We met Will Hamilton through mutual friends Ken Pahlow and Erica Landon, proprietors of Walter Scott. Will helps them in the cellar and in exchange, makes his own Violin wines in their small space. Over a few sunny afternoons we developed respect and fondness for his general demeanor and approach to winemaking.
Will's Willamette Valley '14 offers super value, opening with beguiling aromas of mixed red and black fruit along with sweet fir forest - a smell that is difficult to put into words for a non-Oregonian but that is one of the most wonderful scents on earth. The sweet and savory interplay of dark cherry, wild berry, and spice flavors builds momentum through the finish. Fantastic with a meal today, it drinks even better on the second night. - Marcus
A blend of four vineyards including Eola Springs Vineyard on the western slope of the Eola-Amity Hills (25%), Methven Family Vineyard on the eastern slope of the Eola-Amity Hills (35%), First Man Vineyard just northwest of the town of Gaston in the Coast Range Foothills (25%), and Sunny Mountain Vineyard just south of Monroe in the Southern Willamette Valley between Eugene and Corvallis (15%).
More about Will, from Will: “Fine dining service was the first window into fine wine as an 18 year old. I continued as a server during college, beginning to find a sweet spot for the delicate wines of Oregon by the time I was in my early twenties. I applied for summer work in the Willamette Valley as early as my junior year of college, and had to turn down harvest opportunities to finish my degree in English Literature at the University of the South in Sewanee, TN.
After college I moved to D.C. and found a sales position with an importer of French wines based in Northern Virginia. It was fun learning their book but I didn’t care for all the driving and pushing $6 Syrah the quickie mart owners were supposed to want. My passion was still in production. I spent the better part of that year working as a cycling messenger before moving to Oregon in August of 2005, finding a harvest position with Erath.
That January I interviewed with Laurent Montalieu of Northwest Wine Company and Solena Cellars and started a job that would be my true education in winemaking. Initially I handled all packaging and logistics for bottling of over 90 different skus, between 25 small clients we were making wine for as well as bottling and filtration services for several other wineries who used our winery. Over the next few years I phased into cellarmaster and was later promoted to assistant winemaker.
During my time with Laurent, we fluctuated between the 3rd and 5th largest producer in the state. I oversaw and executed winemaking for several prominent Oregon brands, as well as attended symposiums, conferences, underwent coursework in winemaking science and technology, and networked with over 120 different growers in the Willamette Valley, southern Oregon, and eastern Washington. It was during the latter stages of this time that I grew to understand my favorite wines were coming from the Eola-Amity Hills AVA, which produced the most consistently powerful and driven Pinot noirs.
The list of brands and varieties I was able to work with while at NW was truly unique, and making multiple styles of the same wines was even more educational. We made wines for many well known Oregon brands; I have made Riesling, Pinot gris, Pinot blanc, Gewurtzraminer, Albarino, Semillon, Viognier, Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cab Franc, Merlot, Zinfandel, Tempranillo, Syrah and of course, lots of Pinot noir.
My passion has always remained in Pinot noir and when I left Laurent in 2011 to join a friend’s mobile filtration company, I signed up to work harvest with Evening Land Vineyards to get a better feel for style. Most importantly, working with detail oriented and quality farming with the winemaking in mind was the greatest lesson. It was also where I met Ken and Erica who were making the Walter Scott wines there in 2011. While I focused a lot of time on Chardonnay production, I also had a good hand in the reds from 2011, which I really think are going to outlive the highly scored ‘12s which I also helped to make.
I spent the next three years working with producers all over the NW, both big and small. It was during my travels and conversations that I gained the necessary confidence and insanity to start my own brand. I wanted to work with at least four sites in order to create wines of distinction through blending and careful selection. Having the connections, both through my time with Laurent and as a mobile operator, I was able to contract fruit from five vineyards, two of which are in the Eola-Amity Hills. I planned to make one wine, and of course as an artist that grew to three.
Violin is as much a mood as a brand name for me. I hope it produces a feeling of elegance and a reminder of craft and art, all of which I hope to capture in Pinot Noir making. Including my son’s name (Olin) is great for me, but I want the brand to speak for itself. I have chosen a beautiful word that resembles the words “vino” and “wine”, and the repetition of the “n” sound is ever-present in the phrase, “Violin Wine Oregon Pinot Noir.” I want the words themselves to have the same impact as the wine on the palate: long and elegant without hard edges, leaving a lingering feeling of beauty to ponder happily, and wanting to come back for more. The f-hole design is all about balance, symmetry, and beauty.
I am able to support my winemaking passion through a technical sales position; I am now the Oregon and Washington rep for Diam closures, the only guaranteed TCA-free corks available on the market. I like this access to relationship building, and also think we are offering the market a degree of reliability that has not been seen. Big things are happening with Diam right now, (from 5 to 30% of Grand Cru Burgundy in five years, for example). Premium wine producers are the key customer here, since they are the ones whose wines are highly scrutinized for quality and for whom the consumer experience is so paramount. I suspect I will continue with a day job for some time, and eventually would like to grow Violin to 1500 cases. I plan to keep it around 600 for the next few years, until I have the traction and a facility where I can grow. Who knows what’s next…" - Will Hamilton