Prince of Pinot on Spindrift Cellars
& Matt Compton
This smallish family-owned winery is not located among the popular and well-known Northern Willamette Valley wineries. Rather, it can be found in the Southern Willamette Valley in the town of Philomath. Founded by Matt and Tabitha Compton in 2003, the winery produces multiple varietals under the Spindrift label and Pinot Noir under the Compton Family Wines label.
Matt has been crafting wine in Oregon for over 20 years but is also a grower who owns West Vine Farms, a vineyard management company, and manages most of the vineyards from which Spindrift Cellars sources fruit. Growing up in Wisconsin, Matt caught the farming bug and was driving a tractor and baling hay at the age of 10. After studying horticulture in college on the East Coast for a year, he took a trip around the country. He visited a friend who was attending graduate school at Oregon State University (OSU) in Corvallis and when Matt saw the campus and the town of Corvallis, he was hooked. He moved out to Oregon from the East Coast lacking a job. Matt enrolled at OSU and started working for researchers at the school.
Matt made his first wine as a home winemaker in 1996 while working at OSU’s experimental Woodhall Vineyard outside Alpine. He developed a reputation as a talented farmer, and in 2000, he launched his own company called West Vine Farms initiated with a management agreement for Deerhaven Vineyard (he still manages the vineyard today). Matt became the vineyard manager at Benton Lane Winery as well as managing other vineyards. In 2003, he made his first commercial vintage at 720 cellars, hoping to build a winery business.
In 2004, Matt and Tabitha founded Small World Wine Company with partners Jeff and Diane Cyan. At the same time, the two couples started a wine bar in Corvallis. In 2006, Matt left Benton Lane Winery and together with wife Tabitha started Spindrift Cellars. Domaine Meriwether produced wine at their facility and Matt got to know their winemaker, Ray Walsh, who became an important mentor.
The winery produced 1,000 cases of wine during the first Spindrift Cellars harvest and have steadily increased output, making 8,000 cases of wine from more than ten different varietals in 2015. Today, Matt’s heart is in Pinot Noir and he plans to scale back the number of varietals that Spindrift Cellars offers. West Vine Farms now only manages the vineyards from which Matt gets fruit for his Spindrift wines.
Tabitha manages the day-to-day operation of the winery including sales, advertising, and marketing as well as having the hardest job – raising three boys. Other members of the extended family are also involved.
Matt Compton’s personal label is Compton Family Wines. These wines are reflective of special vineyards that Matt has overseen and managed through the years. A premium sparkling wine is offered under the SEA 02 brand and recently won a Gold Medal at the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition.
The winery’s tasting room is located at the winery in Philomath and is open Friday-Sunday afternoons during winter, Thursday-Sunday afternoons during summer, or by appointment. The wines are sold on the website at www.spindriftcellars.com and www.comptonwines.com.
I am featuring this winery for a couple of reasons. I was impressed with the 2015 vintage wines submitted for review in the past and even more impressed with the 2016 vintage wines currently reviewed. These wines have the handprint of an experienced grower and winemaker. The wines also represent extremely good value, especially since I consider them equal in quality to any wines currently being produced in the Northern Willamette Valley.
The vineyard sources for these wines are from the Southern Willamette Valley. The soils here are shallow, well-drained volcanic basalt combined with marine sedimentary rock and/or alluvial deposits. The two Compton Pinot Noir cuvées show the difference in Pinot Noir grown in these two different soil types.