Broadley Vineyards: Couple Risks Everything for a Willamette Valley Dream

By Published On: June 16, 2024

Credit: Maggie Kirkland

In the heart of the roaring 70s Bay Area, Craig and Claudia weren’t chasing Cabernet dreams. Instead, their hearts belonged to the bold soul of Burgundy. Fueled by the Slow Food movement and a taste for the unexpected, this ambitious couple, with zero farming experience, felt a tremor of destiny.

Inspired by Oregon’s burgeoning Pinot Noir scene, pioneered by legends like David Lett and the Ponzi family, they knew their Burgundian dream wouldn’t bloom under California skies. Oregon, wild and untamed, was the answer to their audacious quest.

Their journey wasn’t easy. With a shoestring budget, they transformed an abandoned apple orchard into a thriving vineyard, tilling the land by hand and planting with unwavering determination. Balancing their day jobs at a book distribution company they founded with the demands of the vineyard required immense dedication. Weekdays were spent in Eugene distributing books, while weekends were dedicated to the vineyard in Monroe, a task made more manageable with the help of their son, Morgan.

The first seeds of their 20-acre vineyard (which has since grown to 33 acres) were sown in 1981, and their first vintage was released in 1986, crafted in an old Pontiac Dealership they had purchased. Despite the challenges, their hard work and unwavering passion began to bear fruit.

Credit: Jessica Lazar

Craig and Claudia’s dream took flight in 1992 when their Broadley Reserve Pinot Noir earned critical acclaim. This success continued in 1994 with ‘Claudia’s Choice’ Pinot Noir garnering similar praise from wine publications. This global recognition propelled their small operation to the forefront of the industry.

Broadley Vineyards thrives in a unique location within the Willamette Valley. Unlike most vineyards that face south, Broadley’s estate vineyard sits primarily northeast-facing. This exposure allows the grapes to ripen slowly, retaining their natural acidity and developing complex flavors. The Jory/Hazelair clay soil plays a vital role as well. This red clay retains moisture, allowing the vines to be dry-farmed and encouraging deep root growth. The clay also contributes to the wine’s natural acidity and reflects the specific terroir.

Within the vineyard itself, subtle variations in sun exposure and drainage create microclimates that influence the character of grapes grown in specific blocks. For example, the ‘Jessica’ Pinot Noir thrives in the warmest pocket, ripening earlier and producing a more fruit-forward wine with a long finish. In contrast, grapes from the Marcile Lorraine and Claudia’s Choice blocks experience cooler temperatures, resulting in more complex wines with pronounced acidity.

They craft Pinot Noirs that showcase the subtle variations within their estate. They utilize different Pinot Noir clones, like Wädenswil and Dijon clones, to create a base for their wines. These clones offer some influence, but Broadley emphasizes that the true character comes from their specific terroir. Their meticulous vineyard practices, like dry farming on a northeast slope, allow the grapes to develop balanced acidity and fruit flavors.

Jessica and Morgan. Credit: Maggie Kirkland

Broadley Vineyards embraces Gamay Noir as a complement to their Pinot Noir offerings.  Drawn to Gamay’s inherent drinkability and vibrant fruit character, Morgan sees it as a way to diversify their portfolio and create a food-friendly wine for everyday enjoyment.  While Pinot Noirs excel with extended aging, Broadley’s Gamay Noir is crafted for near-term pleasure, showcasing its ripe fruit profile and well-integrated acidity within a year or two of release.  With time, they envision their Gamay Noir becoming a signature bottling.

The next generation, Morgan and Jessica, have ushered in a new era for Broadley Vineyards. Morgan, who took the reins as winemaker in 2005, has implemented a more fruit-forward approach, allowing the unique terroir of the Willamette Valley to shine through.  Together, they’ve expanded the production to a sustainable 5,000 cases, allowing them to focus on quality while still making time for family.  

The wines featured in the Wine Recommendations section were provided by the winery for the purpose of review. The selection and tasting of these wines were independently conducted. No compensation or incentives were provided for inclusion in the story. As always, the top priority is to provide readers with informative reporting.

Wine Recommendations

2022 ‘Jessica’ Pinot Noir- boasts all the classic Willamette Valley panache. Its core of red fruit bursts with charm, hinting at a future graced with nuance. This wine delivers power with a velvet glove, showcasing Oregon’s world-class pedigree

2022 ‘Marcile Lorraine’ Pinot Noir-  showcases a nose bursting with aromas of black cherries and strawberries with hints of forest floor adding a layer of complexity while vibrant acidity keeps the wine fresh and lively on the palate. The finish lingers for what seems like an eternity, showcasing the wine’s impressive concentration and potential for cellaring. 

2022 Estate Pinot Noir- explodes with a nose of ripe raspberry and cassis, hinting at baking spice. It delivers a burst of juicy red fruit supported by supple tannins and vivacious acidity.

 

About the Author: Joe Campbell

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Located out of the Sierra Foothills of California, Joe Campbell provides color commentary as well as insight within the wine industry both from the lifestyle consumer and business segments of the industry. He can be reached via email at : joe@winebulletin.net .