A Conversation with Denise and Bryan White: New Texas Owners Mesmerized By the Potential of Applegate Valley and Troon Vineyard

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Troon Vineyard

Troon Vineyard

Bryan and Denise White, Troon Owners and Fellow Texans

One of the great things about Troon Vineyard is that it has had several evolutions during its lifetime. Founded more than 40 years ago by Dick Troon, a displaced, eccentric and “larger than life” Scotsman, the property originally started as a cattle grazing property in Southern Oregon.  In the 70s, Dick decided to change his business after finding out that wine grapes produced much greater income per acre so it was time to learn about grapes and wine.  After much research (and bucking traditional knowledge) he decided that this area of the country could compete with Northern Oregon and across the US.  For years he sold his grapes until decided it was time to make his own wine.  He made his own wines until 2003 when he sold the winery to his friend Larry Martin.  And then just last year, Denise and Bryan White, two Texans from Arlington (a suburb near Dallas) acquired the vineyard.  But we’ll talk more about their plans in just a moment.

Troon Vineyard

Troon Vineyard is situated above the Applegate River.  Surrounded by the Siskiyou Mountains, the winery sits at 1,400 feet above sea level at the point the Applegate Valley opens up toward the Pacific Ocean.  This results in warm days and cool nights. There are many parallels due to the Kubli Bench with riverbench soils found in Alsace, Hermitage, Cru Beaujolais, the Languedoc and Sardegna, hence the ability to produce many Mediterranean style wines.  The wines are farmed organically and biodynamically.

Troon Vineyard

Me and Craig Camp

I’ve written before about how Craig Camp, my friend and well known wine professional, left a well known position because he believed Troon was on the cutting edge of fine winemaking and is passionate about biodynamic wine growing and winemaking in Oregon.

Craig told me in the past why he thought Applegate Valley and Troon Vineyard were unique. They are making diverse wines that you normally don’t see in Oregon — like Tannat, Vermentino, Priorat, Marsanne, Malbec, Sangiovese, Tempranillo, a fabulous Orange wine and others.  The winery takes a natural approach — fermenting with indigenous yeasts, crushing the grapes by foot, co-fermenting and using sustainable practices.

“We have a mostly Northern California climate here,” Craig noted, “with a shorter growing season.  So we can produce wines with European ‘weights.’”

Craig called me at the end of the year and told me the Whites were the new owners of Troon and he’d love to set up a dinner with local writers and good friends Michelle Williams and Terry Hill.

We gathered a few weeks before Christmas at Cadot Restaurant and sat down to talk with Denise and Bryan.  They married in early 1996 and raised four kids in Arlington, Texas, a suburb close to Dallas that the Texas Rangers call home.  Their oldest daughter lives in Grants Pass, Oregon and that’s where their love affair with Oregon wine and later Troon began.

Troon Vineyard

“We didn’t find Troon, it found us,” they told us. Friends introduced them in early 2017 and they fell in love with the Applegate Wine Trail.  This led to acquiring the property and putting a ton of investment in, including opening the Carlton tasting room, doing soil studies (they both have scientific backgrounds), improving the vineyard property and adding staff.

And, they have a core dream team with Craig and Winemaker Steve Hall, who has Robert Biale, JARVIS and Clos du Val on his resume and is committed to natural winemaking.

We had a lovely tasting of six wines that were elegant and delicious with a great dinner.

  • 2017 Troon Vineyard Cuvée Rolle (90 percent Vermentino, 10 percent Marsanne) – notes of white peach, apple, Orange Dreamsicle and herbal notes with a great minerality.
  • 2017 Troon Vineyard Kubli Bench Blanc (52 percent Marsanne, 48 percent Viognier) – notes of tropical and exotic like mango, peach, orange blossom and apricot with a nuttiness and herbaceous element.
  • 2017 Troon Vineyard Roussanne – notes of apricot, lime, flint and a great minerality.
  • 2016 Troon Vineyard Cuvée Côt Malbec – this a French expression of Malbec from the Cahors appellation of Southwest France and is very different and savory.  It had notes of blueberry, blackberry, violet, spice and a nice balance.
  • 2016 Troon Vineyard Tannat – notes of spice, earth, blue fruit and chocolate.  All the structure of a great wine is there, but this needs some time and space to show. But once it does, it is going to be brilliant.
  • 2016 Troon Vineyard Cuvée Pyrénées (62 percent Tannat, 38 percent Malbec) – this is a gorgeous wine with notes of deep rich black fruit like blackberry and cassis, earthiness, spice, mocha and herbs.

Additionally, I was also sent additional samples that I want to mention:

  • 2017 Troon Vineyard Vermentino – notes of citrus, tropical fruit, pear and a great minerality.
  • 2017 Troon Vineyard Riesling (Orange Wine), Whole Grape Ferment – Citrus, ginger, orange and lime zest.  This can be a polarizing wine since it is an orange wine and whole grape fermented.  But if you like orange wine, be excited you have found this one.
  • 2017 Troon Vineyard Zinfandel (97 percent Zinfandel, 3 percent Petite Sirah) – this is an elegant and smooth zinfandel with red cherries, strawberries, cranberries, roses, earth, spice and pepper. I loved it.

This is an area that should be on your watch list from a talented group of people determined to put the region on the map. Based on the wines that I’ve tried and the evolution that I’ve personally seen, Troon Vineyards is well on its way to a well-deserved spot on the national stage.

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