavor in the fruit. The only way to achieve concentration is to limit the amount of fruit the plant has to ripen. Each winter the vines are pruned back so that two canes of one year old wood are left to be tied horizontally to the fixed fruiting wire. Out of these canes grow the new year's shoots which carry the fruit clusters and leaves to form the vertical canopy to ripen the fruit.
The new shoots are trained upward into the trellis in order to orient both fruit and leaves to sun and greater air flow, easing disease pressure and promoting flavor development. A healthy shoot in most years will set (produce) two and sometimes three clusters. In our pursuit of richly flavored wines only one cluster is allowed to ripen on each shoot. Many might question the economics of this practice, but there is never a question of the resulting wine quality.
What separates Pinot noir from other red varietals is its ability to express itself in such a confident and understated form. Pinot noir at its finest is red, not black; freshly fragrant; richly and brightly flavored with complexity and length. The winemaker's hand is light to balance, not mute these attributes and promote the purest possible expression a vineyard has to offer. Appropriately, McKinlay Pinot noir ferments with native yeasts, without enzyme additions; ages in modest percentages (25% or less) of new oak and is neither fined nor filtered at bottling."